Seed Order 2006

Irish_Eyes_z5(MO)February 20, 2006

I am really sorry, but I find myself not overly excited about some of the seed orders mentioned in "What I Am Growing This Season." I don't mean to sound critical. They seem so ordinary to me. It seems like everyone grows these flowers. It worked when I had a flower stand in front of my home, and I sold small and simple bouquets. Maybe my question should be--How do you make yourselves stand out from other vendors at market if everyone is growing the same thing?

Erin

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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

In this climate, there are few enough things that will thrive that it pays to grow them all. There were still strong differences from the other vendors at the market I went to, even though they grew them all, also. They grew some Oriental and Asiatic lilies, and small glads. Their lilies weren't large, as they grew new bulbs every year, so the bulbs never produced as many flowers, or large flowers, like my older bulbs did. I grew many more of them, they were bigger, and I used more of them in bouquets. Ditto glads - I grew all sizes, although mostly full-sized, and used them liberally, in bouquets that were way bigger and better arranged (and more expensive) than the other vendors'. I also had much more variety in my sunflowers - the others tended to grow just two or three of the most popular cut-flower varieties, but my varied, multicolored and multi-shaped sunflower bouquets sold like hotcakes. They usually took some of their sunflowers home. I used other main-event flowers (like peonies and tulips) more heavily also. I was also the only merchant there who conditioned the flowers before selling, so they lasted longer. That isn't evident on market day, but when my customers' bouquets lasted way longer than the others' did, I got repeat business when they didn't.

Those are just examples of some of the things I did differently, and stood out, even though we all grew almost all the same flowers. If you have only the exact same flowers as the other vendors, and arrange and display them exactly the same way at the same price, no, you won't stand out. Vary some of those things, and even with the same flowers, you will stand out.

Jeanne

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 12:17PM
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Irish_Eyes_z5(MO)

jeanne: I read in some of your old posts where you said you grew on a half acre and had a 12 by 36 greenhouse. That must have been a magic greenhouse to grow the hundreds of flowers you said you grew in it. How is it you have tons of flowers to take to market? I don't understand the bulb thing either. Your lilies were bigger because your bulbs were older? You can buy bigger bulbs that will produce more flowers. The flowers are just as big as yours.
Erin

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 6:11PM
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bryan_ut(z5UT)

Erin, the size of your planting area is not the biggest variable here. Spacing is! I am not sure about Jeanne, but if you look at my pics, you can see spacing is key (at least for me). I can get almost 100,000 stems off a half acre. I.E. 1/2 acre = 21,780 square feet if you plant every square foot or less like I do and get 4.5 stems per plant (which is reasonable),you get 98,000 stems per 1/2 acre. Of course some you get more stems from some plants(Statice, Celosia, Gomphrena, Campanula, Rudbeckia etc..).

Bulbs do produce taller and more abudant stems as they mature. Yes you can buy large bulbs, but they still take some time to produce as much as those that have been in the ground for years.

BUT back to your orginal statement "It seems like everyone grows these flowers". We as flower growers can only grow the flowers that grow for us in our climate or grow them in a expensive greenhouse. Yes I would love to grow heather, plumeria etc.., but alas they will not grow here. Also after 10 years I am tired of trying to grow some types of flowers that do not produce. Also I have been around enough to know what sells, how much I can sell, how much I can produce, how much I can sell it for. Yes there are new trends, colors, fads etc and I try to stay on top of those, but they are not your main stay for the first year.

Can you tell us to which new flowers you refer too?

The way I stand out is many. Always have plenty of good quality flowers. Double booth, to have room for customers to get up close and in the shade. I had 1 wreath maker at the FM with us (this year I will have both wreath maker). So with myself, 1 other bouquet maker and 2 people making wreaths up at a time. I have alot of what I call walking billboards at the FM. This means alot of customers walking around the market with my product, and people asking where did you get that bouquet/wreath from. I do not have to advertise at all. I do wish I had a blue rose though.

