Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing


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Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing

  1. 1. Specialty Cut Flower Production ATTRA and Marketing A Publication of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgBy Janet Bachmann Specialty cut flower production has the potential to increase income for both small and large farms.NCAT Agriculture This publication discusses several marketing channels and lists flowers suitable for various markets. ItSpecialist covers production basics, harvest and postharvest handling, business planning and record keeping,© NCAT 2006 and resources for further information.Special thanks to the manycut flower growers around thecountry for their contributionsto this publication, and to JudyM. Laushman, Executive Direc-tor of the Association of Spe-cialty Cut Flower Growers, Inc.,for reviewing it.Contents Introduction EIntroduction ..................... 1 nvironmentally sound production tech-What Should I Grow? .... 2 niques, increased farm diversification,Markets .............................. 3 and increased farm income are basicProduction Basics......... 10 parts of sustainable farming systems. Spe-Harvest and cialty cut flower production and marketingPostharvest ..................... 16 offers both small- and large-scale growers aSummary ......................... 21 way to increase the level of sustainability onReferences ...................... 22 their farms. The tremendous variety of plantsFurther Resources ........ 22 that can be grown as cut flowers allows grow- ers to choose those which are well-adapted to the farm site and grown without large off- site inputs. This variety also makes diversity in both production and marketing possible. And the high value of specialty cut flowers can increase farm income. The phrase “specialty cut flower” originally referred to all species other than carnations, chrysanthemums, and roses. As recently as 1986, these three cut flower species, plus gladiolus, accounted for more than 80 per- ©2005 clipart.com cent of total cut flower production. (Dole and Greer, 2004) Since then, specialty cut flow- and tulips are the remainder of the top five ers have become the most important part of specialty cuts. (Dole and Greer, 2004) the U.S. cut flower industry. The combinedATTRA—National Sustainable production of carnations, chrysanthemums, As specialty cut f lowers become moreAgriculture Information Service and roses was $78 million in 2002, repre- important to the floral industry, growersis managed by the National Cen-ter for Appropriate Technology senting only 15 percent of total cut flower are finding that these flowers make it easier(NCAT) and is funded under a and foliage production. In contrast, spe- to compete with imported products. Flow-grant from the United StatesDepartment of Agriculture’s cialty cut production totaled $443 million. ers that don’t ship well or can’t handle longRural Business-Cooperative Ser-vice. Visit the NCAT Web site Cut lilies, once a relatively minor green- intervals in a box can be picked by a local(www.ncat.org/agri. house cut flower, have replaced roses as the grower in the morning and be in a shopper’shtml) for more informa-tion on our sustainable most important domestically produced cut house that afternoon. Specialty cuts canagriculture projects. flower. Leatherleaf fern, gerbera, gladiolus, be grown as annuals or perennials, from
  2. 2. have strong stems and are easy toMark Cain (left) of Dripping Springs Garden presents bouquets to Carol Eichel-berger and Jean Mills of Coker, Alabama, at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market. cut and transport without bruising or shattering the flowers. • Color. What is popular at your mar- ket? Does it combine well with other colors you have chosen? Whites and pinks are popular spring wedding colors; oranges and coppers may be more popular in the fall. • Fragrance. Fragrance sells—to most people. Customers at the Fayette- ville, Arkansas, Farmers’ Market begin asking for extremely fragrant tuberoses two months before they are available—but some growers cannot stand to bring even a buck- Photo by Janet Bachmann etful to market in a closed van. • Old favorites. Think of custom- seeds, plugs, or bulbs. They include woody ers who see a bunch of sweet peas plants from which flowers, stems, fruits, or and buy them because they areRelated ATTRA foliage are harvested. They can be grown reminded of their grandmother’sPublications in the field, in unheated hoophouses, and in flower garden. Zinnias can again beAgricultural Business heated greenhouses. By producing unusual, used as an example.Planning Templates and high quality flowers, using proper posthar- • New introductions. New cultivarsResources vest handling techniques, and by providing help you stay competitive in a com-Community Supported excellent service, growers can continue to petitive market. Membership inAgriculture (CSA) expand markets for specialty cuts. the Association of Specialty CutDirect Marketing If you are considering specialty cut flow- Flower Growers (ASCFG) is oneEntertainment Farming ers as a farm enterprise, you should do as way to keep up to date on newand Agri-Tourism much research as possible before putting ones. The ASCFG in cooperationFarmers’ Markets one plant in the ground. The most valu- with seed companies sponsors tri- able information comes from other growers. als of new varieties every year.Farmscaping to EnhanceBiological Control Other sources that you can rely on include Results of the trials are reported in the Association of Specialty Cut Flower the winter issue of The Cut FlowerFlame Weeding forVegetable Crops Growers, Cooperative Extension, suppliers, Quarterly. Rudbeckia Prairie Sun, and ATTRA. Dianthus Neon Duo, and count-Market Gardening: AStart-Up Guide less new sunflowers are among the exciting introductions trialed byOverview of Cover Crops What Should I Grow? ASCFG volunteers.and Green Manures A tremendous number of choices are avail- • Vase life. Will the cuts last a week?Principles of Sustainable able. How can you choose, given such a vast Or longer?Weed Management array? Consider the following.Root Zone Heating for • Stem length. Florists love longGreenhouse Crops • Ease of cultivation. This may be stems. But there are exceptions,Season Extension Tech- especially important if you are a such as lily-of-the-valley and grapeniques for Market Gar- beginner. Sunflowers and zinnias hyacinth, that are naturally short-deners are examples of easy-to-cultivate stemmed. flowers. They can be direct seeded,Selling to Restaurants • Local growing conditions. Accept the and they emerge and grow quickly.Woody Ornamentals for fact that some plants are not wellCut Flower Growers • Ease of handling. Sunflowers can adapted to your climate. Ask local again be used as an example. They Extension agents, garden clubs, andPage 2 ATTRA Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing
