Monday, April 3, 2017 | 11:41 am
Only about 20 percent of all cut flowers sold in the United States are actually grown in the country, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.
In 1991, that number was closer to 64 percent.
So, what changed?
According to the Alliance of Americans for America, it was the Andean Trade Preference Agreement (ATPA), which did away with tariffs on many products from Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. Not coincidentally, they say, 1991 was the year the U.S. entered that pact.
Shortly after, the Alliance claims, Columbia in particular “flooded the American market with cheap, duty-free cut flowers.” As a result, California, which previously supplied 75 percent of the nation’s cut flowers, lost more than half its flower farms, dropping from 500 to 200 today.
In response, in 2013, a group of flower farmers started a “Certified American Grown” task force and a year later created Certified American Grown labels.
Now, a growing number of stores, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, are starting to label where their bouquets come from, too, according to a recent Adweek article.
But do you even care if your local florist has local flowers?
We thought you might, so we asked The Flowerman on Foothill Boulevard if he has any. He does.
“The majority of our flowers come from California,” says Lou Quismorio, proudly. He has been the owner of The Flowerman for five years but started as a florist there in 1991.
“I go to the flower mart personally myself. I have a relationship with these people and their families, so it behooves me to source them locally and support them… as with everything, like produce.”
Do people ever ask him where his flowers come from?
All the time.
“This has always been a question from people,” says Quismorio, “I don’t see it as any kind of political stance. I think it’s more curiosity.”
While Quismorio can boast that 85 percent of his flowers are locally sourced, he does concede that there are times when it’s better to bring in superior flowers, like roses, for example.
“Ecuador has the best roses,” says Quismorio, who has worked in flower shops since he was 13 in New York City. “California’s roses are substandard compared to South America’s. Ecuador produces big head roses.
“The cold winters here really affect the flowers. Like here lately with the sunflowers, they’re just not at their peak quality, not showing all their colors. They’re substandard here in the winter months,” he says, adding that he’ll just buy something else this time of year.
A florist, however, always needs tulips, especially with Valentine’s Day coming up, so he’s shipped those in from Holland, which believe it or not, is still cheaper than buying them locally grown.
“California tulips are triple the price of the Dutch Holland tulips,” he explains.
So, how do flowers shipped from across the world look so freshly picked?
“They’re dry packed, then dehydrated, and when we get them, we just cut off the bottoms and put them in water,” says Quismorio.
He says it takes a few days from the time they’re cut, then packed and shipped (by truck and airplane) till they arrive at the flower mart.
“It’s about a three-day cycle,” says Quismorio holding up a beautiful yellow big-headed rose that arrived from Ecuador 24 hours ago.
He agrees that around 1991 was when “South America really came strong with flowers … like baby’s breath and hydrangea” thanks to their more tropical climates.
Quismorio goes to the Los Angeles wholesale flower market on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to replenish his 110 or so different varieties of flowers, which makes those good days to drop by in the afternoons.
He’s preparing now for Valentine’s week, a time when his story delivers “about 300 to 400 orders,” not to mention the rush of walk-ins he gets.
The Flowerman, which opened up in 1928 under the name Simpson Florist on Colorado Boulevard, moved to its current location in 1991 and changed its current name in 2001.
For more information, visit www.theflowerman.net or call (626) 795-1508. Or drop by in person at 2450 East Foothill Boulevard in Pasadena.