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Where to start........

Posted by KrazyKim z5 MI (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 8, 05 at 17:27

I so want to try growing cut flowers to sell, at a stand here at home, farmers markets, whatever. Eventually, I would like to dedicate raised beds to the adventure. Where do I start? Do I need a business license? How to price bouqets or stem prices........ Ugh. I have ideas, just don't know where to begin. Book sources.....ANY kind of suggestion I can research. Thank you so very much. And happy flowering :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Where to start........

I am a beginner too. I loved the Organic Flower Farmer book by Lynn B. (sorry too tired to go look up the last name at the moment). I found Flowers for Sale (by Lee S.) to be a waste of money for the most part. Those are the only two that I have ordered so far. I am sure some of the experts on this board will answer your questions. This year I am starting my flower farming adventure. I don't have a business license yet. I am just trying my hand at growing different annual flowers like sunflowers and zinnias as well as planting perennials. I think it will take a year or two learning how before I will have a steady supply of flowers to sell. So for now, I will practice harvesting, conditioning and making boquets with what I have. Pink peonies and cute little tiny purple irises are all I have ready at the moment. Hubbies delphiniums are about to bloom. Wonder if he would miss them, lol. The lilies are starting to look as if they may bloom soon too. I am sure there is something else around here if I look hard enough. The little irises have a story to go with them. They are growing right where my tiger lilies have been for years. This year the plants came up vigorously but looked different than I recalled. I was waiting for the tiger lilies to bloom and next thing I know there are purple flowers peeking out. I have no idea where the irises came from that are taking over the tiger lily bed. Probably hubby planted them when he ordered for the other flower beds. Guess I am going to have to get new tiger lilies because mine are almost choked out.
Sorry about rambling on... My advice is to jump right in and start learning how to grow the flowers. If you are like me, you will be able to sleep really well after you get started. Shirley


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RE: Where to start........

I found learning how to start flowers from seed to be a fun part of the flower business. The book, "Park's Success With Seeds" was a big help. You may find a similar book at your local library.
Johnny's Selected Seeds catalog (ask for commercial, not the home garden one) gives really good germination information for each kind of seed. (207)861-3901
And of course you'll visit the Growing From Seed Forum here on the gardenweb.
I find it fun to make up a few rather large finished arrangements - they add another dimension to your flower display and attract people (primarily guys) who want to make a big impression. You get more money per stem that way - although they do take more time then bouquets.
Hope you find this helpful in your new venture. Best of luck to you.


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RE: Where to start........

You can go to the County and register a DBA (Doing Business As) for a nominal fee, $10 or so. This will let you open business account at a bank. If you want to be legal about it, you need to pay sales tax. You can get a sales tax license from the State of Michigan. I did it on the web - just search for Michigan Sales Tax or something like that.

With the sales tax license you can get access to some wholesalers who otherwise won't deal with you. They don't care that you are small but want to know you are a business and not just an avid home gardener.

If you are selling at a market, you can probably get an idea of what the going rate is by visiting the market. My first year I sold my bouquets at food co-op and a fancy garden supply place in town. I priced them CHEAP ($5 a bouquet) because I didn't really care about making money so much as learning what to grow, how to grow it, how to make up bouquets etc.

Lynn B's book is good as is Specialty Cut Flowers by Armitage. Lynn's book talks some about pricing and selling to florists (something I don't do). People on this forum can tell you all kinds of useful stuff, too.

Good luck!
Kirk


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RE: Where to start........

Many thanks to the both of you. Wow........so much info, lol. I did look for the Organic book at Borders but no luck. I'll keep trying. Thanks so very much for taking the time to counsel me :)


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RE: Where to start........

The problem may be that "Organic" isn't actually in the name. It's "The Flower Farmer" by Lynn Byczynski. It's not often found at bookstores as it has a rather limited market. It might be at amazon.com. It's certainly at GrowingforMarket.com. A subscription to Growing For Market (it's actually a printed newsletter) is a good idea, too. Both Lynn and GFM (Lynn is the editor) focus on growing organically but have a wealth of information that is useful whether you plan to grow organically or not. I strongly recommend reading it cover to cover BEFORE doing anything else. It can help you decide what approach you want to take, and who you want to sell to.