  3. 3. nurseries which specialty cut flow- Vendors—and customers—believe their ers grow well in your area, and start market is one of the most attractive in the with these. Diversify slowly, and nation. It is situated on the square in down- test some new choices each growing town Fayetteville around an old post office season. that has been converted to a restaurant. The • Flowering season. Do you want area is professionally landscaped and is alive year-round or seasonal blooms? with blooming and edible plants. On Satur- day mornings it is the place to be, with live For flowers throughout the grow- music, coffee and pastries, and vendors sell- ing season, identify an early ing fruits, vegetables, plants, crafts, and of S bloomer to start blooming in sync pecialty cut course specialty cut flowers. with opening day of your market, flower pro- and dependable flowers to keep Of the more than 50 vendors at a Satur- duction and customers coming back to your day market in mid-summer, almost 50 per- marketing offers market stand or farm until you want cent bring cut flowers for sale. “In the early days,” say folks who organized the market in both small- and to close for the season. 1974, “vendors brought flowers cut from the large-scale growers • Flowers for building mixed bou- roadsides.” Today the FFM has become well- a way to increase the quets. If you plan to sell mixed bou- known as a source of high-quality, reason- quets and plan to grow zinnias, what level of sustainability ably priced cut flowers. For some vendors, other flowers or foliage will mix well fresh vegetables or fruit are the main prod- on their farms. with them? ucts, but many of these have added flowers • Demand. What are wholesale and as secondary products. For other vendors, retail florists asking for? (Within flowers are the primary focus of the display reason.) and a major source of income in a college • Think especially about the market town with a relatively affluent population. where you want to sell cut flowers. What do the customers want? What are their favorite flowers?MarketsMarketing possibilities include farmers’markets, contract growing and CSA-typesubscriptions, cut-your-own, restaurants,supermarkets, retail florists, wholesale flo-rists, special events such as weddings,and the Internet. The following discussionof markets includes flowers that growersaround the country recommend for each,followed by information on related productsand added value.Farmers’ MarketsFarmers’ markets are considered by manyto be entry-level markets, a place for newgrowers to sharpen their skills and cultivatehigher-level markets. Other growers havefound farmers’ markets to be a profitableand rewarding way to sell flowers.Specialty cut flowers sell well at the Fayette- Photos by Janet Bachmannville, Arkansas, Farmers’ Market (FFM).www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 3
  4. 4. Field Grown Cut Flowers at Fayetteville Farmers’ Market April May June July August September October bachelor alliums ageratum ammi majus amarcrinum asters bittersweet buttons bleeding heart apple alliums bells of Ireland buddleia buddleia drieds cherry bearded iris ammi majus calla lily caryopteris cleome fall leaves crabapple blue salvia Asiatic lily celosia cleome cosmos grasses daffodils calendula baby’s breath cleome cosmos dahlia juniper dames rocket carnation bachelor button coneflower dahlia drieds sedum forsythia columbine basils cosmos euphorbia goldenrod hesperis coreopsis blackeyed susan crocosmia garlic chives grasses lilac dames rocket butterflyweed dahlia gladiolus hyacinth bean flowering delphinium calla lily gladiolus hyacinth bean mums quince redbud Dutch iris cleome hydrangea hydrangea salvia redtwig dog- false indigo coneflower lavender marigold sedum wood tulips larkspur cosmos liatris mountain mint spider lily willow lupine dahlias lycoris lily obedient plant sunflower wisteria nigella gladiolas marigold passionflwr vine tithonia ox-eye daisy gomphrena passionflwr vine pepper zinnia Siberian iris lambs ear summer phlox sweet annie spirea larkspur sunflower tithonia Sweet William lisianthus tithonia tuberose viburnum marigold tuberose zinnia wheat monarda zinnia Oriental lily penstemon poppies Queen Anne’s lace ratibida rudbeckia salvia hormium snapdragon statice sunflower sweet pea Sweet William tritelia yarrow zinnia Note: Many flowers listed in summer months continue until frost.Page 4 ATTRA Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing
  5. 5. 13 Tips for Selling at a Farmers’ Market Melanie DeVault, in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, offers 13 tips for sell- growers we don’t use preservative. Remind them that some ing at a farmers’ market. Melanie and her husband George own flowers have blooms that can be picked off when spent (like a 19.2-acre certified organic farm, with son Don and daughter Campanula) to make way for others on the stem that will open. Ruth. They have operated a modified CSA and members-only If you use preservative, little packets are available at floral supply home market stand, and have sold at farmers’ markets and to houses that you can include with the bouquet, or give customers health food stores and restaurants. Melanie specializes in spe- a card with a homemade alternative: To three cups of water, add cialty cut flowers. She is a member of the Association of Spe- one tablespoon sugar, one teaspoon vinegar, and one crushed cialty Cut Flower Growers. A former newspaper reporter, she is aspirin tablet. People seem to like the idea. also a freelance garden writer; her column appears monthly in The New Farm. Melanie’s tips for selling at market (gleaned from Wrap your bouquets or purchased flowers attractively. Use the advice of many experts at a lot of conferences, but mostly, floral sleeves (available from your local floral supply houses or of course, from Experience, with a capital E). any number of Web sites), a plain paper, such as end runs of news- print, or tissue paper. We use sleeves—I got the new clear sleeves Whether you sell only flowers, or flowers and vegetables, with tissue paper inset this year, along with clear—because I feel have a professional looking display. That tells your customers they look more professional. Some friends just use plastic bags you are serious about your product and that they can trust you. If at their markets, and customers don’t seem to mind. you sell only flowers, this aspect is very important, because you want your customers to know you have products comparable Have something customers can use to take flowers a dis- to those in floral shops. tance. Save milk or orange juice cartons. That way, when some- one says, “I’d love a bouquet, but I have to go to my mother’s an Have clear signs, label prices, and things for people to read hour away,” you can say, “Hey, no problem...” at your stand. Information about your farm, information blurbs about a flower or your flower of the week, anything that will Be creative with your offerings. Have a variety of sizes of bou- keep them in your space a little longer will give you a better quets, from the $10 bunch to the $3 mini. Build-your-own bou- chance for a sale. quets are popular at some markets. Have several buckets of individual flowers for customers to choose from to make their Be friendly and talk to your customers, if they are receptive. own bouquets according to your choice offerings of focal and Tell them the name of the flower they are admiring, how long filler flowers. Or offer bunches of one kind of flower, such as zin- it will last, maybe how hard it is to grow—and that you grow nias or snapdragons. We’ve found anything works, as long as everything you sell. Few people understand about local farms, it’s colorful. Fall colors don’t do well in summer, and dull colors real farmers—and few know that many middlemen masquerade don’t do well, especially