This gerbera daisy is looking pretty good almost 2 weeks after Valentine's day. It was likely picked about four days before it was purchased in a local floral shop by a certain thoughtful someone. Between the time it was picked and its arrival in Wisconsin it took a 2,400 mile flight from Colombia followed by a chilly truck ride from Florida.
Smithsonian magazine recently ran a great article on the successes and problems of the huge cut-flower industry in Colombia called The Secrets Behind Your Flowers. The accompanying photos really help tell the story.
Some of the "secrets":
In 1991 the U.S. government suspended duties on Colombian flowers to limit coca farming and expand job opportunities around the area of the Bogota savanna.
Colombia is the second largest exporter of cut flowers shipping $1 billion in cut flowers annually. First is the Netherlands. Colombia produces about 70% of the U.S. market in flowers and provides most of the ready-made bouquets that you see in supermarkets, airport kiosks, and big-box stores.
The industry has its share of challenges. Workers, largely women, deal with repetitive stress injuries, the possibility of problems from exposure to chemicals, and living on the minimum wage amount of about $250 a month.
In the lead-up to a Mother's Day, the second biggest flower giving holiday after Valentine's Day, one farm in Colombia has 320 workers (triple the usual number) handling about 300,000 roses a day.
A major environmental issue is the use of water. Wells drilled to provide the needed amount of that natural resource (producing a single rose bloom takes up to 3 gallons of water) have greatly reduced levels of groundwater on the savanna leading to the disappearance of springs, streams, and wetlands.
Bouquet hues follow fashion and are usually two years behind. The current trend is monochromatic arrangements with a bent toward purple following the lead of several top European designers' clothing lines.