Hurricanes, Marijuana Affecting Local Florists

Flower supplies from Central and South America interrupted by storms, while other farms are replacing flowerbeds with cannabis

By Molly Priddy
Taylor Kiger arranges a bouquet at Woodland Floral in Kalispell on Jan. 29, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

For many people, the first thought upon receiving flowers is typically who sent them and why, knowing only that the bouquet came from a local florist.

Thought isn’t always given to where the flower grew — where it was tended until it was ready to be plucked and shipped away to the florist — until that shipment route gets interrupted and the flow of flowers stops.

That’s the case for florists across the country in the aftermath of hurricane season, especially after Hurricane Irma caused chaos in Florida in late August and early September, shutting down the Miami International Airport, a major flower hub for shipments from Central and South America.

“You’re looking at Ecuadorian roses flying into Miami,” said Penny Kiger, owner and designer at Woodland Floral in Kalispell. “They closed down the airport for each storm. If you were relying on roses for sure, and that was the only way you were getting them, you were in jeopardy.”

Given the nature of flowers and their limited lifetimes, it didn’t matter if an order for a September wedding was placed back in March — the flowers need to grow and ship close to the date.

“It doesn’t matter that you ordered three months ago — a storm is a storm, and Mother Nature wins,” Kiger said.

Tracy Styke, owner at Kalispell’s Flowers by Hansen, said the hurricane season wreaked a bit of havoc on her business.

“We had issues with Irma,” Styke said. “From all the flowers from Colombia coming in from Miami.”

One way to avoid these issues is to diversify the flower supply chain, but Kiger said her shop was hit with various speed bumps this summer. A popular flower wholesaler in Spokane closed down, affecting one method of supply.

A different kind of natural disaster also came into play: Shipments of carnations that come from Oregon and shipped via Yakima and Spokane were stalled because wildfires had closed Interstate 84.

“A few weeks ago, I had to call (a client) and say, ‘I’m so sorry,'” Kiger said. “We had no carnations.”

Economic forces are also part of the equation, Kiger said, with farms in California uprooting their flower products and planting marijuana as a cash crop instead now that it is legal there.

Before the Spokane wholesaler closed, Kiger said they informed her that the prices for Gerbera daisies would be increasing because the farm they normally use was switching over to cannabis.

There are plenty of places to get flowers, she said, with great farms in Canada and California still stocking florists’ shelves. Most floral shops in the Flathead Valley have learned to diversify, especially when it comes to shipping in flowers.

Most shops don’t rely on air travel, Kiger said, instead opting for driven deliveries. But if the flowers are coming from Spokane and the mountain passes between here and there are snowed in, for example, the deliveries just don’t get filled.

“If they can’t get to us, they can’t get to us,” Kiger said.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.