Smart florists are getting the message that “local” is a great selling point, and that “local” emphasis is paying good dividends for some of our members. Cynthia Alexander (The Quarry Flower Farm), for example, has formed an alliance with a local florist in her town of Celina, Texas. Her florist promotes “local Celina flowers” especially for local civic events, teacher bouquets and charity events. Cynthia says this promotion has really boosted her sales this season. Rita Anders (Cuts of Color) also benefits from a local “green” florist, who loves her organic flowers, often ordering several times a week. This florist also featured Rita’s flowers at a big event-planning show, giving her exposure to many more prospective customers. Both Cynthia and Rita plan to work with these florists on weddings and other events next year. Cynthia gets inquiries for local wedding flowers from brides all over the Dallas area, but she doesn’t want to take on that wedding work all by herself. Her florist has agreed to coordinate the planning and make the designs, while Cynthia furnishes her beautiful flowers. Sounds perfect! Rita has a similar arrangement with her “green” florist, who will be working with her on events and weddings next year.

Here in Nacogdoches, it’s our historic downtown hotel that is showing real appreciation for local flowers. The new owner, a hometown girl with lots of imagination, has turned this rather outdated facility into a new hotspot, complete with comedy nights, jazz on the patio and a terrific new chef. She also believes in supporting local businesses including local farms and has instructed her staff to buy my flowers! The hotel has been a regular customer this year. What’s more, the hotel’s creative designer is enthusiastic about unusual flowers and foliage, and knows what to do with them. It was a thrill to walk into the hotel to make a delivery and see a huge spectacular arrangement of my pineapple lilies and ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas. If you come to Nacogdoches, be sure to stay at the Hotel Fredonia.

I learn a lot from talking with our growers. This month I learned that I give up on lilies too early in the season. After a few failures, I stopped planting lilies in the summer, thinking that they just can’t take the Texas heat. So I was surprised to learn that some of our Texas growers are having good success with lilies even during the 100+degree days of August. Kim Haven (Billabong Fresh Flower Farm), for example, plants lilies in crates all through August, expecting blooms in October and November. She puts her crates on top of mulch and under 60 percent shade cloth. Her most recent plantings were two Asiatics, ‘Loreto’ and ‘Blackout’. Rita Anders also plants lilies in crates under shade cloth all through August, and has good luck with them. Rita gets recommendations from Ron Beck, Gloeckner’s bulb manager, for varieties that can handle the heat. Her recent plantings include ‘Brunello’ (Asiatic), ‘Menorca’ and ‘Sulpice’ (LA hybrids). Rita plants her bulbs in mushroom compost, adds a light layer of potting medium and tops it off with more mushroom compost. After that, she never adds fertilizer and the lilies turn out beautifully. Rita uses another trick to spread out her bloom period: when she receives her bulbs, she plants them all in crates, then puts some crates outside and some in the cooler at 40 degrees. After the lilies in the cooler begin to emerge, she moves them outside. Since these lilies bloom a bit later than the first batch, she has blooms for a longer period of time.

One thing you can say about most flower growers—we certainly have fluid business models. We are always ready to try a new product or marketing technique. Over time, we may shift our focus from florists to farmers’ markets to event work and back. We are all trying to find the right mix for our particular market, stage in life, current interests, etc. Thus we see Kim Haven, Cynthia Alexander and Rita Anders all moving into more wedding and event work, in addition to their florist and farmers’ market emphasis.

My business also has shifted some this year, mainly because my bucket sub-scriptions became a much larger share—I had 30 subscribers this year, many of whom signed up for 12 weeks. Thinking that bucket subscribers should be good candidates for a floral design workshop, I decided to give this a try. A recent renovation to a mobile home on our farm gave me a perfect spot to hold a workshop, but, unlike some of our growers, I’m not ready to teach floral design. I found a good instructor: Michael Maurer, horticulture professor and floral design instructor at SFASU (and a new ASCFG member). Because this was a trial workshop, I limited attendance to just 10 people. Some who signed up were bucket subscribers as I expected, but others were farmers’ market or new customers. For a fee of just $50 (too low, I know), participants got a two-hour basic design class, a bucket of flowers and two containers. Michael demonstrated several designs and helped attendees as needed, and everyone seemed to have lots of fun. I’m hoping to hold more workshops next year, perhaps with a variety of instructors and topics. With the right fee structure, they could be a new moneymaker and a great way to get rid of surplus flowers too.

Josie Crowson

Josie's Fresh Flowers

Contact at [email protected]