When I met my winemaker-husband in the late 90s, “the flying winemaker” was an actual thing.
The so-called New World and especially the countries Down Under had made such advances in viticulture and winemaking that their young professionals were sought-after as help and consultants during the northern hemisphere, read “Old World”, harvest. The latter being smack bang in the former’s downtime made for many opportunities and many an adventure, including the one I tagged along to for a while there.
Travelling and winemaking, wine education or wine appreciation still go together like few other combinations in a broader sense, though the title “flying winemaker” probably has waned a little in its reach or use.
I’d like to propose, officially, the flying farmer-florist, then…
We don’t have divisions such as an old and a new world in flowers, but we do have the hemispheres and the natural downtime in each other’s winters that could potentially be used for travelling. Our “industry” doesn’t have a clear and academic career path like winemakers do, and so exchanging knowledge and sharing ideas, observing and learning … these become even more profound and necessary in a way. As anyone who has ever grown cut flowers and added the value themselves will agree, ours is not the easiest ways of making a living. Diversified farming of ornamentals can be an overwhelming, complex and fraught proposition and hence learning from each other, to my mind, is almost an occupational necessity – a way even of upping our professionalism, skills and enthusiasm for what we do.
We are old hands at hosting here at Verve and Chez Wardman at the top of NZ’s South Island. In recent years especially we seem to have been sought out by professional flower growers or farmer-florists who are using their deep winter for a spot of travelling and, well, cross pollination if you’ll excuse the obviousness of the pun.
Diversified flower growing is as rare as hen’s teeth in NZ (though there are a sprinkling of new growers popping up up and down the country of late), least of all a model where the value is added by way of “floristry” as in the farmer-florist example. Welcoming flower friends here for a week or three (or more) in our summer is a way of remaining connected and open to ideas, methods, experiences and, best of all, friendship.
We have a private cottage on the farm which we open for flower visitors and we welcome their help and input on the field and in the shed during their stay. Long and often deep and meaningful conversations and the occasional hearty meal come standard issue. High summer is a busy time for us and we work hard and long hours, but it’s also the time of year we have the most design briefs (and so we have a lot of fun), and it strikes me it’s also the one little interlude in our annual cycle where we’re not pulled in different directions. February, especially, is the one month of the year we are unlikely to be turning a bed over or sowing or planting anything of any kind.
I won’t say much in support of New Zealand as a destination here and now. It’s a beautiful country and we live in special part of it.
We’ve been hugely privileged to have welcomed names like Love ‘n Fresh Flowers (Philadelphia), Lindsey Myra (Melbourne), Pyrus Botanicals (Edinburgh), Carolyn Snell (Main), Juliah Thrift (Silverlake Farms), Leah Gerrard (Stone Barn, Rocksteady Farm), Alex Larkin (Floralora, Ontario) and even vegetable-growing warriors like Livia Urban Swart Haaland from OsterGrow in Copenhagen here at Verve. As I sit here writing this – listing these lovely and important names – I am humbled to think they were once present here to witness our endeavours, and so immensely grateful for their friendship and support. And for whatever innate qualities they share that made them get on a plane destined for NZ in the first instance!
The very, very beautiful – inside and out – Alex Larkin (the wisest and kindest 19 year-old to have ever crossed my path), currently with Floralora in Ontario, had this to say after spending a month with us in January 2017…
Jeanine has an open heart, and an air of kindness that surrounds her. I felt at home within her life and on her farm, the accommodation was generous and the area is stunning. Jeanine’s love of flowers is evident, each flower is treated tenderly from seed to stem, all that she does is with thoughtfulness. Having the opportunity to work alongside her was a beautiful learning journey, I would be back in a heart beat if I could.
If you think you’d like to visit, flick us an initial email at email@example.com and we’ll go from there.