on cloudy days. as growers. Educate them. Have a good awning to protect your flowers from the harsh Have a good volume and plenty of color. It will attract people summer sun. Wilting flowers won’t sell. One of my friends says like a magnet. white is the best color and blue the worst for an awning. We Sell only quality flowers. (Post-harvest handling is critical.) haven’t noticed that color has mattered for us. People will come back if the flowers you sold them have a long Check your flower buckets often during the market to make vase life. sure flower stems are IN the water. We’ve noticed when peo- Keep flower buckets wiped off (clean) and neat. We use white ple pick bouquets up to compare; they often don’t set them plastic paint buckets for our regular bouquets, and taller, thin back in the water. And they break some stems. Sleeving in the plastic flower buckets (available from local floral supply stores) buckets can help prevent both problems. for taller varieties and those with long stems. Have a few sunflowers that aren’t quite perfect? Tell customers how to maintain their flowers. We tell them Give them away to kids. It’ll make them happy, and moms to change the water every day or ever other day, since as organic will remember.Subscriptions and CSA history, philosophy, and details of organiz- ing a CSA.Subscriptions offer upfront payment forscheduled delivery of flowers. Community Suzy Neesen, owner and grower at TheSupported Agriculture (CSA) is a term often Flower Farm in Cedar Falls, Iowa, usesassociated with this marketing method. both farmers’ markets and fresh cut bou-Delivery may be time consuming, so be quet subscriptions to sell her flowers. Nee-sure to account for it and charge accord- son’s attractive tri-fold brochure tells peopleingly. See the ATTRA publication Commu- how they can arrange to have a beautiful,nity Supported Agriculture to read about the freshly cut bouquet delivered to their homewww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 5
  6. 6. or office each week though the growing • Price flowers in a way that is eas- season. Or they can order for a one-time ily understood by the consumer; special delivery. She grows more than 100 for example, all the 25-cent flowers kinds of annuals, perennials, and bulbs to in one section, and all the 50-cent provide variety and color in each bouquet. flowers in another. S uzy Neesen grows more than 100 varieties for her fresh cut bouquets. The bouquets are delivered in a vase, which is exchanged each week. The season begins about June 1st and runs for 15 weeks. She charges $225 plus tax for the season. • Pick in advance flowers that are expensive and/or easily damaged in the field. Place them in buckets near the checkout stand, so that custom- Here are just a few: Salons, boutiques, professional offices, and ers can add a special flower to their Achillea restaurants are possible places to market bouquets at the last minute. Anemone subscription bouquets. Asclepias In addition to tulips, peonies, gladiolus, Baptisia sunf lowers, and zinnias, you may also Butterfly Bush Cut-Your-Own want to consider daffodils, Dutch iris, Calla Because they are so attractive, flowers are ornamental alliums, statice, and goldenrod Campanula certainly a natural for any kind of on-farm as PYO flowers. Crocosmia market or roadside stand. At a fruit and Daisy vegetable growers’ conference 20 years ago, Ms. Byczynski says you probably will not Delphinium want to offer PYO lilies because customers Karen Pendleton of Lawrence, Kansas, told Didiscus might cut too much foliage, which means Eucalyptus how she came to add field-grown cut flow- that your costly lily bulb won’t survive to Feverfew ers to her family’s Pick-Your-Own (PYO) bloom again next year. Freesia operation. At that time, Karen and her hus- Gladiolus band, John, had 12 acres of asparagus in You will need to provide buckets or other Gooseneck production for PYO sales. When people containers with water, scissors for cutting Gypsophila the stems, and wrapping materials. As with came to the farm for asparagus, they saw Helenium tulips blooming in her yard, and wanted any other PYO product, you will need to Heliotrope Ipomopis to buy them as well. The Pendletons have provide supervision, offering instructions Lavender since added peonies to the PYO operation on where and how to pick. You may also Liatris because they also bloom when asparagus is need additional liability insurance. For gen- Lily ready to cut. eral information on PYO marketing, please Lisianthus refer to the ATTRA publication Entertain- Another example comes from a Mas- Lobelia ment Farming and Agri-Tourism. Monarda sachusetts farm Web site, where the Nigella owner describes the flowers you can pick at Peony the farm: Restaurants Phlox Selling to restaurants requires flexibil- In addition to our wonderful fruits, we offer Ranunculus cut-your-own and fresh picked flowers from ity and high-quality products. The time Rudbeckia mid-July through late September. We have 15 needed to make deliveries may be consid- Salvia colors of gladiolus, 10 shades of ‘Blue Point’ erable. (Kantor, 1999) Scabiosa zinnias, 6 varieties of beautiful sunflowers, Snapdragon and gorgeous dahlias. Bring some color into Statice your home this summer! Supermarkets Sunflower Grocery stores can handle large volumes, Thermopsis Lynn Byczynski in her book The Flower but it can be difficult to establish accounts. Tuberose Farmer (Byczynski, 1997) offers pointers for (Kantor, 1999) Tulip success with cut-your-own-flowers. Verbascum Zinnia • Provide weed-free flower beds with Retail Florists plenty of room to maneuver between In general, a florist will want flowers that them. Nobody wants to walk through are just beginning to open—unlike most weeds or mud to cut flowers, and farmers’ market customers, who prefer you’ll increase your liability risk fully open blossoms. Most florists know if you don’t maintain wide, clear exactly what they want and may need a paths. fairly large quantity of a certain flower.Page 6 ATTRA Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing
  7. 7. The following tips for selling to florists by Va l ley, L i s i a nt hu s ,delivering to their shops are gleaned from Mountain mint, Nige-the ASCFG Forum. lla, Penstemon, Peony, • Introduce yourself with a bucket Redtwig dogwood, Rud- of free samples, a flyer that lists beckia, Salvia, Snap- the flowers you grow, your delivery dragon, Spanish blue- schedule, payment terms, and busi- bell, Sunflower, Sweet ness card. (Try putting the busi- pea, Sweet William, ness card on a refrigerator magnet Tulip, Veronica, Yarrow, and Zinnia. to go on the cooler door.) • Deliver in bunches of 10, sleeved or Wholesale florists un-sleeved. This makes it easier to The wholesale florists’ pull the flowers out of buckets with- ma rket is the most ©2005 clipart.com out destroying other blooms. demanding as far as • E-mail or fax a list of what you have grading, uniformity, consistency, and pack- to offer after harvesting, then call aging. Wholesale florists assemble and for orders, or bring the florist out make available high-quality flowers for to your van full of flowers for the retail florists. They offer retailers a timely “ahhh” effect and let him or her and dependable supply, one stop shopping, choose on the spot. large or small quantities, product guaran- tee, and credit. To sell to wholesale florists, • Deliver on the same