Just recently, I was asked to get some flowers for a friend’s wedding. Given that I am in the worst one per cent of the male population for red-green colour blindness, I thought this was a huge leap of faith on behalf of the bride.
Anyway, the appointed day arrived and I duly collected said flowers from a couple of wonderful local greenhouse cut flower growers. Included were white roses (B.C. grown), green pom-pom mums, purple tulips and some delightful gypsophila to set it all off. All were delivered in water-filled pails and with minimal packaging apart from one wrap of paper.
The bride was delighted. Or so she said. I was relieved.
QUITE A STORY BEHIND EVERY CENTREPIECE
■ But then I got to pondering about what the wedding guests might think of their table centrepieces. Indeed, would they think anything other than just that “they’re nice?”
Would they ask themselves how those amazing roses were brought to flower in the middle of March?
Or how much effort went into producing tulips at just the right time?
Or how a grower had woven his (or her) magic and got the mums ready for that weekend and with such uniformity?
Would they wonder what kind of planning and application of technology had been used to pretty up a table that people would sit at for three hours at most?
Probably not. Most people would likely spend more time wondering why it’s taking so long to get the cake cut and passed around.
FLOWERS ARE OFTEN TAKEN FOR GRANTED
■ It seems that flowers are such a common place, so taken for granted, that no one gives a second thought to how our amazing industry has managed to produce such wonderful products practically year-round at such a low cost. Few would consider the logistics of building a greenhouse, sourcing plant material, figuring out how to grow high-quality flowers, training all the staff, and sorting out the logistics of getting those flowers to the customer within a few hours of being picked. And doing this time after time after time. Really, when we take a step back, it is a pretty incredible feat.
So how do we tell that story to a captive audience of happy, well-dressed wedding guests? I guess it’s not the kind of wedding speech that most people would expect to hear.Perhaps not.
But with a centrepiece, perhaps there is an opportunity to put some little “Interesting Facts About How Your Flowers Got Here” on sticky labels on the vase or container? That could at least start a conversation between people who often times don’t really know each other.
SPREADING THE WORD WITH EVERY ARRANGEMENT
■ And if that is appropriate (you decide!), then maybe we should do something similar on those big flower displays that you always find on the counter at the hotel reception, or on tables in restaurants? (Not that the kind of restaurant I dine in has many flowers on the table.) Maybe even at the dentist or doctor’s surgery? You figure it out.
I’m not suggesting that we force geraniums down people’s throats. But perhaps we can be inventive with our advertising or rather use our already creative advertising in new places and in new ways.
At the end of the day, flowers are seen by many as a luxury item. As such, we are competing for our customers’ attention and money against everything else they are buying.
SELLING THE SIZZLE ALONG WITH THE STEAK
■ So we need to get the story out there and help people understand just what they are buying. I hate to suggest it’s “sizzle not steak,” but it’s so true. And part of that sizzle is telling people the story, the technology, the history and experience of just what they are buying when they choose a beautiful bunch of flowers. We can’t tell people we made a flower, but we can tell them how we did everything right to take a simple seed and turn it into an awesome wedding table centrepiece on a snowy March Saturday.
There must be innumerable ways to pique people’s interest once they have learned to smell the roses.
Gary Jones is chair of production horticulture at Kwantlen University, Langley, British Columbia. He sits on several industry committees and would welcome comments at
Inside View: May 2012
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