fbpx Skip to main content Skip to search

Archives for Flower Fact Friday

The Journey of Our Fresh Cut Flowers to Florists

 

Flowers travel a long way from their place of origin —in the most remote places in the world—until they reach the United States. Discover our process of receiving and shipping the best flowers, and how we guarantee their durability until they reach our customers.

At Virgin Farms we take daily measures to provide the highest quality of fresh-cut flowers to our clients. We maintain alliances with farms that guarantee top grade flowers that have been harvested under certified and sustainable processes.

Our flowers go through many operational stages, and for this reason, it is vital to handle a standard process during this path because this guarantees that the flowers remain fresh and therefore have a lengthy vase duration.

However, this path of travel does not end when the flowers arrive in the United States. They go through a process of customs and pest control in order to maintain the biodiversity of our country and avoid the introduction of any type of pests or insects that could ruin an entire flower lot or harm local species.

We have compiled the most frequent questions that our clients ask us so that you can learn firsthand about our operation and distribution process.

 

Q: How is the process of receiving flowers, once they arrive from their place of origin to the United States?

Holland, Colombia, and Ecuador are our main suppliers of flowers.

The flowers we receive at Virgin Farms make their journey from many parts of the world. Our tulips, ranunculus, cymbidiums, hyacinths and some hydrangeas, among other flowers, are imported from Dutch growers in Holland. Garden roses come from our top farm provider in Colombia, Alexandra Farms. Virgin Farms is known for its high-quality roses, which are exported from Ecuador via UPS Air Cargo to Miami International Airport. Once the cargo arrives the product is then transported to our facility.

 

Q:  What are the most common problems you have when receiving flowers and how do you solve them?

We have a strict customs and inspection process to ensure that there is no pest that could affect the flowers.

At times we may face issues that are out of our control. When the shipment arrives in Miami the flowers must go through clearance and pass inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for pests and diseases. During this process, boxes are randomly selected and inspected. If the flowers do not pass the inspection they are held (PQ) by the department or the product selected may be damaged in the inspection process.

At our facility, our Quality Control team inspects each bunch upon arrival. We may encounter flowers with botrytis (fungus) for instance, in which case the flower is deemed non-shippable and discarded. Any other defects that we check for include falling heads or petals, moldy petals, and damaged stems. These defective flowers are also discarded.

 

Q: How long does your process of receiving flowers take to deliver to your customers?

It takes between 48 and 72 hours for the flowers to reach our customers.

The process of receiving the flowers at our facility and shipping the order to a customer takes 48 to 72 hours. For instance, the farm will ship roses from Ecuador and it arrives in Miami. Then we ship the custom packed box via FedEx Priority Overnight and it arrives to our client the next day.

 

Q: How much volume of floral shipments is handled at Virgin Farms?

We handle an average of 2,000 weekly boxes of flowers to supply the great demand that exists in our country.

The volume varies depending on the week; it can be as little as 700 boxes to as much as 2,000 boxes. This includes all the different types of products we distribute: roses, fillers, Dutch flowers, garden roses, and others. Throughout the two weeks of Valentine’s Day shipments, we will move between 4,000 and 4,500 boxes.

 

Q: How is your quality control process when you receive the flowers?

All flower bunches are inspected to ensure quality and verify that variety is correct.

When the flowers arrive at our facility, Quality Control Managers check the product before receiving it into the inventory management system. Each box of flowers we receive from the farms is placed on a conveyor inside the cooler which is maintained at 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Using the documentation from the farms and our receivers, we check that the quantities and varieties shipped are correct. Then each bunch is inspected for quality assurance making sure there is no mold or damage. If the product meets our standards, then we receive the flowers in our inventory system. Each box is labeled with a barcode listing the expiration date, the quantity, the variety, and the farm lot. This allows us to track our daily floral inventory.

 

Q: What is your flower distribution process once these are already in the cooler?

From its origin until the flower reaches our customers, we guarantee the cold chain.

Once the flowers are in the inventory, the product is available to our customers. When a customer places an order with our sales managers, a pick list is received in the shipping department. The picklist indicates the customer, the shipping address, the floral varieties, the quantities for each flower listed by lot number, and the total item quantity and total cubic weight. Our employees in the cooler use the picklist to pack the order. The varieties are picked by the bunch in our inventory cooler and taken to the adjacent packing cooler. Depending on the size of the order (in weight) the flowers are packed into one of our four box sizes. Each box is precooled and insulated to maintain the temperature of the ice packs within the box. Each bunch is strategically packed into the box to ensure the flowers are snug and protected during transit.

