This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The readers of the Gardener's Monthly in remote rural districts are unconscious of the extent to which the culture of roses is extending in and around our large cities. In consequence of the extraordinary prices obtained for rosebuds during the past two or three years, not only have the regular florists used their large profits in extending their greenhouse structures for that purpose, but the fabulous reports of the profits of rose-growing has excited the cupidity of many capitalists in the vicinity of New York, Boston and Chicago, and in all probability in the other large cities of the Union. These men have an abundance of means, and begin on a scale usually at which the ordinary florist, who had to climb his way up, ends; so that we have already in the vicinity of New York at least a dozen establishments for the forcing of rosebuds in winter, owned by men who count their capital by millions. These gentlemen, of course, know nothing practically about the business, relying altogether upon their gardeners for success ; - for who ever heard of a millionaire florist?
Whether they do succeed or not in making a profit of a few thousand dollars a year is not vital to men who count their income by the hundred thousand; yet it is curious with what interest the rise or fall of a few cents in the rose market is regarded even by them. New Jersey has more than her quota of these millionaire florists. Already we have four in Madison, one in Summit and two in Orange, New Jersey, and it is said that there is as much interest manifested by them in the prices at which, in the technical slang of the flower-shops, "Cooks," "Jacks," "Mermets" and "Perles" are quoted in Broadway, as is evinced in Wall Street in "Wabash," "Lake Shore," "Erie" or "Central." It is true that one, at least, of these gentlemen gives all the profits that accrue from his roses to charitable purposes; but it is feared that he has few imitators among his compeers in this particular; for the motive is the same as in all other investments - to get the largest profit possible from the smallest amount of money involved.
A wholesale dry goods merchant, or a manufacturer, doing a business of a million dollars a year, is amply paid by a net profit of five percent.; but when he is given to understand that some illiterate digger of the soil, by an investment in rose-growing of $10,000, gets a net profit of twenty-five per cent., he foolishly imagines that a larger amount of capital invested will bring corresponding profits. Such, at least, seems to be the opinion of many capitalists; for within the past twelve months I have been consulted by at least a score of gentlemen about to embark in the business of rose-growing, and I have no doubt others in the trade have had the same experience. Only last week a gentleman entered into negotiations with a greenhouse builder in Jersey City to construct at his country residence, some sixty miles from New York, 600x20 feet, or nearly 15,000 square feet of glass, as a "beginning," which, furnished, heated by hot water and stocked, will cost not much less than $15,000. It is true that many of these amateur florists will get their fingers burnt, and will not only never realize a dollar on their investments, but will work at a loss; yet enough of them will succeed to give zest to the risk, for at present prices, when success is attained, the profits are so great as to produce the present craze on the subject - a "craze" that probably will result exactly as the Morus Multicaulis did in 1840, or the grape vine fever in 1865. We all know the disastrous results of these speculations.
Hundreds thought there were "millions" in it, but found, to their sorrow, that they were thousands out. So, we predict, will be the result of the rose mania, for an over-supply may quickly change the fashion. For, assuredly, when the plebeian Smiths or Browns can buy rosebuds suited to their limited means, the Flora McFlimseys will turn up their aristocratic noses even at the rose. All experience shows that, in the perishable commodities of fruits, flowers or vegetables, whenever an over-supply floods the market and brings down the prices below a paying level, less is sold than when they bring a fair price. Two years ago, in June, strawberries and cabbage in the New York markets got so low as not to pay even the cost of marketing. The result was that hundreds of loads had to be taken back and dumped in the manure yards, as they could not be disposed of at any price. Some thirty years ago peaches one day fell down to twelve cents a basket in Washington Market, New York, and would not sell at that. In those days the crop was perhaps held by a score of dealers only. They got their heads together and decided to destroy every peach in the market. It was done.
A scarcity was produced, and in twenty-four hours peaches went up to $1.00 per basket.
The leader in the movement had no doubt been a disciple of Adam Smith, and had wisely studied the laws of supply and demand.
The present excitement in rose-growing is no doubt largely due to the unprecedented prices realized this winter, which has been caused in a great measure by the unusual heat and drought of last autumn, which weakened in many cases, and in others entirely destroyed, the plants that would have been used to produce the crop of flowers. This, together with a brisk demand, has resulted in profits which it is unreasonable to expect can ever be long continued in any legitimate business.