Growing what your Customers Need

Claire, Plantpassion

Different flower shapes through the year

Different flower shapes through the year



What do they want to buy?

Getting the mix right : where to start

This section is about what each group of customers may be wanting to buy from you. Hopefully your survey will give you some ideas too, but this section’s information is built on our experience of what we've found each group of customers is most likely to want and need.

A good starting point….

To start off with, we wanted to highlight the concept of different flower types, and seasons. These can be called different things, but we're highlighting the fact that for some customers you will need to have all of these:

1. Flower shape

• Focal - (or round, ball or the stars, call them what you like) it’s the tulips, ranunculus, peonies, roses, dahlias etc, often the main colour focus

• Secondary flowers - the smaller, but still influential flowers - eg.,scabious, sweet peas, cornflowers, - often adding a colour accent, texture, or linking the main focal flowers together

• Filler - The background flowers (and often, foliage) which create the ‘atmosphere’ behind the feature flowers. Often undervalued, but these have a major influence on how an arrangement looks, and can make a florist’s life much easier eg alchemilla, achillea, astrantia

• Specifics e.g tall spikes for big arrangements, trailing, airy, light-catchers etc - all of these depend very much on your customers. If you're making small bouquets, you won’t need delphiniums. If you're supplying wedding florists, you might need delphiniums, or lots of trailing stems, depending on their styles

This Video explains what we mean by the different flower shapes.

2. Flowering season:

• You may need all or some of these flower shapes for all the months that you want to be able to sell

• Some flowers and foliage have a specific season, some will be there all summer or even all year

• You can extend the season of some by sowing successionally, or having different varieties, or using various forms of protection

The following is Carol's spreadsheet for the different types of flowers. You'll notice that finding fillers and spikes for early season is quite difficult.


Where are you flowers going to used?

Flowers for Homes

You may be selling these at farmers markets, at the farm gate, as a subscription, as cut your own, as direct to the customer bunches or bouquets, to a retail florist who will sell on to their customers or via shops / galleries / pubs.

If you're selling to "The public" flowers that they are going to decorate their home with, give as a gift or arrange as a hobby, then you are likely to be to some extent, competing with the supermarkets.

This means that customers will want similar attributes:

• As long lasting as possible

• Displayed as bunches or bouquets, or as a bucket of blooms to arrange themselves

• Not expensive

• As long a season of flowers as possible (the public are mostly not aware that flowers are less available in the middle of winter)

• Brightly coloured

The last of these is something that all 3 of us have noticed, that if the end user is a private individual, 9 times out of 10, they will choose brighter colours.

Flowers that fit well into these categories include (running through the season)

Focal flowers

Tulips, ranunculus, alliums, sweet williams, iris, antirrhinums, phlox,

sunflowers, dahlias, gladioli, chrysanthemums.

Secondary flowers

Daffodils, anemones, hesperis, poppies, nigella, cornflowers, daisies,

scabious, achillea, zinnias, cosmos, alstroemerias,

Filler

Cerinthe, honesty, stachys, alchemilla, daucus, cynoglossum, sedum, dill,

feverfew,

Spires

Linaria, delphinum, larkspur, lupins, crocosmia, amaranthus

If you are selling as mixed bouquets, you'll have to have a range of all these shapes at all the times of the year that you will be selling.

Here’s how Claire organises her mixed market bouquets to illustrate the different types of flowers - here at the end of August.

Flowers for special occasion bouquets

These are the flowers that are likely to be used in a special occasion bouquet, (usually bridal party flowers). Either if you create yourself for a direct customer, if you sell wholesale to a florists, or you sell to a bride or a family who will make them for themselves. These might also be funeral flowers.

You are likely to want to grow flowers and have foliage and filler that have the following attributes.

• Are the stars of the show

• Are scented

• Can last out of water for a few hours

• Need to look their best, on the event day, rather than last for a long time

• Tend to be more monochrome colourwise - most weddings are colour themed, with white and pastel colours still being the most requested.

• At their best during wedding season (there are weddings all year round, but the majority of them are luckily for us, during the key flower growing season of April-October)

This category also applies if selling for photo shoots, or for art installations, or business event flowers.

Flowers that fit well into these categories include (running through the season).

Focal flowers

Special tulips, ranunculus, roses, peonies, hydrangea, dahlias, nerines,

chrysanthemums.

Secondary flowers

Hellebores, anemones, poppies, lilac, gypsophila, orlaya, sweet peas, nigella,

aquilegia, astrantia, astilbe, acidanthera.

Fillers and foliages

Jasmine, scented pelargonium, mint, eucalpytus, dusty miller, physocarpus,

hypericum berries

May wedding bouquet

May wedding bouquet


Flowers for special occasion backdrop

These are the supporting cast to the wedding bouquet or art installation flowers. They are likely to be needed en-masse for if your customers are event florists, or if you create displays yourself. They are also likely to be the ingredients for DIY buckets for customers to make up.

The attributes that may be needed are

• Provide a backdrop and some continuity to a wedding bouquet / special display

• Need to look their best, on the event day, rather than last for a long time

• Tend to be more monochrome colourwise, i.e only a few colours are used, rather than many. Most events are colour themed, with white and pastel colours still being the most requested.

• Are required in larger numbers than wedding bouquet flowers, or gift bouquets.

• At their best during wedding season (there are weddings all year round, but the majority of them are luckily for us, during the key flower growing season of April-October)

• Architectural, structural and large impact flowers and foliage

Focal flowers

tulips, ranuculus, roses, peonies, hydrangea, sunflowers, dahlias,

chrysanthemums,

Secondary flowers and spires

anemones, poppies, gypsophila, orlaya, sweet peas, daucus, nigella, antirrhinums, aqueligia, astrantia, larkspur, daisies, cosmos, gladioli, zinnias,

Fillers and foliages

hesperis, mint, eucalpytus, ammi, dusty miller, physocarpus, hypericum berries, amaranthus, grasses

Architectural and large impact

tree branches, delphiniums, cardoons, blossom branches, trails of climbers (roses, hops, jasmine, clematis, passion vine) grasses, amaranthus, dinner plate dahlias, conifer.

If you are growing on a small scale, this is the type of flowers you will least likely have room for.

Question:
What numbers of stems per week do you feel you need to be growing in to be able to fulfil this group?

Which mix of customers are you going to have?

If you are going to only sell to end users that aren't for special events, then you may not need more expensive plants such as roses and peonies. Whereas if your key market is special events, then they will be needed unless you can source from a specialist.

I produce Bridal bouquets, so I do grow roses, although not enough for the backdrop category. However I don't own the land that I grow on, so peonies were an investment too far for me. I just have a few plants, and each year I buy in a box of peonies from specialist suppliers for a couple of weeks, so that I can offer them.