The journey of your flowers
Growing flowers is a multi-million pound industry and the import and export of flowers takes place across the world. The biggest flower-growing nations in the world are the Netherlands, Colombia, Kenya and Israel but many other countries such as South Africa, Ecuador and Malaysia are now investing time and money into growing flowers.
Many flowers are still grown here in the UK but a majority of the flowers sold here are imported. The Channel Islands are well-known for their freesia, iris and roses while Cornwall, Lincolnshire and Scotland grow a vast number of bulb flowers. We also export a large quantity of flowers, with a great number of Lincolnshire growers exporting daffodils to Holland.
Flowers take a number of routes to the consumer, depending on where they are grown and how they are to be sold. Some growers cut and pack flowers at their nurseries, sending them directly out to the consumer by mail order. Some flowers are sent to packing companies, who grade the flowers and arrange them in bunches for sale onto the supermarkets or to deliver by mail order. Some flowers are graded by the growers and sold to wholesale markets; the wholesalers then sell them on to florists who condition and arrange the flowers for the consumer.
Some flowers are sent packed flat in boxes. This enables large amounts of flowers to be packed into small spaces like aircraft holds. Other flowers cannot survive for long periods out of water. These are either sent with their own little water holders on each stem end – for more expensive or tropical flowers – or are transported in buckets of water. The latter method extends the life of flowers and reduces labour time as flowers are ready for sale, but obviously also reduces the amount of flowers that can be transported as they are much heavier than dry-packed flowers and hence air transportation charges are higher.
Flowers coming from abroad must be sent with care and speed to arrive in the UK in a good condition. Many exporters cut the flowers, and pack them on the way to the airport to save time; flowers are often kept in refrigerated conditions at the airport and flown in cooled planes. Special refrigerated transport vehicles carry the flowers to the packers or wholesalers. The less time the flowers spend in transit, the longer time the customer has to enjoy them.
Pot plants, because of their weight, are usually traded over shorter distances. About half the indoor plants sold in the UK are home-grown, compared to just under a third of the cut flowers sold. Most of the UK-grown plants are flowering ones. We import the rest mostly from Denmark, Holland and Belgium. The majority of pot plants in the UK are bought from DIY superstores and supermarkets, with garden centres also selling large quantities.