day and same Harrison “Red” Kennicott, of Kennicott time every week. Florists need to Brothers in Chicago, in a presentation at the depend on you if they have down- 2002 ASCFG annual convention and trade sized standing orders from wholesal- ers so that they can buy from you. • Use buckets with your name/label on them so you can leave them to show, advised growers: • Get acquainted with as many people as possible in a wholesale house, to get to know the wholesaler. T he whole- sale florists’ market is the most pick up the following trip. demanding as far as • Provide informat ion on your grading, uniformity, • Ask for payment on delivery unless product. you have sold to them often enough consistency, and to feel comfortable about setting up • Avoid being oversensit ive to packaging. an account. comments. • Offer only the best. Consistency • Have a good understanding about in quality, quantity, and variety supply, pricing, timing, and whether or not the sales are to be on con- is crucial. signment.Expect retail florists to get excited about He recommends the Society of Ameri-new or unusual cuts such as branches with can Florists, the national trade associationfruit on them or pods of okra on stalks. that represents all participants in the U.S.And although they may be able to get flow- floral industry, as a source of marketingers from wholesalers for a little less, they and best practices information. (Kennicott,appreciate the quality and freshness of 2002) Its 15,000 members include retail-locally grown cuts. Good sellers include ers, growers, wholesalers, importers, suppli-the following: ers, manufactures, educators, and students.Ageratum, Agrostemma, Allium, Ammi Its consumer Web site, www.aboutflowers.majus, Apple mint, Bupleurum, Curly wil- com, promotes the use of flowers. You canlow, Dahlia, Delphinium, Digitalis, Fever- locate wholesale florists through the Whole-few, Gomphrena, Grasses, Hosta leaves, sale Florists and Florist Supplier Associa-Hydrangea, Larkspur, Lemon/cinna- tion. See Further Resources for contactmon basil, Lenten rose, Lilies, Lily of the information.www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 7
  8. 8. Weddings some mechanics from her.” Later, Carol also worked for a florist but found she If you sell flowers at a local farmers’ mar- liked growing flowers more than just work- ket, sooner or later someone will approach ing with them. She quit her “day job” and you to do their wedding flowers. Linda began working exclusively with f lowers Chapman of Harvest Moon Farm in Spen- in 2001, and since then she has actively cer, Indiana, says wedding work can be sought wedding and event work. Carol profitable, but it is not for everyone who markets through word of mouth, photos on her grows flowers. Besides needing aesthetic Web page, www.sunborngardens.com, and talents, it takes a certain temperament to at her stand at the farmers’ market on work cooperatively with brides, grooms, Saturdays. In addition to weddings, she and often their parents. It also takes a has done arrangements for a bat mitzvah, lot of time. a bar mitzvah, and a funeral. Before deciding whether you will do a wed- Carol’s list of flowers that are excellent for ding, talk with the clients. Try to get a weddings includes the following: Bachelor vision of what they want. Can you work with Buttons, Bells of Ireland, Celosia, Dahlias, them to make their vision a reality, or do Godetia, Larkspur, Lisianthus, Rudbeckia, you need to send them to a commercial flo- Shasta Daisy, Snapdragons, and Tulips. rist or another grower? She offers this advice: Most weddings involve a bridal bouquet, You need to use f lowers that can stand bridesmaid bouquets, boutonnières, cor- the stress of being out of water for hours. sages, flower girl flowers, altar arrange- However, on the upside, they need to last ments, reception hall arrangements, and only through the wedding and reception. It flowers for the cake. Other options include is very important that all the flowers used garlands, end-of-pew arrangements, and are conditioned in a cooler with f lower dried flower wreaths made from the wed- conditioning food for 24 or more hours before working with them. Also you have to work ding flowers after with the flowers when they are at their peak. the event. What It doesn’t work to have lilies that are too is their budget? closed for the bouquet. This can mean you Your price should have to cut or otherwise get more flowers than reflect not only the you plan on using because some will be too cost of materials far gone and others will be too immature. Figure your shrinkage at 10 to 20 percent or and labor for the even more with fragile flowers like bachelor finished product buttons or godetia. but also the time spent in consulta- For a wedding, Carol provides bridal and tion. You need to bridesmaid bouquets, boutonnières, cor- Photo by Carol Larsen give your client sages, table arrangements, pew treatments, a price estimate arbor decorations, and large arrangements well in advance of for the church. She takes the price of the the wedding day. Ms. Chapman says pric- flowers and multiplies by 2 to 2.5 to achieve ing is a regional thing. Prices can generally a price that reflects the time to meet with be set higher in urban areas than in rural the bride, work with the flowers, drive to the areas. Her prices reflect the economics of a wedding and reception sites and set up the university town. (Chapman, 2002) flowers (including pinning on corsages and boutonnières), and picking up the vases, Carol Larsen of Sunborn Gardens in Wis- etc. after the event. The most frustrating consin says she first got involved with part for her is not getting enough for her wedding flowers when she worked with work. The most rewarding part is design- another woman who loved to grow flow- ing with the flowers she loves and having ers but also worked as a florist. “We did the bride call afterwards to let her know some weddings together, and I learned how much everyone enjoyed the flowers.Page 8 ATTRA Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing
  9. 9. Yes, a bride can be quite choosy or not. I Internet guess it depends on the individual. Some Posted to ASCFG Forum on how to choose want to know what is going to be in each cor- In the past decade, flowers suitable for weddings, by Farmhouse sage and bouquet, and others just want to go the Inter net ha s Flowers & Plants (Dave Dowling), on June with a color scheme and, perhaps, a style. become an important 29, 2004: Generally, the brides who contact me (and marketing tool. The I picked lisianthus yesterday and tossed a bad 90 percent of the time it is the bride) at the Internet allows grow- flower on the ground. Today the leaves have farmers’ market seem to be the most flex- ers to reach custom- wilted, but the flower still looks fine. You can do ible, maybe because they see my bouquets a test on any of the other flowers you are think- and feel more comfortable or know that is the ers that they could ing of using. Pick a couple of each variety, cut the style they want. (Larsen, 2004) not have reached in stems to about 2 inches, and leave them lying on other ways without the table. See what still looks good after a cou-Contract Growing considerable expense. ple hours and again at the end of the day. Those More than 6 percent should be OK to use. Also think about crush-abil-If someone asks you to grow flowers for a of all