Slow Growing — Katie McHardy

A Hawke’s Bay florist’s rural and coastal cut flower garden

Katie McHardy is on a journey to educate herself and others about the Slow Flower Movement – encouraging people to support the local economy by buying seasonal and locally grown flowers. Having recently returned to Hawke’s Bay she is tying her environmental and floristry passions together by establishing a sustainable cut flower garden on her family’s coastal farm in Aramoana.

McHardy embarked on her journey in floristry in 2017 and family connections led her to The Land Gardeners based at Wardington Manor, Oxfordshire. Run by McHardy’s second cousin, Bridget Elworthy and her business partner Henrietta Courtauld, The Land Gardeners have established a name for themselves globally, working with gardeners and farmers to improve the health of their land by focusing on soil health.

Elworthy suggested McHardy gain some work experience with them, presenting an exciting opportunity for the budding florist.


Together with her boyfriend, Rhett Hornblow, Katie set off for the UK to work in The Land Gardeners’ renowned English cut flower walled garden, housed at the magnificent 16th-century Wardington Manor.

“We spent two months in Oxfordshire. Every day was spent out in the garden – sowing seeds, potting up, clearing beds, weeding, staking, mowing lawns, cutting hedges and running climate compost trials,” says McHardy. “And of course, picking the most beautiful garden roses, peonies, delphinium, poppies, foxgloves, irises and sweet peas I’ve ever seen.”

While immersed in the manor’s garden, McHardy learned about the importance of soil health.

“Everything in the garden starts with your soil. Pouring time into getting your soil right is the best thing you can do for your garden,” she says. “I learnt a lot about organic principles and having faith in the garden’s ecosystem.”

“Everything in the garden starts with your soil. Pouring time into getting your soil right is the best thing you can do for your garden”



In spring last year the couple resurfaced in New Zealand, eager to break ground on McHardy’s family farm to establish their own cut flower garden. McHardy returns as a sixth generation McHardy to live and work on the family farm.

The garden is intended to be McHardy’s source of flowers for her event and wedding floristry business, Foraged & Found. It’s also a place to experiment with soil health and sustainable growing.

The newly established garden is in a wide open paddock, surrounded by towering hills and a snippet of a view of the sea. McHardy and Hornblow tend to a quarter acre multicoloured, textural picking garden.

The first three rows were perfectly hand dug by the duo, before they resorted to using a small digger for the rest. “It was backbreaking work. Dad was getting a digger guy in to do some work on the farm and we caved and had him do the rest. After doing more research about soil health, in future when creating new beds we’ll use a turf cutter, then the New Zealand-made Roebuck fork to aerate the soil with minimal disturbance to the soil structure.”


Bringing what they learned in the UK to their home garden, soil health remains a top priority in everything they do. “We place a big focus on nurturing healthy soil because that’s the foundation of a happy, thriving garden. We’re experimenting with making our own compost, cover crops and seaweed tea from the beach our farm borders on. We are completely spray-free and grow following organic principles.”

McHardy believes people should be able to smell a bunch of flowers without worrying about chemicals and pesticides. She says that people are often unaware of where their flowers have come from, calling for more transparency in the floral industry around the importing of flowers and the chemical processes used to treat them.

“I think the Slow Flower Movement is crucial for the health and future of our environment. There is still lots of work to be done educating people on the benefits of using seasonal, locally grown flowers,”she says.

McHardy’s inaugural growing season has seen around 40 different species of flowers grown, with dahlias being one of her favourites.

“They come in every shape, colour and size. I grew 30 different dahlias this year and have ordered lots of new varieties to add to the collection next season.”


Her focus is on sourcing unique seeds and bulbs with favourites being phlox, foxglove, sweet peas, delphinium, Agrostemma ‘Ocean Pearls’, cosmos and, of course, dahlias. It’s been a season of successful experimentation.

“I’m super happy with how my first season has gone, with the focus on seeing what thrives out here by the coast. I’m thrilled that most things I planted were very happy,” she says.

Up the track from the garden, McHardy and Hornblow are making a home in the old horse stables, which was originally renovated into a cottage by her grandparents. It’s perfect for the couple who spend their days pruning, picking, planting and gardening, with space for McHardy’s floral creations. Back up at her parents’ homestead, McHardy has set up a potting shed and drying room. It’s a small space, dripping with upside-down hanging bouquets and tiny potted succulents.



“Gardening is meant to be fun and bring joy, so I don’t overthink things and just have a go”

McHardy experiments with throwing seeds through empty and neglected garden beds around the homestead, creating an ethereal feel amongst the established greenery.

“Gardening is meant to be fun and bring joy, so I don’t overthink things and just have a go,” she says.

The homestead’s surrounds are simple, mostly consisting of trees planted more than 120 years earlier. McHardy’s seed scattering and bulbs bring colour and life in contrast to the mixture of native and historic trees that encircle the property.

Doing what she loves, McHardy has combined her passion for floristry and sustainability, and her desire to be close to the land and the sun.

“Creating a garden has been the most rewarding experience for me, working outside everyday with the sun and soil is great for the soul!”