Mornings with Mayesh: Wholesale Flowers - Shortages, Processing & More
Watch our latest Mornings with Mayesh featuring our very own flower expert, David Dahlson. We chatted about the current flower situation, flower shortages, pricing, flower substitutions, working with your rep, processing flowers, making sustainable changes, and more. It was truly a great episode packed with tons of important information! If you have any other questions, be sure to post them in the comments!
Here is the podcast, video replay, and show notes:
- When we first talked about doing this episode, I know the focus was going to be on the care & handling of shipped flowers, but I feel that we should address the current flower situation. We posted an update from our CEO, Patrick Dahlson, at the end of August. David, is there any updates that we can share with everyone today?
- Can you touch on how important pre-booking is right now?
- While pre-booking is important be sure you are selling a look & feel and not specific flowers. Be sure you are transparent with every client about that state of the industry.
- Mayesh Pulls is a great way to shop by color palette, aesthetic, and budget. I hope by now you’ve heard of this great program we offer. For those who may not know, this is a way to send in your flower needs without ordering by specific flowers. You can work with your rep directly or use our online order form. You let us know your color palette, look & feel, budget and date, and your rep will pull together the best possible flowers to meet those needs.
- Your sales rep is your flower partner and your eyes at the branch. It is so important to build those relationships whether it’s with us or your other wholesalers. We need to get to know you as a person and as a designer.
- With the state of the industry, we are seeing more florists who are shipping their flowers. With that, knowing how to process the flowers is extremely important. What advice can you give for customers on how to properly process and care for their flowers that were newly received via shipping?
When we talk about flowers, we are literally talking about sex.
This is in large part due to the work of Karl Linnaeus, who formalized binomial nomenclature to describe living organisms, and whose system is used until this day.
Up until the introduction of his system, plants were given names based on their medicinal, culinary, or visual attributes. For instance, Lysimachia clethroides was known commonly as “Gooseneck Loosestrife”. This is based on its resemblance to white geese, and its resemblance to purple loosestrife, which was widely used medicinally to get rid of all sorts of ailments from rashes, diarrhea, and bacterial infections; loosestrife meaning to get rid of anger or problems. But all these old names were rather regional and could mean different things to different people. Indeed, Loosestrife was a name used for all manner of plants, making it hard to be precise.
Linnaeus saw the classification as a necessary way to define living things and using a whole world approach, settled on the sexual organs of plants as the way to group, classify and name plants, so each one could be defined specifically. This is why Dusty Miller and the succulent “String of Pearls” were classified as both being members of the senecio family and remained this way until just recently. Science being a continuous examination of life around us has now led to Dusty Miller being reclassified as Jacobaea.
I make this point because the attributes of sex and the innate desire of all living things to reproduce has a bearing on how we use cut flowers. A flower is a key component in a plant's ability to reproduce, usually designed to attract a pollinator that will fertilize the ovaries and create a fruit within which seeds will mature. Plants generally produce blooms in the spring and then followed by fruits in the late summer or fall. There are many exceptions to this rule, but all plants produce flowers, followed over a period of time by fruits. Hold that thought and I will get back to it later.
Today, I am going to focus on flowers that you receive when shipped in, whether from Mayesh or another vendor. I am focusing on flowers shipped by air cargo or via Fedex, as these undergo a stressful journey. But all the information applies to flowers received from any supplier, whether a local grower, or wholesaler, and whether received in water or through the cold chain.
Much like humans, after a long trip we become tired, dehydrated, suffer from jet lag and we can feel quite limp, and in need of re-invigoration. We achieve this with food, water and rest. Flowers are no different. If you are receiving flowers you will need to prepare your water and buckets before the flowers arrive.
CLEANLINESS is next to Godliness. Make sure all buckets are cleaned thoroughly, as well as all your knives, clippers, secateurs, and pruning shears. I also recommend cleaning the blades regularly throughout the processing of your shipment. Items such as Daffodils, Euclayptus, Poppies, Tweedia that exude latex or oils can cross-contaminate your products. The water in your buckets and/or other types of vessels should always be the same temperature as the flowers. As you will be receiving the flowers that have travelled without refrigeration you can expect them to be warm. Therefore, your water should be at room temperature. Please be generous with the depth of water, but according to the flower.
