Michelle Kempthorne harvesting Pastini Venezia mini gerberas at K&L Nurseries

Flowers for generations

by Ann van Engelen

Michelle and Ian Kempthorne at K&L Nurseries are the fifth generation of the Loader family to be working in the flower growing business.

Michelle’s great great grandfather began growing freesias and table grapes in the early 1900s and now along with her parents Paul and Lyn, Michelle and her husband Ian specialise in producing gerberas and roses.

“They are in the top three flowers for cut flowers florists and wholesalers need. Lillies are the third popular choice,” says Michelle.

“Our gerbera house is full of colour at present. We grow 70 varieties, and there are all sorts of new funky ones. One of the hottest is a Pastini Venezia, which is a mini gerbera shaped like a pasta swirl.

“We work seven days a week and are under a lot of pressure from imported flowers.

“To help overcome this and gain a point of difference we have planted some varieties that are unique to us.”

The family were the first growers in the country to go from coal to wood using high tech Polytechnik Biomass boiler for heating in the growing houses.

“We won sections in the Ballance Farm and Environmental awards for this changeover. K&L Nurseries produces more than two million stems of cut flowers a year and produce more than 70 per cent of the South Island’s supply of Gerberas.

“We sell through wholesale auction houses and distribute them to retail clients across the South Island.” The family also own Hornby Florist and Andrea’s Florist in Avonhead Mall and originally started growing their own roses to supply their shops.

“Being involved in the retail side of the industry provides us with unique insights into market trends, so we can plan ahead and tailor our growing schedule to meet the ever-evolving needs of our clients.”