They came, they saw, they bought!

FlowerPower_NC(z6)April 24, 2005

Hey, it works!! We had our first effort at the new farmer's market today--absolutely horrible weather, COLD and BLUSTERY. The turnout was quite poor overall (who can blame them?) but the French pastel pink tulips sold well--and no one balked at the price (hmmm).

Kristen and Jeanne, I'm delighted to report that your method for post-harvest lilac treatment seems to suit my blossoms quite well--THANKS! To my utter surprise, numerous people commented specifically on the lilacs, "oh, I thought those couldn't be grown in the mountains" and "oh, I haven't smelled lilac in 10 (etc.) years, since I first moved here". My husband joked, we ought to charge a nickle a sniff--right up there with my latest idea to harvest dandelions and charge kids a nickle a blow--but I digress.

So, a brief period of gloating over a couple of glasses of wine this afternoon, then a frantic effort at harvesting more tulips and covering the rest in anticipation of frost tonight (it's spitting snow as I write).

Anyhoo, you are all a huge help to this newbie commercial grower, and I wanted to share this small success. Suzy, you're right--it's a great feeling handing a bouquet to a happy grower!



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Umm, Suzy, I meant a happy customer!! I'd better get to bed...


    Bookmark   April 24, 2005 at 1:07AM
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susiq(NW AR 6B)

Congratulations Valerie! I'm up late too, and on cough syrup, advil, mobic, and sundry other things! You might have written "grower" but I "read", "customer".

Flower sales for me have been slim lately. Tulips & daffs are done, not much else, no calls. But I picked up a lucrative gardening job (alas, went straight to joint account and bills, not more fun plants or manicures! LOL), and today at work I was responsible for at least $500 in sales at the nursery. Don't get commission, but the owner sure knew who was selling what to whom, and how many times that same customer came back for more!

Didn't mean to hijack the thread.

I'm VERY proud of your first day, and I LOVE the dandilion idea! If you could get them to market intact, that could be a great attention getter and money maker!

Sending cyber-hugs for your first big day.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2005 at 2:35AM
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flowers4u(z6 OR)

Valerie---Great news! Have fun and enjoy!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 6:45PM
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Thanks to you both! The farmer's market is very new (perfect for a newbie seller), but being in the town square, is exposed to a lot of foot traffic. The organizer seems to be doing everything right--local growers, no brokers, etc. Such a switch from my goal of florist sales!

I think my greatest surprise is that the flowers are so well received. Right now, we are the only stall selling flowers amidst a number of veggie growers.

Suzi, the dandelion idea came from desperation (running out of tulips)! I'd seriously give it a whirl but I'm pretty sure the town managers would have a fit if their rare patch of grass was ruined by my marketing efforts!!


    Bookmark   April 25, 2005 at 9:41PM
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Congrats on your sales. I have yet to do a farmers market, but may try it this year. Do you mind me asking how many tulips you had in your bouquets, and what you charged? Thanks,

    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 8:04PM
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No problem. I sold them for a dollar a stem, and had them wrapped 10 stems per sheaf in butcher paper, with no greenery. I left 2 leaves per tulip, which provided plenty of green color, to my eye. They'll last at least a week in the vase.

These French lates are BIG, after hydration, with stem length 18-22 inches, and flower cross-section of 2x3 inches (and that's not wide open). I have two dozen of them in a tall galvanized metal container on my coffee table right now, and I can say, they look fairly massive.

At the time of sale, with little rehydration, they were a more modest stem length of 16 inches, and a more tightly budded flower cross-section of 1.5-2.5 inches. Still, no one questioned the price.

I bought them from Colorblends. They are a very colorful bouquet of several shades of pink, ranging from soft rose to a pinkish red. At 32 cents per bulb, they are pricey, esp. when you compare with Lynn Byczynski's 10 cents per bulb for her Mentons. I'm going to try her Moolenaar supplier next year, but I'll be buying plenty more from Colorblends too, because they are gorgeous.

Sadly, I'm running out of these. For Mother's Day, I'll be selling smaller-sized Judith Leyster tulips for a lower price. If all were right in my universe, I don't think I'd have to lower the price, because good Leysters are a phenomenal soft buttery cream/soft pink-going-hot pink-over-time, but Van Bourgondien's lower cost product are mostly cream with a mere HINT of pink tinge at the edges.



    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 10:32PM
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susiq(NW AR 6B)


Unless you've already announced a lower price to your customers, don't!

My first year, I sold Apricot Beauties for a lower price, because they were shorter than other tulips. So began my pricing dilemnas. What if it grows after it's cut? How do I keep my prices straight in MY head, let alone to customers? What if the customers want the cheap price on the other tulips? They (the customers) will think ALL are the same, so why higher for some, lower for others?

I've finally figured out that my basic retail charge is about $1.00 per stem, no matter when the tulip blooms or how much I paid for it, or how short or tall it is. (A local florist charges something like $9.95 for 10, retail. If she can do that. so can I!)

I'm not keeping perfect records by any means, but 3 times .32 is .96, so you're theoretically making .68 per bulb. ($1.00 -.32 = .68). Don't know if that covers your shipping,planting, harvesting, and selling costs, but at least it IS "some" profit. Since you have to do the same work for a full price or sale bulb, or a tall one or a short one, make it easy on yourself and charge the same price for each of them. Maybe occasionally more, if you have a particularly grand looking parrot, double, Single Late aka French, or any other GORGEOUS tulip! But NOT less!

