As part of our new initiative 'from the farms to your arms,' we'll be bringing you more stories from our growers and the key roles they play alongside Daily Blooms and our philosophy of using locally grown flowers only.
On a cool August morning, we packed up our cameras and took a trip to Skye to chat with Scott and Kristy Slykerman, second-generation glasshouse Chrysanthemum growers and part of the family behind Chrysco Flowers.
Chrysanthemums have been a longtime favourite of ours and used frequently in our bouquets for their simplicity and assortment of colours. Chrysco Flowers are of the highest quality and we had an absolute ball getting to know the Slykerman family and talking all things Chrysanthemums.
DB: Chrysco Flowers is a family run business. When was it established and how did it all begin?
S: Cor and Garda came to Australia from The Netherlands in 1983. Cor knew he wanted to grow flowers and saw that there was a gap in the market for year-round Chrysanthemums as they were only grown for the natural season during mothers day time. This led to Cor and Garda starting Chrysco Flowers in 1985 on a rented block of land.
Three years later in 1988, they purchased their own 5-acre block of land where Cor built a larger plastic greenhouse with more possibilities for climate control meaning he could guarantee better quality throughout the year.
In 1993 Cor and Garda purchased the current land and built brand new glasshouses, the first of there type in Australia. Again this enabled Chrysco to grow a better quality product whilst being more efficient. Over the years since then, we have further improved our growing practices and efficiencies.
DB: How many varieties of Chrysanthemums do you produce and what are the most popular colours or variations?
S: We generally have approx. 50 ‘production’ varieties ranging in quantities of 160-4000 bunches per variety per week. Next to that we always have up to 50 ‘trial’ varieties being grown in smaller numbers in order to gauge market response and growing characteristics of new varieties.
Most popular in terms of total numbers is definitely white which makes up 40% of our total production. Most popular in terms of demand is a niche variety call Bacardi Salmon. This is a salmon coloured daisy type. We grow approximately 300 bunches of this per week.
DB: Since you began, have you seen a shift in consumer preferences or have trends remained consistent over the years?
S: Generally speaking there has been very little shift in consumer preferences since the start when there was a big shift. When Cor first began growing Chrysanthemums there were very little daisy type Chrysanthemums in the market which was generally dominated by the Decorative type Chrysanthemums. Due to this Cor worked hard in the first couple of years on pushing the daisy types and they really took off.
Since then Chrysco has been widely known for our clean crisp daisy type Chrysanthemums which make up approx. 85% of our total production. The remaining 15% is made up by decorative and button types. Currently, there seems to be a slight shift with demand for decorative types increasing slightly.
DB: What is the process of growing a Chrysanthemum flower?
S: Chrysanthemums are photoperiodic plants meaning that they need a minimum of 12 hours of solid darkness in order to induce budding.
- Week 1 – harvesting cuttings from our own mother plants
- Week 2 – cuttings are put into compressed peat blocks for the propagating process and given 24 hours light to prevent budding
- Week 4 – propagated cuttings are planted onto the movable benches and given 24 hours light for their 'long day' treatment again to prevent budding
- Week 5-6 – plants are now ready for the 'short day' phase in order to induce budding
- Week 11 – centre bud is removed from every stem in order to promote better growth to remaining buds as well as prevent the centre bud being ‘blown/finished’ by the time the remaining buds are ready for harvest
- Week 13-14 – flowers are ready for harvest and sale
DB: What does a typical day look like for you at Chrysco?
S: A typical day for me can vary from day to day and season to season. Generally, it consists of the following:
- Liaising with our supervisors in both propagation and production areas in order to go through the general daily duties
- Monitoring climate conditions throughout the day
- Crop inspections throughout the day with respect to pest pressure and quality
- Monitoring irrigation requirements
- Checking different trials for improvements
- General business discussions within management
- Quality inspections of daily harvest throughout the day
- At the end of the day hopefully a visit from the kids!!!!!
Duties can vary between seasons. Generally, during the winter season our duties involve additional maintenance on machinery and cleaning/tidying up of the farm as during the summer months there is very little additional time after all of the harvesting and general works are done to do these things.
DB: What are some milestones or achievements that Chrysco has achieved in the flower industry?
S: One big achievement is being in business for 34 years and being a second-generation business, I think that in itself is a major achievement/milestone for everyone involved within the company but mostly for both Cor and Garda!
In 2016 we won the AFI ‘grower of the year’ award for our sustainable growing practices and dedication to the industry.
Chrysco has also been part of the flower show over many years even back in the world trade centre in Melbourne before it became the MIFGS. Over the years Chrysco won many many Gold, Silver and Bronze awards for Best Quality; Design as well as others.
DB: Are there any challenges you come across in your day to day operations?
S: There are always challenges that pop up, some bigger than others, but that’s all part of running a business (especially a business within the Ag/Hort sector). These can be small issues like not having enough time in the day to get everything done during busy times and still have family time all the way up to the bigger issues such as utility charges like gas and electricity having huge price increases.
DB: As a grower, why do you think it’s important to buy locally grown flowers?
S: Well for me as a grower I know that if I buy local I have a very clear understanding of what I am purchasing. There are many issues that I believe should be considered when deciding whether to even think about purchasing imported chrysanthemums, or any other imported flower for that matter, none quite so big as the ethical issues of how the flowers are produced within the third world countries in which they are grown. The people in these countries work harder than you or I could ever imagine yet their income is almost nothing.
This coupled with other things like the fact that these so-called ‘FRESH’ flowers are sprayed with many chemicals which are banned within Australia as well as being submerged in glyphosate (round up) in order to make sure that it is not a living product so that it can gain entry to the country within the quarantine rules and regulations after up to 2 weeks in a shipping container on the ocean to get here. To me, these are not ‘FRESH’ flowers anymore.
Then there is the risk of new species of insect coming into the Australian flora and fauna through imported flowers. Australia has fantastic biodiversity within the country and it is a huge shame that parts of this are being put at risk of infestation of new/different species of pest and disease which have previously not been detected within Australia. This risk is not necessary when the product being imported is able to be readily produced here within Australia’s borders.
We had so much fun at Chrysco we filmed it! Check it out below and tell us what you think 💐