Internet trans- ity of the flowers. If Grandma gets hugs all day,wedding or other event, but you are not pre- actions involve flower you don’t want her corsage to look like it waspared to do any more than that, you can get sales. (Carter, 2004) stomped on by the grandchildren.someone else to do the arrangements. Onefall a young woman who had purchased Simple e-mail messages can be used toflowers from me for several years came by inform and educate customers, let themthe farmers’ market to tell me she was get- know what is available and when, and buildting married the next summer on July 9 relationships. E-mail can also be used toand wanted me to grow the flowers for her take orders. Third-party Web sites, which offer a template for you to use to list yourwedding. She had chosen Stargazer lilies farm and products at no or low cost, areas her main flower and set the July wed- another way to inform and educate.ding date because that is when Stargazersbloom locally. The only other flowers she Building your own Web site is a big step,wanted were additional Oriental lilies and but it may be an excellent way to increaseglads in colors to harmonize with Stargaz- your markets. The Thiessen family farm iners. During the winter, I referred her to sev- Ontario began accepting Internet orders foreral Web sites where she could view lilies flowers in 1996. The family has 30 acresand glads, asking her to let me know which of apples and offers wagon rides, a cornvarieties she liked. I ordered bulbs and maze, and PYO apples. They say, however,planted them on two different dates, hoping the Internet sale of flowers has generatedthat enough would bloom at the right time. the most profit for the farm and kept it inThen I started wondering about how the business. Sales have grown to the pointflowers would be delivered to the chapel 50 that other growers, one in Connecticut andmiles away and who would arrange them. three in California, have joined the effortI knew I wouldn’t have the time, skills, or as suppliers, with Thiessen supplying aboutvases to do this. I asked my friend whether 40 percent. The products can be seen atshe had someone to arrange the flowers. the Web site www.GrowerFlowers.com.She hadn’t thought about that yet, but pro- (Carter, 2004)ceeded to fi nd a floral arranger, anotheryoung woman I had met at the farmers’ Related Products andmarket. What a relief. That left me with Added Valuenothing to do but to keep hoping the flowers Depending on your market, you may bewould bloom at the right time and deliver able to increase your income with relatedthem to the farmers’ market, where the products.arranger would pick them up. I expressed • Bulbs. Daffodils, tuberoses, and cro-my concern about the lilies being in bloom cosmia are a few that multiply andat the right time to the floral arranger. need to be divided occasionally. IfShe assured me that she could get them you have earned a reputation amongfrom a wholesaler any time of the year. other gardeners for your beautifulMore relief. and unusual flowers, they will bewww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 9
  10. 10. pleased to have an opportunity to and personal choices will result in different purchase starts of the same. schedules. • Potted plants. Consider putting Consider sequential planting and use of some of those bulbs in pots, grow- cultivars that have different lengths of time ing them, and selling them as to maturity to get a continuous supply of blooming plants. your most popular cuts. Gladioli, for exam- • Bedding plants. If you start your ple, are ready to cut about 80 days from own cut f lowers from seed, you planting. You can make your fi rst planting might save a few of the same for in mid-spring, and sequential plantings at your customers so they can have intervals of a week or a month, ending at their own cutting garden. It may least 80 days before the fi rst frost in the seem strange, but some of the best fall. Sunflowers, which are usually har- flower customers at a farmers’ mar- vested as one cut stem, also need sequential ket also have flower gardens. They plantings for a continuous supply. Check the just don’t want to cut from them. information provided by your seed supplier for length of time needed from planting to • Garlic braids, swags, wreaths, dried harvest; the time varies by cultivar. flowers—and ornamental peppers, grasses, grains, and okra—are nat- urals for crafting. For ideas and Soil-Fertility If at all possible, find a location with well- instructions, look for books in your drained, sandy loam soil, high in organic mat- local public library, or go on-line. ter, and with a neutral pH. If you don’t have • Organically or naturally grown. perfect soil, you can improve it with cover Customers concerned about our crops, compost, and mulching with organic natural environment will appreciate matter. Soil preparation is the most important knowing that you use farming prac- job you will do in the flower garden. tices that protect it. Organic certi- fication may be a way to add value Alex and Betsy Hitt of Peregrine Farm in to your flowers. For local markets, North Carolina have spent more than 10 talking with your customers about years developing a system that maintains your production practices may be or improves soil organic matter content by even more valuable. the conscientious use of summer and win- ter cover crops combined with minimal till- Production Basics age. Their planting rotation, which includes vegetables, flowers, and cover crops, is pre- Plan for Season-Spanning sented in the ATTRA publication Market Blooms Gardening: A Start-Up Guide. The Hitts use several tools and concepts to make the sys- Do you want year-round flower production? tem work: Or frost to frost? Or just one big splash? Planning is important regardless of your • Soil testing is done on each rota- choice, and especially critical if you want tional unit every late summer/early year-round blooms. fall. Steve and Susan Bender of Homestead • Organic matter is grown in place Flower Farm near Warrenton, North Car- rather than imported. olina, presented their planting and har- • The 10-year rotation is designed vest chart at the 2002 Southern Sus- both for maximum diversity for tainable Agriculture Working Group disease and insect management, conference and trade show. It is presented and, as much as practical, to on the opposite page as an example. Dif- alternate heavy feeders with light ferences in location and climate, market, feeders, deep-rooted crops withPage 10 ATTRA Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing
