-- on someone's desk, at your local florist, or wherever -- ask yourself where they came from.
Next time you glance at a bunch of
Just a generation ago, the answer probably would have been from one of a myriad
of flower growers throughout the western and southern United States or perhaps from Holland.
But, just as America's taste in flowers is shifting from traditional mums and carnations to more unique specialty blooms, so has their place of origin been changing in recent years.
California is still America's top cut flower producer, with Florida second for flowers and foliages. But, despite their long history of quality fresh flower production, many domestic growers are struggling to keep up with foreign competition. In fact, foreign imports dominate today's flower market, in some cases accounting for 90% or more of all U.S. sales within a particular category.
That may be good news for consumers, because it means an increasingly plentiful supply of beautiful fresh flowers from around the world throughout the year. But, it's a challenge for domestic producers, many of whom are already facing higher energy, land, and labor costs than their offshore competitors.
Today, Colombia is the dominant producer of U.S. cut flowers, with
carnations, spray chrysanthemums and Alstroemeria among its top crops. Ecuador takes a close second. Both countries have exceptional climates for commercial growing, and both have successfully carved out their own niches in the most popular product segments. Ecuador's top crops include roses, Delphiniums, asters, Gypsophila (baby's breath), and mixed bouquets.
Together, Colombia and Ecuador accounted for roughly 90% of all roses, 98% of all carnations, and 95% of all chrysanthemums sold in the U.S. last year. And, they're not the only countries competing for America's love of flowers.
Holland's vast wealth of cut flowers is still readily available in the U.S., too. Tulips lead the list of top exports from the Netherlands, accounting for almost 95% of all U.S. tulip imports. Roses, lilies, Gerberas, Freesias, snapdragons, and cymbidium orchids are other Dutch favorites.
Recently, Canadian cut flower growers have begun tapping into the American market, too, exporting roughly 4.8 million stems and bunches to their southern neighbor. Mexico, Costa Rica, and Chile are other budding flower producing nations.
To compete, domestic growers are responding by focusing more and more on specialty crops and high-end novelty varieties with new traits, such as sweeter fragrances and bolder colors.
U.S. flower lovers reap the rewards, because on the whole, flowers today are more beautiful, longer lasting, and in many cases more economical than they were for our parents or grandparents.
So, next time you pick up a bunch of flowers for your home or send a bouquet to someone special, consider the fact that at least some of those delicate blossoms most likely traveled half way around the globe just for you.
You may not know whether they came from South America, Europe, the Orient, or even Africa, but you can be sure they passed through a lot of caring hands to carefully plant, grow, ship, design, and deliver them to you.
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