 

Q:  How can an order be placed with Virgin Farms?

We adapt to the needs of our customers; we have products to supply the wholesale and retail market.

Professional florists and event planners may order from Virgin Farms by calling our toll-free number 1-888-548-ROSE to speak to a sales representative. We like to call them our floral experts. Each account manager is trained on all products and is highly experienced in the floral industry. Although some companies may offer eCommerce, we prefer to speak to our customers when they place an order because our inventory is live, and our flowers are fresh from the farms. We do not carry over products. Customers may order varieties and quantities by the bunch. We accommodate the customer’s needs and custom pack the order whether it is for a small flower shop or a large wedding or event.

At Virgin Farms we have an established process to deliver variety and quality in flowers, we manage strategic alliances with the best floral farms in the world with whom we have exclusivity and direct representation. We also have the best suppliers of courier and transport of flowers. We have all the technology and adequate facilities to keep the flowers in perfect condition. The most important factor is that we have a committed and trained sales staff to meet the demanding needs of our customers.

Read more

Flower Fact Friday: Celosia

Celosia in greek is ‘kelos,’ which means burned and refers to the brightly colored floral head. There are different types of celosia: The Plumosa group have upright flowers and are feathery-shaped, while the Cristata type have intricate ridges that resemble a brain. The flowers are wooly in texture and are usually bright yellow, pink, red and orange. Celosia is native to Asia and Africa, and it is part of the amaranth family. They are typically available during the summer, fall and spring season.

Did you know celosia is used as an herb in some countries? In Nigeria, the young stems and flower heads are used in stews or as a side dish. The leaves are said to taste like spinach. Although there are no proven scientific facts, Celosia is said to have beneficial health properties. It has been used to treat eye conditions and intestinal ailments.

As a cut flower, celosia can last for about two weeks. The bright colors make it especially attractive for bouquet work. They are a particularly great addition to the garden since they attract butterflies.

Celosia Cockscomb

Celosia (cockscomb)

Read more
Green Kale

Flower Fact Friday: Kale

Kale is also known as ornamental cabbage, and it belongs to the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower family. The leaves are flat and broad with contrasting colors. Kale grows best between October and November in full sun. They thrive in cold weather, and an interesting fact is it affects the color of the leaves. When temperatures drop blow 50 degrees Fahrenheit, shades of pink, purple, red and violet emerge.

Historical Origin of Kale

Kale Brassica is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. More than 2,000 years ago, ancient Greeks cultivated the leafy green, and it has been documented that they boiled it to cure hangovers. Julius Caesar consumed kale before royal banquets to prevent indigestion. As early as the first century, “coles” arrived from Britain and France via the Roman Empire or the Celtics. By 1669, kale made its way to America via English settlers.

Flowering Kale

Kale

 

Prepping Kale for Floral Design

The use of decorative vegetables and fruits in floral designs is very common. It adds an interesting twist to an otherwise common bouquet, giving it an organic appeal.

  1. Peel outer layer of the leaves one at a time.
  2. As you peel, twist the stem and continue all the way around.
  3. The result should be a perfectly formed rosette.
  4. Cut the stems at an angle with a sharp knife.

Suggest a variety for us to feature on Flower Fact Friday. Leave a comment naming the variety, and we’ll write about it. Stay tuned next week!

Read more
Heliconia Wagneriana Yellow

Flower Fact Friday: Heliconia

Did you know Heliconia is a tropical plant named after Mount Helicon and is derived from the greek word ‘helikonios’? In Greek mythology, Mount Helicon was the seat of the Muses, which were said to remain young and beautiful forever just like their god, Apollo.

The species is native to the tropical Americas. Heliconia is usually found in rainforests or in the wet tropics, and they flower during the rainy season. There are over 40 species and most have brightly colored bracts usually red, yellow and orange variations and have a waxy texture. Some heliconia plants have upright bracts while others dangle, referred to as hanging heliconia. Common names for this plant are lobster claws, wild plantains or bird of paradise.

They are mainly cultivated for ornamental purposes and landscaping, but in their natural environment heliconia provides ecological sustainability for living organisms. For instance, the flowers produce nectar attracting pollinators including butterflies, hummingbirds, and even bats. The Honduran white bat in particular cuts the side veins of the leaves to make a tent-like structure for shelter. For other aquatic organisms, the bracts collect water forming a habitat.