  11. 11. Homestead Flower Farm Cut Flower Schedules 1st Seeding or Planting Varieties Transplant HarvestAugust Centuarea macrocephala, NE Asters October AprilTray Seed Swt Wm biennial, Hesperis, Foxglove October May-June Canterbury Bells, Trachelium, Delphinium October May-June Yellow Yarrow, Baptisia October May-JuneOct-Nov Feverfew, Gyp, Stock, Larkspur Dec-Jan April-JuneTray Seed Swt Wm Annual, Godetia, Calendula Dec-Jan April-June Nigella, Ammi majus, Heliopsis Dec-Jan May-June Bupleurum, Bells of Ireland, Snaps Dec-Jan May-June Saponaria, Campanula, Clary Sage Dec-Jan June-JulyOct-NovDirect Seed Colorado Yarrow Lisianthus Larkspur Tulip, Dutch Iris, Allium Dec-Jan Feb-Mar June-July June-Aug May-June April-May P lanning is important regardless of your choice, and espe- Barley, Tritcale, Rye-Clover* April-May cially critical if youNovember Crocosmia, Monarda, Mtn Mint June-Aug want year-roundTransplants, Silver King Artemesia, Tansy June-Aug blooms.Root Divisions Pysostegia, Red Hot Poker June-Aug Phlox, Peonies, Lamb’s Ear, Salvia Perennial May-JuneJanuary Agastache, Buddleia. Monarda lambado April May-JulyTray Seed Rudbeckia, Scabiosa, Annual Salvias, Helenium April June-Aug Safflower March June Statice, Snaps April June-July Lobelia May Aug-SeptJanuary Direct Seed Sweet Pea, Lupine April-MayFebruary Direct Seed Asiatic Lilies June-JulyMarch Peppers, Eucalyptus May Sept-OctTray Seed Ageratum, Basil July-Oct Caryopteris, Globes, Sweet Annie Sept-Oct Sunset Flower July-Sept Dill, Asters June-JulyApril Tray Seed Celosia, Cosmos, Marigolds, Zinnias May July-OctApril Direct Seed Gladiolus, Sunflowers June-JulyMay Gladiolus, Sunflowers July-AugDirect Seed Dahlias July-OctJune Gladiolus, Sunflowers, Buckwheat* Aug-SepDirect Seed Sorghum Sudangrass* Aug-OctJuly Direct Seed Sunflowers Sep-Oct *Grown as cover crops for soil improvement. For each bed planted in flowers, an adjoining bed is planted in a cover crop. This is mowed with a brush hog to provide mulch.www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 11
  12. 12. shallow-rooted ones, and cool-sea- based advice in a 2004 Growing for son with warm-season crops. Market article: Marked improvement of their soils is indi- • Start with good seed. If you cated by higher cation exchange capacity save seed from year to year, do (CEC), more organic residues, more soil small germination tests several biological life, easier to prepare and plant- weeks before you plan to plant. to-seed beds, healthier crops, and higher Then you’ll have time to order new yields. Their purchased inputs are stable or seed if you need it. reduced, and net returns are higher. Man- • Find out about the specific germina- agement inputs are higher, but the returns to tion requirements for each of your management are also higher. (Hitt, 2005) seeds. Some need to be exposed to ATTRA publications with information about light to germinate; others need com- managing soil for improved tilth and fertility plete darkness. Many have no light include Overview of Cover Crops and Green or dark requirement and will germi- Manures, Rye as a Cover Crop, Sustainable nate whenever other environmental Soil Management, and Manures for Organic factors are right. Crop Production. • Provide correct germination temper- ature. Seeds respond to temperature Irrigation in order to germinate at the right Some flowers in some locations can be season in their natural environment. grown with the water they receive from rain- Seeds of heat-loving annuals such fall. Examples are daffodils, butterfly milk- as sunflowers will naturally remain weed, and poke berries. In most situations, dormant until conditions are right however, an irrigation system is needed to for active summer growth. Seeds of consistently and reliably produce the high- cool season plants, such as larkspur est quality flowers. Drip and micro-sprin- and bachelor buttons, lie dormant kler systems are best. Overhead sprinkler through the summer and germinate systems increase the chance of disease and with cooler autumn temperatures. can reduce flower quality, but they may be less expensive to install. Overhead Some seeds take a long time to germinate. sprinklers can also handle water from The Arnoskys have learned to take advan- tage of different germination requirements streams and ponds without a fine filter- and “prime” seed so that plants come up ing system. Drip and micro-sprinkler more quickly in the field. (Arnosky, 2004) systems deliver water more efficiently, resulting in lower water costs. The Coopera- Larkspur likes dark, cool conditions. If we tive Extension Service and supply compa- plant larkspur in late October, it will come up in about three weeks, longer if the soil is dry. nies can provide help in designing a sys- This is a lot of time, so we started “priming” tem. Accessing Irrigation Information on the our seed in the refrigerator. What we do is Internet, www.microirrigationforum.com/ this: about two weeks before we plant, we new/onthenet/, will also lead you to many put the dry seed in zip lock bags and then sources of information. add a small amount of water. Inflate the bag a bit, seal it, and shake the seed until it is well coated with water. Add a bit more water Plant Establishment if needed to moisten the seed completely, Some flowers in some geographic areas can but drain off any extra water you might have in the bottom of the bag. Put the bag in the be easily started by direct seeding. Others fridge, and check it the next day. The seed are more safely started in flats to be trans- should have absorbed all the water—it should planted later. Still others are started with flow freely and not stick together in clumps. root divisions or bulbs. If it does, open the bag and set it out to dry for an hour or two. If your seed still looks If you are growing from seed, Pamela really dry when you check it, add a tiny bit and Frank Arnosky give experience- more water and check it again in a day. ThePage 12 ATTRA Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing
  13. 13. key here is that you want the seed to be in” to settle the soil moist enough to respond to the cold treat- around the roots. If ment, but still be dry enough to flow through you are using sup- the seeder when it is time to plant. port netting, you can After two weeks, the seed will be ready to lay it over the top of germinate. We sow our larkspur with a walk- the bed before set- behind Earthway planter, using the onion plate. If you want it thicker, use the cucum- ting transplants. The ber plate. We plant four rows in a four-foot six-inch square grid wide bed. Using primed seed, we get germi- of the netting can be nation in about a week. This cuts down on used to space your crop time, and more importantly, gives the plants. larkspur a jump on the weeds. This method works well for late plantings in the spring, If you are planting when soil temperatures are warming up. bulbs, try diggingBottom heat is useful for seed that needs a f lat-bot tomedheat to germinate. See the ATTRA pub- trench to the desiredlication Root Zone Heating for Greenhouse plant ing depth,Crops for ideas. rather than using a bulb planter to makeThe Homestead Flower Farm Cut Flower individual holes forSchedule indicates planting methods the each tulip bulb orBenders use for a number of species. Some gladiolus corm.of the flowers that they transplant are alsoeasily direct seeded. For plants, such as Weedlisianthus, that are difficult or especiallytime-consuming to start from seed, some Management Photo by Janet Bachmanngrowers will purchase plugs. Companies Weeds compete withthat sell seeds, bulbs, plugs, and bare- flowers for nutrients, Floral netting is stretched across the bed to keeproot plants will provide you with informa- water, and light, and lisianthus stems from falling over.tion about the recommended method to can harbor insectuse, depth of planting, spacing, and light pests. A heavy stand of weeds in yourrequirements. Several of the books listed planting can severely reduce cut fl owerin the Further Resources section also quality. Weeding can be one of your mostgive recommendations. You are still left time consuming operations, especially ifto decide whether you will plant in rows you choose not to use chemical herbicides.or beds, by hand or