Being green

In our industry, everyone is aware of retailers insisting on sustainability but there are a few green florists, too. Lynn Mehl of Good Old Days Eco Florist in New Windsor (New York, USA) is one of them. “Becoming an earth-minded, green florist turned out to be something bigger than just following my own beliefs. I could also promote my shop as a niche business.”

 “Of course more florists are becoming aware of the benefits of being green,” Lynn says. “But it does take an effort to reconstruct a traditional florist to a one-of-a-green mind. For me, it started in December 1997 while compiling my Valentine’s Day order. My Mother asked where those beautifully scented, American Beauty roses had gone we used to have. I had to admit they were no longer available because the Latin American roses had taken their place. I recalled the years of our complacency toward the lessened scent of flowers and seeing pesticide-covered foliage as just a common occurrence. However, in 1997 my rose research made me unhappy with what I found. Latin America’s track record on pesticides and labour circumstances was far from good. As an environmentalist I was living my life one way and having a career another. This knowledge made me extremely unhappy with the ways of my industry, so I decided to either change careers or try to change my business.”

“I started with the flowers. From California and Florida to Minnesota and even more local from the East Coast, in season I researched growers and contacted them asking if they would send me their flowers. They happily agreed to. I Americanized the entire assortment in my shop, not only flowers and plants but decorative accessories, too. It greatly lessened the chemical use, vastly improved my carbon footprint on transport issues and supported our American farms. With my product issue solved, I then took each component of an operating florist, investigating all processes and materials from the smallest of cleaning and office supplies to recycling, and my energy and water use. Everything is recycled, reused, or upcycled. One by one I either discontinued as many non-green minded items and issues as possible or found sustainable alternatives.”

“Floristry is an industry based in nature so it should friendly to the environment. In our growing season of late Spring to the end of October we mainly use local flowers from the East coast. In winter, our flowers are mostly from California and the southern states. Fortunately, more people now, especially millennials, are interested in environmental practices and products so the demand is there and growing for local and domestic-sourced flowers and goods.”

“Being eco-friendly means being a traditional florist. I adapted early on when it came to the internet and having a website and I laid the groundwork for sustainability. Because of my website, green-minded people across the country have ordered bouquets, even to New York City, 60 miles from my shop. My flowers are sold to a mix of what I term dark green, light green, brown, and patriotic people. Some clients are more green-minded and others are less while some not at all, but the appeal is there and I pick my battles. When a bride-to-be enters my shop and asks for out-of-season flowers or a Colombian import variety, I show her the local, seasonal and American-grown alternatives that might be better for the environment and let her choose.”

“Year-round availability of any agricultural product has become the standard in our current society. I cannot change attitudes on my own but I can bring awareness and influence to as many as possible to be more responsible with purchasing, including florists. People visiting my shop come to see the best and brightest of flowers. This is why they choose to visit a florist instead of a supermarket. We can do things differently by offering both the most beautiful and sustainable. We must regain the florists’ exclusivity and price because if we have the same products & pricing as a supermarket, there is no benefit to visit us, much less place an order. Being a green and sustainable business and selling local products gave my business a certain image but without my realizing it. I also gained client trust and a valuable commercial niche within our industry. When people see you care about more than quick profit, this creates trust which is priceless. People trust me and have become the best kind of  customers: loyal.  I didn’t set out or intend to develop this clientele, it just happened as a consequence of greening my shop.”


Retailers can be a driving force in creating sustainable societies by translating consumers’ sustainability needs to their suppliers. Swiss retailer Migros is an example of this. What are Migros’ sustainability ambitions?

 Migros is Switzerland’s largest retailer with an annual turnover (2016) of US $27.8 billion and over 100,000 employees. It was founded in 1925 by Gottlieb Duttweiler as a co-operative because Duttweiler believed that Migros should be as vital to its customers as customers are to Migros. Customers have a voice in the Migros company policy and 1% of the company’s turnover is earmarked for cultural activities.

How did Migros establish its sustainability policy?

