Saturday, October 30, 2010


This summer my girlfriend and I visited Edinburgh, in Scotland, and we went to the notorious cemetery or "Kirk yard" of the Greyfriars church, which is almost directly below the famous Edinburgh castle.
It is famous as being the site from which the "Body-Snatchers" recovered their cadavers to sell to the doctors of the Medical School. Many of the tombs are decorated with "Memento mori" or 'Reminders of Death', and date from the 17th , 18th and 19th centuries. Although a little ghoulish,  the cemetery is a tranqiil and beautiful place.

Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 29, 2010


I warned you, I warned you. The coral; peonies may be with with us a week or two at the most and then they will be gone!!

But there are other varieties coming now, amongst them are hot pinks and whites. One of my absolute favorites is the divine "Festiva Maxima"., a classic white hybrid paeonia lactiflora, that was hybridized about 160 years ago by the French breeder Auguste Meillez in 1851. It is still amazing to me that hybrids of peonies thta are over a hundred years old  are still with us, when it seems that rose varieties come and go every year!

This white flower is certainly one of my favorites, with an impossible amount of petals that unfurl from a small ping-pong sized bud. My analogy for this magnificent display is like those tantalizing ostrich fans used by burlesque dancers which slowly unfurl to reveal glimpses of flesh and creating an illusion of a naked lady. The sexual innuendo continues with three or four of the central petals which guard the ovaries being edged with a deep and erotic hue of carmine. Whether massed in large vases, or a just bloom or two on a bedside table, the effects are breathtaking and may be enjoyed over several days. Of course they are fabulous components for bridal bouquets, and may also repeated through all aspects of wedding decor to stunning effect.

And even as the "Festiva Maxima" blooms start to shatter at the end of their vase life, I find the dropping petals displaced around the container still so brilliantly white they remind me of the feathers of an exotic white cockatoo, that I enjoy this final act as well.

Incidentally, the name "Festiva Maxima" is Latin for 'Seriously chronic party!' - Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


It is my own opinion that, if we truly wish to stimulate the sale of cut flowers in this country, more poeple need to experience the awe-inspiring event of peonies opening. More destruction has been done by the awful carnation, pom-pom, alstro, gyp flower glomerates that are embalmed in cellophane sleeves than any other cause. If you do not see the hand of God when you stop to buy some flowers, then, really, what is the point?

"Beauty is one of the rare things that do not lead to doubt of God."

- Jean Anouilh

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Over the last ten years or so we have been able to enjoy the passionate end-of-the-day tones of the Coral peonies during Autumn.
Hitherto, we could only appreciate them in late spring, when their glorious display is available from farms in the Northern hemisphere. Now they are extensively planted in New Zealand and Chile, where they are producing abundant amounts at this time, and where it is spring in the Southern hemisphere. They were only available in New Zealand at this time for many years, but now many peonies have been widely planted in various parts of Chile. Which is a good thing, as the New Zealand dollar has strengthened to record highs against the US dollar. Chile provides us with a much more reasonably priced product. That is not to say that they are inexpensive, because they are not, but they do represent terrific value in terms of aesthetic beauty and as an expression of the power of creation. The coral varieties, such as "Coral Sunset", featured here and the fully double "Coral Charm" are some of the supreme examples of the genus, and should be taken advantage of now, as the season is quite short.
They are truly a superb focal flower for large sweeping autumnal compositions such as formal Flemish-style arrangements or used in the disarmingly "Brooklyn-casual" style of Saipua and Nicolette. They are also wonderful flowers for the fall wedding, although they are not for the faint-of-heart, as they are bold, and the designer needs to know that these peonies slowly fade from the rich coral, turning salmon-pink, a faded copper and ultimately to a white gold. This means that the other flowers have to be selected with this autumnal cadence in mind.
So powerful are these peonies, that can be enjoyed alone, simply placed in a tall vase, as they slowly open to reveal the amazing petal structure with the anthers waving liking a an anemone in the middle of the blooms. The petals themselves are imbued with strokes of subtle pink, gold, bronze and peach seemingly applied with the precision of the French painter Fragonard; at once defining innocence and yet also betraying an implicit coquettishness.
These are really spectacular blooms, and very highly recommended. The season is very short, so I urge you to take advantage of these superb flowers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


