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Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Posted by brian_kc0kfg z4 MN (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 4, 06 at 23:40

Hi Brian here in Marietta Mn and Im just getting started in flower sales.

I have some Vegtables at market for a while but want to branch out.

The wife is happy about the change and im excited as well its a new year with new things to learn.

Thank you Trish for all the help and here I am helping keep the fourm alive.

Allright lets go. anybody else just getting the feet wet? Let's hear why? and some plans for 2006 and beyond.

Brian kc0kfg


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Dear Brian,

I have several different varieties of lavender planted which will be ready for cut and dried flowers this year, but am going to try adding other perennials which can take hot summers such as agastache, achillea, coreopsis, echinacea, gallardia, helenium, liatris, lobelia, phlox, ratibida, rudbeckia, salvia and shasta daisy.

I was also going to try annuals of amaranth, gomphrena, sunflower, and zinnia.

Has anyone ever grown craspedia?

I am going out today to prepare beds for planting. Since I have a huge gopher population here I roll out aviary wire and then make raised beds with the soil and compost mix placed on top of the aviary lined beds and the edges lined with rocks harvested from my property. My cat and the blue heron who come in the winter can't seem to keep up with the burgeoning gopher population.

Linda


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Hello, Brian!

My husband and I closed on a house and two acres in December, which will allow us to try to start growing cut flowers for market this year for the first time. We are excited! We are not at the house/land yet, because a few more renovations need to be done. We will be there soon.

I've posted some "new grower" type questions recently and have gotten some very generous replies from the folks on this forum -- what a great resource this forum is! The experience of all these growers is really priceless. Welcome!

As for why we are starting to grow, it's a long story. Life threw us a curve ball this year with an unexpected medical diagnosis for our son. But, as with all difficult things, it made us reexamine what was important to us and make important changes. One of those changes is having me stay home permanently with our son, rather than eventually going back to "work" (I put that in quotes because staying home with him is already work enough, lol). We had always wanted to grow for market, and have friends who are doing it successfully, so here we are! Trying for the first time this year, hoping that it can become a lifestyle that supports our family. And my son is doing great. I think we've made the right choice, but we'll just keep taking one step at a time and learning, learning.

April


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Well, I'm pretty much just starting out - period! :)

Last year was my first year selling at the farmer's market. I sold mostly cut flowers, but did have a few vegetables. This market thing didn't come about until after I had chosen and sown my seeds, so I kind of went with what I had and there was not much planning involved. Last summer and fall I added some new beds, and I chose my seeds this year more specificallly with the market in mind. It will still be small, but I hope to grow.

I do a lot of reading here, but not much posting just yet. There's so much to learn here, and I'm grateful to each and every one of you who posts and adds something to my knowledge.

:)
Dee


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

eventually going back to "work" (I put that in quotes because staying home with him is already work enough, lol)

I bet my main job is stay at home father and as some of you ladies (and a few men) know watching 2 kids (5 and 1)is plenty of work by its self.

Brian kc0kfg


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

  • Posted by pudge 2/3 Sask (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 5, 06 at 18:13

I've just applied to join a Saturday morning farmer's market at a seasonal resort community which sees many 'city people' out for the weekend at their cabins. My primary sales will be arrangements of dried materials (wheats, oats, grasses) and dried wreaths (broomcorn and grains, as well as statice and all those flowers that dry well). I've been doing this for a number of years at fall craft sales but increasingly I find my product doesn't really 'fit' at a craft sales.

I asked some questions of a friend of mine who sells at the same market, and she said that there used to be a cut flower vendor whose bouquets sold very quickly each Saturday, but that vendor no longer makes the long drive to this market. So I've indicated on my application that I would be interested in selling some cut bouquets, as well, and have done up my seed order keeping this in mind and I already have many perennials that will supplement.

Very small scale for me, though, and very much a play it by ear venture, sort of a test year. Even still, everything I've been reading on this forum has been really helpful.

My list for this year includes Acrolinium, Amaranthus Green Thumb and Velvet Curtains, Ammi, Aster Pommax Formula Mix, Cosmos Sonata Mixed, Craspedia, Dahlia Showpiece Mix, Dianthus Amazon Neon Duo and Purple Bouqet, Gromphrena QIX Mix, Helichrysum Sultane Mix, Rudbeckia Cherokee Sunset, Snapdragon Rocket Mix, many colours of Statice QIS, Russian Statice, Verbena bonariensis, Zinnia Formula Mix and Peppermint Stick Mix, Pro Cut Sunflowers.

Best of luck to everyone, new and seasoned alike, for the upcoming season.


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Brian, you live very close to me! Good luck in your endeavors!


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Welcome all new gardeners! It is great to have some new folks around to share the enthusiasm with! AFTER THE WETTEST WINTER I remember (IT was somewhere over 13 inches at our house last month and the last part of December was just as bad), the sun has come out and the days are warming up so I Look forward very much to getting into my new expansion garden. I am moving all my perennials into my old cutting garden and this will be for just the annuals so it can be worked with the large rototiller my dad passed on to us. I had the land cleared of brush last fall and compost added so we will see how she grows this summer!

