Why Innovation Matters

Innovation is the source of economic growth. The discovery of new products, new methods, and procedures enhances logistics and makes our lives better by improving productivity. But often, old habits undermine change. Who hasn’t gotten the “We’ve always done it this way.” response when recommending a change? Change is tough to embrace. It can feel prickly, and definitely requires an open attitude on the risk to succeed or fail.

Change in the flower industry comes about slowly, but clearly, as innovations are moving us forward. How about tinting potted Phalaenopsis blooms blue? Most consumers can’t even say “phalaenopsis”, but those blue flowers make them take a second look. The patented tinting process was developed in Holland, and Silver Vase introduced ‘Blue Mystique’ at TPIE (Tropical Plant International Expo) in 2011. Supermarkets report that blue orchids outsell natural color orchids regardless of their higher price tag. Cut flower breeders are also busy with new introductions. A pure white sunflower is close to being commercially available. The branching alstroemeria series ‘Charmelia’ has been well received and is available now. Maybe you’ve noticed hot pink ‘Princettia’ poinsettias featured in traditional holiday plant displays. Other innovations include atomization—machines that grade, position, bind, wrap, and blow UPC stickers onto sleeves.

Speaking of innovations, the popularity of hands-on design events and farm dinners is impressive. Flower-focused design workshops and farm dinners, including American Grown’s Field to Vase and Canada’s Petals and Plates weave together the beauty and interesting stories about flower origins and production specifics for consumers and professionals alike. Through the tireless efforts of the California Cut Flower Commission, Debra Prinzing, several ASCFG farms, and other domestic growers, dinner party enthusiasts are introduced to flowers grown in their area as well as the people growing them. Today’s consumer is looking for “story” as part of the retail experience and these flower-focused events deliver 100%! Destination dinners have introduced hundreds of consumers to the details and minutiae involved with offering a wide diversity of blooms to decorate, add color, and (sometimes) convey sentiments more effectively than words. The American Grown dinner parties was named the SAF’s “Marketer of the Year” in 2017. Hearty congratulations and thank-you to the grower-hosts of these public relations extravaganzas.

Gay’s “Chrysal” Ball

What’s hot for 2018? Design shows are highlighting blooms outside of mainstream standbys. For example, gloriosa lilies and clematis were featured in the 2016 SAF trends program. Resendiz Brothers of Fallbrook, California have put protea on the map by highlighting different designs featuring cool foliage and interesting combinations of these challenging blooms. Eryngium, echinopsis, clematis, and tweedia are featured in wedding magazines offering cool textures of natural blue flowers easy to pair with grey tones. Designs built on armatures of branches, vines, berries, pods, and grasses show no sign of waning popularity. Wedding and floral trade magazines highlight peonies, garden roses, Italian ranunculus, and dahlias.

Before I give treatment recommendations, please know that I work as the Technical Consulting Manager for Chrysal Americas. Other companies offering postharvest solutions use different ingredients and formulations, therefore, I strongly recommend comparing like solutions to determine which give best results in your water and environmental conditions.

When it comes to processing, one approach is to categorize flowers into five basic groups: ethylene-sensitive blooms, “dirty” flowers, wilt-sensitive, blooms in the bulbous family, and sugar-lovers. Let’s start with ethylene-sensitive types*. If you want additional information on sources of ethylene and its deadly effects on flowers and plants, please reference my past columns in the Quarterly.

Briefly, exposure to ethylene gas kills flowers. A minute amount of the gas causes premature death, distorts bloom opening, causes leaves and flowers to fall off stems, and results in premature leaf yellowing. Don’t get too excited about growing delphinium, sweet peas, larkspur, gyp or scabiosa unless you live in Florida, California, Minnesota, Washington and Texas. Why? Because these flowers are very sensitive. They die super fast if not protected with STS in postharvest. Silver thiosulfate (STS) is a systemic solution that blocks ethylene receptor sites for entire life of the flower or plant. The states listed above have an EPA registration for STS use on flowers (systemically) and plants (foliar spray). STS contains silver—it must be neutralized before disposing spent solutions. Chrysal’s STS product is sold as Chrysal AVB.

Who Should Get What?

Are you leaning towards marigolds, gerberas, or white sunflowers? If so, consider preparing buckets with a gerbera pill. For blooms that foul the water fast or are very sensitive to bacteria in water, the gerbera pill ensures stems receive a first drink of super-clean water. The pills also work great with daffodils, cut hyacinth, and cut foliage. Generally speaking, sugar in flower foods can stimulate leaf yellowing in cut foliage, so after 4 hours (minimum) up to 3 days (maximum) in gerbera pill water, transfer stems into a holding solution for the energy needed for bloom opening and longevity.

If your cut flowers start life inside a bulb, tuber, rhizome or corm, the flowers are considered part of the “bulbous” family. Bulbous blooms will thank you for using bulb food because bulb food rebalances the chemistry that gets whacked-out at harvest. Look for food specially formulated for bulbs. Follow mixing instructions and prepare buckets with cold water. Bulb T-bags prevent premature foliage yellowing, maintain the color vibrancy and improves vase life by more than 50%.

What about the wilt-sensitive category? Hydrangeas, veronica, garden roses, gloriosa, and clematis are just a few. Flowers in this group beg for a boost to kick-start flow. Hydration solutions super-charge stem flow and turn on the plumbing system. Formulations like Chrysal Professional 1 or Floralife Hydraflor contain no source of glucose or other sugars, so once blooms fill (4 hours to 3 days), it is important to transfer stems into flower food. The flowers need supplemental energy for bud-opening.

Finally, sugar-loving flowers include protea, callas, peonies, and glads. Process these blooms in a flower food from harvest to consumer vase. Holding solutions are recommended because of their versatility—these formulas contain minimum amounts of sugars so flowers firm up and hold, but don’t blow open too fast.

*Send me an email if you’d like a flower and plant ethylene-sensitive list.

Gay Smith

Technical Consulting Manager

Gay Smith is the Technical Consulting Manager for Chrysal USA. Contact her at [email protected]