Waking to the chilly Blue Mountains air in the early hours is what some people may call a punishment, but it is in these silent hours before dawn that micro flower farmer and mother of three Celine Watz sows her magic.
The Hoselink team arrived at the Floral By Nature flower farm in the crisp 6am air. Mist clung to the rolling hills and shrouded the deep valleys below. Kangaroos hopped groggily out of our path to reveal the gate to Celine’s mountain sanctuary. Ahead of us, along a dirt road, is Celine’s dream house. She explains that her husband is building it all on his own, perched precariously on top of the Watz property. The stone structure exposed to the sweeping Kanimbla Valley, the early morning sun reflecting off the glass-paned windows.
The location is magnificent, and it is evident that creativity and dream-weaving are shared between the pair. But it is to the right of us, down a winding gravel road, that we follow Celine in her car to where the magic happens. The tires of both cars crunch under loose rocks beneath as looming Australian gumtrees begin to shadow us. We travel down, down, down until a modest flat patch of land comes into view overlooking a pretty stream. Leaving the cars behind, we follow Celine to a gate with the ‘Floral By Nature’ emblem etched on to a sign. As we pass through, we are greeted by rows upon rows of vibrant dahlias, sunflowers, amaranthus, roses, gomphrena and strawflowers. The most delicate tendrils are standing tall and poised, looking their best as the early morning dew glistens from every petal.
The fresh early start quickly turns into a balmy and bright mid-morning. Celine humbly explains the origins of Floral By Nature and her passion for flowers, which began long before she started her business. Celine’s flower farm is a micro flower farm, which Celine and her husband Tristan look after alone. A micro flower farm is a controlled environment that cultivates native flowers on a small scale, unlike conventional farming. Celine is proud that Floral By Nature does not use any chemicals, pesticides or farming machinery to grow the flowers. Instead, Celine personally plants, waters, tends to and harvests the flowers by her own gentle hands, free from any chemicals.
As Celine walks us past the dahlias to the edge of the farm, a creek comes into view, meandering its way through the property. It is as if all of nature’s marvels have assembled in one spot; the bees are humming, and birds sing softly, forming today’s playlist.
Celine explains that this is her happy place; she feels like a child in a candy store most days. The colours bright and the perfumes heady; there isn’t one face that doesn’t have a smile today.
Celine has always had a passion for flowers. After leaving school, Celine entered the floristry industry; studying horticulture in between creating stunning arrangements for clients at a local florist shop. But it was not all sunshine and roses for Celine. After a worrying health scare, Celine discovered that conventional mass-scale flowers are doused in chemicals, and it was these chemicals that left Celine ill and with no other choice but to give up floristry.
Thankfully, a few years later, after purchasing the land they now call home, Floral By Nature was born. The business is part of a more significant movement, a movement towards slow flower farming without the need for chemicals. Like the slow food movement, the slow flower movement aims to educate people on the benefits of growing flowers and supporting local flower farms using non-toxic techniques, growing with the environment in mind. Celine explains that many commercially grown flowers carry toxic chemicals and rack up high flower miles (the distance travelled before selling to the consumer), all at a cost to the environment and our health. Floral By Nature is Celine’s stance against the mistreatment of the flower industry in Australia. She explains that by buying ‘fast-flowers’, which are the ones supplied daily to supermarket giants, we as a nation are supporting a mass industry that is not regulated. These readily available ‘fast-flowers’ are taking a toll on small-scale Australian flower farmers as well as our health and our appreciation for what is grown locally and seasonally.
When asked what Celine’s favourite flower is, she says she cannot go past the dahlia because of the unique colour and how ‘showy’ they are. Flowers like these, Celine explains, when grown on a commercial scale, need to be nurtured with the environment in mind. Celine says it all starts with taking care of our soil by not flooding the ground with unnatural pesticides, which strips away the natural vitamins and minerals that make Australian-grown produce so vibrant and healthy. Celine touches on the importance of Australian bees. Bees are the key to pollinating Australia’s native flowers. With the use of chemicals and mass-scale machinery, bees do not have the chance to survive on such farms.
As Celine works on a beautiful arrangement of freshly harvested roses, she details how important it is for us as consumers to be aware of where our shop-bought flowers are coming from.
‘I believe that the mandatory labelling of a flower’s country of origin is a step in the right direction,’ Celine explains, ‘So that the consumer can make a conscious decision about their purchase.’
Being a micro flower farm poses many environmental and economic challenges for Celine. With the extreme Australian seasons presenting everything from droughts to flooding, and more recently terrible bush fires, the flowers suffer and so too does Celine’s livelihood. With this in mind, Celine cannot stress enough the importance of buying local. Attending local fresh produce markets in your area is a great way to discover all the fantastic producers and makers, and the talents they are bringing to the community. Floral By Nature services the Blue Mountains region from spring to mid-autumn. Celine hand delivers each bunch to local customers as well as the eco-conscious bride, so there is no middleman involved. Celine says being able to create bouquets and arrangements for a bride who is passionate about flower origins is essential, as you want your clients to have peace of mind that local, pesticide-free flowers are decorating their special day.
‘I enjoy adding my flowers to arrangements,’ says Celine. ‘I love planting them by hand and then arranging them by hand. It is a full circle, and I find it really satisfying.’
There is something almost romantic in the way Celine handles her craft, from delicately planting each seed through to marking each bouquet with her personalised Floral By Nature ink stamp. Everything is natural, at ease and fluid. Celine has a real connection to nature, and you can tell she always has the environment at the forefront of her mind. Celine has made it her mission to ensure the Australian soil she resides on is chemical-free and, hopefully, in a better state than it was before the flower farm was established.
If there is one thing we can take away from our time spent at the Floral By Nature farm, it’s that sometimes we need creative individuals like Celine to show us a new way of looking at things so we can literally stop and smell the roses, and think about the importance of a flower’s origin that we might otherwise take for granted.
Follow Floral By Nature on Instagram here.