 

Tips for Designing with Heliconia

Heliconia are a stunning addition to floral displays, adding height and a refreshing tropical vibe. As cut flowers they do not continue to develop, so avoid stems that are dried or with black spots. At Virgin Farms, we keep tropical flowers in a separate room at a warmer temperature. These varieties are sensitive to cold temperature, and should never be stored below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Before designing, cut three inches of the stem under water with a sharp knife. Place heliconias in warm water with floral food, and allow two hours before designing with them. For extra support, use chicken wire to hold the stems in place in floral foam. 

Read more

Flower Fact Friday: Peonies

We are very excited to announce that peonies from Holland are back in production. The season runs from April through early July. Dutch peonies have a larger bloom diameter and sturdier stems. There are also more colors to choose from during this quarter of the floral season. We will have coral, light pink, hot pink, white and red varieties.

Types of Blooms

Single: One or two layers of outer petals surrounding the stamen.

Semi Double: Two or more rows of outer petals with some irregularly shaped petals surrounding the center exposing the center of the stamen.

Double: Multiple rows of ruffled petals covering the stamen.

Bomb: Characteristics of a double peony with ruffled “bomb” or mound of petals in the center of the bloom.

Care and Handling 

Most peonies bloom quickly, in under a couple of days. We recommend storing peonies in the cooler until you are ready to design. Placing the flowers in warm water will speed up the blooming process, which is ideal if you need to work with them on short notice.

Dutch Peonies

Dutch Peony Season

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dutch Season Varieties 2015

Top Brass
Festiva Maxima
Gardenia
Kansas
Bowl of Cream
Flame
Dr. Fleming
Alertie
Mother’s Choice
Pecher
Jules Elie
Sarah Bernhardt
Red Charm

 

Stay tuned for photos of each variety on our website’s floral catalog. Our experienced and knowledgeable account managers are available to answer questions. They can help you choose the varieties that are suitable for the type of floral designs you will create. 

Read more

Flower Fact Friday: Eryngium

In floral design, Eryngium is used as accent filler, but did you know this plant actually produces a popular herb called Culantro (E. foetidum)?

Eryngium Thistle

Eryngium Thistle

Characteristics
Native to the mediterranean and Europe, Eryngium is a tropical perennial and belongs to the Apiaceae family. The plant blooms from summer though fall, and grows 18 to 36 inches tall. It is tolerant of drought, sandy-like soils and wind. The plant produces unique clusters of cone-shaped blossoms surrounded by thistle-like leaves, hence Eryngium’s nickname. They grow in a variety of colors blue, green and purple or a combination of these colors.

Medicinal & Herbal Use
Apart from its fascinating appearance, Eryngium is a multipurpose plant with medicinal properties. It has been used in traditional medicine to remedy fevers, burns, ear aches, and stomach aches among other ailments. The pungent Culantro leaves produced by the eryngium plant is also used in many Caribbean dishes including chutneys and sauces.

Floral Styling
Eryngium stems are used in floral styling as accents adding a rustic appeal. Some designers get creative and spray the stems in metallic paint for a modern look. They have a lengthy vase life, lasting around 1 to 2 weeks. Handle with care when designing—the flowers have barbed bristles and spiny bracts.

Suggest varieties for Flower Fact Friday! Leave a comment below, and include the name of the flower you would like to learn about.

Read more
Mariatheresia Garden Rose

Flower Fact Friday: Garden Roses

Garden roses are highly regarded especially in the floral industry. Their charming nostalgic appeal and exquisite fragrance is irresistible making it a popular choice for wedding floral designs. Due to the high demand and lengthy production process, garden roses are expensive and considered a luxury flower.

There are many misconceptions about the true characteristics of a garden rose. Not every variety is fragrant, cup-shaped or wavy. What truly defines a garden rose? Any rose plant that can survive a winter frost. Garden roses are very delicate and must be handled with care. They have plenty of small, sharp thorns. Depending on the variety, garden roses can last an average of 7 to 10 days.

Virgin Farms Garden Roses

Virgin Farms Garden Roses

David Austin History
Back in the 1960s, David Austin began crossing roses. He wanted to achieve the fragrance of the old roses with the appearance and color variations of the modern roses. At first, they were bred as shrubs and climbing roses for garden enthusiasts. It was not until the year 2000 that the company began to produce garden roses for the cut flower industry. In 2008, the first roses were introduced into the market. The company began distributing in small quantities, and eventually grew to offering 150,000 stems per week all over the world.