If you do not have a cooler, it would be prudent to clear some space in your fridge for any delicate items. Some gallon bottles or jugs of refrigerated water will also be necessary.
Water pH. Swimming pool tester.
Importance of flower food. Correct dosing. Chrysal recommends pH in 3.5 - 5.0 range. Better towards 5.0.
When you receive the box or boxes, the lids should be removed from all the pieces. This will allow warm air and gases such as ethylene to exit the box or boxes. On larger shipments this is important. Once this is done, return your attention to the first box, and remove the items onto a rack or table.
DO NOT UNWRAP. Let the products acclimatize to your environment. Repeat this with each box until all items are removed from boxes.
Return to the contents of the first box. Identify the delicate items: Maybe it is late summer and you have ordered tulips, anemones, ranunculus. Lily of the Valley and Viburnum flowers are delicate most of the year. Poppies can be very limp, as can calla lilies. Wrap these items entirely in a moist but not wet paper towel, and place laying down on a shelf in the fridge. One hour up to four hours – NO Fruit.
Once these items are dealt with the rest of the flowers from the first box should be processed.
At this point, you can cut the stems of each bunch of flowers, but DO NOT UNWRAP. The wrapping helps to support the flower stems as they hydrate. If not supported flowers with heavy heads will droop, making the uptake of water exceedingly difficult, and will stress the flower as it has an innate desire to lift the heads. The water rises up the stem through capillary action hydrating the stem cell by cell. If the stems are not supported flowers with heavy heads, such as Anemones, Garden Roses and Calla Lilies will never have the opportunity to raise their heads and will “set” in the drooping position. Unless you want curved stems for some aesthetic purpose, all flowers should be supported at this stage. This allows the flowers to reinvigorate themselves in the fastest and most efficient means possible.
Incidentally, I recommend cutting all stems on the bias, at a 45° angle. You expose more surface area of the vascular to water, and you also prevent blockage of the stems that can rest squarely on the bottom of the bucket.
If you have more than one box, process the contents of each box in the same manner. All the flowers should hydrate for at least one hour in this way. If the paper gets wet, that is fine, as the cool water will wick upwards and provide additional moisture to the foliage and stems.
After an hour or so, and preferably up to four hours, then the flowers can have all packaging removed, and be processed as normal, including cleaning foliage that may fall under the water.
If you did put flowers in the fridge, after some time, these can be processed into the prepared COLD water, and with sleeves or wrappers till on.
At this point, if you purchased the flowers from Mayesh, you should evaluate the flowers. If you see any issues, please take pictures with your phone, which can be used should you need to get credit if that is necessary. Hopefully, there will not be any problems.
Even though the flowers are unwrapped, the bucket or container ought to be of an appropriate size to support the flower stems, leaving the blooms well above the rim. The blooms should never be below the rim of the bucket, and buckets should not be overfilled to a point where air cannot circulate below the rim of the bucket. If there are too many flowers in a bucket, especially ones with a lot of foliage, the lack of air will cause foliage to atrophy, turn yellow, and can promulgate disorders with the blooms. Therefore, plenty of buckets/vessels are highly necessary as well as a diverse selection of sizes.
If you have a cooler, and keep the water in the cooler, then the flowers will need to be cooled down to the temperature of the water, in the cooler. I would still advocate opening the boxes outside of the cooler to release any trapped gases unless you are content that the boxes have remained cold throughout the journey. Other than that, the unpacking procedure would be the same.
- Can you share some tips for a few specific flowers?
Daffodils should always be cut and maintained in separate buckets from other flowers. Thye produce a milky sap that can be detrimental to many other flowers.
Eucalyptus exudes an oily vapor, especially in warmer temperatures that can be very injurious to roses, causing them to “fall asleep”, becoming soft and unproductive. Best to keep eucalyptus apart from the flowers, especially roses.
