We’re sure you will love the following EPIC guest post by Felicity McNaught, of Adroit Studio, detailing Felicity’s adventurous, whirlwind trip around Australia, visiting a total of eight wholesale flower markets in four different cities!
Flower markets – seriously, what’s not to love? If you just luuuurve beautiful blooms and bargain prices in equal measure, chances are you’ve already checked out what’s on offer at your local flower market.
As for me, I love, cherish and pretty much haunt my local flower market. “But what are the other markets like?” I wondered, driving home from one such outing recently, “Maybe I should travel around Australia and write a mega-fabulous flower market ‘round-up’ blog!”
Idea born and rash decision made, I could not stop grinning. FOR ONE WHOLE WEEK.
When my face returned to normal, and the tickets and hotel rooms were booked, I headed off on the shopping mission to end all shopping missions: to visit the cream of the flower market crop in each Australian capital city and along the way, to buy as many blossoming beauties as I could fit in my hire car.
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My challenge? To review and compare each market based on service, experience, range, quality, price and more!
It’s off the beaten track where the real bargains are to be found, particularly when it comes to flowers!
The Mega Flower Market Trip: Plan Of Attack
*Spoiler alert* My experiences in each city were wildly different!
Destination #1: Brisbane
Brisbane: my home town and the place where this whole affair began (both my initial love affair with flowers as well as my newfound interest in flower market exploration). What better place to kick my flower market adventure off?
So, without further ado – to market!
Market #1. Brisbane Flower Market, Rocklea
With coffee in one hand and camera in the other, off I trotted to the flower market that started it all: The Brisbane Flower Market.
The Brisbane Flower Market is located at the enormous Brisbane Markets site on Sherwood Road, Rocklea. But first, a warning! Although you might feel the irresistible pull of the Brisbane Produce Markets signage, if you find yourself sitting in front of this confronting monstrosity:
Don’t go there! Take a left!
The Flower Market has its own separate section which is calmer, more relaxed and offers generous free parking. I arrived a little after 6am on a busy Monday morning and was easily able to find a park directly outside the market entry. This may not be quite so straightforward during the weekly Saturday Fresh Market, where over 220 stalls peddle their various wares to Brisbane shoppers.
I spent the majority of my time in the market cold rooms, exploring and admiring their range of fresh buds and blossoms.
Entering the large shed structure, I was greeted by the sights and smells of beautiful fresh blooms that added a welcome pop of colour to the otherwise bland concrete pathway linking the 4 resident flower wholesalers: Brisbane Market Flowers, Lynch Market Flowers, Flower Lovers, and Redlands Fresh Flowers.
Between them these wholesalers offer a full range of seasonal flowers available by the bunch or in pre-styled arrangements, plus complementary products like potted plants, vases and vessels, and fake flowers, primarily for commercial (and non-green thumb!) use. Brisbane Market Flowers also offers wedding flower consultation and floristry for brides-to-be.
Between them the 4 resident wholesalers offer a full range of seasonal flowers available by the bunch or in pre-styled arrangements.
Lynch Market Flowers and Flower Lovers both have market cold rooms that are open to the public, and this is where I spent the majority of my visit, exploring and admiring the vast range of fresh buds and blossoms.
What did I buy?
This fine Monday morning I had my heart set on garden roses as my focal point, and I certainly had my work cut out for me choosing the right look from the colour options available. After narrowing it down to either a light apricot or a muted mauve (with the light apricot taking the win), I pottered around – taking quick breaks outside the chill of the cold rooms along the way – searching for the perfect fillers and complementary blooms to complete my arrangement.
In the end, I settled on some vibrant Sweet William, textured lambs ear foliage, and a few bunches of Queen Anne’s Lace to balance it all out.
Unfortunately, there were no trolleys to use so I carted my purchases out to my car in a couple of trips, hoping that no one would snatch my goodies away while my back was turned!
All in all, a lovely way to start the day.
Market #2. Tesselaar Brisbane Wholesale Flower Market, Coorparoo
And then it was on to the centrally located flower market so beloved by my florist friends: the Tesselaar Brisbane Flower Market.
