Grower of the Month – Green & Gold Flowers

Grower of the Month – Green & Gold Flowers

It doesn’t matter how many years it has been in the industry for Valer Rustemi, horticulture is deeply ingrained in the DNA of the Rustemi family and Valer has seen success and challenges that have come in many shapes and sizes . Formerly from  Macedonia, Rustemi migrated to Australia in 1973 with his farming family and siblings. Starting Green and Gold flowers with father and brother Jashar sowing mixed vegetables and flowers, the Robinson Road farm in Pearcedale expanded and hothouses were built 4 years later. Carnations, Gyp and roses were flavour of the day and grown in vast quantities when the business supplied supermarket giant Safeway for 8 years.

Scaling back the business from 20-30 people (employed during peak season) to primarily family employees has seen Valer reshape and streamline the business. His expansive property which was once fully operational with hydroponics has geared down to become more manageable for Valer and his family. Together with his wife Anne who maintain the farm, both son Skenda, daughter in law and daughter Lululzime operate retail florist kiosks in Preston and Richmond market which keep them very busy 5 days a week. Valer also has a stall at Epping Wholesale Flower Market where his beautiful and fragrant roses, picked in a perfect semi-flourished bloom, are popular for weddings.

Valer currently grows 30,000 roses and between 30-40 rose varieties with Red Gala’s his biggest seller on Valentine’s Day (also the most popular Valentine’s Day rose in Europe and the States). His personal favourite is Dolce Vita which yields a big, robust head. It’s a recent foray into the old fashioned “Hollyhocks”, a close relative of the hibiscus family, that is piquing the interest of florists. It’s his first year growing the variety and offering something different in a market flooded with other growers producing similar lines, will hopefully pay off. Typically a garden variety, Valer is trialling 10,000 Hollyhock plants in 6 colour ways as a cut flower and believes that white and yellow will be the most popular. The plush velvety red Hollyhock, our flower of the month  (read more here) which resembles a peony/hibiscus hybrid, recently caught our eye and is especially suited to Valentine’s Day!

It takes 2-3 months for the Hollyhocks to flower from seed and high Summer is their peak flowering period. Valer is looking at increasing their stem lengths by reducing manure and shaded options. His current crop experienced a hard start with the heat and “Too much chook poo” according to Valer. “You learn mistakes by making mistakes” he says. Hollyhocks require a lot of water and leaf cleaning and are a labour intensive variety. Valer has observed how imported flowers are impacting local growers and shifted marketability and demand. As a smaller grower, he is looking to bolster his magnificent rose range with varieties impervious to imports while also investing in spraying and systems to reduce the labour intensive nature of his daily grind. Hard work is something that Valer and his family have known all their lives with the entirety of their farm including irrigation built from scratch through blood, sweat and dirt in the days before farm machinery was available and affordable. He has seen many trends come and go over his many years in the industry and believes in sticking to what you do and doing it well. With most of his offspring less interested in the production farming and preferring the retail side of flowers, there’s hope that the legacy of this farm may one day continue on with his grandchildren. Walking through his farm, there is a beautiful reminder of his late son who sadly passed away in a tragic road accident several years ago. “He loved tomatoes and planted them everywhere, so they spring up in the igloos in the most unexpected places every year. We tidy them up if they are in the way but otherwise let them be and they produce beautiful tomatoes. It’s a wonderful way for us to still have him as part of the farm and our lives”.

Support your local grower and visit Valer next to Monvale’s stand at Melbourne Wholesale Flower Market at Epping Thursday and Saturday market.

Green and Gold Flowers – 0422 572 556