Program 07-08-14

Mark Harvey of Old House flowers was the speaker at our dahlia club meeting. The subject was dahlia cut
flowers. Mark is now a full time dahlia person who makes a living from cut flowers and tuber sales. He
owns  a small house  in a regular neighborhood and has dahlias planted everywhere around it. He has
installed a refrigerated cooler outside so that customers can self serve purchases of bouquets. He leases
several acres to grow dahlias and sells to large grocery stores that emphasize organic foods. Mark is an
organic grower who uses no chemical fertilizers or insecticides. His fertilizer choice is pelletized chicken
manure that he buys from Concentrates by the pallet.  

He picks flowers early in the morning, puts them into bouquets of 11 flowers(10 plus one; florists buy
bouquets of 10 flowers).  The bouquets are mostly of one variety or if mixed, the same color and size. The
florists generally do not order mixed color bouquets although one store special orders them from him.
They are heat treated in 160 degree water and once cool are delivered(yes, he delivers the flowers!) in 5
gallon buckets and he usually retrieves buckets before he leaves the florist departments.

In addition to these large store accounts and sales from his home cooler, he takes special orders for
weddings.  His prices for sales from his cooler are now $8.00 per bunch and his wholesale prices to the
florists are only a few pennies less. Wedding orders are priced a bit more. He does not sell in Farmers
markets and stated that the prices he can garner there are too low for all the work.

Flowers are cut with very long stems(about18 inches!) as the florists want long stems. The flowers are not
disbudded  and he includes the two attached flower buds with flower( as does Swan Island Dahlias). He
does not generally sell flowers that are larger than 6 inches in diameter except for special orders.  When
customers order giant dahlias he sells them for $3.00 per stem.

His overwintered dahlia field froze this last year. In a normal year he staggers plantings so that his bushes
are productive the entire season. The overwintered clumps, start the first of July,  he plants undivided
clumps April 1st to get the next wave of blooms. The regular tubers are planted from about April 15th to
May 15th.  Then he plants a late blooming field on June 15th. By the way, since he sells tubers on his
website and at flower shows, he plants all dahlias that are not used as cut flowers in separate areas.

Mark discussed his virus control efforts and he pulls plants that have virus symptoms and disposes of
them.  He is committed to organic growing methods and for example uses coconut fiber instead of peat
moss for potting mix in his green house.  He uses lime to keep the soil at a proper pH. Since he grows on
such a large scale, he uses a large tractor and a disc to cultivate his fields prior to planting while most of
us use rototillers.