Surrounded by uniformly painted, warehouse-style buildings, and smack bang in the middle of an industrial estate around the corner from the Gabba, Tesselaar Brisbane Wholesale Flower Market is without doubt the most central flower market in Brisbane. Despite it’s attractive central locale, however, I immediately forgave myself for not having heard of this flower market gem before because, you know, industrial estate? Not my usual fair-trade-coffee-swilling, stiletto-boots-and-a-swagger style of shopping destination.
But I was quickly learning that it’s off the beaten track where the real bargains are to be found, particularly when it comes to flowers!
I arrived at Tesselaar Brisbane at 7:00am on Monday morning, found a park relatively easily at the front of the flower market and, once I’d made my way through the unassuming roller door, found myself caught up in a hive of floral-fuelled activity. Turns out that I’m not the only one who thought that the freshest, most beautiful flowers would be available this early in the week.
Armed with a price list provided by the market staff I admired the aisles of orchids, tulips, roses, natives, rare foliage, and my latest flower crush: ornamental kale.
Armed with a price list provided by the market staff, into the fridge I went to admire the aisles of orchids, tulips, roses, natives, rare foliage, and my latest flower-crush: ornamental kale. It was here that the competition with savvy florists, stylists, and event planners really took shape, with all of us focused on nabbing the best-looking blooms for either ourselves (ok, myself!), or for customers.
The lovely staff even helped me pack my selections into my car boot. 10 points for customer service guys!
What did I buy?
I have to say, the more experienced shoppers beat me to the punch on the peony and hydrangea front, but I managed to get my hot little hands on the only double tulips left in the market. As well as some billy buttons to brighten up my day.
Once I’d filled my two-tiered trolley with blooming goodies and my purchases had been rung up, the lovely staff even helped me pack my selections into my car boot. 10 points for customer service guys!
Tesselaar Brisbane, like Arnie says, I’ll be back.
Market #3. Northside Flower Market, Stafford
For my final stop in Brisbane I hit up the flower market much loved by brides-to-be and venues on the north side of the river: the Northside Flower Market.
Northside Flower Market is located less than ten kilometres from Brisbane’s CBD, just past Bunnings Stafford. There is ample parking, particularly at 10am on a Tuesday when I popped in to check the place out. The market is well signed, and the style of the florals featured on the signage gives this flower market a fresh, on-trend vibe.
Once I pushed open the double glass doors and entered the industrial-style brick building, that on-trend vibe kicked up another few notches. I was greeted not with a room full of floral bouquets, but with a selection of succulents in hand-painted pots, Ecoya room diffusers and hand wash gels, and modern flower vases and vessels, all tastefully arranged on shabby chic style furniture that showed off the various wares to perfection.
There were a handful of flower specials and featured products on display (atop wine barrels, of course), but it was obvious that the emphasis here was on class, not clutter. A great first impression.
The Northside Flower Market is both a full service florist for commercial, personal, and wedding customers, as well as a flower market where you can buy single varieties by the bunch.
After a resounding “morning!” greeting from the friendly staff, I was shown around the market, and given the run-down on the basic operations of the business. I learned that the Northside Flower Market is both a full service florist for commercial, personal, and wedding customers, as well as a flower market where you can buy single varieties by the bunch.
Alternatively, you can select a variety of flower styles and request a custom bunch be designed for you. Just grab a coffee from the interestingly named Humpybong Café next door, take a seat at the cute wall-mounted bar in the foyer style entry, and wait for your custom bouquet to be created.
The Northside Flower Market caters more to the general public than to a wholesale customer base, and the arrangement prices and amount of stock available for market only customers reflects this focus. However, the market prices are reasonable.
What did I buy?
I picked up 2 HUGE bunches of privet berry – that I couldn’t find anywhere else in Brisbane at the time – for a very tidy $20, as well as a cute little timber carrier full of natives, going by the name of ‘James’.
There were no trolleys on offer at this market, so I struggled through the glass doors with my floral treats and loaded them into the car myself. Luckily it wasn’t much of a walk!