At Migros, sustainability is an integrated part of the company’s policy, not a separate program. Values like responsibility and credibility are integral components of the Migros strategy and guide the management’s decisions in sustainability issues. New sustainability issues are regularly introduced by the Migros co-operative. If an idea has potential it will be rolled out in the shops. Migros has a transparent sustainability policy, publishing results in its annual report and on its website.

What are the key sustainability values and how does Migros incorporate them ?

One of Migros’ key values is that societal benefits are more important than their own. So sustainability is an integrated part of Migros’ business interests and culture. It is part of the total value chain and has economic, social and ecological goals. In creating sustainability, promises are made on a general level, which are eventually carried out in the supermarkets. In the past, promises to offer more products for patients with allergies, 100% sustainable fish and better product leaflet information were kept. More recently Migros has promised to offer more vegetarian and vegan products, create more internships, disseminate information about environmental issues and sponsor local track events. So all aspects of sustainability are covered.

How about sustainability and flowers and plants?

Migros supermarkets sell cut flowers, house plants, garden and vegetable plants and herbs. The minimum demands in sustainability are standard Swiss GAP or Global GAP (GRASP). Another important label is FairTrade Max Havelaar. 90% of the roses sold by Migros are sold under this label. If a rose grower wants to sell roses to Migros Fair Trade, Max Havelaar is a must, which means it is virtually impossible for European rose growers to sell their flowers to Migros.

The majority of Migros garden plants are offered under a private bio label, Migros-Bio. When possible, these plants come from local (Swiss) growers under the label “From the region. For the region.” Customers are keen on buying local plants.

What does this sustainability policy bring to Migros?

Switzerland is a prosperous country with consumers that are involved in sustainability issues. Sustainability has a long history in Swiss culture, in both ecological and social aspects. Therefore, a solid reputation in sustainability is of vital importance for Swiss retailers. On top of that, within the Migros co-operative customers get their voices heard.

Therefore, Migros is considered to be one of the world’s most sustainable retailers. Migros is involved in ratings like these in order to further improve itself.

Switzerland is a good market for flowers and plants and Migros is one of the key players in this market. It is therefore an interesting market for plant and floral wholesalers and growers. But if you want to compete in this market, be sure to be a sustainable supplier. Because sustainability is a cornerstone of the Migros company policy.

Creating indoor nature

“We create indoor nature by adding natural elements to office buildings. Planters. Fixed and mobile green walls. Green landscapes. Indoor gardens. Green works of art. But also plug and play product where it only takes putting the plug into the socket to activate it. On top of that we are specialists in water walls and indoor water elements.”

 In brief, Tonny van Hall explains what his company, art aqua, is doing. Art aqua is a German company that creates greener office buildings and Tonny is art aqua’s Dutch representative, building up a European dealer organisation and a network of interior decorators.

More and more people are convinced of the power of green. People work more effectively when there are plants in their workplace. There is less absenteeism. In general, they are in a better mood which affects their work in both quality and quantity.


“Architects may be our most important group of clients,” Tonny says. “Years ago plant decorations were only used when an office building was almost completed. These days we work with architects from the beginning of the design process. By doing so we integrate our vision for plants and water elements into the overall plan, which improves the end results enormously. And being part of the team means you are not indistinguishable anymore.”

“Many of our products have been tested by the renowned German Fraunhofer Society. This means our products have proven benefits. It is, for instance, a proven fact that a good indoor climate in an office building diminishes the number of sick days per employee each year by 2.5 to 3. So investing in a good indoor climate makes a lot of sense and gives a quick return on investment.”

“Another of our usp’s is our ability to create solid water walls and water elements. Everyone is afraid of flooding but our products are solid enough to avoid it. And there is proof that you can lower the indoor temperature by creating humidity in your space. This is important since lowering your indoor temperature by 1°C equates with lowering your energy costs by 6%.”

“A green office is a healthy office. Plants improve the air quality and reduce harmful substances. Plants and water features are an even better combination in an office building for with water features you can diminish dust, electrosmog, smells and other harmful substances. Office water features create a healthier environment for plants. They won’t get dusty and their stomata remain open so they continue to release oxygen.”

In modern offices the air is often too dry. By using plants and water you can improve that, which, for example, prevents your employees’ contact lenses from getting dry (and your employees from getting irritated).”

