In 2012 the magazine featured an interview with Queensland florist Karon Cumner, who shared about her flower farming background and the development of her thriving floristry business. We recently caught up with Karon again and learnt that the business is continuing to go from strength to strength, including plans for exciting renovations of her store at Westridge Florist.
Do you ever miss your farming days?
While I often look back to many fond memories from my days as a flower farmer in Jandowae, I don’t miss the hard work, exhausting hours and the constant threat of stock loss from drought or disease. It was 11 September 2001 when I finally decided I’d had enough. After our largest harvest ever, suddenly the world stopped, and all our flowers were left on airport tarmacs. After that, my family and I moved to Toowoomba and opened Westridge Florist. Although my farming days are well behind me, I often find that those experiences help me in my floristry. I know where the flowers come from, how they’ve been handled and the hard work that went into producing them.
What’s new in your business since we last spoke?
Currently, we are in the middle of plans to renovate the store. We are looking forward to an exciting new look and a wonderfully appealing new space that will give visitors a true experience with the flowers. I’ve also expanded our services in the do-it-yourself area, by holding workshops and encouraging customers to have a hands-on approach to the flowers. This is important in connecting people and in educating them. If a person makes their flower crown or corsage, they can see how much work and money goes into it which will improve their appreciation of the products.
We also have FarmGate Flowers, our online wholesale flower market where our mission is to get farm-fresh flowers straight to the consumer at an affordable price. By sourcing fresh cut flowers straight from the farm gate, the quality and value are passed straight on to the customer. The FarmGate Flowers wholesale service is accessible via the Westridge Flowers website. While the market is available online 24/7, local customers can also organise to collect their flowers from our Westridge Florist store. Often our FarmGate Flowers are not the mainstream varieties, giving people access to a larger range of interesting flowers. We have a strong interest in reducing the use of plastics in consideration of the environment, so the focus at FarmGate Flowers is to provide a more organic, direct, efficient and cost-effective way to get flowers to people. We want Australians to connect with flowers, understand where they come from and make them an integral part of their everyday lives, much as they do in Europe as a whole.
What are your thoughts on today’s floristry industry?
I feel that the margins are getting smaller and smaller, but florists are working harder and harder. This is partially because too many have the perspective of competing with each other, rather than competing in a united way with other gift-giving industries. We need to get our act together as an industry and work together, which will help each
individual business survive.
Flowers are regularly taken for granted by our society, and yet they appear everywhere. We’d be lost without them, but we underestimate their value on a day-to-day basis. There has been a surging interest in recent times in areas such as cooking and interior decorating, largely due to accessible and viewer-friendly programs such as The Living Room and My Kitchen Rules. Why is it that flowers and floristry aren’t represented in a similar way? Often, such shows will include a beautiful flower arrangement as a table centrepiece or in the background on the set, yet no reference is made to them. We need to put the spotlight on flowers and start including them in home and lifestyle discussions.
In terms of industry trends, indoor plants are in vogue and are being incorporated into more retail floristry businesses. They are living gifts and beautifully complement the cut flowers. I feel it is critical for florists to regularly check on trends and to remain innovative in their approach.
This article was originally published in Flowers magazine, originally Australian Flower Industry magazine, February 2018