Destination #2: Adelaide
The first city on my whirlwind flower market tour was South Australia’s cosmopolitan coastal capital, Adelaide. With attractive draw-cards like swimming with dolphins, the traditional German village of Hahndorf, and the Barossa Valley for a tipple, there was plenty to do. But I had flower markets to suss out. Here’s what the south Aussie capital had to offer on that front.
Market #4. Adelaide Flower Market, Richmond
First, the original: the aptly named Adelaide Flower Market.
Located halfway between the airport and the CBD, and just 5 kilometres from the popular Rundle Mall, the Adelaide Flower Market is in a pretty convenient spot. Unfortunately, in the planning phase of this trip I had to ask local Adelaide florist folks for help in finding out even the name of the place, as it has no website or social media presence whatsoever, and Google had never heard of it, which made things a little bit difficult for this out-of-towner!
Navigational issues aside, I encountered no traffic problems en route to the Market and once I arrived I had my pick of car parks to choose from, including one right next to the handy wheelbarrow style customer trolleys, another right across from what looked to be the main entry doors, and even a park alongside the coffee van, which is the park I ended up choosing.
From first impressions the large, run-down market building looked a bit grim, and I didn’t instantly have visions of beautiful blooms waiting to be hand-picked within. My first step inside the market didn’t improve things much either. At what was supposed to be the busiest time, there were only 4 customers in sight. The whole place seemed to be in the process of packing down; it didn’t much resemble a happening market, more a big empty space.
The whole place seemed to be in the process of packing down; it didn’t much resemble a happening market, more a big empty space.
So strong was this impression that I immediately sought out someone in charge, to assure myself that I hadn’t stumbled in before or after hours. I ended up having a long and very interesting conversation with the Flower Market Manager, Bettina, who informed me that the Market had dwindled significantly in recent years, with only 10 stalls remaining operational, where before there had been in excess of 40.
The stall holders I chatted to reiterated this state-wide drop in the flower industry, blaming a combination of interstate competitors and imported stock. From the stock that was on offer though, there was plenty of variety in a huge range of colours, and a choice of cool rooms to ensure the flowers were kept in prime condition, although there was still the inevitable mixture of fresh and not-so-fresh stock, always in evidence when you have multiple growers under the same roof.
From the stock that was on offer though, there was plenty of variety and colour, and a choice of cold rooms to ensure the flowers were kept in prime condition.
Other sellers I passed but didn’t directly interact with made me constantly aware of the fact that I wasn’t wearing a market pass (which has to be purchased and renewed periodically), in the way they looked me up and down and then moved on without smiling or offering any service. Some stall holders I did interact with only gave me the bare minimum in response to my questions, even though they were always price or product related, and even when it was blindingly obvious that I was chomping at the bit to make a purchase.
What did I buy?
I ended up leaving with just a few bunches of sunflowers from a stall holder who actually showed an interest in serving me (and was fine with my single day, out-of-towner pass status), in an attempt to bring some light and joy into this pretty dreary shopping experience.
Market #5. Tony’s Wholesale Flower Market, East End
For my second flower market visit in Adelaide that same Friday, I dropped in to the relatively new kid on the block: Tony’s Wholesale Flower Market.
Tony’s is located a short 4-minute drive from the Adelaide Flower Markets and there is ample parking. There were signs indicating a half hour parking limit. I ignored these without consequence, but something to bear in mind.
Upon initial inspection I thought Google Maps had directed me to a corporate building, likely to be full of suits rather than flowers. The building itself was an ultra modern structure, completely unlike any flower market I had visited thus far. But, stepping through the sliding glass doors and into the carpeted corridor I glimpsed, right at the end, a brightly lit space full of flowers, plants, trolleys and people, and it was to there I made a beeline.
There was no signage to indicate I was in the right place, just a prominent A-Frame that shouted “NO PUBLIC, WHOLESALE ONLY”, and listed some pretty convenient trading hours, applicable to wholesale customers only apparently.
Lucky for me my wholesale status was valid, so in I ventured. I was immediately assaulted (in a good way!) with the sights, smells and general buzz of a busy flower market in full swing.
