Friday, September 10, 2010


When I first started my travails on the Los Angeles Flower Market many moons ago, long before the imports really made inroads into the Californian flower industry, I recollect that all flowers had their seasons: Spring would be announced with the advent of blossoms and bulb flowers. In April and May  the wonderfully scented lilacs would arrive from the high desert and the awesome Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia Aethiopica) that were harvested fully open would come to the market by the bucket-load. Over the years, many of the small growers of these spectacular flowers have retired or stopped growing for various reasons, until the supply has dwindled to almost nothing.
Ten years ago I had a vision for a year-round supply of an "Open-Cut Calla" predicated on a very special packing procedure, and thereafter promulgated, nurtured and developed into a very popular item. In fact, the program was wildly successful, and Mayesh sold thousands of stems of the Callas grown in Ecuador each week, all year long.
However, over the past three years the callas, which are a species, rather than a hybrid, and exceptionally strong as a rule, succumbed to fusarium and phytoptora which severely weakened the plants' immune systems, and which were then attacked by Erwinia; a virus that until recently was only a threat to the colored Zantedeschia hybrids. This blight, apparently first reported in China in 1999 has now appeared in Ecuador, and has affected all calla growers, which is a terrible shame. It is clear that it will take some time to resolve.
Notwithstanding, the callas are still the best available as they are cut "open" which is where the true beauty of the flower lies. When they are cut tight they never reveal the true beauty that engendered the bestowal of the name "Calla Lily" from the Greek word kallos meaning 'beauty', and to which the Victorians ascribed the meaning, in the 'Language of Flowers', of  "Magnificent Beauty".
How sad, I often think, when I see the limp white tortillas in an arrangement, still wrapped tightly, much as when they were cut in the field. For sure, tight callas are easy to pack and ship but the product is as stimulating as the sad tomatoes in the supermarkets. On the other hand, the "Open-Cut Callas" are very difficult to pack and ship, and in fact a little tolerance and latitude is need to enjoy their full glory. The size and scale of these flowers means that 9 times out of 10 they will be viewed from distance, so a spot here and there will never be noticed.

DESIGN TIP: In arrangements, particularly when the composition calls for mostly or only white Callas, a few tight callas can be mixed in with the "Open-Cut Callas" and the overall look will still be very rich, as visually the eye surveys the result much as it would see the flowers blooming in nature; some will be fully open and some in various stages of development. This technique allows some relief from the expense of the "Open-Cut Callas".

The images here are the "Open-Cut Callas" from our grower in Ecuador, which were opened by USDA in Miami.

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