No matter how jaded one may become in the cut flower industry there is always something that happens to clear away the cobwebs of complacency. For years it has been the generally acknowledged wisdom that the cut flower market would never be in a situation where demand could outstrip supply, and yet we may very well be on the cusp of such a situation for some varieties! For one example, see the article on the rose shortage below.
Similarly, we received some cymbidiums from Holland that literally assaulted my visual senses, and which affected my vocal chords fro several moments. I was almost at a loss for words. After recovering from the initial shock I took a closer look at these dyed-blue cymbidium orchids. They really are an affront to good taste and are just wrong! However, that is my humble opinion. In this day and age who dares to be the ultimate arbiter on aesthetics and cultural finesse? Only the foolish and the intolerant.
Nonetheless I found myself trying to imagine under what circumstances these might be appropriate.
I speculated that if there were another universe, a doppelgänger so to speak, wherein Frank, the character played by Dennis Hopper were actually to marry the persecuted woman portrayed by Isabella Rossellini in the classic move "Blue Velvet", then it would be entirely appropriate for Frank to have a boutonnière featuring a blue cymbidium. Perhaps not, but they would look stunning in Isabella's hair!
As opposed to the "Blue"-dyed Vendela roses which look rather fake and painted and very tacky, the blue dye is absorbed subcutaneously and has a very natural feel, like that of the plastic arrangements in the dentist's waiting room.

Also available in shocking pink and ugly ochre.
If you find that you have an uncontrollable desire to order some you may click here.

Monday, October 18, 2010


The Shortage of Roses in 2010

For professionals working in the floral industry, 2010 has been a year when certain flowers have become scarce and in some cases hard to get at any price. Roses in particular are becoming increasingly scarce and some varieties are taking on the cult status of rare rookie trading cards. Well, that's a sight exaggeration, but you get my drift. In this short essay I have outlined the main causes and what we can expect for the  next couple of years.
The output of roses produced in Ecuador and Colombia this year, when compared with the last ten years, represents somewhat of an anomaly, yet in light of current events and the passage of time will most probably be viewed as a significant market correction. The fact that we have witnessed so much economic upheaval in every area of commerce within the USA as well as globally would lead one to logically expect corrections in the floral industry, and we can now see that this is in fact happening in all major growing and distribution zones.

The following factors have had an impact on a decreased rose supply, and which may be summarized in five major categories, namely; Climate; Access to Capital; Fluctuating Exchange Rates; Mass Market Contracts;  & Increased Demand Worldwide.

Whether one subscribes to global warming or global cooling, a Democrat climate conspiracy or a Republican denial of weather statistics; there is no doubt that the whole planet is experiencing climate change. In Ecuador specifically, and also in Colombia but to a somewhat lesser extent, the countries have experienced uncharacteristic and prolonged periods of cold weather, with significant amounts of rainfall and with a net result of a dramatic reduction in luminosity. This component is required for the plants well-being and to ensure rapid, healthy growth of the plants. Normally in the equatorial countries at the elevations at which flowers are grown there is normally a significant amount of sunlight, but this year and over the last 12 months really, it may be said, that the reduction in days of normal luminosity is now wreaking havoc in production.
For many years the Eastern Seaboard, Rust Belt and Midwest received a significant amount of their roses from Colombia. However, that country’s production is dropping rapidly due to causes outlined in this summary, which means that more buyers are turning to Ecuador to augment their supply.

