By Tonneli Grüetter
Although not a florist by trade, the famous 20th-century American naturalist Henry David Thoreau most definitely understood a lesson of both business and life when he uttered the words, “Truths and roses have thorns about them.” It is inside the walls of the flower cooler that this quote resonates poignantly and became the source of inspiration this article.
Just as truths often come with complexities and challenges, the journey of a successful florist business is replete with nuances. The beauty of a freshly delivered shipment of cut roses, akin to the truths of life, is captivating but accompanied by the thorns of proper pricing, sensitive handling, meticulous storage and mindful utilization. Much like unraveling the layers of truth, understanding the intricate dynamics of pricing, artful display and optimal storage for cut roses is crucial for professional floral designers. From everyday flowers to luxury event production, roses often take on the starring roles, both visually and in terms of budgetary breakdowns. In the pursuit of floral excellence, the Thoreau quote serves as a reminder that embracing both the enchanting beauty and the pragmatic challenges of the rose trade is essential for a flourishing flower shop or studio-based design business, where every rose becomes a testament to the delicate balance between aesthetics and expertise.
In this article, we explore a few of the rose trade’s prickliest thorns, including sourcing to reduce waste, scheduling, processing, pricing and designing.
The journey of premium-quality cut roses begins with procurement. Sourcing roses from a dependable origin, whether that be directly from a farm or trusted flower wholesaler—domestic or imported, is an essential step in delivering exceptional quality and customer satisfaction. The importance lies not only in the assurance of fresh, vibrant blooms but also in establishing the ability to scale up the size of your orders as your business needs grow or fluctuate.
When selecting a rose supplier, customer service is key, for especially important jobs. Be sure to source from a supplier who offers a dedicated sales rep with whom you can communicate about availability and substitutions. In some cases, procuring roses directly from a farm ensures a streamlined supply chain, minimizing the potential for delays, mishandling or subpar conditions that could compromise the quality of the roses, resulting in broken, bruised or wilted flowers. Moreover, this direct approach often translates to more competitive pricing, enabling you to maintain profit margins without compromising on excellence.
In any case, by forging a direct connection with a farm or wholesaler of your choice, you will gain access to a wider variety of blooms than would be available shopping “off the rack.” Ultimately, sourcing from a reliable origin cultivates trust among customers, guaranteeing that your artistry flourishes atop a bedrock of dependable premium-quality roses.
In the words of our friends at Alexandra Farms, a boutique grower specializing in fresh-cut garden roses in Bogotá, Colombia, “Garden roses need time and care to open fully.” Proper care and handling are essential for nurturing luxurious cut roses into their fullest, most visually impactful bloom phase. Harvesting roses at precise stages ensures minimal damage during shipping—often before roses reach their prime.
To witness the magnificence of rose blooms at their peak, allow premium types, such as garden roses and specialty spray roses to hydrate in a fresh, clean low-dose nutrient/storage solution, such as FloraLife® 200, for about four days after arrival. During this time, they will reveal an incredible transformation, often growing four to five times their size at the time of arrival. Patience pays off as the blossoms unfold and reveal their true splendor over time. Should you desire an accelerated bloom, warmer storage temperatures can coax their development while cooler environments will slow the process a bit.
When working with your rose supplier, it is important to plan delivery time in alignment with the bloom cycle above. Be sure to get clear answers from wholesalers regarding the exact date your shipment was received and how far in advance an order must be placed to ensure timely shipment from the farm. Building proper time to bloom into your schedule will ensure that customers always receive the very best flowers.
The art of designing with roses begins as soon as they grace your hands, well before they will ever reach your customers’ gaze. Upon the arrival of roses in a flower shop or studio, a professional florist must embrace the ritual of care as a requirement to success. Begin the process of processing roses with fully sanitized buckets trimmers and cooler. It is often in taking short cuts regarding prep work that roses meet a premature demise.