I spotted a brightly lit space full of flowers, plants, trolleys and people with a general buzz of a busy flower market in full swing.
Although not as large in terms of square metres as the Adelaide Flower Market down the road, Tony’s proved that bigger is not always better. It was all go in the foyer: there were potted plants on tiered display shelves, buckets of discounted/almost-open flowers stacked on the floor and on racks and plenty of customers pushing trolleys.
Um, open Tiger Lilies for $3 a bunch?? Even with a short life expectancy, these blooms were just for me so it was some spare change worth spending!
In the main cool-room I was impressed with the way that all products were displayed in attractive timber pallets or on timber benches. Most stock were clearly labelled with pricing and product details, including stem length, stem count and origin/name (particularly relevant for imported roses). I was also impressed with the large variety and colour range of products available, again particularly in the case of roses, which staff advised were flown in from overseas markets each week to ensure demand in Adelaide was met, both for the general florist trade and for the supermarket retailers that Tony’s supply.
Most stock was clearly labelled with pricing and product details including stem length, stem count, and origin/name.
Noticeably, the market was overflowing with promotional flyers and posters for the ‘Flower My Day’ initiative, introduced by the South Australian flower industry to encourage the general public to reward themselves with regular flower purchases. That’s one way to service the general public when you are a wholesale-to-trade only business I suppose; let’s hope the average punter doesn’t get too confused by the ‘NO PUBLIC’ announcement on the A-Frame out the front.
Considering both my Adelaide Flower Market and Tony’s Flower Market experiences, it would seem that Adelaide is not the place to visit if you’re just an average Joanne looking to nab a bargain at your local flower market.
What did I buy?
Surprisingly there was a distinct lack of native flowers on offer at Tony’s – just a few buckets of proteas and a single bucket of waratahs – so of course I elbowed in and grabbed myself an armful, along with some contrasting Dusty Miller foliage thrown in for good measure. Armed with these and my $3 Tiger Lilies, I called it a day. And at just 10am, I still had plenty of time to jump in my hire car and drive out to the Barossa Valley to visit Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop and indulge in some seasonal farm-fresh goodness. Yum!
Destination #3: Melbourne
Melbourne is a city I have visited regularly. This time I planned to leave the secret lane-ways and rooftop bars to the ‘real’ tourists and explore the city’s biggest wholesale flower markets.
With market locations spread across suburban Melbourne, there was a lot of ground to cover and only a couple of days to cover them. Time to get cracking!
Market #6. Tesselaar Melbourne Wholesale Flower Market, Monbulk
After a lovely weekend of hiking, exploring, and general relaxation in The Grampians National Park, I headed to my first flower market visit in Melbourne, the ‘big sister’ of one of my fave Brissie markets: Tesselaar Melbourne Wholesale Flower Market.
The Tesselaars Melbourne Flower Market is located one hour’s drive from downtown Melbourne in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges. Home to some of the lushest rainforest and most unique back-to-nature experiences you’re likely to find so close to a bustling metropolis, the mountain roads of The Dandenongs meander through quaint villages and into the heart of Australia’s premium flower growing region, Monbulk. Tesselaars began here and it’s still home to their head office and Melbourne Flower Market.
Surrounded by rolling fields and open country spaces, the farm-style Market shed fit the landscape to a tee, although it didn’t look at all like a bustling flower market was at work behind it’s industrial roller doors. To be fair, I did arrive a little before opening time on a Wednesday, and the fact that this market is open pretty much all day probably explained why I was the only car in the huge customer car park area.
I pushed through the entry doors and stepped into the unmanned market foyer, where I was met with absolute silence. Following the signs that were posted around the room, I donned a ‘hi-vis’ jacket and entered the main cool room.
Here, my spirits were immediately lifted by the neatly organised rows of bright and beautiful flower and foliage, including buckets of hydrangeas – my first encounter of the season with those beauties! – interesting foliage options like autumn-toned nandina and mini pineapples, and of course many buckets of perfect quality tulips, in keeping with Tesselaar’s Dutch origins.
My spirits were lifted by the neatly organised rows of bright and beautiful flowers and foliage, including many buckets of perfect quality tulips, in keeping with Tesselaar’s Dutch origins.
