We’ve all attended luxurious, formal events where carefully arranged centerpieces of floral perfection adorned every table. Or what about a stroll through the floral department of our local grocery store near Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day? A literal showcase of plentiful bouquets in various sizes, colours, and complementary flower combinations is at our fingertips. And it’s no wonder: we often turn to flowers as a symbol of celebration or as a gifted gesture to show love, thanks, congratulations, and sympathy. No matter the purpose in the cut-flower market, each selected bloom in a centerpiece or bouquet brims with intention, vibrancy, and botanic crispness that implies it was freshly harvested for our very own special occasions.
But was it?
Chances are, the answer is “no”. In fact, most flowers sold in the United States come from the Netherlands, Colombia, Ecuador, and Kenya. Because South America’s climate and soil conditions are ideal for commercial flower production, Colombia has become the dominant producer of U.S. cut flowers, with roses, carnations, spray chrysanthemums, and Alstroemeria leading the way. Ecuador exports large quantities of roses, delphiniums, asters, baby’s breath, and mixed bouquets. If not locally sourced, most roses used for weddings worldwide are from Ecuador. Together, Columbia and Ecuador account for approximately ninety percent of all roses, ninety-eight percent of all carnations, and ninety-five percent of all chrysanthemums sold in the U.S. last year. With a consistent floral exportation of over five billion dollars, the Netherlands is also a dominant power in the industry: it’s the world’s largest commercial producer of tulips and is the most successful global grower of peonies.