Tulips are phototropic, meaning they grow towards the light. Therefore, they should be stored in the dark, or with a light source directly overhead. If placed near a window they will grow and bend towards the light. On the other hand, there is nothing so delightful as a bouquet of French Tulips writhing like snakes towards the light from a side window.
Tulips tend to keep growing after they are cut, so stems can grow in an arrangement, perhaps distorting the design. A pin placed through the stem about a quarter inch below the flower helps counteract this.
Incidentally, if using Cyclamen blooms, a pinhole created about a quarter inch from the bottom of the stem really makes this a viable flower.
Calla Lilies are also phototropic, though not as much as tulips. If straight stems are required, the callas need to be wrapped tight around the length of the stems, prior to hydrating. The blooms should be exposed. A strong overhead light source such as a skylight will help. Gro-lites are a useful and readily available tool to help with this.
Of course these traits can be gamed to create curved stems, stems with S bends and so forth.
Snapdragons are geotropic, as are gladiolus. This means they are prone to the forces of gravity, and if lain horizontal, the growing tips will curl upwards, which is generally not a desirable characteristic. These flowers should never be in an unrestrained horizontal position. They are best kept upright whenever possible.
- What if a customer gets tight blooms in their shipment that they need to get open immediately for an event?
You were probably wondering where the sex comes into this. In the evolution of flowers, the drive to create fruit, and sustain the species is a key element in getting flowers to open faster than normal.
Although it is counter-intuitive, one needs to stress the flower so that it thinks it needs to open so it can be pollinated, its last act of life as it were. To do this one withholds water and adds heat. This is never recommended except in extreme circumstances. But if you have an imminent event, it may be necessary.
This only applies to hardier flowers such as Carnations, Asters, Gyp, Roses (not garden roses), Lilies, and Chrysanthemums.
In these extreme cases, the flowers should be lain in a very warm place 80-90° F with sleeves on but not in direct sunlight. They need to get quite warm and almost limp. The flowers should then be cut to a length close to the final size. This is so the hydration will be as rapid as possible, without expending unnecessary time and energy hydrating a long and unnecessary stem. The stems should be in water as deep as possible, without getting blooms wet. The water should be very warm to which one drop of dish detergent per gallon of water has been added. The detergent acts as a surfactant, breaking the molecular tension of the water, which will then pass through the stems with less resistance.
Carnations, Asters and Chrysanthemums can be placed in sunlight provided there is plenty of water in the bucket. Roses should be in a hot location but no direct sunlight. Roses should have all their guard petals removed, roses with a heavy petal count can have 7 or 8 petals removed. Lilies should have any unnecessary buds removed (ie ones that will never open) and can be in sunlight with a plastic cover over the flowers. To aid with opening, as soon as the buds have cracked, it helps to remove the stamens. This also stops pollen from staining blooms.
Remember this is never recommended but sometimes extraordinary events need extraordinary measures. As a guide, roses usually take five days to open, carnations 8 days, tight peonies 6-8 days, chrysanthemums 6 days, asters and gyp 4 days, and therefore need to be ordered accordingly. Ultimately a cooler is highly recommended as it allows for full control over the desired aperture of the blooms.
- Other questions:
- From Laura:
- What is your advice when it comes to shipping dahlias, zinnias, and cosmos?
- Do you have thoughts of some of the popular flowers that are in short supply and possible substitutions?
- I know you are working on a very important sustainability project concerning plastic sleeves. Do you want to share more about what you are working towards?
AUDIENCE/IG LIVE QUESTIONS
- @wyldstem - due to flower shortages should we be placing orders earlier than normal?
- ana - Are the shortages affecting the San Francisco area too?
- @jjposies - he mentioned that things that were popular 40 years ago are popular again - what are some examples of that?
- @moonfloral1 - Floraldaily article today said the shortage of fertilizers also is that true?
- estrelita florals - is there a shortage of dried flowers as well?
- Sarai Colondiaz - how is the shortage affecting the price? what has been the trend?
- Blooming Fields Wedding design: Do you do quick dip after the first step?
- Qreative designs - I have tried many tricks for my hydrangea and they keep dying, I am about to give up working with them