How It Came To Be
Joe Perner has been an avid Cycad collector and conservationist since 1970. The plant that existed when dinosaurs walked the earth fascinated him and he was fortunate to travel extensively and collect Cycad seeds to import to Australia.
The business that was once a backyard hobby on a residential ¼ acre block took a turn in 1994. When walking space was limited to a small path from the house to the back fence and hanging space on the clothesline was shrinking because of more plants the decision had to be made : Should we stop doing this as a hobby and do it properly? Karen says ‘she lost’ and the transition from ‘overgrown hobby’ to serious export nursery took place in 1995.
Cycad International is now one of Australia’s largest Cycad specialty nurseries and is owned and operated by Company Directors, Joe and Karen Perner.Heavy investment in financial and physical resources has transformed 2 rural properties on the outskirts of Katherine into a unique and specialised venue featuring 1 hectare under shade dedicated to the production of some of the world’s rare and unique Cycads ranging in size from seedlings to unique premium landscape feature plants.
It seems that time, money, dedication, grit and motivation were all required throughout the journey that seemed all too hard at times. However we are now starting to reap the benefits with export sales since 2006 increasing dramatically from 9% to 56% of total sales revenue.
A re-branding of our export image including new website and pictorial catalogue and planned marketing drives to the Middle East and Europe should position our business to achieve further success in the future.
Success has been achieved with commercial shipments into Brunei and Singapore Government major projects. These unique plants are now marketed as ideal plants to include as part of a new, sustainable landscape.
Our stock plants have been recognised as being imported into Australia as seed and grown in a controlled environment. We proudly display our qualification as an Artificial Propagation Nursery which allows us to move our rare Cycads legally around the world.
Joe Perner has successfully gained an Advanced Diploma of Horticulture (Nursery) and is a Member of the Australian Institute of Horticulture. He is recognised around the world as being a field Botanist and an expert on Cycads. Karen Perner has successfully gained a Diploma of Business.
In the early days Joe had traveled around Australia to visit most of the Cycad habitats over the years from early 1980's, he collected seeds and traded with collectors, he also donated and traded seeds with botanic gardens around the world, also supplying cycad seeds to the seed banks of various Cycad Societies around the world, in the case of many species of Australian Cycads, this was the first time that they became available to collectors around the world.
Joe has also traveled to Africa, USA, Mexico,S.E. Asia, The Sub-continent, China and many other parts of the world from the early 1990's researching and collecting seeds from habitats (with permissions from relevant conservation authorities from those countries) and importing into Australia before distributing them to collectors and commercial growers from around the world, thus ensuring the survival of the species collected as well as taking pressure from the native habitats of many species from live plant collectors/smugglers as plant material was readily available through nurseries and collectors.
We invariably ended up with more seeds than we could sell, so ended up with many thousands of cycads of many species in our nursery, in 1994 we had to move to a bigger property as the collection of Cycads had taken over our quarter acre property, we purchased a 6.4 acre block of land which was an undeveloped bush block, access to this rocky outcrop was impossible until a Caterpillar D7 bulldozer was hired to push in a ring road onto our newly acquired land. This has now been developed into a nursery and a private botanic gardens, We have 8,000 m2 of shade structures full with Cycads, the gardens have been in the Australian open gardens scheme for 2 years, there are over 1,400 meters of graveled pathways snaking through the sloping property with massive red sandstone boulders jutting out of the landscape towering over the trees in some places, the garden consists of native flora interplanted with many Cycads and other rare and endangered plants from around the world, this mix of flora gives a natural setting as all development has been done to have minimum impact on the local environment, some of these have been in the ground for almost 10 years, plantings have been an ongoing annual project as the plantings are carried out in the monsoonal Wet Season every year when I have the spare time.
In 2007 we at last have opened our world class gardens to Tourism we have also added a Coffee Shop, "Gardens Coffee Shop" which we are improving on now in 2008. We have a very successful tourist season and now look forward to this years tourism season which starts in April.
Shipping cycads around the world.
It is generally thought to be too difficult or expensive to purchase Cycads internationally. However, our nursery has all the relevant qualifications and permits through the Department of Environment in Australia (who manage the CITES Convention within Australia) to be able to export commercial shipments of Cycads around the World. Plants can be sent bare rooted (packed in sphagnum moss or peat) or in pots with soil less media with all leaves in tact depending on the mode of shipping as head height is an issue with Air Freight. We arrange for the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) to inspect and issue a phytosanitary certificate for each shipment on our property.
Our key overseas export markets at the moment are the European Union, Asia, South East Asia and the Middle East as well as Australia. New markets in different counties are opening up all the time. Our prices are generally extremely competitive across the board, even when compared with world prices and adding the shipping and handling costs. We ensure every shipment is carefully packed to reach it's destination in the best possible condition.
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