As we transitioned ownership of the farm, Bill and Judy trained and guided us in the planting process of protea. They taught us the ins and outs of protea care. We began by propagating the protea and took cuttings from our existing plants. We took care to choose ones that had proved to be hearty and lasted many years, plants that produced particularly beautiful or unique flowers, and our favorite varieties in order to prepare for the future. We even completed our first round of planting over 200 King Protea plants the month before ownership had officially transferred (July 2018) as we waited for the next round of propagated plants to be ready to plant. There was much work to do and Tasha and I (Emily), the soon-to-be new owners of Anuhea Flowers and Farm, began planning out the preparation of the land and future growth of the farm and our new role as farmers.
The entire upper section of the farm had been unplanted for over 10 years and there was space on the terraces that had also been taken over by weeds, grass, and brush. However, we started with the terraces to accommodate the hundreds of plants we had coming. As soon as we officially owned the farm at the end of September 2018, we got to work. Alongside our team, we helped to clear and prepare the land as there were weeds, small trees, and noxious brush over 6 feet high in many places. After clearing the fields, we had to figure out the old irrigation system, that had long since been broken and in disrepair. As soon as we’d find and repair breakages and leaks, there were more that presented themselves, but it was a fun puzzle to figure out. Countless trips to the irrigation supply store and equipment rentals facility, had the terraces looking pretty impressive.
Using chainsaws we cleared away dead protea plants and noxious trees. We pulled out stumps using the tow rope and our truck. We rented augers and post hole diggers, we got hundreds of holes dug, ready for planting. Then came manually laying the weed mat, burning holes, and laying the drip line irrigation tubing and emitters. Finally the plants could go in the ground. Our September 2018 round of planting included varieties such as the red Phil Parvin and orange hybrid pincushions, King Protea, Maui Gold, Safari Sunset, Galpini, and Occidental Banksia. We were all covered in dirt and mud at the end of each day, sweaty and exhausted from the long day’s work, but it was incredibly satisfying and we just had to step back and pinch ourselves…we now owned the business and were officially farmers!
It would be months until the next rounds of propagated plants would be ready. In the time our little cuttings were being rooted, we’d hit busy season and were harvesting thousands of flowers a week, creating magnificent gift boxes, floral arrangements and wreaths for our customers. Our small crew includes the two owners and three field hands. During busy season we were fortunate to have some family and friends volunteering, helping us with wreath preparation, packing, and making boxes, labels, and hand-written cards for each gift. We worked insanely long hours, sometimes from 3am to 11pm, with just enough time for a nap before we started all over again. The winter holidays consumed us and we were thankful for steady sales continuing through January but the crazy hours subsiding a little bit until Valentine’s Day week. That will be a story for another time…but let me tell you, the nightmares of natural disasters and running a business are not just bad dreams for us but a reality! What a storm we had the weekend before Valentine’s Day, leaving us without power for an entire week (and subsequently internet and phone lines were down for the month). We miraculously got all our orders out on time, with no extra help beyond our regular crew, and needing to hand write all the FedEx labels…we definitely deserved that weekend off.;) March and April brought beautiful spring specials and Easter flowers and May and Mother’s Day were quickly approaching. Once again, we were harvesting thousands of flowers, for wholesale orders and all our beautiful retail products. It was again an insanely busy time, lots of stressful, long hours, but always a joy to create such beauty for others.
With all our major holidays behind us, we were still busy with orders but had more time in the afternoons to again give our attention to the fields and more planting. We put in a mix of a couple hundred cloudbank pincushions, occidental banksia, and king protea in sections of the fields that had been previously planted, but had lots of gaps. We try to utilize every inch of space and don’t want any part of a line of drip tubing going unused as to not waste the space or water. While we did that, we had the massive job of finally tackling the fallow upper section. There would be room for over 2000 plants in this and a small section in the lower fields, and we had a lot of work to do to get it all ready.
Again with many trips to the irrigation supply store and equipment rental facility and the help from a friend with a tractor…the upper section was mowed, lines tilled, irrigation lines dug out, replaced and reconnected, holes dug, weed mat laid, holes burned, drip irrigation tubing laid, plants planted a section at a time. Our July-September 2019 planting including several varieties of King protea, cloudbank, 72 hybrid, and catherine pincushion, along with jester and several varieties of banksia were also planted in a small section we cleared alongside our existing cloudbank pincushion field.
This was all quite a feat, and we couldn’t be more proud of all the blood, sweat, and tears that has gone into rebuilding this beautiful farm. It’s been a year now since the first plantings of kings and the terraces; those plants are looking so good and healthy. They take constant care but we are pleased that they seem to be taking. We can only hope that as the year goes our upper section and banksia rows will be flourishing, too. There will be much weeding, fertilizing, pruning, and care poured over them in the coming years, but what a privilege to get to cultivate the land and such beautiful plants. The flowers they will bare will bring much joy and happiness to so many people as we send them out all over the state and United States!