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Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs, San Francisco Vendor: Florist Website: Nancy Liu Chin Designs About Me: A San Francisco native, Nancy graduated from the University of California - Berkeley's Haas Business School where she studied finance and marketing. Beyond running her floral studio, Nancy is a huge fan of Top Chef, loves to travel to exotic locations, is an avid reader of contemporary fiction and considers herself on Team Edward (Twilight fan!), entertains friends in her loft style home in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood, and can be found at SF Giant's home games. Nancy and her husband, Kevin are a dynamic pair and can be frequently seen walking their white Bichon Frisee, Chin Chin around the city and lounging at cafes sipping Italian sodas.
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Dear Nancy,

I love peonies, anemones, ranunculus, and dahlias and would love to use them at my wedding in San Francisco in late fall [October to be exact]. Will they be available when I get married?

Laid back Bride
_______________________________

Dear Laid Back Bride,

I also love those flowers. Nothing is as pretty as white anemones with their black centers, paper thin petaled ranunculus in delicious hues of grapefruit, coral, orange, ruffly edged peonies with their over the top blooms, or deliciously plum and orange dahlias with their unique shapes and sizes.

However, as much as I would like to say that you should be able to get these elegant, romantic, fluffy, garden blooms, I would be misleading if I were to guarantee these flowers for a bride during late fall.

It’s easy to assume that you should have access to these great wedding flowers because they are everywhere on blogs, in magazines, and in many vendors’ portfolios. Partly as a wedding provider we are at fault for misguiding brides. I’m easily as guilty for putting on my blog, website, and in studio portfolio images of these wonderful blooms, but they are not flowers that you will find year round.

If you can deliver peonies, anemones, ranunculus, and summer colored dahlias all year, I am all there.
(The one flower that you might find year round are hothouse dahlias. However, other than that, I’m very sorry to disappoint. )

If you are a grower and want to chime in, I would love to hear from you.

If you are a bride and you have found a wholesaler who has good quantities of these (not just a one bunch) please comment and send us your resource. I’ll be more than thrilled to contact them and follow up with a post for all of you.

Peonies the Real Story
Until then, here’s the real story.

Let us take for example the Peony. Peonies are herbaceous perennials. In general, perennials (especially flowering plants) grow and bloom over spring and summer, then die every autumn and winter. They return in the spring from their root-stock. The characteristic of a herbaceous perennials is that the plant’s leaves and stems die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level.

Huh?

Let me translate. No, there are no peonies in the late summer (late July - August), autumn (Sept to November) or winter (Dec through Feb) that are grown domestically in the States. Because it is a herbaceous perennial, the stems actually die after they bloom and thus peonies are slow growers.

Famed gardener Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall noted that many people often question why one should grow a flower that is only in bloom for a week or two, but she says, “Some peonies do flower for four weeks and longer, and by choosing carefully and planning for a succession of bloom you can have peonies in flower from mid April until the end of July. My own answer is that it is precisely because their season is so short that we love peonies so much.”

Note: peonies bloom are at their best April through July. Some will flower within a week or two weeks’ time period. The only reason why we have cut peonies is that growers plant them carefully so that there is a sucession of continuous blooming.

Peony Confusion
I was doing some surfing on the internet and I see where the confusion begins. I noticed a Dutch website  where they advertise beautiful double peonies for $50.00 per collection. And it proudly posts that it ships for Fall 2009. What they don’t tell you is that the collection are “plants” which you can “plant”. They are plants that you have put into the ground and not cut blooms.

In China, peonies are one of the most visible and popular flowers. And trust me, I am investigating when Chinese Tree Peonies are grown so that hopefully one day, we will have more peonies imported from that region. But even a noted website on Chinese peonies notes that they bloom for 1 to 2 weeks in April.

There are some farms in Tasmania, New Zealand which probably can produce some imported peonies. That is why if you are lucky and can stomach the price, you can find order imported peonies a few weeks during the winter in hues of white and burgundy (pinks are rare). These peonies are coming from Holland’s large wholesaler. This short winter crop of cut peonies leads people to think if you can get them in spring and winter, why not the other seasons… right? Unfortunately, we aren’t quite there.

Peonies The Future?

Though we aren’t quite there at year round peonies, I do think that there is growing optimistism that one day soon we will have some peonies through the summer. It hasn’t happened yet but Alaska with its cool weather is ripe for planting peonies. Over the past three years, many peony enthusiasts and experts have gone to Alaska to see if planting peonies is a profitable and good investment.

The Alaska state Division of Agriculture came up with an investment in 2008 to help Alaska growers travel to remote peony farms in New Zealand and Tasmania. These potential Alaskan peony growers worked at the farms and learned how to harvest large quantities of peonies and prepare them for shipping. There is a foreseeable future that peonies (at least) might be grown domestically for summer weddings.

