Behind-the-scenes at Christchurch's flower auction

Behind-the-scenes at Christchurch's flower auction

It's dark and early. Too early to be working really, but we're not the only ones up.

At a warehouse in the suburb of Addington, an auction for flowers is a hive of activity.

Flowers from growers countrywide are being unloaded and packed onto trolleys, whisked from worker to worker, the bursts of colour dizzying.

There's roses, freesias and chrysanthemums -- one trolley's worth is imported from Malaysia, the petals dyed the colours of a kaleidoscope. These are well sought-after.

Floramax South Island regional manager John Atkins has been in the business for 20 years. He withstood the early days when friends teased him for being a "flower boy".

He can't quite pick his favourite flower, but is partial to roses and lilies. The vases are always filled in his home.

"It's quite nice, I must admit."

The auction runs from 6:30am until 7:30am, three times a week.

"You get used to getting up early… it's great, it's the best part of the day," Mr Atkins says.

Dyed chrysanthemums

 Florists, shop owners and wholesalers huddle over cups of steaming coffee, waiting. A bell signals the start, and not one but three auctioneers begin.

Christchurch's auction is hands-on. Buyers can inspect the flowers as they're wheeled in, bidding on them as the price drops.

Mr Atkins' gavel slams home after a successful bid. The winner gets first pick and can choose to purchase by bunch, bucket or trolley. Then it starts all over again.

"It's school ball season," Ilam Florist owner Jane Earl says.

Her hand stays high when miniature white roses come up for sale, the delicate flowers used in corsages. It seems she's not the only one who's after them, as the bids get higher and higher.

She's successful, but it comes at the cost of more than $20 a bunch.

Ms Earl takes home around 400 bunches of flowers from each auction. She's often on the lookout for flowers with a difference for her wedding bouquets.

It smells like spring in the warehouse thanks to tightly bunched honey-coloured daffodils, early for the year. It's cheerful, and makes you forget the dark outside.