By Andrea Rowe Photos Yanni

Nature inspires creativity and nurtures beautiful blooms in a scenic pocket of farmland at Boneo. It’s the home of Peninsula Wildflower, where fresh picked creations evolve from paddock to posy.

The talented team behind caring for a legacy native flower garden, and harvesting and assembling stunning floristry creations, are Dawn and Martin Allen. They’ve bloomed a business into a respected Mornington Peninsula creative institution that locals love.

From their first meeting at New Covent Garden Market in London, Dawn and Martin explored how floristry and special moments are intertwined. After the birth of their son Stan, UK born Dawn and Langarrwin born Martin returned to Australia to establish a sustainable floristry business.

For 12 years, Florist and Head Forager Dawn, and Martin who is Chief Grower, Propagator and Logistician, have been caring for the 50 acres of coastal farmland. Together with their talented staff, they’ve nurtured a sustainable flower farm vision, showcasing the beauty of native flowers through bespoke arrangements.

‘Finding the farm was meant to be,” says Dawn. “It was a baptism of fire when I first arrived in Australia. I was initially putting noxious weeds in bouquets but I fast tracked my knowledge at a flower farm in Merricks until we stumbled across the opportunity to take on Bob’s garden,” says Dawn

Bob Zacharin was a surgeon who, along with wife Trish had researched the planting and propagation of varieties of Banksia and Proteas over 30 years ago. “His foresight and knowledge ensure year-round blooms that thrive today.”

Dawn and Martin now maintain the heritage flower garden, picking and arranging blooms from the farm for local markets, farm gate shops, supermarkets and produce stores across the Mornington Peninsula and beyond.

Their lusciously rustic and artfully classic blooms adorn tables and market stalls and feature as presentation bouquets and vibrant floral installations for special moments. Assembled by creative hearts, it’s as if Peninsula Wildflower speaks of our coastal and hinterland nature, with wild whimsy and reverence.

“It’s all about texture and imperfect plants celebrated in their stages of growth. Each plant is farm grown – not flown – we can reach out and select what we need. It’s a slow flower movement straight from the paddocks around us. We don’t just do bush bunches here – we showcase individual blooms.”

The ability to gather armfuls of flowers and foliage and make them look as if they naturally belong together is truly a fine art. A qualified florist, Dawn focuses on the making heroes out of individual flowers, and features foliage that’s often overlooked in the picking, foraging, and creating process. 

Their workspace is a rustic shed brimming with happy chatter, tubs of fresh pickings, tea brewed on an outdoor stove and the braying of nearby farm animals. It’s a place of communal creativity where the outdoors inspires each arrangement through a busy picking and selecting process.

“We harvest in the mornings and deliver by days end, making up to 200 posies a week to supply fresh flowers to weekend markets, clients like RACV Cape Schanck, Scicilunas, MP Experience and Hawkes farmgate, as well as wedding orders and our online store.”

There’s also commissions for arbour clusters, floral aerial and wall art displays, and one-off arrangements bursting with stylish simplicity and textured detail.  And the ancient craft of floristry is shared through foraging and arranging workshops, creating flower crowns, wreath making and weaving at the farm, and Peninsula locations.

“Many of our 10 staff are artists who enjoy the interaction with nature as they produce arrangements. We’re incredibly lucky to work alongside them.”

The couple bring event and installation pedigree to the Peninsula. Martin provided logistics and floral arrangements for Posh and Becks wedding, Ringo Starr’s events and the Indian Royal Wedding in Madrid, while Dawn excelled in floristry, styling incorporating mosses and gums, and re-defining the beauty of imperfect or unexpected blooms at signature events.

She adores the farm as a creator space; “I’m always finding something different in the garden, when you pick something it leads you to other stem, so ideas and designs evolve. It’s so satisfying – your artwork is really appreciated. Each creation is so intrinsically you.”

The couple are a local market feature with their trusty steed, a 1976 Dodge Canter called Dorothy. Her tray is laden with fresh picked blooms and assembled arrangements

“I’m assembling bouquets on the spot and giving them a piece of me to take home from the market. They’re experiencing flower arranging in pure form – it shouldn’t be a hidden art. I love hosting flower arranging workshops here in the garden too – people wander the farm with their secateurs, and forage, enjoy a flower arranging demonstration and divine afternoon tea while they make their own bouquet to take home. It’s fun, social and they feel connected with the land – it is so good for everyone’s wellbeing.”

Martin is the man behind the tractor, and the pruner, propagator, and delivery driver.  “I love all aspects of growing. This garden fills you up and it’s a joy to give myself to it every day. Flowers and farms like this are good for the soul.”

It’s also good for award-winning creativity. Peninsula Wildflower has featured arrangements at the NGV Gallery and 20 metre installation at the Melbourne Flower Show, winning the 2019 Wedding Plate table-setting arrangement award.

Dawn delights in seeing new growth on the farm, exclaiming over misshapen and unusual stems. “I love giving myself to each arrangement Locals have always supported us with our business; how can we not do our best for someone who wants buy a bouquet and feel a moment of happiness?”

Strikingly simple posies featuring freshly harvested earthy banksias and proteas have become much needed pick-me-ups. They’re committed to giving back to the community with regular giveaways. Their ‘Lonely Bouquet’ gesture leaves flowers in mystery places with a handwritten note to brighten someone’s day.

Dawn’s love of her new homeland is evident. “It’s so rugged and earthy, the land is dramatic and you can feel the force of nature. I still get excited when I see roo’s and snakes. Nature speaks loudly to you here.”

The couple have also transformed the nearby legacy farmhouse into an ultimate rural relaxation destination, sitting alongside wandering wagons and tiny homes for rent. “As a florist you need to keep evolving and developing. Our growing and creative space really has fed that professional and personal interest. It’s so satisfyingly sustainable and peaceful here.”


Insta: @peninsulawildflower_


Peninsula Essence -November 2022