Spring has arrived. For Wildflower farmer Bill Hoffman it is indeed a busy time. We are surrounded by fields of Geraldton wax blossoms at Muchea Gold on the Great Northern Highway. They are picked from June to November, September being the height of the blossoms is the busiest time of the year.
Muchea Gold is Australia’s largest wildflower farm. They sell 250 tonne of flowers a year, have 150,000 plants and turnover around $2 million per year. Ninety percent of the wildflowers go straight to Japan and are sold in an auction system, and ten percent goes to Europe. Bill shares, “The Japanese love flowers, the average Japanese spends $800 per year, the average Australian man spends less than $8.” Ladies don’t give up your man just yet, apparently the flowers are mostly put in cemeteries, every visit, the Japanese take flowers to their lost loved ones.
Bill Hoffman has spent most of his life in the fuel game, as a fuel distributor, and he had a farm in Narrogin. Some years ago his wife died, understandably he didn’t really want
to go back and live in Narrogin so he was looking for new options. Bills says, “In 1999 I got talked into buying a share of this farm.
Years later, after I met my second wife, Lynne, there was the opportunity to buy out the partners. With the encouragement and support of Lynne we bought it. Bills adds, “I wish I was here 20 years ago, it beats anything I’ve done before”.
Before readers throw in the farm and take up wildflowers, we caution there is a formula required. Muchea Gold is a unique farm. Bill has access to many litres of water per year,
and the most perfect grey, sandy soil for growing the waxes the international market craves. All plants are irrigated for maximum production.
Whilst Bill modestly reminds, he is not a “farmer”, it is not hard to see his passion for the flowers. He points and easily describes each variety, especially the new varieties
which are named after family members.
Thanks to the busy bees, Bill has around 20 new varieties. According to Bill the markets love “new!” and so they are always on the look-out for new varieties to propagate. One new variety that Bill is very pleased with is a new “giant Revelation”. It is twice the size of the known Revelation species. A floriculture expert has suggested that a hybrid seed has evolved, at the time of high growth cell division. Which in itself shouldn’t really happen for a hybrid as hybrids do not usually produce fertile seeds, and yet it seems these amazing growth properties now exist in the new plant. They have now propagated 2,500 plants from this plant, they are twice as big as all the other “Revelation” plants.
It’s not all waxes at Muchea Gold, there are 25,000 red and green kangaroo paws, Eucalyptus and many Leucadendrons.
Further north in Bindoon at Plantation Wildflowers, Nina Foulkes Taylor has 27 varieties of Wax, including many of her own hybrids such as the pictured wax, Frosty.
Nina & Anton Foulkes Taylor started the wildflower farm in 1980 as a means of farm diversification. After much research, they cleared 26 acres of land and put in trickle irrigation. Nina has been an active member of the wildflower community, for many years. In the 1990s Nina was the president of the wildflower association and served on the
RIRDC wildflower advisory board.
Neither Nina nor Anthony hold any formal horticultural certificates, but ask anyone in the industry and you’ll discover they are well known and respected.
Nina’s passion for flowers and horticulture is contagious. Her daughter Vivienne, has a similar passion and interest for wildflowers, she and her family have made the “tree change” to help build the family business. One of Nina’s favourite wildflowers is the Verticordias Grandis. This bright red flower is striking and is a highly sought after summer flower. As Verticordias are short lived in cultivation, Nina and Vivienne, are actively extending their range of Verticordias by grafting onto waxes.
Across the Valleys on Gingin Brook Rd, the Safari Sunset Leucadendrons blossom like a welcoming red carpet. Karen Rowe, is relatively new to wildflowers, she purchased the farm in 2007 from Daryl and Kerry Butler which had 20 acres of wildflowers.
Karen shares with a twinkle in her eye,”When I purchased the property I asked Daryl and Kerry if they minded if I bulldoze the flowers”.
It seems the lure of the wildflowers seduced another, she quickly softened and decided to see if they’d pay their way. Four years later, there’s less talk of bulldozers. A few frustrations with drippers and blockages, but it seems the wildflowers are staying. It’s a big career shift for Karen, she has been driving trucks most of her life. Karen still
owns 3 trucks, but you wont see her behind the wheel these days as she prefers to be around flowers rather than traffic.