machine. Many grow- If you use support netting, mechanicalers favor the intense production of beds. weeding is impossible once it is in place.This allows water and nutrients to be con- Mulches can help suppress weeds and pro-centrated in the area where the plants vide many other benefits as well, includingwill grow, and not in the walkways. It also cleaner flowers. Other benefits include soilenables the use of support netting, which moisture conservation, soil temperatureis manufactured to fit the normal width of moderation, increased soil organic matter,garden beds. and habitat for natural enemies of insect pests, depending on your choice of mulch-The degree of mechanization you use in ing material.planting will depend to a great extent onthe size of your operation. You will most And contrary to what many of us were toldlikely want to start small, and the same for years, high-carbon materials do nothand tools you would use for vegetable deprive plants of nitrogen when they aregardening will work for planting. If the laid on the surface as mulch unless thesesoil has been freshly tilled, a hand trowel materials are mixed into the soil. Nor dowill work for making holes for transplants oak leaves or pine needles used as mulchor plugs. They should always be “watered make the soil more acidic. (Reich, 2005)www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 13
  14. 14. The Benders of Homestead Flower Farm in will be able to manage them effectively with North Carolina grow sorghum-sudangrass non-toxic methods. in alternating beds with cut flowers. When Cultural control. Examples include crop they brush hog the grass, they can move the rotation, plant spacing, and adjusting the clippings across the walkway to mulch the timing of planting or harvest. adjacent flower bed. Physical and mechanical control. The For general and specific information about use of physical barriers such as floating row weed management, the ATTRA publica- covers prevents insects from reaching the tions Sustainable Weed Management, Flame crop. Row covers can help prevent early Weeding for Vegetable Crops, and Cover Crops season damage from flea beetles or cucum- and Green Manures are useful. Plastic fi lm ber beetles. Other methods include hand and landscape fabric mulches are discussed picking, sticky boards or tapes, and various in Season Extension Techniques for Market trapping techniques. Growers are reporting Gardeners. that high tunnels are decreasing both dis- ease and insect damage to their flowers and other crops. Biological control. All insect pests have natural enemies, often referred to as beneficials. They include: Predators. Mainly free-living species that consume a large number of prey during their lifetime. • Lacewing immatures, known as antlions, are among the most preda- cious of all beneficial insects. They eat aphids, scales, thrips, mealy- bugs, mites, and insect eggs. Fam- ilies Chrysopidae and Hemerobi- idae are highly beneficial insects in crops and gardens. • Lady beetles and their larvae feed Photo by Janet Bachmann on aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, spider mites, and small egg massesStraw or hay, used to suppress weeds, provides other benefits as well. of other insects. • Other beetles: ground beetles, Insect Pests and Disease rove beetles, soldier beetles, flower beetles. Management The best way to prevent insect and disease • True bugs: stink bugs, minute pirate problems is to select plants that grow well bugs, big-eyed bugs, damsel bugs, in your location, and grow them well. Your assassin bugs. next step is to recognize problems caused • Predatory fl ies: hover or syrphid by insects and diseases. Some can be toler- fl ies, robber fl ies, aphid midges. ated; others will destroy the value of your • Predatory mites. flowers. Your local County Extension staff can help identify both insect pests and dis- • Spiders. eases and provide information about their • Praying mantids. biology and behavior. The more we know about their life cycles, the more likely wePage 14 ATTRA Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing
  15. 15. Parasitoids: Species whose immature organic production. Those that are con- stage develops on or within a single insect sidered highly toxic (strychnine and nico- host, ultimately killing the host. tine) are excluded. Botanical insecticides • Wasps: aphidiids, braconids, ich- are relatively non-selective and can be neumonids, trichogramma, and “hard” on the natural predators and par- others. asites in the field; therefore, minimal use is advised. Botanicals can also affect • Flies: Tachinids. other non-target organisms. Rotenone, for Disease-causing pathogens: Bacteria, example, is highly toxic to fi sh. Microbial fungi, viruses, nematodes, protozoa, and insecticides include Bacillus thurengiensis, microsporidia. Beauveria bassiana, and Nosema locustae.The use of these organisms to manage pests Add Season-Extendingis known as biological control. Knowingyour natural enemies is equally important to High Tunnelsknowing your insect pests. Again, the more More and more cut flower growers are dis-we know about life cycle and habitat needs, covering the advantages of growing under thethe more likely we will be able to ensure their protection of unheated high tunnels. Theseexistence. Conservation of existing natural include earlier and later crops, better qual-enemies is probably the most important ity and stem length, and production of cropsbiological control practice readily available that otherwise could not be grown because ofto growers. climate constraints. (Byczynski, 2005) Vicki Stamback says her crops have changedBeneficial insects need: dramatically over the past several years • Nectar and pollen because of greenhouses. In Oklahoma, where • Alternate prey she lives and grows specialty cut flowers, she • Water faces huge temperature swings and high winds. Heated greenhouses and unheated • Shelter from wind and rain hoophouses protect her flowers from Okla- • Overwintering sites homa weather. She has a 30 x 90-foot AgritexFlowering plants for habitat: structure that has withstood 90 mph winds. • Carrot family It has 6-foot wide sliding doors, which allows tractor entry. Inside the house are six raised • Daisy family beds, each 3 feet wide by 30 feet long, and • Mustard family 8 inches deep, framed with 1x 8-inch cedar. • Mint family Tenax support netting is stretched over the top of bare beds, which are then planted. • Grasses The Tenax is raised higher as the crops grow. • Clovers and vetches After research, Vicki settled on 45°F as the • Trees and shrubs appropriate winter temperature for raising lupines, sweetpeas, ranunculus, and stock.Refer to the ATTRA publication Farmscap- (Stamback, 2003)ing to Enhance Biological Control for moreinformation. In Nebraska, Laurie Hodges, PhD, Exten- sion specialist and associate professor inChemical control. If you are an organic horticulture at the University of Nebraska,grower, most chemical controls are not triple cropped grape hyacinths, sweet peas,allowed. and hyacinth beans in a high tunnel. SheMicrobials, botanicals, and oils, how- chose these crops because they fit into a suc-ever, are possibilities. Most botanical cession planting schedule. Grape hyacinthsinsecticides, including neem, pyrethrins, were planted October 31 and harvested fromryania, and sabadilla, are permitted in March 21 through April 8. Sweet peas werewww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 15