I have ordered most of my seeds now...I like to grow a few of a lot of things so that my bouquets can be different each week. I run the business with my best friend of 26 year, and this will be our 5th year of working together. We are both plant fanatics so this fuels our passion to try some of everything then sell it to a customer, LOL. I also have an ever expanding dahlia patch, and am establishing an English rose garden mixed with Lilies. I already had a hybrid teas rose garden established but it always need more care that I swear each year I will give it! We have some customers who only want the ENglish roses even though they do not last as long because they love their fragance and color.

In our climate we are able to sell flowers from March 1 until mid November and continue through winter with a few customers and our winter blooming shrubs, seed pods, and other woodland wonders supplemented with forced tulips.

Well, every year is a new one. WE have been through the year of the gladiola thrips and last year was the year of tulip blight. I beleive 3 years ago it was tent catapillers! GEe wonder what it will be this year? But still we keep on and love doing it!


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

I'm glad you started this thread Brian. It's good to see new growers posting; and, I am always interested in what others are growing for market. Your bouquets that dry sound like a pretty nice market niche, Pudge. Some old posters have started to returned. Digger, where have you been? Didn't you grow dahlias last season? Last year was really hard on the dahlias. Don't give up. Get up, dust yourself off, and start anew this season. Linda, you'll find the annuals you are adding to your mix to be the work horses in your garden. They'll add alot of life to your bouquets. Have you tried dianthus, Neon Duo? It requires no vernalization, and can take the heat.

We are market farmers with the emphasis equally on both words. Maybe even more so on the marketing aspect. If you are just starting anew in this venture, you're going to find this to be true over, and over, and over again. My background is in marketing; and, I find this training to be most helpful in this business. The prices for which you will be able to sell your flowers is going to be market driven. In a perfect world it would be supply and demand. But, in the real world, the market decides what price they are willing to pay for your flowers. If you are in this to make alot of money, find something else because you're heart isn't in the right place.

Every grower has some crop failures. Last year it was botrytis in a lily crop; and, I can't remember what else because we find it is always better to focus on the positive aspects of the business, and not on past things that we can't do anything about anyway. When people ask, "How was your season?" we always say something like this: "You know. It was pretty good. We learned an awful lot; and we met so many really nice people."

This will be our eighth season at market. Each season is different. One of our Saturday markets is in a metropolitan area. It's an old market established around 1920. On my first day at this market, the market master told me that I would be sharing a booth with "Chicken Guy." "Yikes," I thought. At first I thought the chickens would be alive, and in cages. But, no. He told me they were dead chickens. More yikes. I had visions of dead chickens hanging from the guidewire in front of the booth. And, me with my flowers. This could not be. What did I know. I was a city girl; and, if my memory serves me that is how they used to do it when I was a very young girl going to the very same market with my grandparents.

We have a Wednesday and Saturday market which is set up at a marina in a tourist town where many city folk from Chicago, Detroit, New York, Boston "summer." Summer is a verb to these people. They entertain alot; and, they love to buy flowers. As Martha would say, "This is a good thing."

And, because we are situated near the shores of Lake Michigan, we have a smaller European stand on a corner in a tourist town. We usually do this on Monday. Friday might be better; but, we can't do it on that day for the simple reason we're trying to get ready for two Saturday markets. We've already taken the craziness to the nth degree. Anyway, Monday works most of the time. It's pretty casual. I work the stand; and, the grandchildren spend money on overpriced drinks in the coffee shop. I usually give the owner of the shop a couple bouquets for her patience with said grandchildren. Many of the store and restaurant owners come to purchase flowers.

I mentioned my grandchildren. I have five grown children who live in all parts of the country. The grandchildren work on the farm for 5-6 weeks during the season. Sometimes we really get to practice the virtue of patience. And, I should just leave it right there. We're always glad to see them each and every summer; and, we're always glad to have the house to ourselves at the end of the season.

Anyway, welcome everyone. And, please, please continue to post during the season if you can. It helps to know we're not alone walking down this fairly new path we have created for ourselves.

Trish


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Trish and Lizalily, I'm glad you posted here. In particular, you two and a few others have been such a source of help to me, so thank you! And Trish, I'm flattered that you remember me, lol! It has been a while since I posted.

I did grow a few dahlias, but again, I had not planned on being at the market when I planned my garden for the 2005 season, which, by the way, IMO, was a hard season for everything! It was remarkably dry here, as well as hot, and most things did not do well.

If I can be so bold as to share a few of my new experiences last year, maybe it will help other new market farmers. First off, I changed my entire insurance program - house, car, etc. - because I needed to get insurance for the farmer's market. My long-time insurer did not cover this kind of thing, so I switched everything over to a company that covers farmers. I had to join the Farm Bureau, and fill out a crop plan, which kind of made me laugh, lol. Here it was asking how many acres/rows of things I had, and I was crossing off "acres" and writing in "square feet"!! I almost named my "farm" (even that still makes me laugh!) Square Foot Farm, because of this crop plan! I really felt like I had no business doing this, but our market master, and even the other farmers, were remarkably supportive and encouraging.

I also had to be WIC certified, because I sell some vegetables. I am currently awaiting a visit from the Dept. of Ag. to be re-certified.