I have the "Flowers for Sale" book by Lee Sturdivant also and also didn't find it to be nearly as useful as "The Flower Farmer". If you aren't already a gardener, a good general-purpose gardening book is a good idea also. I like Eliot Coleman's "The New Organic Grower", which is oriented mostly to growing veggies but has a wealth of useful information for anybody who isn't already an experienced gardener. Finally, Lee Armitage and Judy Laushman's book, "Specialty Cut Flowers" (be sure to get the second edition, published in 2003) is the one I have found indispensable for years. When you've outgrown Lynn, this is your reference book. It's not a book you simply read but a reference book, with all the information a commercial grower or market gardener could possibly want about almost every kind of flower. It's oriented somewhat to big commercial growers, but I'm quite small (just me, no employees, I only go to one market a week) and it's still the most useful book I own. It's hardcover, not cheap, and would be worthwhile at twice the price. It has not only germination info but when to cut, postharvest treatment, vase life, good varieties, and on and on.

As Prettyposies mentioned above, the Johnny's commercial catalog has germination information for every flower seed they sell. I don't know if they put the germination information in their online catalog, but it's in the paper version. Germania's catalog (strictly commercial), online, has germination information too. Go to www.germaniaseed.com and find your way to the cutflower catalog. It has much more germination information than the other sections of the catalog. I use either Johnny's or Germania's germination info interchangeably. In case of a disagreement, there is Armitage.

You might want to visit some farmer's markets near you to get an idea what people are growing, how much they are selling for, etc. This is the time to do it. Once you start selling at a market, you won't be able to go visit others because you'll be going to your own market. You might find out whether any markets near you allow day vendors. You could be a day vendor the first year, only going when you have flowers, not having to be there every weekend. However, many customers develop a loyalty to vendors they see week after week, and being a strictly-sometimes day vendor won't get those customers.

Do you already cut flowers in your garden and put them in your house? How about making bouquets and taking them to work to share with coworkers (say, every Monday) or giving to friends this season, just to get used to the idea of cutting and arranging, on a schedule, before you make the jump to selling? It's kind of late to think about selling this year - you really need to have planted with that in mind.

All that said, welcome, and good luck!

Jeanne


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RE: Where to start........

KrazyKim,
Where are you in Michigan? Just a general location --east, west, north, south. I love that we live in Michigan. We can hold our hand up and point to where we live. Anyway, we are on the west side of the state near the Lake Michigan shoreline.


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RE: Where to start........

Flowerfarmer.....

I'm in the thumb (gotta love Michigan, lol). My goodness, you have a LOT! I'm getting there but I have a deficancy in patience and want them all NOW :) I'm working on that.
BTW, I LOVE Lake Michigan. So beautiful. Lake Huron just doesn't compare, kwim? I'm about 50 miles give or take from LH shoreline.


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RE: Where to start........

KrazyKim & Flowerfarmer --

I grew up in Michigan's thumb area. Been in New England for 26 years. Love the rocks and trees in my area, some mornings it reminds me of the Smoky Mtns. But I do miss the wide open skies of Michigan, and the MidWestern warmth of the folks who live there.


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RE: Where to start........

I know Lake Huron. That is one treacherous great lake. And, rocky. My goodness. We love it over here because there is nothing more beautiful than watching the sun set over Lake Michigan in the summertime.

Shirley, Just curious why a newbie would not find Lee Sturdivant's book informative. Personally, I think Lynn B's book is overrated......


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PS Book Recommendation

PS.... KrazyKim and PrettyPosies,

Go to growingformarket.com and order a copy of, We're Gonna Be Rich by Frank and Pan Arnosky. It is so funny; and, with your sense of humor, I think you will enjoy the read. It is a compilation of their articles over a five year period (I think). They write in a folksy, lighthearted way. They are very generous with their information --what they have tried, what they plan to try, what has or hasn't worked for them. I pick mine up every once in awhile and reread some things.


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RE: Where to start........

I like "We're Gonna Be Rich!" also, mostly for amusement value at this point - Frank and Pam are funny. It's outdated as far as flower varieties go, and some of the gardening information has been contradicted by now by the Arnoskys themselves, who are always tweaking and experimenting with how they do things, but there is still useful information in there. And plenty of laughs! They still write a regular column in Growing For Market (in fact, the book is a compilation of those columns). That column is the main reason I subscribe to Growing For Market. It's not only funny, but up-to-date on varieties and practices. I've learned a LOT from it, even though they're in Texas and I'm in the northern Rockies, two climates that couldn't be more different.

I think Lee Sturdivant's book is useful, I just think it's not as useful as Lynn's, especially to a newbie. I think Lynn assumes you know less, so she puts more basic information in. It certainly doesn't hurt to read both. They don't have all the same information, so you can learn from both. Perhaps it's just that Lynn's book has more pictures and seems more user-friendly, I don't know!