Next after removing freshly received roses from their box, remove 1 inch of stem with a precise cut using a clean sharp blade, allowing them a fresh start. Take care to cleanly remove any foliage that might fall below the water’s surface in storage containers, which would encourage bacterial growth through decomposition. Also take care to not damage the stems’ “bark,” creating wounds that allow bacteria to enter the stems. Follow this step immediately by placing the freshly cut stems into a hydrating solution, where they can imbibe on specialty treatments such as FloraLife® PRG 100, which is formulated to clean flower stems and maintain flower food/water solution clarity. At this point, you can also use hydration solutions such as FloraLife® Express Clear 100 or FloraLife Hydraflor® 100.
When placed in a cool clean environment to hydrate, roses will begin to find their true potential. Two to three hours after beginning this rejuvenating treatment, it’s time to further process the roses. Remove corrugated cardboard sleeves from the rose bunches while allowing the outer plastic sleeves to remain as shields of protection guarding the delicate petals still in recovery mode after their long journey. In this choreography of care, each step is a testament to your commitment to preserving these flowers’ beauty and value to you as a business operator.
As discussed in our January 2023 article, “Realistic Pricing” by Patience Pickner, AIFD, CFD, PFCI, SDCF, successfully navigating the challenge of accurately pricing premium cut roses will ensure that florists truly get the most out of their cut roses. According to Pickner, “Standard industry markups on fresh flowers range anywhere from 3x to 5x, with the “norm” being 3.5x. So, a $1 rose would sell anywhere from $3 to $5.” In the article, Pickner also notes the importance of including shipping costs when pricing roses. Florists may also decide upon a staggered approach by pricing easy-to-procure varieties, roses that require less processing, or roses that have a longer vase life with a lower markup. The opposite applies, as well: It is not unreasonable to establish higher markups for varieties that are especially prone to breakage/waste, have shorter vase lives or require sourcing from multiple wholesalers.
When working with specialty roses, each and every bloom is a precious resource with a premium price tag attached to it. When designing with these flowers, take into consideration various design choices, to ensure the roses are appreciated for their full potential impact and beauty.
Stem Length In most designs, roses will be considered the “focal” flowers. When trimming stems, be generous with the lengths. Do not trim rose stems shorter than other “less premium” flowers or foliage in an arrangement unless there is a great intention behind the choice. Leaving stems slightly longer will allow roses to float to the foreground of the visual field within your composition, creating the illusion these flowers are both larger and more dynamic in color than their lower-placed companions.
Manipulation Often called “reflexing” or opening a rose, this practice can take many forms: 1) blowing warm breath into a bloom; 2) spinning roses upside down, by the stem, using your palms similar to the way a scout would spin a stick to start a campfire; or 3) reflexing individual rose petals—gently manipulating the individual rose petals to reverse their form outwards.
To begin the petal reflexing technique, select a well-hydrate rose at room temperature, carefully remove guard petals and then strategically press petals inside out. To maintain the reflexed form of these petals, one edge of a petal may need to be tucked underneath itself. This technique creates the impression of a larger, more voluminous bloom. With many varieties of roses, it will also display a greater intensity of color because the inside of rose petals frequently have stronger or more interesting pigmentation than the backsides of petals. When skillfully executed, this technique will transform small cup-shaped roses into luxurious peony-like blooms with a lush and opulent appearance, ideal for centerpiece arrangements and bridal bouquets.
Henry David Thoreau’s wisdom that “Truths and roses have thorns about them” resonates profoundly within the realm of floristry, where roses reign as both the quintessential beauties and the quintessential challenge. By sourcing roses from dependable origins, understanding their bloom cycles, responsibly storing them, proactively pricing them and employing thoughtful design techniques that let roses rise above, you can truly maximize the impact of these precious blooms. Each step in this journey, from procurement to the ultimate transformation of these flowers in your floral compositions, reflects the delicate balance between aesthetics and business acumen. Embracing both the enchanting beauty and the pragmatic challenges of roses not only enhances the success of your business but also pays homage to nature’s exquisite craftsmanship, where every rose becomes a testament to your artistry.