“Greening office buildings creates opportunities for both companies like art aqua and for interior decorators and plants growers. The plants we use are purchased from a local grower. Next to our Dutch showroom is a specialized nursery for large project plants so we do quite a lot of business with them.”

“There are endless applications in greening buildings and we are full of ideas, so there are endless possibilities to use plants in and around offices. It is a product that makes sense in today’s work environment. Employers try to unite good, talented (often young) employees. Creating an agreeable, healthy workspace is an excellent way for employees to bond because this makes them feel better. So here is a sustainability issue that is full of promise.”

Creating sustainability

Sustainability is about saving the planet and caring for people. But in order to do so, companies need to turn a profit. Sustainability also means creating a profitable continuity. Naturally Harvest Ltd Kenya is supportive of sustainability being certified in Fair Trade, MPS A, MPS SQ and KFC (Silver Status). But there is more to be told.

 Jay Williams, Managing Director of Harvest Flower Kenya, took over the business from his father, the late John Williams, who founded Harvest Flowers Ltd in 1995. John Williams was one of the first rose growers to set up in Kenya.

Jay has been involved in the company for twelve years, six of which were spent running their UK flower import company before returning to Kenya in October 2016 after John passed away. “When I returned to Kenya it was evident that my father had established a very strong business platform but Harvest Flowers required re-structuring to be aligned with market developments. In addition, we had to streamline the business and reduce costs against rising inflation rates in Kenya. I will continue my father’s legacy but also build on it and take responsibility for the 820 employees who depend on Harvest Flowers. Our first challenge was to identify the right people, the right processes and simplify the supply chain.”

Three flower farms

Harvest Ltd has three flower farms located at both high and low altitudes. Harvest Flowers (23 hectares) is based in Athi River, located 20km from the International airport (JKIA) at an altitude of 1550 meters above sea level. It specialises in growing large intermediate and spray roses for the retail market. Athi River is the perfect location for producing high yielding varieties due to its high daily temperatures and many hours of sunlight.

The two high altitude farms branded Aberdare Roses are made up of seventeen hectares combined. They are located in the foothills of the iconic Aberdare mountain range 2400 meters above sea level, perfect for growing the large headed T-hybrid rose and premium spray roses. There are plans to expand an additional twenty hectares at high altitude farms in the next two years.

Back to the auction

“For the past ten years our roses were sold through direct sales channels,” Jay continues. “When my father ran the company this was the right business model. But the industry changed and our company needs to adapt to the market. Our marketing strategy for our Athi farm is 100% direct sales to a variety of international large scale importers located worldwide.

Our two high altitude farms sell via our partner, Fresco Flowers, to Royal FloraHolland Aalsmeer. There were too many direct clients which complicated the business process. When dealing with direct sales, a company requires clients buying large weekly volumes to pay in a timely manner. Buyers in continental Europe and the wider market purchase premium roses via the auction and pay on a weekly basis. By simplifying this process we can turn our full attention to producing the highest quality roses on a consistent basis to achieve the best net price for the farm.

Fresco Flowers is a leading Dutch packing company with a great network of local and international buyers. By working with Fresco we can ensure our quality and packaging is second to none. It allows us to widen our market through online sales and the auction. We see this cooperation with Fresco Flowers and Royal FloraHolland (via the auction) as a strategic one enabling us to create a better future for our company.”

People, process, product

“We have re-structured our company by making key strategic decisions,” Jay concludes. “We have a clear direction for the future of the business. Aberdares Roses is the brand name for T-Hybrid and Premium spray roses auctioned daily through Fresco Flowers. Harvest Flowers sells directly to the retail market. In 2018, we’ll start a complete re-planting with intermediate varieties not only matching the retail market demand but also producing a high yield per square meter.

Being a reliable supplier is extremely important to our customers, both direct- and auction-based. It’s all about having the right people, simple processes and the right product to suit your market. These three have to be aligned to create a reliable supply chain and position ourselves as the leader within the market.

In addition, we created a simple but effective digital stock management system on the three farms. This gives us complete transparency and accountability with our team and also allows our clients to have real-time analysis of our stock which is integrated into our sales process. We are one of the first farms in Kenya to adapt this approach. By working on all of the above we are assured of creating a sustainable future for the business.”

