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Valentine’s Day flower care and handling tips

Valentine surprises are a given, and I don’t mean the kind wrapped in a robin’s-egg-blue box with a bow. I’m thinking more along the lines of tornadoes, blizzards or freezing rain events shutting down highways and airports around the country.

You can bet that Miami importers are closely monitoring weather in Colombia and Ecuador, knowing well that freezing night temperatures in December and/or prolonged cloudy days in January determine the success of the holiday.

But even when the moon, the stars and the sun perfectly align for Cupid’s harvest, flowers still require efficient and effective handling prior to landing in consumers’ hands. Here are a few tips:

The first consideration is to respect temperature. The use of strict temperature controls is one way flowers are amassed in quantities needed to support Valentine sales. Boxes are held at temperatures between 34-38 F until placed on reefer trucks to journey across the country and finally, cut and placed in buckets for consumer sales.

It is imperative that store managers realize the importance of placing flower boxes directly into coolers, rather than dropped on the floor of the department awaiting the floral clerk’s arrival. The most effective method of conveying this point is to discuss the retail sales amounts represented per box of flowers and how many you expect to receive during the holiday window. Once managers realize the profit margin represented in each box of roses, they are likely to enforce prompt cooler placement with the receiving crew.

Before the holiday hits, deep clean floors in display coolers and all green bits off shelves.

Check out the condition of tools; sharpen cutters and choppers as needed. Clean tools with a spray of ready-to-use flower cleaner.

Sanitize work counters before starting floral processing — no need to dry because both Chrysal and Floralife cleaners give best results when allowed to remain on surfaces for +/- five minutes.

Prepare clean buckets with cold water and the correct amount of flower food. Cold solutions move faster than warm in almost all flower types, which is important during the holiday when flowers fly off the sales floor as fast as the buckets are set out. Use the correct amount of food for the volume of water in buckets or vases.

Don’t forget the trashcans — empty them frequently throughout the day. At least once a week, dump bucket cleaner solution into cans and let sit for 10-15 minutes. This action helps sanitize trashcans and prevent Botrytis disease spores from floating around the department.

Cut one to two inches from all flower stems to remove callous tissues and gunk blocking stem flow.

Remove only the leaves falling below the water line. Leave as much foliage as possible intact because leaves contain the pumps (and energy) that pull food and water against the flow of gravity into the buds.

Allow flowers to hydrate for one to two hours minimum before using in arrangements or bouquets.

Keep hard plastic rose wraps in place while stems drink, to avoid buds popping open too fast as they hydrate (another advantage of using cold flower solutions).

Remove hard plastic inner sleeve once flowers have hardened up and before buckets go on display. Also remove nets from gerberas and mums so moisture on petals evaporates rather than feeding any disease spores that are waiting for moisture to take off.

Make sure all buckets are clearly priced and voilà — let the magic of the holiday happen!

Gay Smith is technical consulting manager at Chrysal Americas. She can be contacted at gaysmith@earthlink.net.