Sorry for this rather long post but I feel it is important to know that as a floral designer, trying to locate and find available product is a serious matter and that wholesalers and growers need to know what you - the potential clients want.

To be continued….

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22 Responses to “Ask Nancy: What’s Available - Part One?”

1.
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Guest
TH

Oo, I didn’t know they have peonies in China.

 
2.
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Bee
Miss Bruschetta (message)  5,565 posts, Bee Keeper

Wow, this is really interesting!

 
3.
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Guest
zoe

how about these websites that is saying Ranunculus is available all year around?!!! I want to order Ranunculus for my end of september wedding… do you think it’s not going to be available? there is the website: http://www.wholeblossoms.com
It will be great if you can let us know.
Thanks!!

 
5.
LLauRRa
Hostess
LLauRRa (message)  866 posts, Busy bee

What would you suggest as alternatives for these blooms for brides who want that same fullness and fluffy texture?

 
6.
Lish
Member
Lish (message)  193 posts, Blushing bee

I love the ranunculus as well - any suggestions on a good substitute for an October wedding?
A mauvish/orangish/happy color would be best.
(like the way I narrowed that down?)

Also, that dress - it’s absolutely edible - if you get a chance, can you tell me who the designer and style of the dress in the picture is?

Thanks!

 
7.
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Guest
sara.jane

Oh I love peonies. My grandmother has a huge area of them every year and I just love them so much. I’m trying to figure out some beautiful yellow colored flowers to use in early September (2010) for my wedding. I love sunflowers but I don’t want only those. Any ideas ladies?

 
8.
kayakgirl73
Member
kayakgirl73 (message)  2,593 posts, Sugar bee

I wish more floral designers and Mags would show bouguets of flowers that are available in the fall. I’m having a terible time picking flowers especially since I always wanted a spring wedding and got stuck with Fall. I don’t want an all rose bouquet which seems to be what everyone pushes.

 
9.
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Bee
Mrs. Gummi Bear (message)  224 posts, Helper bee

Hi Nancy, that sounds like me! I wanted all those in October, but not being able to have them didn’t make a difference in the end. I still don’t know what was in my bouquet, but it was perfect. :)

 
10.
LatteLove
Hostess
LatteLove (message)  5,567 posts, Bee Keeper

i got married in mid-june and had a hard time finding peonies. they were pretty expensive, even for DIY flowers!

 
11.
Lillindy
Member
Lillindy (message)  7,829 posts, Bumble Beekeeper

Such great info, so thank you! Do you think you can share some great alternatives for this reader? I am throwing a party around that time and want to know what to expect for flowers because those were all the kinds I was hoping to have!

 
12.
eileen marie
Member
eileen marie (message)  1,644 posts, Bumble bee

Um yes, do NOT get flowers that are out of season, they look-excuse my french-sh*tty. I paid over $120 for 20 stems of Lily of the Valley (NOT a lot!), & my toss bouquet made from Costco roses & other mixed flowers was prettier. I stupidly thought that I could recreate the mock Lily bouquet I had made with blooms from my MIL’s garden in May when they were in season. It is NOT worth the money to get flowers that are out of season. Thanks for the great post-let your florist create something beautiful for you with flowers that are in season.

 
13.
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Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

Dear Readers - I’ll put this in a post but I did want to respond to all of you. I’ve been doing lots of research for all of you and I just don’t want to break anyone’s heart. There are ranunculus growing out of Chile.

The wholesale is shipping them in increments of 200, 400, 600 stem boxes. They are currently being produced in Chile(could also be other places in SA but my rep confirmed this). My rep has attempted to order them. One week, the farm says, they have it. The next week they say they don’t. Also they attempted to order from this farm but when they opened the box the flowers were not good quality or the flowers were just too small. Also the exporter would take the orders one week and not the other. My very reliable vendor just felt that they could never promise an order to any of their floral designer and so begins the dilemna.

Because the shipments have been inconsistent therefore a flower might be grown in another part of the world but it doesn’t mean that it will get here in the condition and the quality and the quantity in the color of what one desires. It might work one week but it doesn’t work everyweek. If I cannot promise this to a bride, i won’t. That’s my position. If a miracle, a miracel happens.

My grower is not very excited about ordering them as well as the peonies. Until Chile and other SA countries can figure out how to export consistently, we just can’t get them in.

On top of the inconsistency what is more daunting is the price per stem. 200 ranancunlus are around $1.10 per stem(+ or - shipping costs). My wholesaler would mark it up accordingly to $1.75 a stem(that’s standard). That means that 10 small ranunculus at wholesale would be $17.50 a bunch.

