While they’re getting ready to play a big football game in Houston, Connells Maple Lee is gearing up for its version of the Super Bowl with our annual pre-Valentine’s Day trip to South America.
Tom Royer, our senior vice president and chief operating officer, has been making the trip for decades. In recent years, he has been joined by his nephew, Geoffrey Royer, who is a company area manager.
Their trek allows them to ensure that the roses and other Valentine’s Day flowers growing specifically for our customers are of the highest quality.
Day 1 found Tom and Geoff at the Liberty and Mira Monte farms in Medellin, Colombia, from which Connells Maple Lee mainly purchases daisies and cushion poms.
“The thing I took from today was how very technical it all is and the precision and detail needed to make it all work correctly,” Geoff said.
Conversation at both farms turned to propagation, or the process from seed to mother plants from which cuttings are taken. The cuttings beget plugs that are planted into vast beds and become the flowers we buy.
Planting for Mother’s Day
Geoff noted that while we’re focused on Valentine’s Day, the farms are planting for Mother’s Day.
“Planting any later than the next week or so could cause the crop to be too late for Mother’s Day,” Geoff said.
He noted the multiple variables that play roles in how flowers develop, from minerals such as phosphorus and potassium to sunlight and temperature.
Whatever their current products, the farms aren’t resting on their laurels. They work with breeders to create the varieties of flowers that Connells Maple Lee and other florists purchase.
“It’s not a simple process,” Geoff said. “Hundreds of thousands of seeds are gone through and test to see which ones produce plants and products that could be valued in the marketplace.
“They are then propagated and tested over time to see if they have issues with disease or how well they produce. If they have a winner, it takes time to then create enough cuttings to have a large enough production to make an impact.”