Who is the Moolenaar supplier? How do we contact them? Do tell!

Sounds like your tulips were lovely! I just love tulips!


    Bookmark   April 26, 2005 at 11:57PM
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Your numbers match my numbers. Thanks for the advice. I hear you. The Judith Leysters are pretty, just different from the giant pinks. By the way, those pinks are 3 x 4.5 inches in cross-section. After I went to bed last night, I thought--those flowers sure seem bigger than my husband's off-the-cuff measurement--so I rechecked. (I thought men rounded up, LOL?) Anyway, your recommendation is sound, and I'm going with it. One dollar per stem.

About Moolenaar, Lynn Byczynski writes in the August 2002 issure of GFM that she has just broken into tulips as cut flowers, in part because of Moolenaar's prices: Appledorn and Menton for under 10 cents, Flaming Parrot at 17.7 cents (her most expensive purchase). Shipping adds 1.5 cents per bulb. Big limitation: Bulbs are sold in crates 400-500 per variety, and there is a 10 crates minimum. Contact info at press: Moolenaar and Zonen: email Fred Vierhout at or call 831-443-0150.

In August 2003 GFM, she writes about the benefits of large scale tulip bulb purchasing to bring down the price, and states that if she orders 3000 Mentons (this is less than 10 crates of 400-500, so maybe Moolenaar lowered the min, or maybe she changed sources?), she can buy at 8.2 cents per bulb. She discusses the importance of establishing coops for these large-scale purchases, as most of us small growers don't want all of one bulb, etc., and offers to post a Buyer's Coop column every few months where we the reader can have published a short notice--in a classified ad format--describing bulb purchasing, cost, pickup location, etc.

I can provide the format she requests, but unfortunately, I let my subscription lapse last year, so I'm not sure if she pursued this. Maybe someone else can chime in? Arranging buyers' coops is a great idea, if the buyers are near enough to each other to benefit from the sellers' requirement of a single delivery point.

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2005 at 11:55PM
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susiq(NW AR 6B)

Okay, Valerie, what's the mid-point between Texas and North Carolina? LOL!

Still, a good idea. I shared Karma Dahlia's w/ Sherri, I'll have to see if she'd be interested in tulips. Three thousand tulips would take up my WHOLE little growing area, plus well into my house garden. But OH, what a beautiful sight it would be!

Did you see one of the glossy gardening magazines early this spring? Some woman in Washington state plants something like that many in her Yard every fall, just so she can have a knock out display in her neighborhood each spring. THAT would be cool, but I feared the price.

WOW! I just did the math. That's ONLY $500 to $900 for 5000 of those glorious tulips! Hmmmmmmmmm. Gotta start saving! LOL!

I planted about 100 tulips near our community mailbox this winter, got lots of compliments on them. Wonder what they'd say if I planted 3000!

Thanks for the resource! I let my subscription lapse a long time ago! Now to find the penny jars! LOL!


Oh, and I'd have to refrigerate 3000 bulbs! Just remembered THAT little fact! Gotta look for some more refrigerators, too!

PS--I don't know why you're measuring the size of the blooms, except for your own info. I've never done that, and I doubt many buyers do either. So many buyers have "bought into" that perfect "closed" shape, they tend to shun tulips that have opened, no matter how beautiful they are in the open stage. I just go by the vendor's height descriptions. Sometimes they mention the size of the bloom, maybe like Big Smile, but not too often, or else I just don't remember.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 9:19AM
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I read Growing for Market and saw the article you refer to. I haven't seen any info on buyer's coops in subsequent issues.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2005 at 9:57AM
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Valerie. I remembered the August 2002 article in Growing for Market that you were referring. And, when I read your post, I kept thinking to myself, "Well, yes, there was a follow up article." But, then I remembered I had some email communication with Lynn at the time. She had mentioned in some article that if you were in her area and/or were interested in getting involved with her co-op, to drop her an email message, and she would compile her list of co-op members. Since we travel through Missouri every fall to visit children in Colorado, at the time, I thought this would be perfect. Anyway, some time after the initial contact with Lynn, I received an email message in which she mentioned that she was not going to be able to receive bulbs from her original supplier, Moolenaars. This must have been in 2003; and, I am basing this on recollection. (I no longer have a record of the email exchange because our computer had a total melt down during a bad storm early last summer. When we purchased our new computer, we went with a different internet provider. Some of our information was not downloaded into the new computer.) Anyway, she suggested that us folks on her list contact other sources. And, that perhaps we would want to start our own co-op. This is exactly what we did. Flower growers in our area started a co-op for bulb purchases.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2005 at 11:08AM
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A growers co-op for bulb purchases. That is interesting. Thank you Flowerfarmer and everyone else for sharing your valuable information. I am struggling with growing pains at the moment. I have a flower stand in front of my home. This year I am going to a farmers market. It's exciting. I also started subscribing to Growing for Market in January.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2005 at 5:05PM
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Hmmm. I do like the idea of a buyer's coop. I know of one commercial cut flower farm down the road from me in Sylva, and there are probably a couple more in the Asheville area.

Flowerfarmer, does your area have a local growers association, or did you get your coop together by word of mouth?

I really want to get the bulb price down. I haven't seen bulbs at 10 cents, even in bulk, from ANY supplier.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 12:15PM
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