  16. 16. planted March 18 and harvested from May ature states that recutting underwater is 11 through June 17. Hyacinth beans were unnecessary.) planted June 26 and harvested from August Bacteria, yeasts, and other microbes are 27 through October 28. The trellis for sweet peas and hyacinth beans was in place before present everywhere: in the soil, on plants, anything was planted. (Byczynski, 2005) and other organic matter. Bacteria grow quickly in any liquid containing sugars For more information about high tunnels, see and other organic matter. When stems are the ATTRA publication Season Extension for cut, they release sugars, amino acids, pro- Market Gardeners. teins, and other materials that are perfect food for bacteria. They start to grow at the Harvest and Postharvest base of cut stems as soon as flowers are Postharvest success begins with providing put into water. the best growing conditions possible and To prevent the growth of bacteria, com- harvesting at optimum harvest stage. The mercial preservatives contain anti-micro- optimum harvest stage varies with indi- bial compounds, or biocides. Quaternary vidual species and according to your mar- ammonium, hydroxyquinline salts, alu- ket. The longest vase life for some flowersP ostharvest success beginswith providing the will be achieved if they are cut with color but not yet open. Others are best when cut fully open. Information on the optimum harvest stage for more than 100 types minum sulfate, and slow-release chlorine compounds are commonly used in com- mercial products. You can make a simple biocide by adding 1 teaspoon of householdbest growing condi- bleach (5 percent hypochlorite) to 8 gal- of f lowers is available in Specialty Cut lons of water. This is very effective, buttions possible and Flowers: A Commercial Growers Guide from Kansas State University Extension. See must be replaced every two or three days.harvesting at opti- Further Resources. (Reid, 2002)mum harvest stage. After flowers are cut, quality cannot be Vase Life of Flowers improved, but take steps to maintain qual- ity and extend the vase life by providing A number of products have been developed food, water, and cool temperatures. to help prolong vase life. All contain anti- microbials to suppress bacterial growth. Water Flow in Stems Hydration products make it easier for water Without water, flowers wilt. When stems to move up the stems. The solution should are cut, two things happen to restrict have a pH of 3.0 to 3.5, as this improves water flow: the flow. Hydration usually is best if sugar is not in the hydrating solution. • Air gets into the stems and blocks the uptake of water. Holding solutions have sugar to feed the flowers. Sugar provides the energy needed • Bacteria begin to grow in the vase by some flowers to continue opening. water and clog the stems. To reduce the amount of air that gets into Pulsing can improve the quality and vase the stems, flower stems should be placed life of many cut flowers using a solution con- in water as you cut them. Later, recut the taining sugar after harvest. The cut flowers stems underwater, removing about one are allowed to stand in solution for a short inch, to remove air bubbles and bacteria. period, usually less than 24 hours, and When cuts are made underwater, a fi lm of often at low temperature. The most dramatic water prevents air from entering the stems example of the effect of added carbohydrate in the short time it takes to move them to is in spikes of tuberose and gladiolus: flow- postharvest solutions. Some suppliers offer ers open further up the spike, are bigger, specially designed tools for this task. See and have a longer vase life after overnight Further Resources. (Some recent liter- treatment with a solution containing 20Page 16 ATTRA Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing
  17. 17. percent sucrose and a biocide to inhibit promotes ripening in fruits, but it causesbacterial growth. (Reid, 2002) sensitive flowers to fail to open or lookRemoving ethylene using specially for- wilted. Product suppliers listed undermulated products prolongs vase life. Resources can help you choose productsEthylene is a naturally occurring gas that that will best suit your particular needs. CHOOSING THE RIGHT SOLUTION Gay Smith, a representative for Pokon & wash buckets, use a biodegradable Chrysal who writes a regular column for the detergent and household bleach to ASCFG Cut Flower Quarterly, says choosing maximize your efforts. Wash both the right solution for your needs has a lot to inside and out to avoid cross-con- do with how you answer the following ques- tamination when stacking. tions. • Do you store cuts in a cooler? • How fast do you move your flow- Hydration solutions can be reused ers from the field to the cus- for up to five to seven days depend- tomer? Use chlorine if you move ing on the number of stems that flowers fast (less than two days) pass through, if the flowers are held and sell from the same buckets you in the cooler, and if you started harvest in. Use a hydration solu- with a clean bucket. Studies show tion if you keep your flowers more that removing field heat improves than a day. Hydration solutions are vase longevity. Make sure there is more stable and can be reused to good air flow so condensation can defray costs. Recommendation: evaporate within bunches and from Blend your mixture for best results. inside sleeves. Keep your cooler Use chlorine for initial bacteria con- floor as dry as possible to avoid trol the first day, then use an alumi- botrytis breeding grounds. num sulfate-based hydration solu- • Do you harvest flowers at high tion for bacterial control the next temperatures (over 80°F)? If six days. so, you need a hydration solution • Do your customers know what that really boosts flow into wilting solution to use once your flow- stems that are exuding a host of ers leave your hands? If you sell bacteria-loving enzymes as part of to wholesalers or florists, tell them harvest stress. Since many summer to give your flowers a fresh cut and flowers produce exudates, staying process them in a low-sugar flower on top of the bacteria issue is criti- food. Floralife Professional, Syndi- cal to ensure flowers perform and cate Sales Aqua-hold, and Chrysal hold in the vase. One idea is to try Professional #2 are examples of blending solutions. Using the dilu- low-sugar processing solutions. tion guidelines listed on the labels, Remind wholesalers to have buck- try adding a slow-release type of ets prepped for your drop-off so chlorine (not Clorox) plus an alumi- flowers don’t sit out dry too long. If num sulfate-based hydration solu- you sell directly to consumers, tell tion. This blend provides double them to use a flower food packet— duty. Chlorine kills bacteria popu- it’s 1,000 times more efficient than lations that explode immediately water, sugar, and aspirin. after harvest. When the chlorine is finished, after 24 to 36 hours, the • Do you work with clean buckets? aluminum-sulfate hydration formu- If your buckets are dirty to start lation takes over. The second solu- with, the biocides in the solution tion continues to control bacteria (both long term and short term) while lowering the pH and boost- are depleted very fast by trying to ing flow up the stems. (Smith, 2004) keep bacteria in check. When youwww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 17