Most of the flowers grown in the greenhouses go into arrangements, like this one created by Kathy Donovan. Sue Ellen Hendricks reaches into a bushy row of green leaves and picks a lavender carnation.
“Here, smell this,” she says. “This is what a carnation smelled like in the old days.”
Even a double-layer face mask can’t block the spicy smell of cloves.
Decades ago, carnations filled the greenhouses of this Lititz flower shop. As most year-round cut flower business moved overseas, Hendricks continued growing flowers. What used to be common is now a novelty: carnations, calla lilies, dahlias and more fill arrangements made at the flower shop in front. 83 years of flowers
Hendricks’ Flowers opened in 1937 in Lititz, a new town for the family business of growing flowers in Bucks County. In Lititz, the family filled four greenhouses with carnations and chrysanthemums, most of which went to Philadelphia. Some were sold in the greenhouse’s small retail shop.
Today, Hendricks’ has six greenhouses, covering 33,000 square feet of flowers. The flowers’ destination has flipped. Most go into arrangements for the flower shop and a few find a home at florists in the region seeking rare local flowers, year-round. Designers ask for more subtle colors in gerber daisies, Sue Ellen says. Sue Ellen and her brother John are the third generation to run the business. Sue Ellen is the owner and John focuses on the crops. Their parents Bob and Bernie remain part of the team and are still in charge in a way, Sue Ellen says.
“They passed the business to me,” she says. “But they’re your parents, so you don’t really get to tell them what to do.” Disappearing carnations
Bernie, the customer service guru of the business, likes to say Hendricks is the largest grower of carnations east of the Mississippi.
“Mom, we’re the only one,” Sue Ellen says with a chuckle.
The lack of U.S. carnation growers is clear when she explains how difficult it is to bring in new carnation cuttings. The growers moved, closed or consolidated until there was one grower left. That company closed more than a decade ago. Sweet WIlliam grows in one of the six greenhouses at Hendricks’ Flowers on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. Importing carnations hasn’t worked because cuttings need to stay in quarantine for a year. The quarantine prevents the spread of diseases and pests. Yet a year in quarantine is a long time for a crop meant only to last one growing season.
So the scented carnations in Hendricks’ greenhouse are propagated from their own stock.
There was a grower on the West Coast with carnations that survived the quarantine period. After selling cuttings for just one year, that grower stopped sales. There are fewer suppliers providing carnations in the U.S. Sue Ellen is hopeful about a new grower. “It’s a chance bring in some fresh product,” she says. There’s a new grower with carnations that made it through quarantine. He’s working on a small scale but Sue Ellen is hopeful.
“It’s a chance bring […]
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