Craig Scott: The Gentle Grower

Craig Scott is a gentle man. A gentleman too, but primarily an unassuming, quiet, and gentle man. I heard about him long before I met him – from a bunch of Sydney florists who hold him in very high regard – particularly when flannel flowers are in season. He’s a man in demand in late spring.

Craig has been growing and selling Australian native plants and flowers for around 30 years and is based at Mangrove Mountain, in the hills behind the central coast of NSW. As is often the case, Craig’s green thumb runs in the family. ‘My father is a flower grower’, he says. ‘We used to grow lots of traditional crops like dahlias, but he also really had a love for Australian native plants, which he started selling at the markets. He was one of the first people selling things like Gymea lilies and spear grass. Dad’s stuff was always just a little bit different to the other growers.’

His father’s passion for native plants soon infected Craig, and he quit his job as a motor mechanic and immersed himself in the world of growing native plants on the 50-acre farm his dad bought in1968.

The farm is abundant and colourful – with rows and rows of kangaroo paws, tea trees, flowering gums, firewheel trees, Christmas bush, Gymea lilies and of course, a few greenhouses full of flannel flowers. And then there’s Craig’s babies – the more obscure and interesting flowers and foliage he grows, tests, and occasionally sells to those who ask nicely. Like the Mulla Mulla (Ptilotis spp.), a few west Australian gum varieties, and the iconic Sturt’s desert pea.

‘I like growing new things that may not yet be available commercially, I find it really interesting and fulfilling’, Craig says.

What pleases Craig most is when clients ask specifically for native plants. He provided the native flowers for Prince Charles’s most recent visit, supplied artist Laura Jones with flowers and foliage for her recent exhibition Wildflower, and regularly provides natives for all sorts of big events. Not that he would ever boast about it, but it’s clear he’s the go-to guy for natives in Sydney.

‘Craig has developed a new profile for Australian native flowers’, says Saskia Havekes in her book Flower Addict (Lantern, 2015). ‘When I first opened the shop people turned away from them but nowadays they’re in great demand. Craig has helped turn around the perception of Australian natives. He knows how to make them look natural, beautiful, and abundant.’

Growing and selling native plants is not an easy business. Craig tells me that over the last decade many growers have gone out of business. ‘With traditional flower crops there’s plenty of information and always new cultivars to work with, but the story is a little different when it comes to natives’, he says. There’s less info, and more testing and experimentation required to grow interesting native plants well, which clearly suits Craig.

As we wander around the farm Craig’s quiet enthusiasm for his plants is evident. ‘I’m hooked’, he says.

Craig Scott’s story really resonates with me. I love seeing people who both follow their passion, AND make a living from it. It’s never an easy balance but it’s clear Craig has nailed it.

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