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Beneficial blooms in your garden

This month we are lucky enough to have Rob Velseboer from Organic Herbs and Seedlings in Riverhead write for us. He gives us an insight into how he moved from only vegetables to incorporating cut flowers, and how important blooms really are to help find your organic garden's natural equilibrium. Read on to find out what to plant now for summer.

I have always loved growing and have always had a huge passion about my vegetable gardens. Plants seemed to grow well for me so I decided to quit my office job and start growing herb and vegetable seedlings.

My focus has always been on organic and local, and until a few years ago it was all about the vegetables. Like many other gardeners, I used to think there was no room for flowers as they only take up space. Just a waste of time.

But to grow an organic garden at its best, flowers are an essential part of this natural process. I really underestimated the role of beneficial insects, bees and butterflies in the garden. Now a third of my garden is in flowers and as the demand for local and fresh grows, this will likely increase.

With all the insect life feeding and pollinating in the garden, there is a natural balance. Gone are the aphids, green shield beetles and caterpillars that loved my vegetables. Thanks to the parasitic wasps, lacewings, ladybirds and other good insects, my bad bug problem is kept at bay.

Even more of a plus, flowers are easy to grow. Even though I have something flowering in my garden throughout the year, I always grow seasonally. With spring just around the corner, now is the time to plan which flowers to grow. I leave the tricky flowers that do best in heated tunnel houses and concentrate on the old fashioned and traditional.

The ones I recommend for ease of growing and great pickings for summer are:

  1. Dahlia – gives so much for little effort. Huge range of colours and shapes.

  2. Zinnia – Hardy and drought tolerant. Great for the monarch butterfly

  3. Cornflowers – vibrant blue and other colours

  4. Scabiosa – an oldie but a goodie.

  5. Cosmos – try the double clicks or cupcake varieties.

  6. Ami – a great filler and loved by bees.

  7. Amaranth – easy to grow and birds love the seeds.

  8. Sunflowers – try the branching types that keep on flowering.

  9. Strawflowers – everlasting and really cool.

  10. Gomphrena – for months of flowering.

I sell my flowers at our local farmers market during the warmer months and have noticed that more people now want to by local and fresh. With so many of the flowers sold in New Zealand being imported it is really important that we support or local growers before they are all gone. Flowers brought into the country are cheaper than we can grow them but they are heavily sprayed and fumigated when they arrive.

Thanks to the increasing number of florists focusing of locally grown flowers, the future of flower farming in New Zealand is looking promising.


Rob runs the Riverhead branch and also mans a fantastic vegetable garden site with hints and tips at

You’ll find Organic Herbs and Seedlings at the Makatana, Grey Lynn and Parnell Markets, and at Boric in Kumeu in the warmer months. You can also order and pick up seedlings from their nurseries in Riverhead and Warkworth - please call to make an appointment.

Both nurseries are certified Organic by BioGro.

Riverhead Nursery

951 Coatesville-Riverhead Hwy, Riverhead, RD3 Albany

Contact: Rob Velseboer | 021 0232 3555

Warkworth Nursery

701a State Highway 1, Dome Valley, RD1 Warkworth

Contact : Mandy Purvis | 027 470 0567

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