Hydrangeas aplenty

Had a great visit to Te Puna Blooms this morning to hear all about their business of growing hydrangeas and selling them as cut flowers into domestic and export markets. Samantha Searle and her partner bought the business and leased the land last October from Lisa, who still works there and lives on-site, near Tauranga.

Each flower head is checked for botrytis and other damage in the packing shed. Photo: Sandra Simpson

This is New Zealand’s largest ‘hydrangea farm’ at 2.5ha and, boy, was the packing shed looking gorgeous. The girls start work early to try and avoid the heat of the day and are harvesting from mid-December until about May, and every day through the peak season of February and March. Pruning is done in June, some by hand with electric secateurs and some by machine.

Samantha knows the business well, having worked for 4 summer seasons at Te Puna Blooms while a university student – her degree is in business psychology, and she laughs that it may come in handy one day but that horticultural science might have been more useful!

Samantha Searle with a bunch of the ‘antique’ (ageing) blooms that the Japanese market adores. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The farm grows hydrangeas under shade-cloth in tints of white, pink, blue and purple, including some two-tone flowers and those with triple petals. Lace-cap hydrangreas are too hard to keep looking good so for now mopcap hydrangeas are the focus, although Samantha’s keen to try some paniculata types.

Mopcaps can stand handling, keep well and travel well. Packing shed staff are careful to keep everything clean and disinfected to ensure that the botrytis fungus can’t gain a foothold, and check all the flower heads carefully before packing.

Lisa’s top tips for making hydrangeas last in a vase:

  • Cut the stems again when you get them home, you then have 30 minutes to get them into water before the cut seals over.
  • Add a ‘smidge’ of Janola or vinegar to the vase water
  • If the heads are drooping a bit, also add some sugar to give the stems a boost of energy
  • Flower heads can also be revived by gently laying them in a bowl of water (upside down, the head in the water) as hydrangea flowers can also absorb water through their petals.
Believe it or not, this is the same hydrangea – the plant that has flowered pink was pot-grown, while the other was grown in the ground. Photo: Sandra Simpson

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