Geothermal Gerbera – don’t miss them!

In environmentally conscious circles, cut flowers have become a bit of a no-no in recent years, something that is largely due to the amount of energy that goes into heating the greenhouses used to grow them. That’s why a visit to PlentyFlora’s huge indoor gerbera-growing operation at Horohoro 16 minutes south of Rotorua on highway 30 is such a pleasure – the warmth which the stunning flowers require to put on their dazzlingly bright display is supplied, almost entirely, by natural geothermal heating!

PlentyFlora’s gerbera operation is the brainchild of Connie and Harald Esendam who established the business in 2002. The dynamic couple’s talents include Harald’s horticultural degree and experience in flower-research, and Connie’s office management and marketing skills. Having lived in Holland until 1995, the Esendams also have strong connections with the Dutch Floricultural industry.

Gerberas are subtropical plants which hail from South Africa. The stable heat required to grow them successfully means that most New Zealand gerbera are grown in and around Auckland. But in Horohoro, which can be pretty chilly in the cooler months (think -3 or 4 degrees outside), two geothermal bores provide the energy to keep temperatures above the minimum 14°C required for successful production of blooms. And in case it’s required, a biodiesel heating system is also on-call. As well as having the heating sussed, the Esendams have also nailed watering and fertilising thanks to a computerised system.

The result of all this natural heating and technology is the production of over half a million standard and mini-gerberas annually, in more than 60 different colours. Each bloom is pulled, rather than being cut, and is carefully placed in a cellophane sleeve before being shipped to dozens of florists around the country.

But it’s not the slick business side of the gerbera growing that makes a visit to PlentyFlora a must – it’s the warmth of the welcome you’ll receive, and the invitation to wander around the greenhouse at your leisure. The sight of hundreds of blemish-free, potted gerbera blooms, all at waist-height, is something you’ll never forget. Like an underwater display of vibrant corals, the gerberas pop with iridescent colour and put on a display that will have you taking dozens of photos.

When you’ve had your fill of these exotic flowers, there’s the opportunity to purchase some blooms to take home from the honesty box outside the greenhouse. Or, if you happen to be visiting the greenhouses from September to Christmas, for around $10 you’ll be able to purchase a potted gerbera to take home.

If you can’t wait to visit PlentyFlora, bear in mind that Monday is the one day of the week that is especially busy for staff, so schedule your viewing on another day. And it is always best to phone ahead (07-333 2974) so staff can expect you. Take change for purchasing from the honesty box, and your camera for recording the colourful highlights. And dress in layers, as once you are in the greenhouse, temperatures start to hot-up!