The problems of a grower’s utopia

New Zealand could be a grower’s utopia. Its climate enables growing virtually any kind of flower. It is a prosperous country whose people like flowers. And it is quite strict on importing flowers and plants. Still, the number of growers dropped from 1400 several years ago to around 500-600 today. What’s the matter with this grower’s utopia?

New Zealand used to be a large floral exporter. Bruce O’Brien remembers it well. He is the CEO of United Flower Growers (UFG), New Zealand’s largest flower marketing entity with auctions and markets all over the country. “Today we cannot compete with low-wage countries,” Bruce says. “We do grow considerable numbers of Hydrangea, Calla, Peonies, etc. But since our dollar rate has remained quite high, exporting is difficult.

As an organisation we do not auction many imported flowers, but since import flowers are a reality they are sold at our markets and we combine them with local flowers in mixed bouquets. The strict conditions on importing flowers are not always of great benefit as you can never be completely sure what products will be offered. On the other hand, it gives New Zealand growers new opportunities, for instance growing other product groups that are not imported.

As an organisation we also emphasize the importance of a wide assortment. There are plenty of opportunities to grow what the Dutch call ‘summer flowers’. Nowadays we have plenty of Roses, Lilies and Gerberas, but we lack true niche products.”

Many New Zealand growers have closed their businesses in recent years. There are few young people who are starting out as growers or taking over their parents’ nursery. So many growers have now reached retirement age. As a consequence of New Zealand urbanisation, many have offers to sell their land and most do. UFG tries to stimulate the industry, not only because we like to but because someone in the industry needs to try to,” Bruce says. “We try to keep older growers in business by helping them find better opportunities to market their flowers and, at same time, we are looking for ways to bring young growers into the business by researching best practices to assist them.”

The situation of the New Zealand floral business is quite peculiar. “Due to our geographic isolation we are not enormously influenced by the rest of the floral world. Developments with only limited international success can have tremendous influence here, but the reverse applies, as well. One thing is for certain: as a marketing organisation we have a massive responsibility for maintaining our local industry and we do acknowledge this responsibility. By informing, inspiring and stimulating our growers, we help them take chances.”

UFG is a grower-owned organisation. Its objective is to promote, market and distribute flowers and foliage around the country. Growers can rest assured their products are being offered in the right marketplace at the right time to secure the best possible price. Bruce O’Brien added, “We have strengthened ourselves by merging and buying out competitors. UFG has auctions in Auckland and Wellington (both on the North Island) and in Christchurch (South Island) but it has a sophisticated Remote Buying system with live images from the auction hall that enable buyers all over the country to purchase fresh flowers. By creating this system and good transport facilities we have increased the impact of our auction clocks. On top of that we have various wholesale markets on the North and South Islands, so local florists can have their pick of fresh flowers, too.”

“UFG is trying to make a difference for the New Zealand floral industry by creating favourable sales and promotion conditions for our grower members, but also by stimulating them and keeping our industry alive and vibrant.”

Different continent, similar challenges

The Australian continent has a surface area of roughly 80 % of continental Europe. But Europe has 731 million inhabitants and Australia just over 23 million. So you can imagine large parts of Australia are empty and this has influenced the floral industry. With the help of John and Anthony Tesselaar, who worked in the Australian flower and plant business their entire lives, we tried to analyse floral activities on the Australian mainland.

 The challenges of a large country

The Australian climate allows most types of flowers to be grown. But the country is large and not very densely populated. So the domestic market is not large enough to be able to grow the quantities you need to be efficient. And of course there are transport challenges.

Most Australian flowers are grown in Victoria and New South Wales, in the southeastern part of the country. There is production of tropical flowers (heliconia, ginger) in Queensland but Orchids and foliage are mainly imported from Southeast Asia.

Kenyan rose imports have decimated the domestic rose production. On a wholesale level, 20% of all flowers sold in Australia are imported (mainly from Kenya, Ecuador and Asia and, to a lesser degree, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Vietnam). Imports are expected to rise as there is no promotion whatsoever of domestic products.