Additionally, I had to apply for a sales and use tax ID. Another form which made me feel silly, when I reported my income, but hopefully that will go up this year.

So overall, there were many things that I didn't know about going into this, and which I found out as I went along. Hopefully this year I can concentrate on growing, on expanding my "farm", and working on marketing. I did have a little contest/raffle for customers to help "name my farm", which I hoped at least drew attention to my table. And I always try to be bright and colorful - colorful tablecloths, hand-painted glass bud vases on display, etc. There is one other vendor who sells nothing but cut flowers, and he has a definite following. His style is a bit different from mine, and he actually has been very nice and supportive, even buying some plants from me. When I finally got up the nerve to tell him - at the end of the season, lol! - that I thought he underpriced his bouquets, he actually agreed and thought we could work together on pricing.

Which brings me to one other observation. I was initially taken aback at the attitude of many of the customers at the market. Many seem to treat it as more of a flea market/tag sale type place. I heard many remarks along the lines of "oh, it's cheaper at the supermarket" or "this is on the expensive side". And I found that the prices, in general, were cheaper than I had expected them to be, and had to lower some of mine accordingly. I was disappointed at this, and hope to address this in our upcoming meeting, if I get up the nerve, lol!

So it was definitely a learning year, but I'm looking forward to doing it all over again - only hopefully better this year!

:)
Dee


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Am I the only one who is not planning on selling at a farmer's market. The forum says cutting garden which is of interest to me. I plan on selling my flowers directly from my farm and possibly to some florists. I tried approaching the farmer's markets in this area, but there is one person who is in charge of handling the applications for all of the markets in this area and I was basically told they had enough people selling flowers. When I persisted asking if anyone was selling lavender as cut flowers - I was told - well you can try to get in but we have enough flower vendors - I felt like she was basically telling me don't even bother - this is the first farmer's market where I have encountered such a negative attitude. I don't want to drive too many miles from home to sell my product so I decided to sell from my farm and try other methods. Wholesale florists weren't willing to pay enough for it to be worth my while to sell to them. I don't think small growers can compete with the large growers selling wholesale.

Trish, I have never grown Dianthus Neon only Cottage pinks - I will have to try that one. I have always had perennial gardens and only grown a few annuals. I am hoping to add in annuals as I have time to germinate and care for them.

Pudge, I see you had Craspedia on your list of flowers - have you grown this one before - I am really interested in flowers that dry well, if I don't sell all of my flowers fresh I intend making wreaths and dried flower arrangements.

Linda


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Linda,
Sorry about your FM woes. CA has the most FMs in the country. I love them all. We lived in Los Alimitos (OC) for a while, then Camarillo, then on to Monterey, now back to Utah. If you have lots of extra lavendar I use tons (10 cases or so) at a time. I have done drieds for the last 15 years or so and fresh for 8 years. If you are doing drieds I would suggest statice (both sinuata and latifolium), Artemisia Silver king, Echinops, Celosia, Gomphrena, Larkspur etc.. The list goes forever on drieds. Here is a wreath I made with most of the drieds I mentioned.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Be aware though you can buy drieds down there cheaper than you can grow them. I.E. in April/May you can buy Larkspur at $1 to $1.50 a bunch, June/July Lavendar is $2 a bunch. One flower that I can never get enough of from CA is preserved Heather. You might want to check that one out. It is usually $4 a bunch for 2 to 3 oz bunches.

If you are close to Gilroy, Headstart has great plugs. If you are close to Somis, our friends have a huge farm and do drieds there.

Good luck.

Bryan


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Linda, you're not the only one who isn't planning to sell at a farmer's market. I'm not planning on selling my flowers at all! This forum is for anybody who grows flowers for cutting, whether the flowers are for sale or just for their own use.

I was a market gardener, for seven or eight years, but gave that up last year. I was fighting our mountain climate, with cold, short seasons, and finally gave up. Too much work for too little money, and I wanted my life back. It's a lot easier in other climates and with a mate or friend to work with. Still, growing cut flowers is NOT something that's easy to get rich in, as mentioned above. If you don't love it, it's not worth the time and effort. If you do love it, it can be very satisfying.

Dee, I was also very disappointed in the low prices the customers wanted to pay, when I first started going to the farner's market. There are a lot of people who seem to think farmers should sell cheaper than the markets do, when in reality, farmers are usually offering a fresher, riper (in the case of veggies), less-stressed product that should cost MORE. When I started selling at market, there was one flower seller who sold mixed bouquets way too cheap, and a veggie seller who also had a bucket of cut flower bouquets, also very cheap. BUT - in both cases, the flowers were picked only into water, no preservative of any kind, and just sort of thrown together, no coordination of colors or shapes or anything. They were colorful (to say the least), but didn't have many big or special flowers, and only lasted three or four days at the customers' homes. I gradually moved to cutting into a homemade preservative, coordinating colors and actually arranging them, displaying them in vases, and using lots of big, special flowers. And selling them WAY more expensive than the other two sellers did, and selling out most weeks. I developed a clientele of the people who want something really nice that lasts at least a week. The folks who just wanted cheap flowers went to the the other sellers. Generally, once someone bought flowers from me, they came back again and again, because mine lasted so long. All that is just to tell you that you can develop your own clientele if you continue to make your bouquets different from the other guy's in some significant way. That way, your price doesn't need to match his. You're fortunate that he's willing to work on pricing with you, and by all means, take him up on it! - but you'd be better off with a product that is different in some way, so you aren't competing for the same customers.

