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Old March 28, 2018   #1
Cole_Robbie
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Default Cut Flowers and Bouquets

I am planning to transition to mostly flower sales in 2018. I did ok with container flowers last year, but I don't know anything about cut flower sales. I am especially ignorant when it comes to making flower arrangements.

My cut flowers will be mostly zinnias, then later in the summer I will have cosmos and celosia. The only companion I can think of to match with the zinnias is baby's breath, which I have never grown. I just read that it takes two years to grow from seed, so I will need to buy some plants. I do not know of any other companion ideas for bouquets, so I welcome other suggestions besides baby's breath.

A previous cut flower vendor who has since left my market for family reasons did well using a mason jar as a vase for his cut flower sales. I think he usually sold the jar with the flowers. I can get jars like this one for about 30 cents each:


I can also get plastic sleeves from China that fill with water and look like vases, but I don't think they would hold up well to any wind while at market.

I also don't know how to tie the bouquets together. Floral wire, I presume?

Here is the celosia I ordered (sorry if this gets pic-heavy)




My Cosmos:




And my zinnias:










Last edited by Cole_Robbie; March 28, 2018 at 07:29 PM.
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Old March 28, 2018   #2
imp
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Bachelor Buttons & Carnations, both in mixed colors. Multi branched sunflowers for cutting. There is an annual Baby's Breath, if I recall correctly, that blooms quite quickly after coming up...

Last edited by imp; March 28, 2018 at 07:54 PM.
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Old March 28, 2018   #3
SueCT
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I wish I could advise you better, but be careful of the babies breath. I don't know the variety but I planted a perennial babies breath years ago and it smelled so bad I couldn't stand it in the house. I was growing lots roses at the time and wanted it for bouquets in the house. You might try an annual and a perennial variety and see what works, but if you are going to rely heavily on having it, try more than one variety so you don't end up with something you can't use.
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Old March 29, 2018   #4
PureHarvest
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This is for using just Dahlias, but the same method would apply for mixed bouquets. Short and easy to understand.
The same guy has one on making centerpieces in a vase, and is good too:

https://youtu.be/D909PuYVrqc

Here is a some info on how to make a station to make bouquets:


By Gretel Adams

Our first year selling flowers at the farmers market, we sold straight bunches of sunflowers, zinnias, etc. Then I saw a vendor at market making beautiful wildflower bouquets (legitimately wildflowers from the side of the road), and people loved them. Having always been into art, we decided bouquet making was definitely going to become a part of what we offered. Last year, we made more than 14,000 bouquets for grocers and farmers markets.


When we started making bouquets for farmers market, we would just take the flowers to market separately and make all bouquets on demand. This method worked until we started to have a line and it required three people to keep up. When we enrolled in a second Saturday market, we knew we had to start pre-making bouquets. Now we take most crops to market pre-bunched, only requiring one person to do each market most days. The only things we now take loose to market are: dahlias if there are any extra, salvia, sunflowers, or pumpkin on a stick. Our pre-bunched flowers include zinnias, lisianthus, lilies, celosia, and mums — all sleeved. This helps protect the flowers from customers’ mishandling, but also gives people the same experience they would have if they saw our product in the grocery store.


bouquets


At first we designed every bouquet, which took way too long and cost a lot in labor. Everyone would pick out of the buckets, and we would all hang out in the garage and compare bouquets while we were working, taking about 4 minutes per bouquet per person. Then we attended an ASCFG conference and learned that people were making a bouquet a minute?! We knew when we expanded into grocery sales, we were going to have to step it up, so we implemented some different techniques. Now we can make one bouquet per minute.


With bouquets, time is money. If you break down the cost per stem, you are getting paid less than you would charge wholesale, and that doesn’t include the labor, sleeve, and sticker. The benefit of grocery sales is the volume you can sell. Without grocery sales, we would grow far less, but it makes sense for the profit/square foot—especially if you can make speedy bouquets.


