Flower Gardening

How Fresh Are Those Flowers?

By Jean Starr

Do you know where those flowers come from? The ones in other-worldly colors wrapped in cellophane and heaped in colorful chaos at the supermarket? Chances are they were grown in Columbia, where they were drenched in an anti-fungal agent before being packaged and hopscotched from refrigerated containers on ships or planes to trucks before arriving at florists and chain supermarkets throughout the U.S.

According to the California Cut Flower Commission, nearly 80 percent of all cut flowers sold in the United States are imported from South American countries. Columbia is the biggest exporter, followed by Ecuador, Mexico, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Kenya, Thailand, Guatemala, Peru and India.

It’s no wonder flowers have become just one more inexpensive produce item offered at the supermarket. American florists also have been ordering their products from the array of options provided by countries with ideal weather and cheap labor.

While some commercial flower growers sell only to florists, others sell at farmers markets and supermarkets. Many flower farmers offer design services and can design an entire wedding from fresh flowers they grew and harvested themselves.

Why Go Local?

There are several reasons to consider a florist who purchases at least some of her flowers from local American growers. Buying locally-grown is a win-win situation, ensuring freshness while injecting just enough variety in each individual blossom. Think about the typical bouquet of roses—they’re pretty much identical—grown and bred for uniformity, which isn’t the case with local field grown flowers. A little diversity in a clutch of dahlias, for example, makes a bouquet much more interesting.

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