Access to Capital
Just as gaining access to business loans in the USA has become very difficult, in Colombia and Ecuador they have become almost impossible to secure. With the economic downturn, horticulture in general is now viewed as a risky segment, and banks are unwilling to invest or make loans to the flower plantations.
In Colombia the situation has become exacerbated by their strengthening currency, the “Peso”, which has meant that flowers sold today yield less in returns when the accounts are settled after 30-60 days. Over the last 12 months this trend has really put the screws into production, with several farms declaring bankruptcy and several more simply closing their doors. While the Colombian producers are desirous to raise prices, the prevailing pessimism of the world economies has meant that this has been very hard to do.
For some farms, the situation is further compounded by having long term contracts with supermarkets and the probable outcome of trying to raise prices with supermarkets is most likely to lead to a loss of the account. Some of the larger enterprises did in fact receive loans from the Colombian National Bank a couple of years ago, but again the unfavorable exchange rates has meant that servicing the loans has become increasingly difficult. This has lead to a major player Falcon Farms CI declaring bankruptcy October 11th in Colombia, and seemingly abandoning the farm and replacing it with another very large one in Ecuador. This single thread of events tightened the market a little more, as the farm they acquired had been selling for the wholesale markets and is now selling exclusively to Falcon Miami and their mass market accounts.

Exchange Rates
As outlined above, the Dollar-Colombian Peso exchange rate has had a negative effect on the flower producers’ ability to be profitable, as the monthly difference cut into their bottom line. The solid, well financed farms with good cash-flow and aggressive marketing strategies (and of which there are relatively few) have sought to offset the downside of trade with the USA by finding new partners in Europe, Russia and Japan.
In Ecuador, where they have had solid relationships with Europe and Russia for some time, the fact that they are a dollar-based currency has impacted the sales curve this year as follows: In Holland, where traditionally flower imports are weak in the summer, they were down substantially in volume and sales as the dollar strengthened against the Euro.
However, this has started to shift as the winter season approaches with purchases rising much higher than normal as the Euro is now getting dramatically stronger, having risen almost 15% in the last month.
Russia on the other hand, fueled by an economy that is driven by energy reserves has bought more roses so far this year than at any other time in their history.
Also note that as the Australian Dollar, the New Zealand Dollar and the Euro all get stronger, we import less from those countries, which puts even more pressure on the available supply of more affordable imports from South America as well as that of domestic production.

Mass Market Contracts
Most supermarkets, big box stores and on-line fulfillment operators negotiate flower prices and quantities anywhere from 3 months to one year in advance. The buyers drive very hard negotiations predicated on large volumes, and they expect the vendors to fulfill their end of the deal. Many of these agreements are in fact encapsulated in legal documents that have provisions for stiff financial penalties if orders are not fulfilled. At present, there is a distinct push from the bouquet makers to locate products that fit into the parameters outlined by their mass market clients as well the price points. At present, it seems that there is enormous pressure on many bouquet makers to fulfill the contracts and remain profitable. Recently a large provider in Miami, Superior Floral, simply had to close the doors as they were unable to turn a profit. I suspect that larger players are keeping their clients happy until it comes time to renegotiate prices. And prices will have to go up. The growers will insist on this, particularly as there are now other options available to them. Furthermore, the amount of legitimate plantations that can fulfill orders to the customers’ expectations in terms of volume and quality is also shrinking.

Increased Worldwide Demand
As recently as seven years ago the USA used to absorb about 60% of the rose production of Ecuador and from Colombia a figure in the region of 90%. In 2010 through August USA received about 32% of the rose production in tons from Ecuador, although this was valued at 29% in dollar value. Russia has purchased a little over 18% in the same period, a quantity which has almost doubled since 2007.
Colombia is actively soliciting offers from Europe and Russia, and although they are now shipping many carnations to other countries, they have been less successful with roses due to quality issues. On the whole most of the rose production from Colombia is still shipped to the USA, but a larger percentage is going to the mass markets.
France, Italy, Ukraine, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Japan are starting to import more and more roses from Ecuador, and these countries are atop a list of some 50 countries bringing in 10,000 tons or more.
This strategy of diversification is a sound one and ensures better returns for the farms, but it does mean that in the global marketplace the probability that flowers may go to other parts of the world is increasing, and in the nature of capitalism the better roses and hot varieties tend to be siphoned off to the highest bidder.
It should also be noted that Russia tends to have a group of varieties that only appeal to them, which may be generalized as having long stems, large heads and gaudy tow-tone colorations. The fact that some growers are allocating large chunks of their farms to growing these varieties, and harvesting them in a completely different way means that less acreage is available for the USA and other markets.

