Alstroemerias or Peruvian Lilies
Speaker: Ben Cross of Crosslands Flower Nursery
Date: 26th September
Ben Cross working in the nursery
Crosslands Flower Nursery is an established family business near Arundel, specialising in British Alstroemerias (Peruvian lilies). Ben told us he was the fourth generation of his family to grow alstroemerias, his parents still work in the nursery.
It all started when his great-grandfather (ex-miner Walter) came from Abertillery in 1938 to take up a smallholding in Sidlesham under the governments Land Settlements Scheme. For more info visit www.sidleshamheritagetrail.co.uk
Ben told us the flowers can be grown at low temperatures all the year round the cycle starting with sterilising the ground in the glasshouses between June and August with sustainable 5% re-planting at the end of August. It costs £1000.00 to plant 140 plants per 2m by 30m bed. Harvesting will be done in the spring of 2018 (first flush) for the 2017 autumn planting with a second flush in autumn 2018.
The beds are heated using biomass pellets for the heating system and the plants need support. To maintain the crop water, light and nutrients are needed. Also cutting, tucking into the wire frames, thinning and weeding in the summer. The flowers are harvested by pulling the stem right out of the root rhizome.
The stems are then put into water and sent to the grading sheds. There are two grades, posy grade and floristry grade, the stems are de-leafed, bound, wrapped by machine and then sent into chillers for storage. The temperature is kept at -6oC and air is circulated by fans. Harvesting takes place seven days a week. Customers include 10 boxes a week to Covent Garden, 100 recyclable boxes a week to garden centres, on-line centres etc.
Ben went on to explain overheads, bed irrigation, low and high level, pests and diseases. Soil analysis is carried out twice a year looking at levels of calcium, potash, nitrogen and PH (need 5-7 acidic). 20 tons of new topsoil is introduced every two years. He also stressed how important it was to keep the glass clean! Pests include caterpillars, red spider mite, aphids and white fly. Aubergines are planted at the end of the rows as biological control of the white fly.
Ben was passionate about the British Flower Industry, and the problems besetting growers in this country due to overseas competition and the cost of labour. He stressed that British grown flowers last longer, are better packed so less damage to the flowers so less waste and prices remain the same over the year. He also pointed out that labelling in supermarkets is not always clear about where the flowers come from.
Ben’s Company provides a “Spotlight Service” which includes delivery and after sales. He also invited us to visit the nursery and carry the message to our local florists.
After a thoroughly enjoyable if technical talk, delivered by an enthusiastic nursery man, Ben was pleased to answer questions and we were pleased to buy bunches of his lovely alstroemerias.