Fast bouquet making starts with harvest. We load the harvest vehicles up with buckets and make a game plan based on orders. If we know we have 65 cases of bouquets to make, then we know we need to harvest about 60-65 buckets of flowers. It is almost a 1:1 ratio for us because we end up bunching for florists and/or pulling wedding flowers from these buckets also. This includes lilies and pretty much all other crops, although some things are counted separately (seasonal bunches for grocers - zinnias, celosia; and some florist crops like dusty miller or lisianthus). We tell our employees that they are the first line of defense against bad product when they are out in the field. If a stem is too bent, too short, or the flower already damaged, they know to leave it in the field. There is no sense in an unusable flower going through the harvesting process just to get thrown in the compost later. We don’t usually cut anything that is less than 12”, but we are optimally going for at least 18”. When harvesting, we line up the stems at the bottom in our arms so as not to create a tangled mess when they are moved in and out of the bucket. We carry as much as we can without making the stems all crazy, then we gather everyone else’s bunches on our way back to the buckets in the vehicle to decrease steps taken.


“Cut & come again” flowers such as zinnias get deadheaded if not being harvested to regenerate new growth, but we try not to spend too much extra time in the field doing this. We may deadhead marigolds or ageratum if the first bloom is too short, although we have started to pinch these at planting so we can skip that step. This pinching back method (whether at planting, or when plants are about 6”) works for spike celosia as well, and I know other growers who pinch dianthus, amaranth, cosmos, and others.


With most flowers grown outside, we strip the leaves in the field so the stems are ready to make into bouquets. Some varieties, however, are simply cut in the field and processed when we get them to the barn. We let spike celosia, gomphrena, and marigolds bloom all the way out and then we cut the whole plant down, putting it into the bucket and processing up in the barn. Other things that get processed in the barn from the field are amaranth recuts, ornamental peppers, pumpkin on a stick, and Gomphocarpus ‘Oscar’. We do not strip dianthus, ammi, cornflower, scabiosa, and sometimes larkspur.


Greenhouse flowers are brought up to the barn to be stripped of leaves and bunched — that way we aren’t leaving debris in the greenhouse walkways. We have tried different methods and have found it’s most efficient for us to do all processing up in the barn. That gets flowers (and humans) out of the sun, and allows us to finish cutting and be able to stop for lunch at 12:30. If necessary, we send a partial crew out to the field after lunch while some of us start processing flowers. We bunch everything we need for florists first, and then use the rest of the flowers harvested for bouquets. This means that there may not be any of a particular florist crop (lisianthus, stock, snaps, or white dahlias, etc.) in a bouquet unless they were either graded out from florist bunching or were extras.


For quick bouquet making, preparation work is very important. We make sure all the flowers are stripped and ready to go, buckets filled, sleeves stickered, etc. Large flowers such as LA lilies and sunflowers stay in their buckets on the left side of the table where the bouquet-making begins. Then we set stacks of flowers on the table, out of water, blooms at the top. We try not to have more than seven items in a bouquet; otherwise it gets too cluttered on the table. We lay out the flowers so we will end up with a nice mix of focal and filler flowers and sometimes foliage. Once everything is ready, we make bouquets assembly-line fashion, working our way from left to right down the table, ending at the bouquet chopper.


We make our hand-tied bouquets starting in the center, and working outward. It is important for all the flowers to be visible from the top since that is how the customer will be viewing them, especially if there is a sleeve on the product. We don’t want it be “roundy-moundy,” though, so there is a fine balance to maintain. We hold the flowers as loosely and as low on the stems as we can, almost as if they would fall out of the hand, to ensure a bouquet has enough fluff. Think about the shape of the sleeve, how it flares out at the top. You want to create that same cone shape with the stems criss-crossed at the bottom rather than straight up and down. If there are any shorter flowers or foliage (dusty miller for example), they are typically put into the bouquets last on the outside of the bouquet so they don’t get lost. Accomplishing the “fluff” is the most difficult thing for people and takes some practice. You can have the same flowers look totally different if they are held at the top of their necks and packed in densely, which is people’s first instinct when handling flowers. Don’t be afraid to loosen up!