Average products for average prices

There are some large nurseries in Australia, but most nurseries are relatively small. Flowers like lilies and lisianthus are grown in plastic houses or greenhouses. Summer flowers like Limonium and strawflowers are grown in the field. In general, Australian growers have excellent technical skills but the costs of growing are high. There is only one auction which means there is no comprehensive quality policy nor any promotion. So it is hard for Australian growers to distinguish themselves with premium quality and it is even harder to get a premium price for producing this quality. So most growers focus on average products for average prices and this development is strengthened by the fact that supermarkets have been gaining ground in floral sales while taking market share from florists.

Grading is a problem and the price difference between excellent and average flowers is too small, which is being reinforced by an oversupply. Pre-treatments are not always being done the way they should.

All flowers are sold through flower markets, suburban wholesalers or delivered overnight by growers directly to shops. Some florists pick up their flowers directly from flower farms. This probably doesn’t sound very efficient and it isn’t. A distribution company sources all flowers for supermarkets, both local and imported.

No cooperation, no exports

Likely because of Australia’s size there is hardly any cooperation between growers. As previously mentioned, there is only one small auction in Queensland. There is hardly any attention or support for the floral industry from the Agricultural Department. So it is difficult to innovate and it is virtually impossible to popularize flowers and plants, since there is hardly any backing.

Amazingly enough, so insiders say, flowers sales have been on the rise in recent years. But it is not the traditional florist who benefits from this positive development, it’s the supermarket and the online florists. Most flowers are sold on traditional flower days like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas. Other flower days like Chinese New Year and International Women’s Day are of minor importance.

Australia is a prosperous country and flowers and plants could take a more dominant position than they currently do. But Australia is also a high-wage country and therefore local production is expensive. And since there is limited local production, Australia cannot compete with low-wage countries in Africa and Latin America.

As in many countries, supermarkets and online florists have displaced the traditional florist. There is a chance that through this development, supermarkets could make the industry more efficient and online florists could help promote the product better than it is currently.

A Cooperative

After an 18 month process, Royal FloraHolland is about to reshape its co-operative principles. On December 7th, members will decide on major changes in regards to membership and a co-operative tariff structure. Next summer decisions will be instituted on co-operative leadership. These changes were prepared by co-operative members, not by the co-operative staff.

 In early 2016, Royal FloraHolland formed a Leading Team of thirteen members/growers who had to come up with proposals on two subjects: future leadership and tariffs and forms of membership. Richard Kneppers, co-owner of Maridadi Flowers in Naivasha, Kenya, Bianca van Eijk, a Dutch grower of Agapanthus and Royal FloraHolland’s Stakeholder Manager, Leo Keijzer, told us about the process and its outcome.

“We started by defining what a co-operative is and should be. Then we started the process of members speaking with fellow members. During the past twelve months, 1,116 unique members attended the member sessions. Some of them came to several sessions, which meant that, in total, the Leading Team welcomed almost 2,300 members to the sessions. Normally the co-operative and its staff would organize such a process, but this time there was only staff to guide the process. We were taught how to lead these types of discussions but were at liberty to debate as we pleased. The real advantage of this approach was that honest discussions occurred. People learned to listen to the others’ points of view. We went back to our co-operative roots. And surprisingly, the differences of opinion weren’t as big as we thought they would be. There were meetings in the Netherlands, Africa, Israel and elsewhere. We held discussions with growers of both large and small nurseries. Nearly everyone agreed that there is a need for co-operatives because people see the benefits of cooperating, just as they did one hundred years ago. If people were critical, it was about the co-operative’s communication style: sending too much information and too little discussion.

“The Leading Team provided another approach. The members could speak candidly and they did. Co-operative staff weren’t even allowed to visit Leading Team sessions, which led to this openness. We were determined to give every member the opportunity to speak his mind. Even members who never speak at meetings had their say. Because it was a Leading Team of members/growers, the proposals about co-operative tariffs were far more numerous than they would have been had the co-operative staff made the proposals. Another result of this process was that we have now started testing a Member’s Council that may replace the General Member’s Meeting.