Jeanne


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

  • Posted by pudge 2/3 Sask (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 8, 06 at 17:00

Linda, I have grown Craspedia before but am hesitant to comment as it was at a time that I didn't harvest, and I started off with rootbound transplants given to me by a friend at the end of her seasonal greenhouse season.

Very nice wreath, Bryan. I'm assuming you use a wreathmaker or some such machine? I actually make my wreaths with fresh material, hand tied with jute onto grapevine wreaths. Then I just hang them up and they dry beautifully with hardly any breakage. I do the same for the grain wreaths. But they're no where so wonderfully full as yours are.

Linda, I am also thinking of everlasting bouquets but again, I will make them fresh and hang them upside down to dry for a bit, then wrap in a bit of tissue paper, tied with a bit of jute. I just find dried floral material (other than grains) difficult to work without breaking a lot of it.

I'm also working on a prototype for a wall hung drying rack that would hold 3 (or 5) dried bundles. Oh jeez, that sounds way too fancy, LOL, it's basically a stick (16" or 24", or however big one wants to make it) with holes on either end to tie thru either wire or a piece of jute for the hanging part, and then has 3 or 5 hooks of some type, or more holes to thread jute thru and tie them to the stick. I think this might be a good idea, if sold with the thought that these hanging items could be changed with the seasons. I've tried oak for the sticks and little gold cuphooks, but that didn't work. The oak is too hard, and the hooks just not the right look. Pine will be better, and will try some out of cut willow sticks and what is known around here as barnboard (the old grey weathered stuff from old barns and graneries).

Sorry, I'm probably getting into more of a off-topic craft issue here, but I thought perhaps others could use the idea at a farmer's market.


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Linda,
Many who post on this forum sell cutflowers at farmers markets, retail florists, floral wholesalers, supermarkets, restaurants, weddings, and/or on-farm-sales. It is marketing; and, there is a forum on GW for marketing. However, the forum over there talks mostly about produce. So, we just find we like it here. Many nice, like-minded folks here.

Many market farmers travel a distance to market. One of our markets is one and a half hours distance. It is, however, the difference between $200 (local market) and $2000 (driving a distance). We travel that distance twice a week. One of our other markets is approximately an hour away. I'm sorry to hear about your experience with the market master. Can you get your name on the list so you can be notified of a vacancy?

We sell wreaths and dried flowers toward the end of our season. One of our markets goes through November. Every cutflower grower we have talked to within this industry reports that wreath sales are down at least 25 percent.

You sounded a little bit discouraged Linda. You just have to keep on keeping on, and try to keep a positive attitude.

Pudge, I like your idea of a drying rack. We use an old piece of barnwood like an easel with dried flower bunches hanging on it at market. We have also used an antique clothes drying rack. Also, making wreaths with flowers before they have dried works better for us.

Trish


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Lots of you have mentioned from time to time - you won't get rich growing flowers - I don't expect to get rich - but I don't want to work this hard for free. I figure if I have a quality product I should be able to charge as much as stores do - otherwise I will just grow flowers for pleasure.

Jeanne, actually I started out with a love of cut flowers and flower arranging and have branched into wanting to share and sell my wares from home - we will have to see how well I do with the sales. I am hoping to develop a clientel that want something a little better than they can find pre-arranged at Michaels or other places - but I still will want to keep growing cut flowers and bringing them in and doing dried arrangements too - it is so enjoyable.

Pudge, Thanks about Craspedia - I am searching for flowers that dry well and had heard that this one does. What is the difference between an everlasting and dried? Funny you mention a drying rack. I am also thinking of a drying rack design for all my lavender - I saw one person had slats where they hung the bunches that had been rubberbanded half of the bunch on one side of the slat and half on the other. I was thinking of a metal framed rack with wheels on it and perhaps 7 feet tall with 4 rows deep and about 4 or five rows down - that way I can dry lots of lavender in a small space - the rack could have wires or wooden slats and would be loaded from the bottom to the top so there would be a minumum of petal drop.

Trish, I may have to think about driving a distance because the cities closest to me are much smaller and sales would probably be less. I was a little discouraged but haven't given up hope yet - it is more that I have so many ideas and so few hours in the day and I'm not as young as I used to be.

Bryan, your wreath is beautiful. Do you use a wreath making machine? thank you so much for all the info on suppliers and costs of drieds - I haven't found lavender that cheap around here - are these prices at markets or wholesale? How big are the lavender bunches (number of stems)? What length of stems do you need for your lavender and how much lavender is in a case? I have lots of lavender growing, some second year plants and some first year - I may be able to supply you with some. Where can I get these dried prices - I need to add to my supply to make arragnements? Not sure I can grow heather cause I am closer to the central valley and I think it is too hot for heather here. I went to high school in Camarillo (of course that was many moons ago), used to live in the bay area, then up north and now down here. Do your friends in Somis have a website or what is the name of their business - I may have to take a drive down there - do they sell from their farm? I will check with headstart - I had been looking at gro n sell's online availability - I am planning on getting plugs for my perennials and annuals if possible due to labor/time constraints.