If you are dealing with something big or branching, we put those at the beginning of the table so we can work other flowers into them. Work your way down the table, adding stems to the bouquet as you go. We don’t actively turn the bouquet in the hand, but instead try to just place stems in the hand in different spots. As you get more coordinated, you can pick up more than one stem at a time. We grab 3-5 cosmos at once, use our fingers to splay them out, and then place in the bouquet trying to get onto three sides. Sounds like some crazy sleight-of-hand tricks, but it really does work!

Below, the final product: Sleeved bouquets are ready to be loaded for delivery to supermarkets. To watch a timelapse video of a bouquet session at Sunny Meadows Flower Farm, check out https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...5/IMG_6453.MOV.

bouquets


Our bouquets are typically one lily and 15-20 stems. Working in odd numbers is not really a rule we adhere to, although we will put two of something together rather than on opposite sides — no antennae, please! An example of a bouquet in the summer would be: 1 LA lily, 2 sunflowers, 3 zinnias, 3 spike celosia, 1 branchy piece of gomphrena, 3 dianthus, 2 stems geranium. Really, it differs every day and in every bouquet; we just want it to feel like a $15 bouquet. That is what the grocery stores charge. If there is something we have a ton of, we will make a requirement like 5 dianthus in every bouquet this time, or use 3 sunflowers to help fill space, zinnias on your table at all times, etc.


At the end of each table is a guillotine chopper that cuts the whole bouquet at once. They get banded with a #32 rubber band and set on a shelf, and then the bouquet makers go back to the beginning of the table to start all over again. We have another employee sleeve the bouquets, stacking them 3 and 2, placing the whole lot of 5 bouquets into the final bucket at one time. The person who is sleeving is also expediting the whole bouquet making process, so she has to be on her toes. She fills the bouquet makers’ tables, dumps buckets when we are finished with them to decrease clean up time, stocks rubber bands, switches compost bins, etc. She also loads flowers onto the cart and alerts us when we are getting near the end, in case there is anything specific that we need to use up.


Our bouquets always have a base of 1 LA lily, so we plant prechilled lilies every 2-3 weeks from week 51 to week 33, to ensure harvest from Easter to Thanksgiving. We also plant enough successions and have crops blooming at different times to ensure we will have bouquet flowers throughout the season. Here is a chart with some of our favorites and the number of times we succession plant them throughout the season.



The good thing about bouquets is that they can absorb whatever is available. Sometimes there may be only 4-5 different crops depending on the time of season, but they are still beautiful.


For success with bouquets, get systems in place and then treat every bouquet-making session like a race. Crank up the volume on whatever music motivates you, and time yourself to see how fast you can go. It will be fun, I promise!
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Old March 29, 2018   #5
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Cole, first see if you have a local "friend of a friend" who works in a flower shop show you how to make a hand held bouquet. that for me is the easiest way to learn... someone shows me.. or check a you tube video for the basics of making one. I make them and use vegetable rubber bands to hold them together. the kind of bands you buy in a big bag for broccoli. I count off the number of bouquets I need and put that number of bands over my wrist to pull off one as soon as I have a bouquet in my hand. I make a bouquet the size of what my hand holds not the number of flowers in a bunch. it is usually a nice sized bouquet. immediately place the bouquet in a bucket of water. do not lay them down and then gather them up.
zinnia
dahlias
statice is the go to filler for me. it holds up and is durable. babt's breath is fragile. beautiful but fragile.
queen annes lace
Ammi (another form of Q A's lace)
Dara- from Johnny's- colors of Q A's lace
gomphrena
celosia
grasses such as quaking oats
rudbekia for fall flowers. they are gold. don't grow them for summer flowers. there is nothing to match their colors for Summer flowers.
brandy colored rudbekia... same thing. beautiful but wont sell during the Summer
Snapdragons- rocket series or liberty.. tall ones
stock
lilies from bulbs
sunflowers
maybe gerberas... they may be too much work IMO... they are a specialty.
anything for dried flowers... they hold up well in bouquets.
sprengerii fern... but be careful, it has wicked thorns

look around the yard at weeds. don't be afraid to harvest them. goldenrod, grasses, twigs etc.