Any one of these categories on its own would constrict the rose supply, but when one considers that a combination of all these things is now occurring the result is clearly a substantially impaired rose supply. The fact that the rose supply is now possibly less than demand for the first time in twenty years must inevitably lead to increased prices.
It is also becoming patently clear that as the top tier of thirty or so farms in Ecuador start to leave the other farms behind (in terms of product composition, high quality standards and marketing integrity), and find that the demand for their exclusive, newer varieties and higher quality continues to sell out; that they can raise their prices and sell to the highest bidder. With the internet, this means it could be a buyer in Kazakhstan, South Korea or Canada!
This also encourages the second class farms to raise their prices, since for many rose buyers they represent the only chance to procure substantial quantities of product, being shut-out of the top tier. These farms are able to successfully raise prices because of the comparative nature of our business.
And likewise the lower class of farms can ask prices for product that is marginal.


 In years past, the response to tight supply and increased demand resulted in a reciprocal increase in new farms, or the addition of more growing hectares by existing farms. However, at this time there has been no such response, as any substantial inversion of capital in floriculture has been cancelled or postponed due to lack of liquidity and the uneasiness and uncertainty of the economic future within the USDA, as well as Ecuador, Colombia and indeed the entire world.
Finally, while I can imagine a few surges in production occurring on occasion, I do not believe that there will be any increase in production for several years. This will also have a knock -on effect, as designers resort to other flowers to fulfill their needs, which will in turn lead to a market that is driven by demand for the first time in almost thirty years!!
  • Could 2011 be the year of the Dahlia?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


A few years back a variety was introduced called Farfalla. While it is a rather pretty and capricious name -  Farfalla means "Butterly" in Italian - the color scheme left a lot to be desired and would have been more succinctly named "Hooters"! That is because it is a creamy white rose with fat orange margins. I mean, who buys this stuff? For that matter who decorates in orange and white? Perhaps it has attained popularity in Russia where their understated and refined good taste is legendary?
The breeder is Nirp, about whom much can be said, but about whom you may say nothing if not that they are persevering. Nirp International of France brought us the rather fabulous "Supergreen", the very subtle "Amnesia" and the classic "Versilia". On the other hand they have also been responsible for lead ballons like "Twingo", "Tabasco" and "Farfalla".
Recently we received a shipment of "Pink Farfalla" from Ecuador which I had the opportunity to trial and review. In the state in which we receive roses, carefully packed in corrugated carton, the roses looked  like a variegated pink, a rather vulgar pink at that, and appearing for all the world to be the Las Vegas variant of the aforementioned "Hooters". After a couple of days in water the saturation of petal color stated to lighten and slowly change from pink to lilac. Also the gaudy pink margins started to bleed out of the petals. By day four the disco-duck was transformed into a very attractive lavender rose with hints of fuchsia limning the very edges of the petals.As the flowers started to fully reflex a very attractive fully double rose is revealed, with a somewhat casual loosely quartered petal structure.
The one drawback that I observed was some bruising to the petals, which in of itself would not be uncommon, but the complexion of the petals revealed the creases and bruises in a rather unflattering light. This is only noticeable at very close quarters, and as such would not be suitable for a bridal bouquet. On the other hand , given the trend toward garden roses and that full, overblown fin-de-siécle look, these would go along way to keeping a budget in check, worked in with legitimate stars such as Yves Piaget, Miranda, Baroness and so forth, to be adroitly used in large arrangements for reception areas or in garlands and adorning huppahs.

