The Selling

The marketing of cut-flowers is a business of itself. Many an excellent grower fails because he is not expert in selling his blooms. The cutting of the blooms must be properly done and at the right stage of development. The proper stage in the development when cutting should be done varies with the variety and the season. Roses should be 6ut as the petals begin to unfold, when the tip of the bud is bursting and the outer petals have reached the proper color. Carnations are picked when fully developed or when three-quarters developed. The latter stage is determined by the pistils having reached an even length with the center petals. Most flowers should be cut early in the morning, and as soon as cut should be placed in clean fresh water, after which they are carried to the cooling-room. The vases in which the flowers are placed should be deep enough to allow plunging the stems two-thirds their length in water. The temperature of the water should be 10° to 15° higher than that of the cooling-room which is 45° to 50°. The temperature is thus gradually lowered to that of the storage-room. The flowers remain in the cooling-room until the picking is done, when they are graded.

Along with the advance in cultural methods and to meet market requirements, flowers have been graded. Although the kinds of flowers grown and the quality differ but little in the various flower markets, the grades are not yet uniform. However, this ultimately will be brought about through the Florists' Telegraph Delivery Association, an organization which enables a resident of San Francisco, for example, to have an order filled and delivered at an address in Boston, Montreal, Baltimore or elsewhere. The American Rose Society adopted the following grades for tea and hybrid tea roses: 9, 12, 15, 18, 24 inches of stem. Of course the flowers must be good to accord with this standard. American Beauty is graded: Specials, above 38 inches; fancy, 32 to 36 inches; extras, 24 to 32 inches; firsts, 13 to 23 inches; seconds, 8 to 13 inches; thirds all under 8 inches. On the Chicago market this variety is graded into specials, 36-, 30-, 24-, 20-, 18-and 12-inch stems. Carnations on the New York market are usually graded into fancies, extras and firsts. Fancies are all perfect blooms, from 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter, with straight stems 16 to 24 inches or more in length.

Extras are those blooms which fall short in one or the other of the above requirements . Firsts comprise all merchantable flowers which do not pass as extras or fancies. During the grading, all the leaves from the lower 6 inches are stripped off as well as any side shoots in the axils of the remaining leaves. Chrysanthemums are classed as small, medium, fancy and special. Whatever the grades used in any market, it is important that they be definite, and that the grower use care in grading his own products.

The present methods of the growers in disposing of their flowers to the retail florists are as follows: The large wholesale growers maintain wholesale stores of their own, dealing with the retailers direct and conducting a shipping trade. The growers at a distance from the city market usually consign to the wholesale commission florist whose field is as broad as that of the wholesale grower. These two classes of florists keep in close touch with their customers, even those at a distance, by the ordinary means of communication and in some cases by traveling representatives. The smaller growers living close to a large city adopt any one of five methods, that is, (1) form a cooperative association with an expert salesman to sell the flowers; (2) organize a flower-market and operate a flower-stand; (3) consign the flowers to a commission florist; (4) supply certain retailers regularly; (5) operate their own retail stores. The particular method to be adopted in any individual case depends upon the local conditions and the business ability of the grower.

The grower-specialist usually will find it more remunerative to arrange with retailers better able to dispose of his high-class product.

The development of the methods of packing and handling flowers has been a great factor in the business. In the old days flowers were brought to market, or as was more often the case, the retailers went to the growers and carried them into the city in market-baskets. They were delivered to the customers in the same way. When flowers were to be shipped, which was seldom, any convenient box was adapted to the purpose. At present the florists employ wooden and folding paper boxes for different classes of trade. These are in various sizes adapted to the kind of flower to be packed and to the quality shipped. Furthermore, the package is clean, light, strong and entirely in keeping with the goods. The perfection of the railway and express service has facilitated the delivery of flowers to the consignee. Not only has this enabled growers to get their flowers to the city, but has made it possible for florists over the country to secure flowers when they do not have a sufficient supply. The great wholesale flower business of Chicago is built in a large measure upon the demand of florists in towns and cities over the vast territory extending from Winnipeg to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Alleghanies to the Rockies. The packages now used to carry the flowers to the wholesale market are either return or gift boxes; the former, are strong wooden boxes with a hinged lid 12 to 16 inches wide and 5 to 6 feet long.

These packages are returned to the grower. Some do not find it profitable or possible to have shipping-boxes or -crates returned and must use gift boxes which may be of wood or heavy paper. The common box used by the wholesalers in shipping flowers to distant customers when the package must be handled many times, is the light wooden box. This is made of thin wood, 1/2-inch ends and 1/4-inch tops, bottoms and sides, with two interior cleats to hold the flowers down. These boxes are made in sizes 4 to 8 inches deep, 12 to 16 inches wide, and 36 to 50 inches or more long. The boxes are first lined with paper, usually four to eight thicknesses of newspapers, according to the season. Then a layer of waxed paper is put in. Roses, whether on their way into or out of the wholesale market, are seldom bunched. Carnations, when shipped out or when sent in by a wholesale grower to his own store, are usually not bunched, but growers who sell 'through the commission florist should bunch the flowers as it facilitates handling when the flowers arrive on the market. Sweet peas, violets and similar flowers are always bunched. The number of flowers in a bunch will depend upon the requirements of the market.

Usually sweet pea bunches contain twenty-five; violets, fifty or one hundred; peonies, thirteen; and carnations, twenty-five flowers. The bunches of violets are encircled by a rim of twenty to thirty leaves and the combination must be attractively done if even the best flowers are to bring a good price. Sweet peas are bunched without foliage, while most flowers bear their natural foliage.

Carnations packed for shipment.

Fig. 1159. Carnations packed for shipment.

Long-stem flowers, such as roses and carnations, when not tied in bunches, are packed one by one in rows across the width of the box, beginning at one end. The first row rests upon a pillow made of a roll of paper, and each succeeding row is separated from the preceding row by a strip of wax paper. This continues until five rows have been put in each end of the box. Five or six rows of flowers in each end constitute a layer. The flowers of each layer are covered with a sheet of wax paper, and the packing goes on until the box is filled; but only four to six layers should be put in a box.

Over the stems in the center are placed eight to ten thicknesses of well-saturated newspapers, after which cleats are nailed in place. This will prevent the flowers from becoming disarranged in shipping. When different grades of roses are to be packed in the same box, the specials are placed in first unless shipment has a long distance to travel, when two or three rows of the cheap, short grades should go next the end of the box because of danger of injury to the flowers. Each grade is separated from the next by sheets of tissue paper and the different grades are filled in until the short lengths complete the box. It should be a general rule to pack white flowers in the top of the box. Every box should contain a statement of the contents for the information of the recipient. No icing is usually needed in winter, but in warm weather the foliage of roses may be sprinkled with water or chipped ice. Carnations are cooled by lumps of ice wrapped in wet newspapers and placed between the cleats of the boxes. Violets are preserved by wrapping the stems in soft tissue paper and dipping this in cool water.

Sweet pea stems are wrapped in wet cotton wool, great care is being taken to prevent wetting the blooms.

In the early days of the cut-flower business, the grower retailed his own flowers. He found time to propagate the plants, tend the furnace, grow the crops, cut the blooms, make floral designs and, if necessary, pack and ship his product. The rapid growth of the cities, making it impossible for the florist to conduct his business near the centers of trade, led to the retail florist. This man, having no glass, could open a flower-stand or store in the most favorable locations, giving it his entire time. The present-day flower stores are the achievements of his skill and industry in developing the art side of the florist business.