Breeding New Varieties
The David Austin company has a team of hybridizers that focus on crossing roses to create new varieties. Each flower is monitored and tested to meet specific characteristics.

Cut Rose Standards:
Must remain beautiful at all stages
Fragrant
Purity of color
Perfection of form

The odds of a successful breed for mass market distribution is 100,000 to 1. It takes years to create a new variety. Out of 200 plants grown in the trial fields, only five or six are selected.

Our partner growers, Alexandra Farms, located in Colombia, is licensed to grow David Austin varieties. All garden roses are hand-cut and hand-graded. Virgin Farms is proud to be a wholesale distributor of high-quality varieties.

Suggest varieties for Flower Fact Friday! Leave a comment below, and include the name of the flower you would like to learn about.

Read more

Flower Fact Friday: Dusty Miller

Characteristics

Dusty Miller, or Jacobaea maritima, is an annual subshrub. It is native to the Mediterranean, and usually grows in arid conditions in full sun. Although they are fairly heat and drought resistant, during the winter this leafy plant does best in a cool and moist habitat. It cannot resist excessive heat and rain, as it produces rust disease and dies. Dusty Miller makes an excellent bedding shrub for landscaping, additionally because it has few pests. The leaves are covered with felt-like hairs, giving it a frosted appearance. When grown in the shade, the silvery white color is not as intense.

Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller at the harvesting farm in Ecuador.

Tips for Styling Floral Arrangements

Dusty Miller is used as an accent in bouquets and floral engagements. Its interesting texture combines well among pastel garden roses, champagne roses, succulents, and astilbe for instance.

When processing this leafy filler, it is best to do it in a cooler.

Follow these instructions for best vase life:

  1. Make a clean cut using sharp shears.
  2. Place immediately in water and remove any submerged leaves.
  3. Change the water frequently, as it tends to produce bacteria.

Read more
Hydrangea Purple

Flower Fact Friday: Hydrangea

Did you know hydrangeas are native to eastern Asia? In Japan, they are grown in the mountaintops and typically these species have smaller leaves and flowers. There are about 23 known species of hydrangeas, and only five of those are cultivated in the U.S.

Types of Hydrangeas

Mophead: globe-shaped flower clusters
Panicle: long, cone-shaped flower clusters
Lacecap: flattened cluster of tiny buds surrounded by tiny petals at the edges

Assorted Color Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas

How Colors are Produced

The variation of interesting colors in hydrangeas has plenty to do with horticultural science. The plants absorb aluminum which is released from the soil, and as a result, it produces complexes in the flower giving it their color.

Acidic soils produce blue flowers, while soils with high alkalinity levels result in pink and purple colored hydrangeas. Naturally colored petals such as pale cream are produced in soils that have neutral alkaline levels. The greek word for hydrangea is ‘hydroangos’. ‘Hydro’ means water, and ‘Angos’ means a vessel or jar, which put together refers to the plant’s need for healthy amounts of water.

Caring for Cut Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are widely used in the floral design industry. The lush extravagance of this lush flower makes it highly popular for weddings and special events. They are excellent for filling space in bouquets and floral displays such as cascading arches and table runners.

Tips To Lengthen Vase Life:

Cut the stems at an angle under water. This prevents bubbles from blocking the intake of water.
Gently puncture holes in the stem with a needle.
Place the hydrangeas in ice-cold water.
Add flower food (or 1 tbsp. of sugar & 1 tsp. bleach)
Mist the flowers with more water. 

Read more

Flower Fact Friday: Tulips

Tulip-BouquetWhen I think of spring, tulips come to mind. They are colorful, attractive, and last long as fresh cut flowers. Did you know Tulips were first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire, or Turkey as we know it today?

History

Tulips were introduced in Europe (Holland) around the 16th century. They became extremely popular and the demand for this flower increased, while the supply decreased. Prices for individual bulbs began to rise in northern Europe and a Tulip Mania manifested. By the 17th century, a single tulip bulb could sell for several thousands of dollars. In essence, bulbs were so valuable that they were used as money or even a dowry for a bride.

Mosaic Virus

Oddly enough, a virus known as mosaic, caused the tulips to become even pricier. It was not a deadly plague, but instead altered tulips producing rare “flame” coloration on the petals. Everyone began to speculate in the tulip market, some even trading their land and savings to invest in the tulip craze.