Thanks to everyone for all their advice - this is the best place to talk about plants.

Linda


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Pudge and Linda, Thanks. Yes I use maple ridge supply's wreath master machine. We do make them up fresh on the machine and let them dry. You just need to make sure you double clamp them.

Linda, I will send you a email with the dried growers we use. The lavendar comes in a 1/2 lb and 1 lb bunch, usually 10 to 12 inches tall. You need at least 8" for wreaths. There were a few other growers in the central valley between Salinas and King.

Trish, We have seen wreath sells drop too, by more than 25%. We have started to cut CW for our friend and somewhat competitor. His sells for January went from $20,000 last year to about $12,000 this year.

Right now we have orders for over 2,000 PW wreaths. I will post some more pics by the end of the month.

Bryan


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Bryan, Thanks, I will check my emails. What is PW and CW?

Can anyone venture to guess why wreath sales have dropped so dramatically?

I love seeing everyone's pictures. I just learned how to work my digital camera, being a 35 mm camera buff for years, I finally made the switch. Now to tackle the computer part of it. I have to learn how to get a picture loaded on this forum. Can anyone direct me? I know how to do an email attachment.

Linda


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

  • Posted by taty 5\6 (My Page) on
    Thu, Feb 9, 06 at 19:42

Hello Bryan

Yes, I am new to this flower business as well, in fact so new I haven't even grown a flower yet! Well, not for sale anyway.

We are getting ready to put up a greenhouse, and I plan on growing the majority of my flowers there, although next year I may get brave enough to do some outside. We have a rather large gopher population here as well. I like the idea of the wire, I was thinking I would need to do that as well if I plant outdoors.

I don't plan on going to the farmers market either, although I am not closed to the idea. Mostly I want to sell to the florist shops, super markets, etc. Fornuately for me, there are no other growers in my area that I am aware of, and our population is growing by leaps and bounds. I don't expect to get rich, but I hope to at least make a decent living off of it. I probably wont get much done this year apart from getting the greenhouse up and put together, think I'm going to miss the season for growing.

I an running into one problem, neighbors. I had to go see an attorney today, because my neighbors don't want me to put up a greenhouse. Can't understand that one, but ah well.

It is so nice to meet you all and so nice of everyone to give thier advice, suggestions etc. I am learning a lot just from reading all the posts. I haven't been on the computer for a couple of days, because my brain just got tired of all the information I have been trying to shove into it! lol

Taty


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Linda -- I sell directly out of my home with good success. I run a U-Pick and it does ok. I have very regular customers and then I have customers that pop in when they have out-of-town guests or to give the kids some entertainment.

I had planned to expand to more wholesale customers last year but didn't have the weather to do it.

That will be on tap for this year.

Cathy


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Linda, sorry PW is pussywillow and CW is curly willow. I think sells are off because of gas, natural gas and electrical bills are higher. Sells are up for Valentines though (mainly dogwood hearts). For pictures, 1st take picture, 2nd download picture onto photobucket.com (registration is free), 3rd highlight "tag" of picture you want and copy, 4th go to gardenweb and post message, in the message portion of your post paste "tag".

Taty, sorry about the neighbors. Maybe plant a few tomatoes or peppers just to give to the neighbors in November to make them happy. Good luck. You might want to talk to the shops you are hoping to sell to and ask them what you should grow for them. I have a wholesaler I just grow statice for and a dried floral designer I just grow veronica red fox for.

Bryan


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Linda asked: "Can anyone venture to guess why wreath sales have dropped so dramatically?"

My personal opinion is that the generation who would purchase dried floral wreaths and bunches of dried flowers such as statice is now aging. The age group with expendable income is 45-55. This group will, however, buy dried lavender bunches. For the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday decorating of their home they will purchase eucalyptus, heather, bittersweet, Michigan holly, etc. Then they pitch these things after the holidays. Last year I attended the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. A vendor was selling curly willow and pussy willow branches in bundles. These were hot items. Alot of people will buy these, and put them in old crocks, jugs, baskets, and enjoy them during the spring. When summer arrives, these items are trotted out to the trash at the curb. This group is very busy with work and family, and has the opinion that wreaths and dried flowers are dust collectors. Their lifestyle is sleek and clean. They are also the group which purchases a fresh flower bouquet, or two, or three at market each week during the season. Because most of these people are urban dwellers, I think they really do want the connection with the farm where their produce and flowers are grown. And, after a couple of days, they pitch the bouquet of flowers. That works for us.

Something we have done well with the last couple of years are living wreaths. We've done ivy, pansy, viola, and impatiens with good success. This year we're adding succulent wreaths.

