Floribusiness Grower of the week ‘The nursery gives me a reason to get up in the mornings’

‘The nursery gives me a reason to get up in the mornings’

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Les Neill is an Australian orchid grower. He came to the Taiwan International Orchid Show looking for new cultivars and propagation materials.The show is great. The Taiwanese grow a very broad assortment of orchid. We come here to buy cuttings, preferably of exclusive varieties.”

Who are these people in the picture with you?

“They are my colleagues and travel companions from Australia. The man in the blue shirt is Darren Howard. Maxwell Rawlings is the man on the other side. He came to Taiwan with his wife Susan. We’re from Queensland, in the northeast of Australia, where we grow different types of orchid.”

What did you come to Taiwan for?

“New cultivars and propagation materials for our nurseries. I’ve been coming to the Taiwan International Orchid Show in the beginning of March each year, since 2005. The show is great. The Taiwanese grow a very broad assortment of orchid. Two large halls are filled with stalls of various growers selling flowering plants and propagation materials. We come here to buy cuttings, preferably of exclusive varieties.”

What are you taking home with you?

“Mostly phalaenopsis cuttings. I tend to buy Vanda in Thailand. Phalaenopsis is the main crop at our nurseries. It’s grown using plant tissue culture in closed bottles, so we don’t have any problems importing it into Australia. We’ll get about 30 kilos in total. That’s within the airline’s free baggage allowance.”

Have you always grown orchids?  

I spent many years working in the mining industry. When I retired, I started a 6,000-m2 nursery. I love nature. The nursery is more than just a hobby. It gives me a reason to get up in the mornings. And it generates income. Not just for my family, but for our employee as well.”

Are there many orchid growers in Australia?

“In our region, about 100 kilometres south of Cairns, maybe a handful. In all of Australia, maybe around thirty. They’re mostly small companies, growing their plants in a small greenhouse and a shading house. I estimate the total acreage of orchid in our country at 20 hectares.”

How’s business these days?

“We can’t complain. We sell from the nursery and through florists. Our customers appreciate the quality of our products. In supermarket chains like Woolworths, we see phalaenopsis on offer for €6 to €15. We can’t grow them for those prices. Most of the plants in the supermarkets are from Taiwan. The Taiwanese ship them by boat when the flowers are still budding. By the time they arrive in Australia, the plants go straight to the shops. One open flower will do. That’s a shame. We can do so much better.”

AGE 63

Culture Orchid

PLACE Meringa, Queensland, Australia

ACREAGE  6,000 m2

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