Jeanne


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RE: Where to start........

  • Posted by SusiQ NETX, Zone 7B (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 11, 05 at 17:39

I haven't read Sturdivant's book yet, keep meaning to order it, but....

I wish Lynn would update/revise her book. I went to the section on Lily care the other day, and she doesn't say a WORD about post-harvest care, just how to get lily pollen off your clothes. Which is helpful, for sure, but not what I wanted. There are many other similar examples--she'll describe that the flower is a good or bad cut, but doesn't always tell you what to do w/ it once it IS cut, or she doesn't tell ENOUGH of the info for this reader to feel comfortable....

Still, it does have a LOT of useful info, and is a pretty good reference. Ditto, We're going to be Rich! needs updating, but is fun to read.

Susi


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RE: Where to start........

My dh and I were discussing my plan on raising flowers to sell and we began discussing daylilies. Are daylilies a good cut flower? I honestly don't know. I was thinking about raising English Roses but have reasons why lilys would be better in our area. I'll have plenty of "other" flowers as well but am wondering if daylilies would be a good flower "investment" so to speak. Why or why not? Thanks in advance, you guys are Terriffic with advice and knowledge :)


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RE: Where to start........

Daylilies are a great plant to specialize in, and sell as plants. Period. There a few really nice daylily farms here in Michigan. They don't make terific cutflowers though. If you are interested in growing lilies, try asiatics, LA lilies, or orientals. We have a hoophouse where we grow all our lilies. We plan the timing on them; therefore, we are planting and harvesting every week. Today at one of our markets we sold 400 bouquets made with the LA, 'Manhattan.' They were beautiful; and, we were sold out by 11:00. Took lots of pictures, and should be able to post later. We don't grow English roses; but, they would be beautiful with the lilies. Our specialty is dahlias.

As far as Pam and Frank and their book, We're Gonna Be Rich, I don't believe the flower varieties are outdated at all. They grow the basics. They always trial new seed or plants each year. But, the basics in their book are their staples. Alot of these flowers work for us here in the heat and humidity of the Upper Midwest. They always grow gomphrena. While perusing their book again late at night, I reread they plant their gomphrena close to get the desired height. Dang. I wish my brain had maintained that little tidbit. Maybe we just relate better to them (Our little farm currently cranks out 1,300+ bouquets each week). The difference between Arnoskys and us is that they are mainly wholesale. We are strictly retail. Loved the story about why they hate weddings. Been there, and knew exactly what they were saying. And, they year they stop writing articles for GFM, is the year we cancel our subscription..........


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RE: Where to start........

  • Posted by SusiQ NETX, Zone 7B (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 11, 05 at 22:42

An acquaintance of mine who started an iris nursery was looking for land that she could use to grow & sell daylilies, as well as her irises. Apparantly, many of the same people who like irises also like daylilies, and both plants are VERY forgiving when it comes to average care, and irises are very drought tolerant. (good in HOT Texas!). Both plants have the advantage, to the very patient hybridizer, of becoming Gold Mines for that particular grower. "JUST" (LOL!) hybridize a phenomenal variety, grow it in enough multiples to have plenty of stock of that one plant, make sure it comes back "true" every year for several years, then market it as a "NEW" variety, at aprox $50.00 per new Iris Rhizome, and $50-$400 ish for a new daylily plant.

Even if you don't hybridize, you can still make money if you create a website, a printed catalog, sell on ebay, and/or any combination of those.

When I met the acquaintance, I "just" wanted new iris varieties for cut flower use. I was so excited seeing her "farm" on a nice residential lot, and what she'd accomplished in 5 or so years, that the "other shoe" dropped on my way home from her place, and I thought I could do that too! LOL!

My first year of growing multiples of iris has been less than underwhelming. They didn't bloom when I could use them as cuts, the pics I got weren't that great, the plants themselves got HUGE, so my close spacing of them probably really stressed them, and some of them didn't bloom at all. I'd hoped to have an "open garden day(s)" sometime this spring, as the new "doyenne" (HA!!!!LOL!) of spring garden iris growing & grower (again I say, HA!), but some of the ones in my "display" bed didn't bloom, I got hail, and what I thought was sunny enough, wasn't, but the plants were still big and crowding my "display" roses. The irises in my field got planty of sun, (but are not convenient to be on a "spring tour",) and even they didn't bloom like I'd hoped.

I STILL have the "iris farming" bug, but am going to have to change some of my expectations and growing environments this year.

I don't have enough sun for very many daylilies at my house, but MIGHT-MAYBE consider some of them for the field. They aren't my favorite, but if I could sell plants, then hmmmmm.

