Consumers in the United States spent over 27 billion dollars on fresh-cut flowers, cut cultivated greens, potted flowering plants, foliage plants and garden plants in 2012. Floriculture is the 3rd largest agricultural product in this country. The industry consists of more than 60,000 small businesses including wholesalers, retailers, growers, distributors and imported. Both women and men purchase fresh-cut flowers for both calendar and non-calendar occasions, although the latter makes up the majority of the purchasing. Not surprisingly Valentine’s Day is the number one holiday for floral purchases, an estimated 233 million roses were purchased for the holiday in 2013. Mother’s day is a close second for volume of fresh-cut flowers purchases, with Christmas/Hanukkah, Easter/Passover and Thanksgiving following behind. (http://www.aboutflowers.com/about-the-flower-industry.html)
However, 64% of flowers sold by volume in the United States are imported, mostly from South America, mainly Colombia and Ecuador. These countries hold an advantage over US growers due to lower wages, longer growing seasons (which equals lower investment in climate control) and weaker currencies. In the face of low-priced import competition, many US growers have turned to production of specialty cut flowers not imported in large volume and cutting back on growth and production of roses and other common flowers. Sales by US fresh-cut flower growers has fallen by about half since the 1990s. (Joanna Bonarivva, “Industry and Trade Summary: Cut Flowers”, Publication 3580 U.S. International Trade Commission
Washington, DC 20436)
A Better Bouquet
Fresh-cut flowers certainly are beautiful and make a thoughtful gift, but what happens to them in a few days or a week if you are lucky, when they wilt? Best case scenarios they are dried and used as decorations around the house or added to the compost pile. But really how many dried flower arrangements can one have and the percentage of Americans composting at home is sadly low, so in reality the end product of the import based cut flower industry is waste. A gift that will bloom for years to come, add value to your landscape, improve the ecosystem, provide habitat and forage for wildlife, aid in erosion prevention and improve air quality while not contributing to the waste stream would be a welcome change in gift-giving paradigm. For the next holiday or upcoming birthday think about giving a beautiful potted plant which will improve indoor air quality while providing aesthetic value and the recipient will see it every day for years and think of you. Or consider a native shrub or tree for your beneficiary’s beds or yard, the right plant will thrive in the landscape and provide years of beauty and ecological value. Want to give a beautiful and useful gift? Maybe a window box herb garden, a container garden or miniature greenhouse, herbs and vegetables can easily be grown and harvested from these in nearly any region yielding delicious results and further eliminating waste. There are many options for a more economical, ecologically beneficial and continually beautiful gift than cut flowers, consult your arborist for assistance with choosing the right plant for your lucky recipient.