The Bulb Crash

Eventually, the tulip craze began to decline in 1637. Everyone wanted to sell their tulip bulbs to reap the profits. As a result, the demand and value of tulip bulbs decreased sharply. A panic swept the market, and investors were at a loss. Contract agreements were void, people were left homeless, and a great depression swept Holland.

Tulip Festivals

Today, tulip season is quite a celebration especially in Holland. In the U.S., an annual Tulip Festival takes place in Holland, Michigan, the growing center of the nation, and where Dutch roots are strong.

Suggest varieties for Flower Fact Friday! Leave a comment below, and include the name of the flower you would like to learn about. 

Read more

Flower Fact Friday: Ecuadorian Roses

A rose is not just a rose, it’s a brand. If you mention Ecuadorian roses to the flower saavy, they would agree on two characteristics that classify them: sturdy, long stems and big, flowering heads. These qualities are what set Ecuadorian roses apart from competitors in the rose-growing industry.

Farm Cultivation (Virgin Farms)So why are roses from Ecuador so robust? The myth is that roses grow straighter on the equator, but science has proven otherwise. Most nurseries are situated near the Andes mountains at 2,800 meters. Favorable weather conditions such as year round sunlight allows for longer growing cycles even throughout winter, as well as nutrient-rich volcanic soil.

Interesting Fact: Cold nights produce spectacular color variations and contrasting hues on the edges of the petals.

Cultivation of roses and exportation is a process. They are harvested and each stem is classified to meet five criteria:

Length
Size of Bud
Aperture/ Cutting Point
Color
Health/Condition of foliage

To export the roses while maintaining the freshness involves a cold chain process. When the flowers are harvested, they are taken to a facility for sorting and classification. The bunches are wrapped in cardboard with insulation to protect the buds and the stems are covered in plastic sleeves. The wrapped bunches are then taken to a pre-cooling area at 32 degrees Fahrenheit to halt the flowers from blooming, preserving them before they are shipped to their destination. The flowers are then hydrated with high-quality floral preservative for 7 hours. These facilities are also equipped with ethylene removing units that purify the air to prevent premature aging and floral diseases.

The United States is the top importer of cut flowers from Ecuador. In 2013, Ecuador exported 35% of their cut flowers to the U.S. valued at $279 million. Miami International Airport is one of the top distribution hubs–flowers arrive in cargo planes and are then transported to their destinations on refrigerated trucks.

Virgin Farms is a nationwide distributor of roses from Ecuador and other products from around the world. We import roses from Ecuador and garden roses from Columbia. All other varieties such as tulips, hydrangeas, and mini callas are mainly from Holland, home of the Aalsmeer Dutch Auction.


 

Sources:
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/eb5114d6-d846-11e4-ba53-00144feab7de.html
http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/visualize/tree_map/hs92/export/ecu/show/0603/2013/
http://www.ittsresearch.org/blog/?p=1239 

Read more

Flower Fact Friday: Hypericum

Hypericum is mainly used for ornamental purposes, but did you know it also has medicinal properties?

Hypericum flower (St. John's wort)

Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypericum

Why is hypericum called St. John’s wort?

More commonly referred to as St. John’s wort, hypericum has tiny yellow star-shaped flowers used as an herb. Its nickname is derived from the feast honoring St. John the Baptist on June 23rd, which is widely celebrated in the Christian and Catholic communities. It is tradition to pluck the herb on the night of the feast, and take it to church to receive a blessing. The herb was believed to have special powers to ward off evil spirits.

Origin & Characteristics

The hypericum plant is native to the mediterranean region of Europe, and also North Africa, the Middle East, and West Asia. The plant has leafy stems that are 24 to 36 inches in length and has round berries in clusters at the top. There are more than 400 cultivars of hypericum, and in a wide range of colors such as red, brown, ivory, pink, and burgundy for example. One third of those cultivars are used as ornamental cut flowers.

Medicinal Properties

Almost 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recommended St. John’s wort to treat nervous unrest. The medicinal properties lie in the black dots along the margin of the blossom, which contain hypericin. The chemical makeup of hypericin is believed to produce sedative and pain relieving effects. In the Roman era, St. John’s wort was used to treat wounds from the battlefield. Hypericum is thought to treat mild depression, insomnia and anxiety. Used externally, it is used to treat wounds, mild burns, skin disorders and bruises. 

Read more