Craig Scott is on the other end of the phone line, and his calm, quiet voice is accompanied by the unmistakable and oh-so-beautiful soundscape of Australian birdsong. The flower grower is calling from his 20-hectare property located on the Central Coast of NSW, where he and a handful of staff propagate, nurture and harvest more than 200 varieties of plants. “And 98 per cent of the varieties are Australian native plants,” Craig adds.
PROFILE: Craig Scott, flower farmer
Favourite native? “It’s hard to pick a favourite, but the flannel flower is a beautiful thing.”
Busiest time of year? “Spring and summer are the most productive seasons.”
Most popular variety? “Currently, it’s paper daisies… the fresh often sell out before we have time to dry them.”
Advice for growing natives at home? “Select the varieties local to your region, and most native plants love well-drained soil with full sun or part shade.”
What time of day are the flowers picked? “Early morning or late afternoon. But when you have a lot of product, you just have to pick it when you can.”
Operating as East Coast Wildflowers, the team supplies masses of cut florals and foliage to florists and stylists across Sydney and beyond, selling from the hustle and bustle of the Sydney Flower Market in Homebush three mornings a week. It’s a scene Craig has known all his life. “I come from a long line of flower growers and florists,” he says. “I’m a fourth-generation farmer and now one of my daughters is a florist with a store in Paddington, so she is fifth generation.”
Craig’s father Col purchased the farm in 1968 and grew mostly traditional flowers like dahlias, asters, and zinnias while dipping his toe into native varieties. “He introduced cut natives to the flower market in the ’70s and early ’80s and it took a while for the florists to get used to them,” Craig explains. When Craig and his wife Angela moved to the farm in 1987, they expanded the Australian offering. More than 30 years later, East Coast Wildflowers can’t keep up with the demand for native flowers. “People love the diversity and seasonality of the flora. We are always looking for new varieties to grow, and there’s always something worthwhile pursuing,” says Craig.
The productive farm is made up of 10 hectares of wild bushland and 10 hectares that incorporate open-air crop rows and a series of greenhouses. Among the beautiful abundance, you will find kangaroo paws, waratah, flannel flower, Rottnest Island daisy, and so much more. Craig’s passion for natives and the Australian landscape is deeply ingrained. When asked what he would be doing if it wasn’t flower farming, the seasoned grower replies, after a thoughtful pause, “I love the outdoors, so I guess it would be good to be a full-time bushwalker. But it might be a bit hard to get paid for that!”
The flowers are grown in crop rows or greenhouses. “We also grow a lot in pots, which gives us more control over the root zone and drainage,” says Craig. “There’s such a variety of natives, ranging from the bold and beautifully structural, right down to the really delicate, fine and pretty,” says Craig.
One of the many things Craig loves about flower farming is supplying florals and foliage for large-scale events. “I like putting together a range that works for the florist and showcases the uniqueness and diversity of our flora,” he explains. “We have iconic flora in Australia… it’s great when you see people become passionate about plants,” says Craig.
Australian wildflower beauties
Want to keep a vase of cut natives alive for longer? “They like deep water. The vase should be at least half-full and topped up every two to three days,” says Craig.