“A decision on the new tariff structure will be made in December. In the new structure, unlike the current one, costs will be paid by members who benefit directly from them. This may lead to advantages for growers with higher turnovers. Of course this means that growers with smaller nurseries may have to pay additional costs but in the process we have been able to convince them of the practicality of the new structure. In a way, it is what they suggested themselves when we asked for their opinions, from which we created a proposal which was then discussed with them again.

“Basically our starting principle was simple. Royal FloraHolland has 4,200 members. We knew that these 4,200 members would be smarter than a single co-operative. We used the intelligence of our members to strengthen the co-operative. Now we can adapt the co-operative Royal FloraHolland to the 21st century with the support of our members.”

East Africa

In the past four decades East Africa has grown into a flower production region of global importance. How did this happen?

 An abundance of available labour coupled with low wages has influenced the development of East African flower production. But there are lots of African countries that have low wages so that cannot be the sole reason for success. So what is?

Certainly stability is an important factor. Both politically and economically, Kenya and Ethiopia have had a relatively stable investment climate compared to other African countries. Although Kenya has a more liberal economy and Ethiopia has a more Marxist one, both governments have tried to stimulate floral production because of its positive influence on employment and exports.

In contrast to the benefits of this stability, there have been negative aspects. Politics in Kenya haven’t been that stable lately and there were riots in Ethiopia when angry rebels burned down nurseries. But no doubt political and economic stability has been a plus for the region.

On top of that, both Kenya and Ethiopia already had relatively strong regional economies when their flower industries started. This means there already existed well-established trade networks and usable logistics. This made it easier to export flowers from Nairobi or Addis Ababa than it was from Accra or Harare.

Both in Kenya and Ethiopia emergent companies were soon strong and wise enough to form trade associations. Early on there was cooperation to invest in greenhouses, fertilizer, etc. Cooperation also developed quickly in logistics so that flowers could be flown from Nairobi and Addis Ababa airports to destinations worldwide. It is remarkable that unlike Latin America, East Africa has embraced the cooperative principle. Many growers, both with and without Dutch backgrounds, joined Royal FloraHolland. Not that this is an easy process. Organizations like Royal FloraHolland should do their utmost to be cognizant of what African growers need from their cooperatives.

A good example of cooperating is the Flower Business Park near Lake Naivasha where growers from Kenya and abroad joined together with Dutch breeders to create a robust production area. Although growers in Kenya came from different backgrounds (Kenyan/British, Kenyan/Indian and Dutch), they managed to create a floral awareness in the region thanks to organizations like the Kenya Flower Council. And although Ethiopian floristry has a different history, this floral awareness arose there, too. Governments see the added value of the floral business for their economy. Growers themselves have started to train their staff and take care of health care and education for them.

Being aware of opportunities has been vital in developing the East African floral business. Kenyan production started at low altitudes like Lake Naivasha and led to the production of so-called ‘supermarket roses’. The Equator, for example, boasts exceptional conditions for growing roses: steady temperatures and twelve hours of sunlight per day. Soon growers in Kenya and Ethiopia discovered the advantages of growing at higher altitudes, allowing them to cultivate long stem, large bud roses for a high-end market.

Where there are positives there are also potential negatives. We already mentioned possible political instability which could lead to economic instability. Additionally, growers in East Africa have to deal with four or more currencies (Euro, US dollar, Asian and Australian currencies in addition to local currencies). This point is well worth considering.

Another possible threat lies in sustainability. Most East African growers try to cultivate with as little damage to the environment as possible. But you don’t have to be clairvoyant to predict that someday consumers in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia will start asking questions about flowers transported halfway around the world that only last one week.

Still, East Africa has become a major, steadily growing player in global flower production due in part to a well-established infrastructure. With good logistic connections, not only to Europe but also to regions like the US, Asia and Australia, East Africa is here to stay as a leading floral producer.


Adding value to a plant or flower can improve its price or help attract new customers to buy it. Worldwide, adding value is embraced by more and more growers, which is also true in Colombia. Members of a new organization, the Association of Colombian Nurseries and Ornamental Growers (Colviveros) are actively working to add value to their products.

