A flair for flowers

A flair for flowers

Growers have new opportunities to market nontraditional crops to their local community of floral designers who are looking for unique, seasonal and quality plants for their creations.

February 16, 2015

As in any visual art based business, driving and keeping up with trends are important parts of a successful cut flower operation. In order to be attractive to your target customer, you have to know what external visual trends they’re responding to, be it home decor, gardening or clothing styles. Relevancy is key to market share, so being on trend should be a constant pursuit of everyone in the green industry supply chain; for the grower or the retailer.

I decided to reach out to an up-and-coming young floral designer, Rizaniño “Riz” Reyes, in order to get some fresh perspective on fresh flowers. Riz is the owner of RHR Horticulture & Landwave Gardens in Seattle, Washington.

Grow local

The importance of locally grown and sourced product has started to permeate the consumer consciousness of brides-to-be and other cut flower customers. In addition to the grow local movement, there are a few other distinct emerging cut flower trends.

What excites Riz about new trends within the cut flower industry is a seasonal and local focus. “The local flower trend is exciting because of the plant palette I can showcase each season,” he says. “Being blessed to have grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I can draw so much from the natural elements of our landscape to inspire and enhance my designs. I’m excited that people are beginning to notice this diversity in product available to them.”

The vintage just-picked look dominates

While not all customers may yet be using the word “local” to describe what they’re looking for, they’re probably trying to communicate that desire using more trendy terminology. We’ve all been bombarded with the “Farm-to-Table” cooking trend for the last few years. The subsequent cut flower trend inspired by the FTT movement has been dubbed “Field-to-Vase.” It makes sense that cut flower trends would follow in the footsteps of current culinary trends, as they’re a dominant force in media these days. Brides-to-be are looking for that fresh, just-picked wildflower look, even if they don’t yet associate it with locally grown product.

I asked Riz if there was a specific demand for locally grown items in his commissioned work. “From my personal experience, there hasn’t been a [clear] demand,” he says, “but clients appreciate it very much if I take them to the market and introduce them to the growers; it’s an added value and significance to their wedding flowers that I enjoy providing.” But he also noted, “Other florists who emphasize local, organic and sustainable products say there is a great demand for locally grown, but it’s going to take some time to educate consumers about it. Many consumers think that just because you don’t eat them, it doesn’t really matter where the flowers come from.”

That’s an interesting point to note: Consumers may not yet see the connection to the importance of locally or sustainably produced cut flowers because they’re not something they eat. It’s probable that at least for now, customers perceive the just-picked look as a more budget-friendly option, making that the better selling point. With the health and wellness movement still a major influence in the marketplace these days, there’s an opportunity for the industry to promote a stronger connection between using locally grown materials and a healthier lifestyle.

When it comes to the vintage or just-picked look, Riz says he does encounter some challenges. “The loose and blowsy just-picked look is still in all the magazines and all brides seem to ask for the same thing. It’s challenging to try and educate them that there are more flowers other than peonies, garden roses, and ‘Cafe Au Lait’ dahlias,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong, those are all stunningly beautiful and it’s an honor to be able to get them for a bride, but I make sure that I source them in season because I get them from my garden or from my farmer friends. If I get a request during the off-season, the next best thing I can offer is ‘American Grown.’”


Curiosity turned career

An early curiosity about fruits and flowers turned Rizaniño “Riz” Reyes, originally from the Philippines, into an award-winning garden designer and avid plantsman in the Pacific Northwest. This led him to start a small specialty nursery, get involved with various horticultural organizations around the country and then obtain a Bachelor of Science in environmental horticulture from the University of Washington, where he worked at the Botanic Garden’s Center for Urban Horticulture. On the side, he supports and collaborates with local cut flower growers for his unique floral designs for special occasions and seasonal events. He is also a regular speaker and writer for various local and national organizations and publications.


Edibles gain focus

Speaking of things we eat, we’re seeing more edibles being used in cut flower arrangements. Rosemary, basil, dill, kale and artichokes are becoming popular for hand-tied bouquets and wedding centerpieces. Ornamental cabbage, with its rose-like appearance, is all the rage. Riz has contemplated incorporating edibles into his work as well. “It’s only a matter of time before edible (fruit and herbs) bouquets and all-foliage bouquets will be in vogue if they aren’t already,” he says.

If you peruse Pinterest today, you’ll find a budding selection of edible-based bouquets that feature everything from lettuce to kale to rosemary. Some of the most fashion-forward bouquets incorporate whole broccoli shoots, Clementine fruits and even beets and turnips. You’ll find men’s boutonnieres formed around radishes. Yes, radishes! In fact, men’s boutonnieres are experiencing their own evolution at the moment. That evolution seems to be centered on vintage, edible style.

Living bouquets

Taking the edible trend a step further, progressive designers are also starting to incorporate more living plant material into traditional floral arrangements. Stems of succulent cuttings and large tillandsia plants have begun to take center stage in more contemporary designs. Riz is particularly adept at creating such dynamic designs and it’s a big reason I favor his work.

“I’m emphasizing a phrase people have coined as a ‘living bouquet’: utilizing living plants in a floral arrangement or bouquet where they can be salvaged and allowed to grow again,” he says. “Succulents and tillandsias have paved that way and they’re still quite popular. I enjoy integrating them in my work knowing that the recipient then has the option to grow a plant from their special flowers.” The fact that your customers can extend the memories of their special day by growing new plants from their arrangements is an excellent, on-trend marketing tool.


Fragrance sells

As flower stems were lengthened and strengthened through breeding to provide the sturdiest of cut blooms, something important was lost: fragrance. As customers seek a more natural or untamed presentation for their arrangements, they’re also looking to enhance the sensory experience. Hence, flowers like jasmine, hyacinth and garden roses, along with fragrant herbs like basil and rosemary, are becoming more desirable ingredients. However, not all of these fragrant flowers are suited to the traditional long-stemmed arrangement, which has led to the new scaled-down modern bouquet and centerpiece…

Keep it short

As customers continue to seek out uniqueness, fragrance and unexpected materials for their arrangements, stems have gotten shorter. By shortening up bouquets and table arrangements, designers are better able to incorporate more delicate and fragrant blooms that otherwise wouldn’t work in a traditional tall vase. Anemones, scabiosa, ranunculus and sweet peas are in high demand. Old-fashioned fragrant garden roses, which are short-stemmed, are taking the place of long-stemmed varieties. Short, tighter arrangements are also better suited to carrying cuttings of succulents, tillandsias, herbs and other edibles that are trending.

Unique and tender blooms may also be difficult to store or transport. That puts the emphasis back on “grow local.” Growers should consider planting crops that are now in demand in their local cut flower industry, but may not be suited to long-distance transport or refrigeration.

Getting personal

When Riz makes it to the local Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, he’s usually got his eye out for the freshest of local picks that speak to the season. “I always go after something that I know has a very short window of time in which it’ll be available and I’ll often ask the growers. It’s nice to be the first recipient of something so fresh and cut just hours before market, but there’s also something about having the last bunch from the last harvest for the season.”

When it comes to defining overall cut flower trends, I think the term “individualism” best applies. Rather than sticking to conventional wedding trends and decorating styles, customers want to show off their individual style during their event or embellis their homes. With consumers opening their minds to a new definition of what constitutes a floral bouquet, growers have new opportunities to market nontraditional crops to their local community of floral designers.