Canberra holds some unique challenges for anyone running a florist. Unlike Sydney and Melbourne, who can buy daily at the flower markets, Canberra florists must find their own ways of obtaining fresh flowers.
We have been running this flower shop since 1998. We started by buying into the shop through various wholesalers that service the area. The prices were high and the quality variable. Some wholesalers were better than others. We had to find a better way.
We started driving to Sydney.
Sydney markets are scary and busy. Florists are let into the carpark area at 4.30am, and the doors open to us at 5pm. The growers and wholesalers set up at the markets from about 2am or something ridiculous. By the time we arrive to buy, they have already worked half a day. There is a lot of trading that happens before we are even allowed in the door.
Once you are in the door, you have to negotiate your way through the many wholesalers and growers. There are few price signs and every sale is negotiated. The better your relationship with the growers the better the prices and quality you receive. We worked out that it’s all about building relationships.
Meeting some growers in Sydney has been key to building a great supply network. Over the years we have started buying directly from farms, as well as the markets. There are some growers who barely go to market because most of their flowers are presold to a handful of customers. If you are lucky enough to start buying from them, you may need to wait until another customer drops away before you can increase your allocation.
Lately we have also been driving to Melbourne to buy flowers (as if Sydney wasn’t far enough). Melbourne is a whole new world with many more growers than Sydney. The range of flowers differs and there are some big flower growers in the area.
There are also a few bouquet growers from whom we buy from direct, who truck the flowers and plants straight to Canberra.
So every year we usually manage to find a new grower, to add to the range of growers from whom we buy. There are many out there - focussed, dedicated growers trying to make their flowers the best they can. The good growers experiment with varieties, colours and crops. There is always something new and exciting to look out for. After 14 years we have learnt that its important to find good growers, and getting out and finding them is a non stop job!