Buckets on My Mind

Do you ever have a tantrum? I do, and sometimes it’s about a cheap bucket breaking and ruining my day. We all have our preferences and opinions about which buckets we like and for what, and lots of us have tricks for snagging free or discount buckets. I’m not writing this column to talk you out of any of that but I want to explore the importance of investing in plenty of the right buckets for your operation.

We reuse some free/disposable buckets from Trader Joe’s and whatnot, and I like that they are black because flowers look nice in a black bucket, and I like that they are “free” so I don’t feel protective of them, but they are very fragile. The rim is often what cracks first.

Sometimes that crack is sneaky so you don’t notice it and you fill it with water and carefully pack an order for a designer into it. Maybe 60 stems of ranunculus, for example? That’s about a $90 value here on our farm. Then maybe you pack it into the van, drive to your delivery, and as you lift the bucket out, the rim breaks and the bucket falls. Now you’re out not just a free bucket, your product is damaged and maybe you don’t have replacements. Or maybe you make the delivery fine, but the designers you sold these ranunculus to move them around their studio and the bucket rim breaks and the flowers fall. They might not literally blame you because life happens, but the experience they are having of your product is not pleasant. I think it’s better to invest in something sturdier to protect your valuable product, and more importantly, to protect your customers’ experience of your product.

A designer I sell to told me that she once mentioned that she buys flowers from me and the person she was talking to said, “Oh, Carolyn uses really nice buckets.” That’s pretty weird isn’t it? I work hard to grow amazing flowers and this person is buzzing about the utilitarian plastic vessel!

What this tells me, though, is that people notice details. Also, we like to sticker all our buckets both as ownership and branding.

In the field we use 5-gallon buckets, oval mop buckets that are shorter and wider and less tippy, 2-gallon buckets, and a very petite black cooler “vase” that is 8” tall. We also use taller florist buckets, but in general very few of our flowers are so tall that we cut or display in anything taller than 15 inches. For display we sometimes use more decorative vases, but mostly we use black buckets of multiple sizes. For bulk flowers for DIY design clients we use exclusively white 2-gallon buckets.

I love it when designers I sell to bring their own buckets and transfer because it shows me that they understand that we need our buckets, and they have thought through the whole process. Still, I really prefer they take the flowers as we have carefully packed them, and return the buckets at the next ordering. Of course, this means I need to inventory more buckets because I don’t want to be short on them for harvest or pack out and I don’t want to pester my customers. I definitely don’t ever want my customers to think “Oh, if I call Carolyn she’s going to make me feel guilty about the buckets I forgot to bring back last time…”

We buy a lot of buckets but it never seems to be enough. If you’re considering it, I’d suggest buying a pallet or a half a pallet of a size you use a lot of now, so you don’t have bucket stress during the busy season. I often talk about the philosophy of taking your flower business seriously, and one great way to put those ideas into practice is having the right vessel when you need it.

The 8” buckets I use so much are great for a number of things. They are a good size for our subscription bouquets, so each bouquet gets its own bucket. Also they happen to slip perfectly into my decorative zinc market buckets I use for large arrangements at weddings, so they give me a sturdy liner with a shorter capacity that allows for more dramatic arrangements, and I can just pop the bucket out and back in for transport.

My team takes good care of me so we can all avoid tantrums. If they see a bucket with a sneaky crack, they take satisfaction in breaking in completely and put it in our recycling bin. If we bypass the destruction step and it looks intact someone might try to rescue it and put it back into circulation and I’ll be over here clenching my jaw.

Carolyn Snell

Carolyn Snell Designs

Contact at [email protected]