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  • TLC and Handling - Caring for Carnations
    By Brian Myrland, db Manufacturing


    What's the Big Deal?

    Today's carnations are a far cry from those grown by the Greeks 2,000 years ago. We now enjoy nearly a full spectrum of colors; only true blue and purple are absent. Flowers are full, with high petal count, large heads, and strong stems. Even the aroma has been bred back into many of the new cultivars.

    Carnations were once the workhorse flowers of the floral industry, used in nearly every design. Today, many shops shy away from them, saying "they are too basic; customers don't want them." But there are so many varieties to choose from today. They last well, and they are relatively inexpensive. In an industry that prides itself on creativity, surely we can find new opportunities for use of this "wonder flower". Let's start by making it last.

    Pre-harvest and Post-harvest

    Longevity starts in the greenhouse or field. The flower must be cut at the right stage of development, and the nutrient levels and turgidity must be proper at cut time.

    In today's market we must rely on the grower to administer proper solutions that will make flowers less sensitive to ethylene damage. For many years we relied on silver thiosulfate (STS), but today there are products that are more efficient and more environmentally favorable.

    Growers must also grade properly, looking at size of the flower and eliminating weak traits, such as soft flowers and splits and damaged stems. Then the grower-shipper should pre-cool (blow cold air into the box to lower temperature) the boxes before transportation.


    Unpack flowers as quickly as possible. If you cannot do it immediately, cover the box in your cooler. When ready, remove bands and all foliage below the water line. Cut stems with a sharp knife or shears. Place stems in at least 6 inches of warm water mixed with properly proportioned flower food. It is best to hold flowers at 36çF to 38çF. If flowers are in the bud stage when you receive them, leave them out of the cooler for several hours, let them hydrate and begin the opening process.

    If flowers remain in the shop for more than four or five days, it's wise to recut the stems and place them in fresh flower food solution on the fifth day. This step will reduce the number of stems you have to throw away.


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