Trish


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Taty, my sister ran into some neighbor problems with her 30'x97' greenhouse, in a residential area. There were no rules against it in that neighborhood, in fact the neighbors didn't object to the building of it, until it was all done and operating. The problem wasn't visibility - it was surrounded by thick rows of tall, old pines - but noise. The exhaust fans can be loud, and they operate all day on sunny days. The neighborhood is otherwise quite natural and very, very quiet, so the fan noise really stands out. She found that as long as she gave the neighbors eggs and ripe tomatoes, they didn't fuss.

I traveled a little farther to sell at a better, bigger market also. In my case, it was only 35 minutes vs. 20 minutes. I did visit the closer one a couple of times as a shopper and inquired about selling there, but some of the merchants I spoke to were very discouraging and negative. I stayed at the farther one. I'd probably have tried both anyway, if they hadn't been on exactly the same day at the same time. There is only one of me!

Trish, how does the buyer water a living wreath? (just curious)

Jeanne


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Forgot something!

Taty, I have a severe gophers-and-voles problem, so I now grow mostly in framed raised beds, lined with 1/2" hardware cloth at the bottom, outside and in my little hoophouse. ALL my really yummy gopher treats like tulip and lily bulbs are in those raised beds - I lost too many over a couple of winters in the field to try that again. Voles stay active all winter, making new tunnels (if the ground isn't frozen) and eating whatever they find. Outside, they're under the snow, so you don't even realize they're feasting on your bulbs until the snow melts - and it's too late. And they enjoy a greenhouse as much as the plants do.

My raised beds and little hoophouse are on a former-greenhouse pad that was leveled and heavily graveled. It took the critters a few years, but now they have broken through the gravel.

For the raised beds, I use hardware cloth that is at least a foot wider and longer than the raised beds, and put it inside the bed, at the bottom, with the extra width and length bent up the sides, before filling with dirt. Totally varmint-proof, so far, with a deer fence around it for the varmints on hooves.

Jeanne


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Even though I'm going into my third year of growing and selling, I still consider myself just starting out and getting wet feet. Each year, I've added a few new flowers or additional cultivars to my list, this year it's Delphinium Bella 'Oriental Blue', Nigella Albion Green Pod & White Ms Jeckell, Suworowii Statice, Dill 'Vierling', Foxglove 'Camelot Mix', LimeLight Millet, Bupleurum, Verbena Bonariensis, Scabiosa 'Black Knight' & House Hybrids, Salvia F. "Blue Bedder", Verbascum 'Southern Charm', Ranunuculus, Trachellium, Lisianthus, Karma Dahlias,Ageratum 'Blue Horizon, Red Sea and Lonas' + a couple of other things that don't come to mind. I've tried Ageratum before and have finally figured it out that I was growing it at the wrong time, I thought it would be a summer bloomer but apparently here it's Spring. I tried growing Trachellium from seed last year and my transplants died in the row, so this year I've got plugs coming from Headstart and earlier than I had them last year. So I'm getting wet feet again. Everything is trial and error and if you don't try it, you'll never know if it'll work for you or not. Besides when you break new planting ground you either need more of what you're growing or something new. So I guess I'm going to be a beginner for quite some time.
My customers are Florists who have their own shops, not the ones who work out of their house and they love what I have to offer.
So guys and girls, welcome to the CG and good luck in your endeavours.
Kim


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Bryan, Thanks for info about photobucket. I just happened to plant two weeping pussy willow and one curly willow bareroot and in low lying area of my meadow.

Jeanne, I have done the same for my raised beds but I use aviary wire (less stiff and easier to cut- I cut it with a scissors) - so far so good - except one short bed (about 8 inches high) one gopher's dirt mound made it to the top and he went inside but I think when he figured out he couldn't go down he went out again.

Trish, You may be right about people wanting a cleaner look - more modern - I guess - living wreaths are a good idea. I have never tried them - just seen the succulent ones in magazines and admired them.

Kim, I had Trachellium at my last house planted from pots and I loved it - but I couldn't get it to last in the vase - perhaps it needs special treatment.

Cathy, are you on a main road - did you advertise or do you just have a sign up?

Linda


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Linda and Trish, if you are doing living wreaths a place you might want to look at is Hiawatha (see URL below). We have been doing herbal and strawberry living wreaths with their moss wreaths. They work really good.

http://www.hiawathacorp.com/mossmeasure.htm

Linda, I sent you that email.

Bryan


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

This year will be my first attempt at selling cuts but my second year selling live plants and my third year selling crafts at the same flea market.

After years of hard work in the garden I decided to put my garden to work. When I play around with garden craft projects I make a few extras to sell. When I divide plants, stick cuttings or sow seeds I grow some extras to sell. When I harvest from the garden I haul all the extras to the market. Even after all this time I still haven't got a clue what will sell or not - seems like the customers tastes shift every weekend.

The flea market it convenient and open all year with a large customer base and very few "garden shop" type vendors. But most importantly - it doesn't open at a rediculous hour in the morning! I work a full time job Monday thru Friday so I need all the sleep I can get.

My interests are in unusuall veggie crops and herbs. The flea market has a huge population of immigrants, these people love to see stuff from their homeland and they love to shop in open air markets. I find that a few people have figured out that I sell hard to find plants (like asian medicinal herbs or plants used to make dye) but for the most part people just seem to stumble upon me and enjoy something small, blooming and fragrant. My sick way of thinking devises all sorts of mental games out of trying to sell the oddest thing for the strangest reasons - it is a lot like a sport for me, but it keeps the days fun and the customers entertained. I hear a lot of "what have you come up with this week?"