What's taken me forever to figure out is that I have SHADE!!!!, so a few weeks ago, Hosta Fever struck! If the several I've bought, & the few that I've actually planted survive this first HOT Texas summer, I MAY decide that Hostas & other shade plants might be the way to go, via internet sales etc. We'll see.

The advantage to hostas, heucheras, and iris is that ALL of them have parts that can be used for cut flower sales (leaves & flowers on hostas, maybe leaves, certainly flowers on heucheras, flowers only on irises, of course), and ALL of them can also be sold as plants. Double or triple duty. Daylilies are primarily only usable as plants to sell, tho didn't Poochella say on a different thread that she's successfully used daylily flowers in a bouquet? It's a possibility, but you'll have to remind your customers that the flowers only last one day. If there are multiple buds on the stem, they'll (should) open in succession.

Daylily flowers are also edible, taste like lettuce to me, so you could market them to gourmet chefs/restaurants, but you'd have to get them to the chefs pronto.

You might want to spend time over on the iris, daylily, or any other plant discussion site that interests you.(antique roses usually has lots of discussion about the David Austin roses, some DA discussions on the "plain" Roses forum, too.)

Don't "just" read all the posts; you might want to follow the links they provide to different vendors, find out who's the best, priciest, won most awards, best hybridizers, worst service, etc.

Good luck!

Susi.


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RE: Where to start........

Flowerfarmer,

Without rereading Lee's book, I can't give specifics. In general, I read the book and thought, is that it? I wanted to know more details than was provided, I guess. Lynn B.'s book seems to have a lot more info in it. However, I still find myself with lots of unanswered questions. I bet you flower farmers could pull together and write that nearly perfect flower farming book. Price it 25.00 or less and I am in for a copy. Shirley


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RE: Where to start........

Armitage picks up where both Lynn and Lee leave off. You want specific information for specific flowers, Armitage is your man (and, oh yeah, Laushman - I keep forgetting her, she wasn't on his first book). Expensive, hardcover, but it has EVERYTHING about the flowers in it. They don't talk about any other aspect, like how and where and who to sell to. Thier book is a reference book for GROWING (and cutting, and post-harvest treatment) of specialty cut flowers. Susi, if you don't have one, well, get one!

KrazyKim, the reason daylilies don't work that well as cuts is that each flower lasts only one day. Yes, they will open in succession in the customer's house, but they need to be savvy enough to pick off the dead flowers or it looks bad. A lot of folks aren't savvy enough or don't want to bother. They're great in the garden, though, and good for the vase on your own dining room table, and very popular, even here, where it's COLD, not hot - they can handle that, too.

Jeanne


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RE: Where to start........

OMG. I just reread my post of Saturday late. Didn't I just sound a little braggity-oso. A little correction here from someone who had been up since dawn-thirty and operating on three hours sleep, and then that glass of wine. Currently, our little farm cranks out 300 bouquets per week. We aren't doing the Chi-Chi tourist/vacation market yet. The cottage people don't start coming to the lake until toward the end of the month; and, we don't have enough flowers yet even if they were there. That is a Wednesday/Saturday market. We'll do the Wednesday market; but, don't quite have enough flowers yet to split between our two Saturday markets.

Signed,
The Humble Flowerfarmer

PS Shirley, the information you are requesting some of us growers put in book form can be found on a daily basis for free right here on the Cutting Garden. You aren't going to find everything you need wrapped all up in one tidy little book though. We all use several reference books. We also have friends in the business, who we also talk to when we have certain questions. That's the beauty of it all.


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RE: Where to start........

Aw, come on, flowerfarmer, your response wasn't that bad! Seemed reasonable to me.

Some things can only be learned by asking fellow growers - like what happens when you plant rootbound campanula, for instance (the subject of my last posting). The literature might say, at the absolute most, not to let it get rootbound. Yeah, well, s**t happens......

The literature also doesn't differentiate plant performance in different climates, other than to perhaps give zone tolerances. My problem is that the summer weather of a Rocky Mountain zone 5 has just about nothing in common with the summer weather of a Midwestern zone 5. To my great good fortune, there are several people on this forum who deal with climates that ARE somewhat similar to mine. I can't imagine how I'd have found them elsewhere. The summer weather of a Californa coastal garden has little in common with the summer weather in any part of Alabama, although they may have the same zone designation. Armitage and Laushman might have little bits of that information, but not reliably. As far as I can tell, that sort of stuff can only be gleaned from forum sites like this.

So stay tuned!

Jeanne


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