There were no prices or product names on any of the stock, and no signs announcing any market specials or discounted product lines, which actually added to the perceived freshness of the market in general – everything put out for sale was in top notch condition – no exceptions! Although I suppose for first-timers/non-florists the lack of product and price indicators could make it a bit difficult to shop.
I wandered about for a few minutes, admiring the stock and planning what purchases to make, until a staff member finally came into the cool room with a product price-list and asked if I needed any help.
I was given a comprehensive tour of the Market, including a run down of where everything on the price-list was located, and I was even privy to a few bunches from ‘out the back’ which would better work with my chosen blooms.
There were no signs announcing any market specials or discounted product lines, which actually added to the perceived freshness of the market in general – everything put out for sale was in top notch condition!
What did I buy?
In the end I left with a few bunches of gorgeous king proteas, a bucket each of tetragona nuts and gum to complete the arrangements, and some white tulips, just because. With my beautiful blooms wrapped up, stacked on a two-tiered trolley and safely secured in my back seat (by the staff, thanks guys!), I drove to nearby Yarra Valley for a decadent lunch at one of the region’s finest wineries. Lovely!
Market #7. Melbourne Flower Market, Epping
My plan had been to visit the newly relocated Melbourne Flower Market, however the folks at Tesselaar Melbourne had let me know that without a pass or an escort, I would never make it through the gate. So they kindly offered to escort me on Thursday (one of its busiest market days), so that I could at least get a feel for the market and how it operated, even though I wouldn’t be able to buy anything.
This involved waking at the inhumane hour of 3am, driving in the dark across town to the gigantic new facility at Epping (over 70 hectares inclusive of fruit, vegetable and flower markets), and flashing an apparently expensive pass to enter the grounds and park. (Note: there was an option to pay even more to arrive early and nab the best stock.)
Close to the market entry there was a purpose-built espresso bar that served steaming hot beverages and a selection of tasty-looking delicacies that were calling my name. So, to gather the level of energy required to tackle this imposing market, the Tesselaar guys and I sat down to enjoy a cup of Joe and a toastie. After all, it was still only 4:30am!
Suitably satiated, out on to the market floor we ventured, where the brightly-lit, air-plane hanger sized building was full to bursting with growers in ‘hi-viz’ vests, shuffling their stock around and chatting to wholesalers and florist customers – also resplendent in the ubiquitous day-glo – who were enthusiastically stacking their hired wheelbarrow-style trolleys with gorgeous selections of blooms, fillers, foliage and potted plants, either forward ordered or bought on a whim that morning from one of the 48 vendors on-site.
Wholesale and florist customers were enthusiastically stacking their hired wheelbarrow-style trolleys with gorgeous selections of blooms, either forward ordered or bought on a whim that morning.
There certainly was plenty of stock, in varying degrees of quality (as I had come to expect from flower markets with so many growers operating out of them). Everything from poppies, proteas, ready-made native or garden posies, and more of those gorgeous hydrangeas, to unique foliage options like calathea, olive and lime branches (the latter complete with cute limes in varying stages of ripeness!), and an absolute ocean of ornamental kale in every available shade – these beauties really were the flavour of the month.
The brightly-lit, air-plane hanger sized building was fit to bursting with plenty of stock, in varying degrees of quality (as I had come to expect from flower markets with so many growers operating out of them).
What did I buy?
Without a valid market pass I wasn’t able to make any purchases, but if I was able I would definitely have picked up a trolley full of the flawless tulips I spotted in the far back corner, available in every imaginable colour and without an open bud in sight, as well as a few bunches of roses which, although very open, were a steal at just $6.50 a bunch. That’s a cheap way to brighten my Thursday!
A little after 7am we were off again, at a much slower pace this time as we negotiated our way back across to the south eastern suburbs in horrendous Melbourne workday traffic. Not the most convenient of markets in terms of trading hours and location, but with such a huge space to work with and sparkling new facilities, there are certainly advantages too.
