April 29th, 2023Bloomin’ beautiful
The Local is running a producers’ series over the next few editions. Here Eve Lamb talks with Janae and Chris Paquin-Bowden from Fleurs de Lyonville, at Lyonville, of course.
Janae and Chris Paquin-Bowden of Fleurs de Lyonville, at Lyonville. Image: Eve Lamb
FLOWERS are good for the soul. So says Lyonville’s Janae Paquin-Bowden. And she should know.
Together with her husband Chris, Janae owns and runs organic family flower farm, Fleurs de Lyonville, where the couple live with their two young children and their yin and yang, black and white, little terrier dogs. It’s the sort of job description that makes the word “idyllic” spring to mind.
“It’s physically hard, and a bit taxing on the body, and the weather is challenging,” Janae says to the suggestion that this work environment is more than a little enviable.
“But there’s so many rewarding stages,” she concedes.
Chris and Janae both have professional backgrounds as teachers. In fact they met as teachers, and that background comes in handy when they deliver their on-farm events ranging from flower arranging workshops to farm tours.
In business these days, it’s accepted wisdom that you need a good story to tell. And theirs is a beauty.
The couple’s organic flower farm journey started back in 2014 after they experienced some issues in finding flowers for their own wedding.
“We found it quite difficult to source local organically grown flowers for our own wedding,” Janae says. “Thankfully we came across Matt and Lentil from Grown and Gathered who were growing flowers for trade at the time.
“When Lentil pulled up in her van and opened the back door, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“The van was full of flowers and foliage from foxgloves to Queen Anne’s
lace…we knew this was what we wanted to do on our farm. Grow flowers.”
Clearly a woman of determination with a keen eye for business, Janae became the main driver in getting Fleurs de Lyonville up and going, such that at the end of 2021 Chris too was able to leave his job as an assistant principal, to devote his working days to the flower farm full time.
“I haven’t looked back,” Chris says.
Late summer, on a sunny day, the farm occupying about just under half a hectare of their 3.2 hectare block is a dream to visit.
There are gleaming new sunflowers, the mauve gauze of globe artichoke heads, the cobalt blue structure of echinops spheres held aloft on silvery spikes, a riot of fragrant old-fashioned sweet peas, blousy cosmos on slender stalks, a field of bobbing poppies, and glorious musk pink dahlias…to name just a few of the floral abundance.
Janae at work in the garden of Fleurs de Lyonville. Image: Eve Lamb
Chris and Janae say there’ll be plenty of chrysanthemums ready for Mother’s Day too, thanks to the recent addition of two big new polytunnels.
Not long ago they clinched a handy Agriculture Victoria grant that covered half the cost of installing the two new polytunnels, completed October 2021. It’s a move poised to deliver a major benefit in extending the flowering season beyond the warm, bountiful days of spring and summer.
“They have been a game changer,” Chris says.
The couple supplement the sale of their organic blooms and arrangements
by also offering an array of on-farm workshops that, judging by the “sold out”
posts, seem to be going down a treat with aesthetes and flower lovers.
Janae’s working background features ceramics and she says she’ll be offering some ceramic hand-building workshops as part of the series.
“Because we have a background as teachers, we love to talk,” she says. Janae knew starting Fleurs de Lyonville was a winning idea – although following through with such a vision is not for the faint hearted.
“It wasn’t an easy decision. But I’ve always followed my gut and I knew it was the right decision,” she says.
Post those difficult days of Covid lockdowns, the wedding trade picked
up, Chris says, creating a strong demand for their blooms which are all grown with a careful eye to variety in form and colour.
“I do a lot of the picking and design work but after a while I just have to put my hands in the soil,” Janae says.
Being organic, working with nature, using birds and friendly bugs as natural little pest control agents is an important aspect of their operation, she says.
And getting their heads around succession planting, always planning ahead, being ever-ready for the implications of frost and heat is a necessity.
“We didn’t have a clue how to do anything at the beginning. We’ve learnt a lot through failure,” Janae says. “We’ve lived and learned. We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved. The aim was to be together working off the land.”
Words & images: Eve Lamb
(Next edition, G’s Bees Honey – Down to Earth.