Keeping Their Charm by Judy Laushman
Expect consumption of cut flowers to increase and more expansion of alternative sales options.
November 24, 2008
Greenhouse Grower celebrates its 25th anniversary the same year the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) celebrates its 20th. Springing in 1988 from Allan Armitage's field-grown cut flower research program at the University of Georgia, the ASCFG now counts more than 600 members in the United States, Canada and several other countries. These growers have seen tremendous changes in the floral industry and look forward to 20 more successful years.
While domestic per capita cut flower sales may not currently match those of European countries, consumption should increase in proportion as the U.S. population grows. The expansion of alternative sales options, especially farmers' markets, will lead to an increase in customers' personal knowledge of new cut flowers, their sources and, most importantly, proper postharvest care.
Specialty cut flower growers have been growing sustainably and selling locally long before these practices became popular in other parts of the floral industry. This springs from a practical basis - few chemicals are specifically labeled for field-grown specialty cut flowers - as well as for environmentally conscientious reasons. A well-maintained specialty cut flower farm can be as diverse as a natural ecosystem. As this trend continues, growers who sell flowers regionally will gain a greater share in the market.
Field growers will continue to extend their seasons by adding greenhouses and hoophouses, planting earlier in the spring and later in the fall and by choosing plants and cultivars suited to off-season production. Production of woody stems, such as hydrangea, bittersweet and viburnum will increase, expanding the palette of offerings to florists, wholesalers and other buyers.
Increases in transportation costs will pinch profits for offshore exporters but benefit local growers who are able to cut flowers in the morning and have them in consumers' hands in the afternoon. The "buy local" movement already supports this trend in many areas of the country. Growers who produce cut flowers for farmers' markets, retail florists or local weddings and other special events, are able to keep these niche markets flourishing. Their flowers are of higher quality than imports because they did not suffer from long transport.
At the same time, growers must continue to educate themselves on the proper production, effective post-harvest care and profitable marketing of their flowers. Of these, postharvest is the most important. Until buyers feel comfortable that their purchases will last, flowers won't gain the everyday purchase confidence that's won by consistent performance.
As the production of roses, carnations and chrysanthemums has been replaced by greenhouse-grown lilies, tulips, lisianthus and other "alternative" flowers, the specialty cut flower industry now encompasses the entire U.S. cut flower industry. The ASCFG is currently the national representative of most of these growers, the largest national trade association for cut flower growers in the country.
Regardless of the economy, well-grown cut flowers will always have a place in peoples' lives. Beauty will never lose its charm, and flowers are part of nature's beauty we can enjoy inside.
They help us express personal sentiments, honor significant occasions and brighten our living spaces. The increasing urbanization of the country means cut flowers will only become more important as a way to bring a bit of nature indoors with us.