Destination #4: Sydney
Sydney is famous among flower industry buffs as the home of the hustling, bustling, marketplace Mecca otherwise known as the Sydney Flower Markets – also the only flower market of note in central Sydney.
Market #8. Sydney Flower Market, Homebush
After the 9-hour long-haul drive from Melbourne, I dragged myself out from under the covers at 4:30am Friday and set off in the chill one last time.
Ok, so a couple of guys on forklifts doesn’t look much like a flower market, but when I think back about the Sydney Flower Markets this will forever be the image that comes to mind… along with harrowing memory flashes of the hour I spent doing laps, looking for a park – any park!
After finally finding a vacant spot at the wrong end of the Market venue, my kilometre-long trek through the produce section, narrowly avoiding being flattened by reversing forklift drivers all the while, I finally arrived at the flower market end, grumpy, frazzled, and not in any mood to haggle with flower growers!
But, once I had entered the Flower Market proper and stopped to smell a rose or two, the charm and buzz of the Market started to work its magic on me. With so much colour and variety, this place could put any flower enthusiast in the mood to shop, even tired, cranky ones!
Although just half the size of the Melbourne Flower Markets, the Sydney Market seemed to have much more to sell. Every nook and cranny was filled with overflowing flower buckets, seasonal foliage spilling out of boxes and stacked shelves and trolleys.
Once I had entered the flower market and stopped to smell a rose or two, the charm and buzz of the place started to work its magic on me.
The stall holders in matching ‘hi-viz’ jackets and waist aprons, eye-balled each and every potential customer and passed judgement as to whether they were wholesalers, florists, or the general public. They then hiked the flower prices up or down accordingly.
Unlike all the other markets I visited, Sydney had absolutely no cool rooms to keep the flowers temperature controlled, so much of the available stock was open or almost open, and in some cases browning and dropping petals in the first rays of early morning sun. There were, of course, some growers with outstanding blooms on offer, but these were few and far between, and often shoved into back corners where trolleys dare not go.
There were HUGE price differences from one stall holder to another and it was necessary to do many laps of the Market to locate what I was after, haggle for the best price, and finally make purchases.
What did I buy?
There were HUGE price differences from one stall holder to another and it was necessary to do many laps of the market to firstly locate what I was after (ornamental kale, light pink spray roses, and wattle foliage), haggle for the best price from each vendor (flashing my cash all the while; the stall owners look more favourably on customers with cold hard cash), and then to finally make my purchases.
Finally, with unwrapped flowers in hand (don’t expect much in the way of customer service at this market), I had to find a suitable vessel to store them away in my car. Luckily, there was a little shop at the market entry selling florist supplies, including vases in all shapes, sizes and materials.
So, safe in the knowledge that my blooms would be secure on the drive home, I hot-footed it out of the Sydney Flower Market and busied myself for the rest of the trip being a ‘true’ tourist. I even visited the Opera House!
Flower Market Comparison Chart
Below is a detailed explanation of how the 8 different flower markets rated on a range of metrics. These include:
- Convenience (i.e., things like the location of the market usually in relation to the CBD, the parking facilities available on site, whether the market has trolleys available for customer use, and whether the hours of operation are convenient),
- Experience (i.e., my first impressions, the general character and atmosphere of the market, my personal customer service experience, and whether the market is open to the general public or wholesale/business customers only),
- Range & Quality (i.e., whether there are cold rooms on site to ensure temperature control for stock, whether the flowers were of a consistently ‘good’ quality with closed buds etc, and whether there was a large variety of different blooms available for sale),
- Pricing (i.e., whether the pricing was competitive relative to other markets particularly in the same city, and whether any deals/specials/discounted products were on offer), and
- Added Value Services (i.e., the level of detailed information available on the flower market website, whether customer’s can forward order stock and pick up at the market, whether the market offers flower delivery to customer homes/businesses, and whether the market offers wedding/event flower consultation and advice).
NB: These ratings are based on my personal experiences at each market on the particular day and time of year I visited. At different times of year, on a different day, and even at a different time of the same day things could have been very different! Everyone’s shopping experience will vary and these ratings are intended to be taken as a guide of what each market has to offer only.