I would love for this to be my only job. I dream of working all week on the yard and spending the weekends selling my product, but it doesn't look like it will ever happen. I hate the fact that to live my life I have to work two jobs but I enjoy the way this part time weekend enterprise fits into my world.


 o
RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

We belong to a large greenhouse growing co-op with tremendous buying power. We purchase all greenhouse related products through the co-op. This includes seedling trays, pots, plant labels, decorative containers, furnaces, cooling pads, seeders, heat mats, carts, shelving, irrigation, misters, hoses, timers, row covers, fertilizer, growing medium, and also the bales of moss we use for our living wreaths. The growing medium and moss is currently brought in from Canada.

Premade moss wreaths are alright to use if you have never made moss wreaths before. However, we build our own wreaths with loose moss, growing medium, and whatever plant material we are using because we want more flexibility. It takes 48 strawberry plugs for a large living wreath. We're going to experiment with a salad green wreath and a dwarf tomato plant wreath.

Trish


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Linda --

I'm on a little-traveled gravel road. This is my 5th season. My first season, I got some good local press with a local tv show and newspaper stories. And every year, I keep trying to get a new "angle" to a story for free press.

When people come out -- I get names and addresses and send cards on the opening of season. I do one newspaper ad that is always successful but I have done alot of ads that weren't.

The biggest problem I have is consistency of customer traffic --- I have GREAT Junes -- good Julys -- ok Augusts and lousy Septembers. I need to "stay in the face" of the customers.

This year, I'm trying tv advertising. I've been talking to agencies and they think that for $1500, I can really have good results. But no, that won't get me ads on "Desperate Housewives". I'll be doing early morning weekends -- during P.Allen Smith and Rebecca's Garden -- really that's my customer!

I do have a sign at the end of my lane -- I give flowers away to some businesses as "thank you" gifts with my card prominently attached. I've had great results with that! And I tell anyone that listens about my business.

Any more questions -- let me know.

Cathy


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Hello everyone, and welcome to cutting gardens Brian. I am definitely new to the cut flower business. I'm on this site quite a bit due to all the great information, and the truly nice people who post it.
I would have to say this is my true second year, because the first was a trial to see how things would grow in my soil, and I didn't have enough flowers to get me through the season had I been busy, or advertised. Plus, I had to get my nerve up slowly. I learned a lot in that first year, and I'm not sorry I did it even though I didn't have my soil the way it should have been. It was a good year for rain, that first year, and I saw how big things would grow without doing anything to the soil I have. My second year, I made a few mistakes regarding soil, as I tilled in manure that had too much sawdust mixed in it, and it became not only a water barrier, but it also leached some of the nitrogen out of my soil. I grow in 4' rows, about 150-200 ft. long, and have 11 of them now. Three are new, so don't have anything in them yet, one will be herbs. I have a stand set up at the end of the drive-way, and sell flowers to the locals. I do not do a farmers market, there is one 25 minutes away, but I'm not impressed with the whole idea. I went once last year. (not much of a trial, I know) I sell subscriptions to businesses, and would do residential to anyone who asks as well. I do get calls for special occassion flowers and will do arrangements. Last year the calls increased on those, and I hope it just keeps getting better. I am planning on trying a flower cart set up in town, however have already been turned down by the town on the location I wanted. They won't let anyone set up on town property, I have to ask a business if I can use their property. I just got a call the other day to do a wedding in Aug., and I have decided to do that. It should be lots of fun as it's at 2 cottages back on a lake not far from our farm.
I grow both annuals nad perennials and try to add more perennials every year. I have a 20X50 ft. greenhouse going up right now, as weather permits, which will be a tremendous help. I absolutely love growing flowers and will let you know when I make some money at it. Last years sales did pay for the seeds and plants, but that's about it. I also garden for a few customers to help support my habit here on the farm. I hope you enjoy the flower business as much as I do.
Cheryl


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

Dear Cathy,

Thank you for all the good advertising and marketing information. It refreshed my memory about doing up press releases for my own business and sending them out to the local and surrounding newspapers.

Also I remembered about advertising on local chamber of commerce internet pages - I did that some time ago when the chamber was redoing their web page and I have already gotten a call from that listing and I am not even open. Last year when my lavender was blooming I brought bunches of fresh lavender to all of the chamber of commerce offices in surrounding towns, so this year I may do that again along with a flyer about my farm, announcing when it will be opening.

Giveways for thank yous along with your card to businesses is a good idea too.

I have painted up some two sided signs that say fresh flowers with an arrow that can be set up on the highway to direct people into my location (these will be movable and taken down when I am not open). I have been getting my signs and such ready beforehand. I have had a sign posted on my fence saying "... farm coming soon" for some time and I have had good responses from that - in fact some people have said "your sign says coming soon - when it is coming?" (maybe I put the sign up a little too early).

