selling dahlias at farmers' markets

deansfba(z9 SanFranArea)March 9, 2009

this year i'm adding dahlias to the things i sell at farmers' markets. i've placed orders and gotten some also from stores. while waiting for the sun to come up, i was wondering about some things and thought: what better a place to ask about them than here!!!

please feel free to answer any of the following that you know about:

do those of you who sell them add fillers to your bunches? if so, what?

do you group them by color/shape/variety/size? which size sells the best?

how many flowers do you put in a bunch and about how much do you sell them for, if you feel comfortable saying?

i don't remember other flower sellers selling them; is there a reason for that?

i have read they last 4-6 days cut. is that your experience? do the powders you add to the water help?

is it worth trying to sell them as tubers and/or in containers in bloom or with pictures?

are there some that don't seem to sell? are there some that people really love?

are there other flowers you combine them with?

are there pluses and minuses you can think of or other suggestions?

thanks and i'd better stop now before i overwhelm myself...hehehe. hurry up, spring!!!!

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westcoastgardener(8 SunshineCoast B.C.)

Hi there,

We joined our local farmers' market last summer and had a very good year; we'll be doing it again this year. Part of what we sold were cut flowers - our 'signature' became sweet peas, but we also had a wonderful cutting season for dahlias and other garden flowers.

I don't have a lot of experience but can tell you what ours was!

Fillers: yes I did little bouquets of dahlias with other garden cuttings which varied according to whatever was blooming at the time: lavender, perennial gypsophilia, shasta daisies, buddleia blooms, lilies, dwarf sunflowers, cosmos, snapdragons.

Per bunch I included one dinner plate dahlia with regulars and pom poms. I found colours that are 'grouped' sold better than randomly mixing them (for example all pinks, all yellows, etc.)

My specialty wasn't dahlias, it was sweet peas so I'll tell you about that too: Ten stems for $2.50 and they sold out very quickly. 7 stems (broken down to 4 stems dahlias & 3 fillers) for $5.00. You could double the number and the price. My rule of thumb was to price them more competitively than can be found in a florist shop with the advantage of home-grown varieties.

Other vendors: I think not too many dahlias are home-grown well enough to sell! so good for you for taking this on!

Yes, 4 - 6 days is my experience. All I add to the water is plain white sugar. About 1/4 cup sugar to 3 cups water and change it daily/every other day. It really does make a difference.

I have no experience selling tubers! Give it a try! I would think if you had the actual cut blooms beside their 'mother' tuber that would help a lot.

The dinner plates were the favourites; also I have a purple/white striped bloom (sorry I don't know the variety because a neighbour gave me about three dozen of them and they were gorgeous).

See above for combinations with other garden flowers/fillers. For greenery (which I didn't count as a "stem") I used cosmos stems (without the blooms) which are feathery and hardy; also we have a lot of sword ferns where I live that are free for the cutting and three per bunch filled it nicely.

Additional suggestions:

1 - Get yourself a florist-size roll of clear cellophane and a hank or two of raffia. The time it takes to wrap each bunch and tie it with a raffia bow makes all the difference to just selling bunches of flowers and offering a 'presentation' bouquet. Tie the raffia right under the lowest leaf and leave enough stems to present in a bucket of water (see 2). In addition to protecting the blooms from getting bumped or broken, the cellophane wrap provides more of a 'presentation' bouquet.

2 - I found some coloured metal buckets (at Michaels) that were great containers (the kind that are tall, can also be used as wine coolers). Galvanized buckets work well too. Massed flowers always have more appeal and when you've pre-tied them in bunches it's easy to pull one (or more) for easy sale.

3 - I printed up a price tag and stapled it to the top a stick which I just stuck into the midst of the flowers (stick was longer than the tallest bouquet so it was easily visible). Shoppers like to see the price instead of having to ask and you may be too busy!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 11:02PM
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deansfba(z9 SanFranArea)

thanks "bunches", virginia!!!

your answers were great and what's more, stimulated me to think and come up with some solutions. for one, i have some flat evergreen hedges, thuya, iirc, that have reached an unexpected height of 30' that i have been wanting to get rid of...use as 'filler' may be the ideal solution!

things like cosmos greens do seem like a great idea. michael's i hadn't even thought of, but i'm sure i'll get some ideas there. and i do know where a lot of cattails are free for the taking...
also in our dry summer area i'll have to explore some country creek beds.

one question that has popped up for you and other experienced dahlia people:
after you put them in very hot water for an hour or so and then into cold water with sugar water or such....
should the people who buy them be instructed to re-cut them at home and/or re-cut them again every two days when they change the water???

thanks again,

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 10:33AM
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westcoastgardener(8 SunshineCoast B.C.)

Hi Dean,

I think cattails, grasses, anything you can find that will fill your dahlia bouquets will make them uniquely yours. If you can have something that sets your bouquets apart to give you a 'signature' it's what shoppers will return to purchase week after week. You kind of get known for (whatever).

I always suggest customers re-cut the stems (underwater, on a slant) and refresh the water (and sugar) daily. Truly I have had bouquets last a week.

Some photos for you:

sweet peas in a galvanized bucket (hanging on a wall for sale) - I did not wrap these as the blooms are not so fragile and they look so gorgeous in masses. They are tied in bunches of ten with raffia. One lady bought the whole bucket worth ten minutes after the market opened (fortunately my husband picked several buckets more and brought them to market right away and I was ready for following weeks)

A small mixed bouquet in cellophane & tied with raffia. I printed up some stickers with our name & logo and stuck them on each bouquet and it did generate between market-day orders.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 12:57PM
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