"Pink Farfalla" has some potential, but packing will be very important to ensure bruise-free flowers. Once hydrated it is a very hardy rose, with robust stems and glossy dark green foliage. Remember, even though the product you will receive looks quite pink, similar to 'Vogue', it opens into  romantic bloom with a  distinctly feminine hue of lavender. All in all shows some promise.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Lately, I have started to notice "service charges" appearing in my life. Again, this pairing of words seems to be a violation of etymological etiquette to put it politely (as in "restaurant quality"), and if I may dare to be quite blunt, this coupling of nouns is simply a euphimism for highway robbery. In order to be more contemporary (and contemptuous) - I understand the phrase that is appropriate is a cyber-jacking...and there is nothing virtual (or virtuous) about it! Talk about semantics!
Ticketmaster is definitely one such insidious Wizard of the SC, and closer to home are the on-line floral order gatherers and the Wire Services. My objection to the "service charge" is that I have yet to witness any evidence of service, or a delivery of something that could be remotely connected to service. In fact, it is my casual observation that if there is any initimation of a charge for service then you should run like hell!
Ticketmaster also has the gall to charge for ticket delivery, which seems reasonbable, but at least they do give you the option to print your own tickets. Charge for that covenience? $2.50!!
Service my gluteus maximus!
I even had a dream about service charges which shows you how insidious these things are. I was staying in Orlando with my girlfriend; a short Stay-cation, as it were, in Florida. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were in town playing some shows, and it just so happened that we ran into Anthony in the lobby of our hotel. Since I had had a professional acquaintance with him from 'back-in'the-day' (I was a singer in a Punk band in Los Angeles as well!) I invited him up to our room where we chatted for a while. Anyway we came around to the topic of tckets for the show, and I asked if he could comp us a pair. Anthony said it would not be a problem, especially as FTD was sponsoring the show.
Sweet, says I. However, continued Mr. Kiedis, we would have to pay FTD a service charge of $217.25 for the tickets, plus a delivery fee.
Maybe it was a nigthmare.

Top photo - The Chili-Peps
Lower photo - the author of David's Diary, definitely back in the day

Friday, October 8, 2010


What in the world is going on?
It seems of late that many of our more progressive designers are requesting the most subtle and sophisticated roses in the marketplace. "Combo, Quicksand and if you can't find those sub with Camel or Sahara" are the cries we hear.
Hello? We have been promoting Combo and Quicksand for many moons, but it seems this fall their subtle and very understated  tones of beige and puce shot through (think shot as in 'shot-silk') with hints of autumnal tones of  peach, raw umber, rose madder and yellow ochre are highly sought after. 
Looking in the coolers for new varieties that might make suitable substitutes I came across this rose with which I was hitherto unfamiliar. In the subdued lighting of the coolers, snugly wrapped in the tight, squared-off corrugated packaging this rose looked incredibly promising. However, in the naked light of day, stripped of the vestiges of any wrapping the rose looked less beguiling, and revealed some rather cheap bubblegum tones.of pink.
As I am forever an optimist, I delayed judgement until it had hydrated and the flower had time to find a comportment that was more open and relaxed.
Unfortunately, the situation only got worse for this bloom called "Tamara", as not only did more pink become evident, displaying aspects similar to those of Toscanini and Vivaldi, but cruelly the way in which the petals opened was lacking in finesse or beauty.
Now, it could be that the roses I reviewed were from the first flush of the plants, and being an immature product had not yet fully formed their correct structure - but I doubt it.
It demonstrates just how thin the line between the sublime and the ridiculous (the f'shizzle and the fugly) is.
A few more things that make this rose a candidate for the supermarkets is that once the guard petals are removed the color becomes a distinctly bland pink. And quite a few guard petals had to be removed as this variety does not sustain the stress of handling and shipping well.
Two thumbs down for Tamara.

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