This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
The trade in plants and flowers to-day is enormous. Hundreds of nurserymen in the British Islands, on the Continent, and in America are busily engaged not only in propagating hundreds of thousands of plants annually by budding and grafting and from cuttings, but also in raising new varieties by cross fertilization and hybridizing. For many years past the French growers had the monopoly, or at least the lead, in the latter business; but English, Irish, and Scotch rose-growers have risen to the occasion of late years, and have produced some charming and commercially valuable varieties. The trade done by the nurseryman and raiser is of course mainly for the more or less wealthy amateur, for the small householder, and for the villa resident who dearly loves to have a blossom, of his own growing, in his buttonhole when going to business in the morning. Hundreds of men are engaged in the industry, especially during the budding season, when thousands of dwarfs, standards, and half-standards and weeping Roses must be "worked" in the space of a few weeks. This work has given rise to the other industry of produring the stocks - chiefly the Brier and the Manetti - which must be raised in hundreds of thousands from seeds or cuttings and be ready at the proper period to receive their choicer burdens. In addition to these, men who are not rose-growers at all, or even gardeners, find brief employment in the autumn in ransacking hedges for the clean straight stems of the Dog Rose, which they cut out and sell to the nurseryman, occasionally trying to dispose surreptitiously of Blackberry stems in the bundles. The nurseryman who propagates thousands of Roses every year for sale, and who often spends large sums of money in advertising and in printing catalogues, must naturally deal with hundreds of varieties that are unknown to the man who grows Roses simply to produce a supply of cut flowers in the open air or under glass. The nurseryman must be prepared to supply any and every variety asked for by his fastidious customers: the marketman contents himself with growing only those varieties that experience has taught him will sell in large quantities, and will cost as little as possible to produce. Fortunately the fashion in Roses shows no signs of decrease, notwithstanding the competition from other fine flowers; and it may be safely said that there are thousands of plants and blossoms sold to-day where only dozens were sold twenty years ago. What becomes of the enormous number of plants raised and sold every year goodness only knows; but it would be a bad day for the grower if his customers had only a tithe of his cultural skill.
Fig. 435. - Rosa Wichuraiana. (1/2).
It is difficult to arrive at any very definite estimate as to the expenses and receipts of the rose-growing industry, as there are so many factors in the case. To secure the best results the land must be of that type known as a rich and rather heavy loam, and such land may be not only higher in price, but also cost more to bring into fine condition, than a soil of a different nature. Still, it cannot be gainsaid that the growing and raising of Roses is a fairly profitable business. Good rose-growing soil may be rented on reasonable terms from £2 or £3 to £10 per acre, according to circumstances, and a man may raise from 5000 to 10,000 plants annually upon such an area. His total expenses, apart from living and house rent, may vary from £60 to £90 a year per acre in the case of the "small" man who does a local and costermonger trade, to as much as £100 to £150 per acre in the case of the big grower who advertises extensively, issues elaborate catalogues, and who makes a point of exhibiting at every show worthy of note. But it matters little whether the actual expenses be great or small so long as a reasonable profit can be made on the outlay; and as a rule large sums of money spent wisely generally bring back greater returns in proportion than small sums spent in the same way. But injudicious spending will soon lead the big or little man to the bankruptcy court.
He grows just a few varieties on a large scale in the same way that he grows Gooseberries, Currants, or Raspberries. It is not unusual to see hundreds, if not thousands, of such kinds as General Jacqueminot, La France, Baroness Rothschild, Mrs. John Laing, John Hopper, Liberty, Richmond, Ulrich Brunner, etc, planted out about 2 ft. apart everyway beneath standard or half-standard fruit trees simply for supplying cut flowers during the summer and autumn months. The cultivation given is often of the roughest description, just the same as accorded to Gooseberries, Currants, and Raspberries. The ground is dug about once a year, hoed about once or rarely twice a year, and the plants are so-called pruned by labourers who are often paid by piecework; they prune so many bushes by the 100 or 1000 for so much in the same way that Gooseberry bushes are often cut. Needless to say, this method of Rose culture, owing to its very cheapness, produces poor results. Half the number of plants, properly cultivated and pruned, would yield three and four times the quantity of better flowers. In these days of keen competition the best flowers - not necessarily the choicest and rarest varieties - sell best; and second- and third-rate stuff must wait till the markets are cleared, and then perhaps they will only fetch the lowest prices that dealers will condescend to give. The unfortunate and shortsighted grower must either accept the price offered or throw his goods away, as they will probably not pay for carriage home again.
The trade in Rose blooms is going on nearly the whole year round in some way or another, either in home-grown material or in the flowers that come in from the Riviera. The foreign flowers, however, rarely interfere with the home-grown products, as they come in just between the seasons, and enable the florists to maintain a good supply for their customers.
The blooms are used for all kinds of things and in all sorts of ways - for table and house decorations, banquets, and public functions of all kinds, coat flowers and sprays, wedding bouquets, and funeral emblems of every description. Even the poorest people will buy a Rose from the street sellers when they will not look at any other flower. Thus everyone, rich and poor alike, is the Rose-growers friend.