For a very small arrangement, I usually but 30 small ranunculus in a small 4 inch glass. That means that the cost would be $53+ to produce. Standard retail marking would mean that that tiny small cocktail size arrangment could retail for $110 to $170 given the labor. As you can see, very few consumers can stomach that price. If you want it, and you are willing to take it at any condition then be prepared to spend not only a huge amount but be willing to accept the inconsistency and remember, if you have a good experience that doesn’t mean that another bride will be equally as lucky. There’s just too many other flowers that you can do…therefore I hope all of you understand that availability means that many floral designers can actually purchase them in the open market. If something is available but there’s only 200 stems in the entire world, that’s not available. That’s very rare.

 
14.
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Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

sorry for the rambling…i have a large event this weekend and i am typing a bit on the fast side. i hope this helps. the bottom line is…

1) trust your floral designers. let them ask the questions. let their rep’s look for the flowers. if they can find it, great, if not, there are so so so many flowers. keep an open mind.

2) if you are willing to take a risk, then go for it. over order to compensate for any poor quality and be flexible with color choices and if it’s not perfect. does it really matter if they flowers aren’t perfect?

 
15.
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Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

mrs gummi bear - will you remind readers and future brides that if your floral designer knows your style and what you are looking for, they are bound to find something.

this week, the garden roses looked crappy. so instead i put phlox, stock, hellebores. my bride is going to get the most amazing bouquet. sure, she wants peonies, ranunculus, anemones, and garden roses. none of them are in the market. but there is always always an abundance of other wonderful things as long as i have the faith, trust, and support of my bride, i know i’ll make her something wonderful.

 
16.
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Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

Readers - fall is not the natural growing season for

1) anemones
2) jonquils
3) lilac
4) viburnum
5) peonies
6) ranunclus
7) hyacinth

and on and on and on. Many of these are spring flowers…..period.

I honestly, don’t even know what to tell all of you.

Some fall flowers that I am getting which you never use to see are

1) Tulips
2) Mini Callas
3) Hot house Dahlias
4) Some Garden roses

Very little of the other flowers.

The natural flowers that you get in fall are things like
1) Fall mums - in autumn hues
2) Sedum
3) Fall hydrangeas

There’s nothing wrong with them

Year round flowers
1) Roses
2) Carnations
3) Peruvian Lilies
4) Lilies
5) Gladious
6) Gerbera
7) Orchids

There’s lots of wonderful fall foliage. Don’t dismiss them.

N

 
17.
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Guest
An

What about FIFTYFLOWERS.COM? They show their peonies available for October shipment… is it for real?

 
18.
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Guest
Nancy Liu Chin

An

I saw that already. If you want to spend the money on them. Go for it. It’s not usually the time frame for Peonies. Sept, October usually are the beginning months of off season crops from Southern hemisphere growers. The greater production is more toward end of Nov, Dec, and January. Yes, I’ve seen them as early as end of November coming out from Holland’s wholesale market.

These Southern Hemisphere peonies have not been tested in the SF market(which is one of the biggest) - I seriously have no idea of the quality and cannot vouch for them. Currently if they are coming from Chile, my vendor told me that there has been too many inconsistency with weather and some quality issues which prevent them from bringing into us. Also, with peonies you really can’t have them sit on the tarmac in customs too long.

Hope this helps.

I’m sure the flowers from fiftyflowers are fine. It’s worth the risk if you are willing to bare the costs.

Read this wonderful peonies study to understand more about peonies history. You will also note that the sf market has one of the most prominent group of wholesalers. nothing gets by these people!!!

http://www.uaf.edu/snras/afes/pubs/misc/MP_09_08.pdf

 
19.
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Ask Nancy: What’s Available Part Three » Weddingbee PRO » The Wedding Blog

[...] couple days ago I tackled the availability issues with peonies and ranunculus. Today, I actually want to address where some of this conflicting information might [...]

 
20.
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We Have a Date! « hannahdays

[...] can find resources online for choosing a date based on astrology, feng shui, flower availability, and a million other ways.  I am so excited!  Our date is dreamy.  The number is not so weird [...]

 
21.
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les fleurs « Un-Bridaled.

[...] Image Courtesy, WeddingbeePro Nancy Liu Chin [...]

 
22.
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Les Fleurs » Weddingbee » The Wedding Blog

[...] Image : Weddingbee PRO Nancy Liu Chin [...]

 

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Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs Nancy @ Nancy Liu Chin Designs, San Francisco Vendor: Florist Website: Nancy Liu Chin Designs About Me: A San Francisco native, Nancy graduated from the University of California - Berkeley's Haas Business School where she studied finance and marketing. Beyond running her floral studio, Nancy is a huge fan of Top Chef, loves to travel to exotic locations, is an avid reader of contemporary fiction and considers herself on Team Edward (Twilight fan!), entertains friends in her loft style home in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood, and can be found at SF Giant's home games. Nancy and her husband, Kevin are a dynamic pair and can be frequently seen walking their white Bichon Frisee, Chin Chin around the city and lounging at cafes sipping Italian sodas.
 
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