Taieri paeony grower Rodger Whitson believes that investing in 'hoop' tunnel houses will make his long-lasting cut flowers more attractive, in particular to overseas buyers. "There's a lot of competition out there. We can't compete on price, but we can on quality," he says, adding that Chile is now a leading supplier of paeony flowers, as are Australia and South Africa.
With his wife, Cindy, Mr. Whitson owns Janefield Paeonies, which has been producing herbaceous paeonies for 23 years. Plants are no longer sold, all the focus being on the cut-flower market, and the majority of blooms are sent offshore.
They are now trialing three types of fabric for covering the tunnel houses, and Mr. Whitson says, "It's amazing the difference in the quality of the flowers [so] most of our stuff is now grown under cover."
That gives Janefield Paeonies early blooms to send to North America and Asia during the third week in October, ahead of the Chilean growers. Three weeks later, in mid-November, the Whitsons' 'full pick' starts.
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