look through Johnny's catalog for their ideas in one spot. they are a marketers catalog. they don't sell seeds for bedding plants
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Last edited by clkeiper; March 29, 2018 at 08:36 AM.
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Old March 29, 2018   #6
Salsacharley
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WOW! The previous 2 posts are extraordinary! Thanks for the treasure trove of info!
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Old March 29, 2018   #7
Cole_Robbie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Salsacharley View Post
WOW! The previous 2 posts are extraordinary! Thanks for the treasure trove of info!
I was thinking the exact same thing.
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Old March 29, 2018   #8
Cole_Robbie
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I had not considered bouquet sleeves. I am noticing that Harris sells them - I'm sure their prices are too high: https://www.harrisseeds.com/collections/bouquet-sleeves

What about pot covers for container flowers? Does a piece of foil around the container sell more flowers? There are covers for sale here: https://www.directfloral.com/c-245-bouquet-sleeves.aspx

Here are the DHGate sleeve vases, a neat idea, but I probably won't use them:
https://www.dhgate.com/product/unbre...397266376.html

I have never dealt with a wholesale floral supplier, so I am also open to suggestions in that regard.


Also, I get the general concept, but what exactly is a "bouquet chopper?" I can't find any product for sale by that name.
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Old March 29, 2018   #9
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try the word "guillotine stem chopper"? I use a pair of hand pruners. it really is not necessary. it is another tool that takes up space and it must be stationary. you cant take it to the field with you.
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Old March 29, 2018   #10
Cole_Robbie
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ah ok, I thought so. It reminds me of a paper cutter that the teachers would use when I was in elementary school.
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Old March 29, 2018   #11
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ah ok, I thought so. It reminds me of a paper cutter that the teachers would use when I was in elementary school.
exactly, just designed to cut the flower stems not crush them.


other flowers...


larkspur and delphinium.
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Last edited by clkeiper; March 29, 2018 at 01:13 PM.
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Old March 29, 2018   #12
clkeiper
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cole_Robbie View Post
I had not considered bouquet sleeves. I am noticing that Harris sells them - I'm sure their prices are too high: https://www.harrisseeds.com/collections/bouquet-sleeves

What about pot covers for container flowers? Does a piece of foil around the container sell more flowers? There are covers for sale here: https://www.directfloral.com/c-245-bouquet-sleeves.aspx

Here are the DHGate sleeve vases, a neat idea, but I probably won't use them:
https://www.dhgate.com/product/unbre...397266376.html

I have never dealt with a wholesale floral supplier, so I am also open to suggestions in that regard.


Also, I get the general concept, but what exactly is a "bouquet chopper?" I can't find any product for sale by that name.
quite frankly... I think each of these ideas is a waste of your investment. a plastic sleeve is not going to sell the flowers any better.

the collapsible vase? you need to be able to wedge them into something to transport them. otherwise they will be falling over on the way there? I am not a "busy" visual person. they look busy. I want people to see my flowers. I take them in bouquets in small buckets... usually about 3 per bucket. let them pick the bouquet they want and plop it into a thank you bag. I have not spent any time on sleeves. not worth it to me. they are hard to get them into the sleeve if you have a nice sized bouquet.

and no, a pot cover is not going to sell the plants any better unless someone is taking it as a gift to someone else. if you invest in them get earthy colors. not the bright (aka gaudy) ones you want people to see your flowers.


these are just my opinion from working in the industry and personal preference.
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Old March 29, 2018   #13
Cole_Robbie
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Sure. Thanks. I will probably stick with the mason jar, and two different prices if the customer wants the jar or not. The last flower guy sold in jars and said he was surprised at the number of people who wanted the jar also. They think of it as a cute, charming vase.
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Old March 29, 2018   #14
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Is gomphrey difficult to grow? Is it better to buy plants than to buy seed?
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Old March 29, 2018   #15
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Is gomphrey difficult to grow? Is it better to buy plants than to buy seed?
I don't think it's any harder than other plants. Sterile potting mix and a heat mat. I have never seen it as a common bedding plant. If you can find some already started...great. otherwise get some seeds and give it a whirl.
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