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Long before the bouquet of roses arrives at your doorstep, major floral companies in the United States have already begun executing the business end of delivering flowers for Valentine's Day months in advance.
Many popular Valentine’s Day flowers travel thousands of miles to reach the consumer and are sourced both domestically and internationally.
Where Valentine’s Day flowers originate
Although flowers can also come from African and European countries, Colombia, which is one of the most common rose sources, shipped more than 4 billion flowers to the U.S. within the past year, according to the Washington Post.
The country first exported flowers to the States more than 50 years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service.
Colombia’s climate is considered ideal for growing the more than 130,000 different plant species that can be found there.
The savanna around Bogotá, which experiences consistent temperatures throughout the year, also receives about 12 hours of sunlight daily.
A 2015 report from the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service showed that of the 20,000 acres of flowers grown in Colombia, about 17,500 are grown in greenhouse conditions, while 2,500 acres are produced outdoors under rain-fed conditions.
“You’re going to find our roses primarily coming out of South America, while our other varieties like lilies and tulips primarily come domestically from our California partners,” said 1-800-Flowers.com Vice President of Merchandising Alfred Palomares.
The floral company, which sources 65 percent of its flowers from South America, also imports flowers from Canada and Mexico as it prepares for Valentine’s Day more than a year ahead of time.
“We work with the best growers and farmers across the world, making sure that they’re following the best practices for sustainability and that they’re supplied by the leading agencies,” he said.
En route to the US
The cold chain, which is the process of controlling the temperature of perishable goods from the point of origin to the points of production, distribution and consumption, helps to ensure and maintain the quality of cut flowers.
Keeping flowers cooled to around 33 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit helps them survive on their journey.
If the flowers experience an interruption in the cold chain en route to their destination, it can result in up to a 40-percent loss of vase life, even once they’re returned to cooler conditions, according to Connecticut-based Hartford Florist Supply.
The flower's vase life is the length of time cut flowers or foliage retain their appearance in a vase.
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Flowers are flown for inspection to Miami International Airport, which is the central hub for all U.S. floral imports.
The airport’s Agriculture Air Cargo Branch inspects 91 percent of all imported fresh-cut flowers, according to the Washington Examiner.
It can take up to a day for flowers to clear the customs inspection, which can expose them to higher temperatures of up to 85 F, but they’re cooled once again when they reach the warehouse, according to online business resource Supply Chain 24/7.
Arrangement and distribution
For 1-800-Flowers.com, bouquets are then arranged in preparation for distribution via refrigerated trucks to one of thousands of independent florists who deliver the company’s orders.
“When putting together arrangements, we really start to think about [current trends],” said Palomares. “For example, purple flowers are a huge trend for flowers right now.”
Other factors that floral companies might consider include home and fashion trends, in order to remain in sync with what’s currently happening in the marketplace, according to Palomares.
“Valentine’s Day arrangements should be personalized to your special someone’s tastes and preferences,” said Bronwen Smith, lead designer and owner of B Floral, a New York City-based event and floral design management company.
Longevity will depend on which florals are chosen, she added. “Stick to roses, orchids and peonies to ensure a long-lasting arrangement,” Smith recommended.
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