 Piante® produces mainly Phalaenopsis plants. Nicolás Vélez points out that his company’s specialty isn’t plants, but customer experience. “Adding value is more than just upgrading the look of a plant. It’s about the entire customer experience and exceeding expectations in order to make them come back. Quality is the starting point but we emphasize the benefits of our plants by teaching customers how to handle them so they will last for years. Once our plants bloom four or five times, we are successful. We see ourselves as our customers’ partner. We are only happy with our products when they are.”

Meanwhile, creative companies have been developed to help growers communicate the value they add. One of these is De Origen-Espacios Verdes founded by David Rubiano who specializes in the design of decorative products with ornamental and live plants. The company has seen good results with ‘handmade’ products for the Colombian market. Innovation, design, presentation, but also care, handling and specific customer needs are the keywords for De Origen.

Rocia Muñoz of Plantaciones Flor Verde is still young. Being a grower’s daughter, she started her own nursery after she had earned her degree. “I didn’t want to produce the same plants that others do so I chose to focus on Calathea. Quality is not my usp, it’s simply my starting point. This requires organization which means the nursery looks neat so that when customers (wholesalers) visit, they have a pleasant experience. Plants that have been produced in a neat environment have a better chance of a long life.”

Epiflora, a production company of Orchids (mainly Phalaenopsis), focuses on online activities. “A price strategy alone is useless,” says Epiflora’s founder Santiago Piedrahita. “There will always be someone who is willing to sell at a lower price. Therefore, we focus on quality, innovation and presentation. We offer different options in size and product packaging and try to innovate by improving our assortment. We use the web to give consumers useful information about the care and handling of our plants (with videos) and we organize special web sales. By doing so we are creating a brand which gives us an emotional connection to our customers.”

Adding value can also be attained by changing your policy. Aydée and Thomas Toulemonde, whose Anthurium flowers gave their nursery a huge turnaround, focused on potted plants and adding Orchids and Bromelia to their assortment. The packaging and presentation of their plants make them highly appreciated, not only by the domestic market, but also as exports. Why? Because as Thomas Toulemonde says, “we do not sell plants in the traditional way; we propagate  emotions.”


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In its own right the picture was iconic. A girl bathing in a Chrysanthemum covered bath. It wasn’t interesting because of the naked girl – sex had been selling for ages – but because it was the first effort to make a dull flower hip again. Chrysanthemums were considered to be old-fashioned and boring. Varieties were chosen because of their production rate, not to surprise consumers. Mums had become grandmum flowers.

 At the turn of the century, Dutch Chrysanthemum growers and breeders took action. They didn’t want their product to end up in the gutter so they started promoting it and still do today. Of course there were lots of USPs to promote. Chrysanthemums are durable and for sale in numerous shapes and colours. The JustChrys campaign proved that mums could be hip. Improving the assortment helped confirm this belief. Recently we visited a JustChrys event. Dutch bloggers, writing about living and interior decorating, were introduced to mums’ numerous possibilities.

Bloggers are important stakeholders. Consumers are influenced by what they write and follow their advice. Bloggers can help you spread the word about your flower or plant.

The JustChrys event focussed on one particular trend, Rebel. Rebel is a reaction to today’s troubles and intensity. It’s loose, colourful and averse to conventions. Designer and florist Geert Maas showed his audience how the many shaped and coloured Chrysanthemums can work within this trend. The arrangements he showed were impressive, yet simple to make. And Geert showed the bloggers how.

Chrysanthemums are easy to work with and they make a great impression. That was the simple, yet powerful message to the bloggers. Today’s floristry is full of contrasts. With mums you can make any contrast you like because there are so many varieties, shapes and colours (disbudded, spray, santini). The stems are lengthy enough to create height differences within a bouquet. If you take care of Chrysanthemums, by removing the leaves and cutting the stems diagonally, you will be  rewarded with a long vase life. On top of that it’s not difficult to make your own bouquet with Chrysanthemums, which today’s consumers like to do. The bloggers did so too, experiencing the joy of flowers.


JustChrys spreads the message that mums are fun and easy to work with by partnering with traditional and social media. This leads to TV coverage, articles in lifestyle and home decor magazines and blogs with a renewed interest in Chrysanthemums. These steps are the ABCs to make mums hip again.