I do give out my business card to anyone I talk to. Even in grocery lines, gift shops, and department stores. In fact, my husband was talking to a gentleman in the auto repair shop that said he wanted to come when we opened. So you never know which people are interested in coming out to the country to buy direct from the farmer. I have always thought perhaps people in cities might have a longing for that country atmosphere and going to a farm is an excuse for them to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

I just remembered someone else I know partnered with a local hotel and has advertising in their hotel rooms about their ranch - to entice visitors to come and stay there. I don't know if your area might be a tourist area but that might be a way to get more traffic to your location.

In fact I did have a meeting with the small business administration office and they said the best way to get people to your location is to have a website and to make up one of those 8.5 by 3 inch brochures and place the brochure in locations where tourists pick up information about what do in that area. Having some of those at chamber offices is a good idea too.

Cheryl mentioned above - about perhaps not having enough flowers her first season if she had advertised - and I am kind of worried about that too. I am planning to have other botanical/garden related items to sell in case I don't have enough fresh flowers - and I am hoping the drieds can get me through times without fresh flowers.

I think Trish mentioned in a previous thread about us being marketers - and that is so true - your posting has reminded me to look at my business plan again and to make a list of all the things I should do to entice people to my farm. It is easy for me to get involved with the planting, growing and arranging and to forget about the advertising and marketing portion of the business.

You said "staying in the customers face" and I think that is real important for me to keep remembering.

Thanks for your thought provoking post.

Linda


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

My husband tells a story about my panic attacks about "not enough flowers!"

One year, there was a newspaper story about us. Paper comes out around 6 am and at 10:30-- I'm be-moaning the fact that no one has called, come by or emailed. At 11 -- people start pulling in the drive --buying bucket and bucket of flowers. By noon -- I'm freaking out about having enough flowers!!!

Yea -- we are never satisfied!

Cathy


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

We started selling flowers and honey last year at our local farmer's market. It was definitely a learning process. Fortunately, I found this forum a week or two into the season. I learned so much and was able to improve on everything from cooling and conditioning the flowers to arranging the bouquets and presentation. It made such a difference. We went from taking home 6 to 8 bouqets to selling out before the market ended.

Thanks to all for your excellent knowledge and kindness.

Shelly


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

  • Posted by pudge 2/3 Sask (My Page) on
    Sun, Jul 23, 06 at 23:24

Just wondering if anyone wants to give an update on their efforts.

I attended my first market yesterday. Yes, very late to start however life got in the way of some of my plans.

In any case, if yesterday's sales were any indication, my main focus should probably switch to fresh bouquets as I sold out of my fresh cuts within 90 minutes. One other vendor had some fresh flower bundles and she also was sold out quickly. She definitely has a regular customer base, as I saw some of her customers stop at her table, pick up their bouquets, go over to a home baked goods table and pick up some stuff there, then leave without going thru the rest of the market.

I did sell some dried bundles, and had a lot of people interested but said they'd think about it and see me next week. That's okay, too. some of the dried arrangements are more expensive and some people do want to think it thru. I had one person ask if I'd be interested in consignment selling the dried arrangements in her shop - I'll think on that a while.

All in all I'm happy with the result. The family atmosphere amongst the vendors before the market started was something I hadn't expected, but then of course, these people have been seeing each other for years. My location at this market used to belong to another lady from my town who has a health problem and no longer able to attend. I know her well (she actually encouraged me to try the farmer's market), and when the vendors found out I knew her, many asked me to pass along their hello's and best wishes.

Next week I'll take more fresh cut bouquets and less dried.


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RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

This has been my first year at market with some great results. I discovered very early on that the premade bouquets were of little interest as there were several other old time vendors with premades. I discovered, to my delight, that if I made the bouquets right then and there at the request of the customer, they got exactly what they wanted and were very happy with the unique look. My sunflowers FLEW out of the buckets. I had one woman call me at market, tell me she had a party to decorate for and wanted to know how many suns I had at market. She needed 42, and I just happened to have 43 left! The Sunrich collection are just beautiful. I will do three times as many next year. Euphorbia marginata, gorgeous and very popular as a filler, statice, penstemon, snaps, and the most popular, agrostemma. I put the agrostemma mix (contessa and ocean pearls) in a big bucket and the comments and the resulting bouquets with larkspur or small suns were great. The other flower that was really popular were the Dianthus Dynasty mix. Really strong colors, and good producers. I wish I had had a couple of florists on board for these, maybe next year.


 o
RE: Anyone else just starting with flowers?

This is also my first year at market. And it is the first year for our downtown market. So, I find that I'm experimenting quite a bit. It's hard to predict what people will be buying each week. One week, arrangements in baskets and vases sell well. The next week they sell poorly and the cut flowers (by the stem) sell better. Then the bouquets make an impact some Saturdays. So, I'm trying to bring a good mix of the three, something to appeal to everyone.
What I'm really having fun with is the display. I try to change it up a little each week. And I'm always on the lookout for portable items to use.
This year I joined the market in June (about a month after it opened) and really don't have as many flowers as I need. I've had to rethink selling roses since they open so quickly in the heat. Even buds that are brought to the market are open in a couple of hours. Some zinnias started June are about to start blooming. Just in time.
Next year, hopefully, I'll be more prepared!
Glenn


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