Bryan

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 6:49PM
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flowerfarmer

Erin,
All specialty cutflower growers or market farmers grow the basics. Check out April's thread that I have linked below. She has the most impressive list of basics I have seen. You will notice that she has the single stem sunflowers listed. Serious market farmers grow only the single stem sunflowers because they know these are the best sunflowers. Start with the basics and expand your style from there to find your market niche. We watch market trends; and, we're aware of the latest research. We subscribe to publications and attend regional and national trade meetings. We're always aware of the latest color trends. Our customers expect this. We always trial some of the newer plants each season. If they work for us, we'll add them to our list of basics the next growing season.

When we go to market, we arrive very early when only a handful of other farmers are there. You can tell the professional vendors because they are the ones who show up early. Our set-up is large, and it takes about two hours to make it happen. We take a large, well trained crew to market with us. They all have different responsibilities; however, they can all make bouquets. We take many props for display, and buckets and buckets of flowers. You asked how one can stand out from the rest. That's basically how it's done; and, it is all about marketing. It also has much to do with how you and the customer relate to one another.

Trish

Here is a link that might be useful: Basic Seed List

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 9:15PM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

Erin, there is one more point I just remembered. I've learned the hard way that although I, as a flower grower, might be very excited by some brand-new variety, chances are that the customers won't notice or care, unless it happens to be so very big and bright that it grabs their attention. The various award-winning new flowers can be expensive and aren't necessarily of higher value than the cheaper old ones, to a market flower farmer. That is not to say that I didn't try new things, because I always tried a few new things every year, but I learned how to pick and choose among them, carefully.

I found that with about half an acre of 3'-wide rows in the ground, plus a completely separate area with seven 4'x2'x30' framed raised beds and my little hoophouse, I grew more than I could harvest, arrange, and get to market in peak season. It was all quite densely planted. I had no help except for one person who did two or three hours of harvesting at peak season, and my husband drove a second vehicle full of flowers to market for me. Farm space wasn't the limiting factor - I have 20 acres of land available - but working alone limits time and effort, as does keeping a separate off-farm job.

I have yet to see any lily bulbs available that are anywhere near the size of a bulb that's been in the ground for two or three years without being dug up at all. The only place I've seen really large bulbs were at B&D Lilies (I think), where they sometimes have a few extra-large older bulbs available, but they don't list prices for them, and they STILL are smaller than my older bulbs. That catalog was marketed to backyard gardeners, not market growers. Have you ever seen a lily bulb that weighs over two pounds? I've had several, and many 1 1/2-lb bulbs. My really big ones made flower stalks that were a bouquet all on their own. Honestly, though, the truly huge ones are of limited use - not that many people want a 30-bud stalk - but the 3- to 4-year-olds (10+ buds) are wonderful, and bigger than any commercially available. If you make huge arrangements for hotel lobbies or such, or sell your flowers to somebody who does, even the 30-bud stalks are great.

Jeanne

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 11:17PM
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bluestarrgallery(zone 7 GA)

I am wondering from the customers point of view, if there are certain flowers customers seem to gravitate to - in other words - are there certain flowers that lots of people want just because they are familiar with them - such as carnations, roses, sunflowers or zinnias - perhaps these or other flowers are the ones they see in grocery stores, florist's shops or are the types of flowers their families have always bought or grown - should this in turn have a bigger influence on what a flower grower should grow - rather than the unusual?

Have any market farmers offered condition packets with their bouquets or handouts on how to take care of cut flowers? If so, can these marketing techniques set you apart from the other vendors?

Linda

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 11:13AM
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Jeanne_in_Idaho(z5 N.Idaho)

ANOTHER thing I forgot to mention - the huge old Oriental lily stalks really extend the blooming season, since they open sequentially from the bottom up. Sometimes I just didn't cut them until there were only maybe 10 buds left (cut off the spent stemlets), which was after all the others had finished blooming, so I had one or two more weeks of lily bouquets from them alone.

Jeanne

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 11:22AM
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