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Florists Tap Into Their Flower Power

By Lynda Van Kuren, posted Jun 3, 2022
Kristy Holt, owner and lead floral designer at Eco Chic Blossoms in Wilmington, uses multiple flower wholesalers to help overcome flower shortages. (Photo by Terah Hoobler)
Brides want every detail of their wedding day to be perfect, and the flowers that make up their bouquet and decorate the venue are an integral part of that goal. However, florists are having a harder time ensuring brides get the exact flowers they want this year. There is a flower shortage, and florists are using ingenuity and contingency plans to ensure brides get the look they want.
 
The problem began during the worst of COVID. A number of flower wholesalers closed their doors; flower farms went out of business, lost staff and/or began planting different flowers. The industry is still reeling from those changes, and today’s supply chain issues, labor shortages and poor weather conditions make it difficult to get flowers and floral supplies.
 
“There have been a lot of shortage issues,” said Ashley Chandler, manager of Fiore Design House. “During COVID everything shut down … and it’s still affecting the industry. We’ll probably experience problems longer than other industries.”
 
The shortages couldn’t come at a worse time: peak wedding season. After seeing a boom in weddings in 2021 when many couples held their long-deferred nuptials, the number of weddings in the area have returned to their pre-COVID levels, according to Chandler. Still, local florists are in the thick of wedding mania, and they have become resourceful to meet wedding flower expectations amid the issues impacting the industry.
 
Though flower shortages abound, local florists have overcome the problem by using a variety of tactics. One is using multiple flower wholesalers to fill their orders. For example, Kristy Holt, owner and lead floral designer at Eco Chic Blossoms, uses wholesalers from Louisiana, Fayetteville, Charlotte and Miami. That way, if one wholesaler doesn’t have a particular flower, another often does.
 
Working with multiple wholesalers also gives Holt the ability to get flowers on short notice – either the wholesaler Fed Exes the flowers overnight or, as in the case where she needed a tropical flower in a particular color immediately, the wholesaler, who was located in Virginia, drove the flowers to her the next day. Holt also uses some wholesalers who sell directly to her, which gives her additional flexibility as well as reduces prices.
 
In addition to wholesale flower distributors, local florists also turn to local farms or wholesalers for their floral needs.
 
If specific flowers simply can’t be found, florists may substitute another flower that meets the bride’s design scheme. Since flowers don’t always bloom on time or in the season they are desired, replacing a specific flower with another isn’t an uncommon practice. However, Brittney Brown, floral designer at Verzaal’s Florist and Events, says her shop is making twice the number of floral substitutions now than they usually do.
 
Even when florists get the flowers their brides want, they may not get them on time. Most flowers sold in America are imported from Columbia, Ecuador, Canada, Mexico and the Netherlands, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. With the decline in international flights, the flowers may not make it on a plane. Or a flight may be delayed. Or they may not be picked up by a truck. Or they may be stuck in customs.
 
While late-arriving flowers aren’t problematic when they are sold at a grocery store or retail shop, it is when they are used in weddings. That’s because the flowers must reach their peak blooms on the day of the event.
 
“When flowers are delivered affects when they open, especially with roses,” Holt said. “You want flowers for a wedding to be in full bloom and fluffy on the wedding day.”
 
Sometimes the florist can salvage late-arriving flowers by placing them in a temperature-controlled area that will ensure they bloom at the right time. In other cases, the flowers are unusable. They are a “dead product,” said Chandler, and the florist absorbs the cost and must find a replacement with another wholesaler that offers overnight shipping or buy from a local flower farm.
 
Floral supplies such as floral tape and glue, stands, cages and cylinders are hard to find as well. Holt has turned to Amazon and other places she doesn’t usually order from for staples like floral wreaths and foam, and Chandler is buying vases for her blooms instead of cages. In other cases, the florists use their creativity to make a floral arrangement work sans the typical support structure.
 
“We make do with what we have; we use a little brainpower and make it work,” Brown said.
 
Though area florists have been able to surmount the shortages plaguing their industry, it’s costly.
 
“We are facing pricing that is reflected by the shortages,” said Chandler. “Prices are astronomical. The cost of supplies has doubled if not tripled.”
 
While florists are committed to respecting the prices they’ve already set for 2022 weddings, they are often charging more for their 2023 weddings. They are also helping brides select less expensive, but equally appealing, flowers.
 
“We have to think about what Area florists are staying in close communication with brides getting married this season, letting them know when a flower isn’t available and offering a replacement.
 
Wilmington’s florists say they work to ensure their brides are happy with their flowers despite the issues affecting the floral industry.
 
“It’s important to have backup plans and alternative options,” said Holt. “Our clients expect a certain look, and that’s what we were hired to give them.”
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