Agriculture - - From The Editor - FROM THE EDITOR >BY ZAC B. SAR­IAN

IN ITS AN­NUAL OPEN HOUSE at its ex­per­i­men­tal sta­tion in Pan­gasi­nan in Fe­bru­ary 2016, Al­lied Botan­i­cal gave spe­cial promi­nence to its in­creas­ing col­lec­tion of flow­er­ing plants. And at the Hor­tikul­tura gar­den show, also in Fe­bru­ary, East-West Seed, an­other ma­jor seed com­pany, show­cased its var­i­ous flow­ers in its land­scape booth dubbed “Lovers Nook.”

This only goes to show that the big seed com­pa­nies clearly rec­og­nize the profit po­ten­tials of cater­ing to the re­quire­ments of the flower mar­ket in the coun­try. They rec­og­nize the in­creas­ing de­mand for flo­ral prod­ucts by the lo­cal mar­ket, and hope­fully the ex­port mar­ket.

As the seed in­dus­try peo­ple them­selves say, when peo­ple be­come more pros­per­ous—mean­ing, they have more money, they don’t worry about food se­cu­rity—with their dis­pos­able in­come, they will spend on other things that make life more en­joy­able. And th­ese in­clude flow­ers as well as dec­o­ra­tive fo­liage plants.

The beau­ti­ful thing about pro­mot­ing the flower in­dus­try is that it is one busi­ness that both the small play­ers as well as the cor­po­rate oper­a­tors can en­gage in. The small grow­ers can sell their pro­duce in niche mar­kets that the big oper­a­tors will not care to get into be­cause th­ese may be too small for them. That in­cludes small flower shops, week­end mar­kets, and gar­den shows. On the other hand, the big play­ers can cater to the more so­phis­ti­cated cus­tomers who re­quire im­proved posthar­vest

han­dling, pack­ag­ing, and the like.

This means that the flower in­dus­try is one that can pro­mote in­clu­sive growth be­cause even the mi­cro-en­trepreneurs can have a share of the flower busi­ness by grow­ing and also get­ting in­volved in mar­ket­ing their own pro­duce.

At Al­lied Botan­i­cal’s open house, they show­cased a wide va­ri­ety of flow­er­ing plants that are suit­able for land­scap­ing, pot­ted plant pro­duc­tion, and even cut flow­ers (like sun­flower). Among the new of­fer­ings are five dwarf and semi-dwarf canna cul­ti­vars that come in col­ors of white, yel­low, rose, salmon, and pink. Can­nas pro­duce big flow­ers that are long last­ing. They are ex­cel­lent for plant­ing in the land­scapes of re­sorts, golf cour­ses, and sub­di­vi­sions. They are also good ma­te­rial for pro­duc­ing pot­ted flow­er­ing plants for sale.

Aside from the can­nas from Takii Seed of Ja­pan, Al­lied Botan­i­cal show­cased new va­ri­eties of dwarf zin­nias that are florif­er­ous at a height of only about five inches. Th­ese in­clude white, yel­low, pink, red, cherry, and salmon. They also have a zin­nia with big flow­ers called Dream­land.

Other flow­er­ing an­nu­als that are po­ten­tial mon­ey­mak­ers as pot­ted plants and land­scap­ing ma­te­ri­als are Celosia plumo­sus of dif­fer­ent col­ors (red, white, yel­low), Cos­mos Sen­sa­tion, marigold, di­anthus, toreña, im­pa­tiens, vinca, helianthus, pe­tu­nia, and por­tu­laca.

SUN­FLOWER - Al­lied Botan­i­cal’s sun­flower va­ri­eties (3 tall and 1 dwarf) have now be­come a best­seller for the com­pany. We have seen them be­ing used in land­scap­ing in home gar­dens and re­sorts in Ba­colod and in many other places.

One in­ter­est­ing sun­flower va­ri­ety is the Sun­bright Kid, which is only about six inches tall with a big flower. It is ex­cel­lent for grow­ing as a pot plant al­though it can also be grown in the ground. The three other va­ri­eties are tall, dif­fer­ing only in the in­ten­sity of the yel­low petals and the color of the cen­ter of the flower.

Th­ese tall va­ri­eties in­clude Vin­cent’s Pomelo, with light yel­low petals and a yel­low cen­ter; Vin­cent’s Choice, with a black cen­ter; and Vin­cent’s Fresh, with a green cen­ter. Th­ese are be­ing grown for land­scap­ing, for use as pot­ted plants, and as cut flow­ers. Florists love the sun­flower for flo­ral ar­range­ments be­cause they can last for as long as one week, com­pared to just a few days for other flow­ers. The rea­son, ac­cord­ing to Rowena Bienes of Al­lied Botan­i­cal, is that the flow­ers are not pol­li­nated.

Here is some­thing most peo­ple don’t know

about sun­flow­ers. Most of the plants that we see have a big sin­gle flower at the top. There is, how­ever, a sim­ple tech­nique to in­duce the plant to pro­duce mul­ti­ple flow­ers, start­ing a few inches from the bot­tom of the stem up to the top. This is achieved by plant­ing, in the ground, seedlings that are two months old or older.

This tech­nique has one ad­van­tage. Says Ms. Bienes: Cut from the top a two-foot por­tion of the plant with mul­ti­ple flow­ers. At­tach an ap­pro­pri­ate rib­bon, and voila! You have a beau­ti­ful bou­quet.

SAME BE­LIEF - East-West Seed, an­other big com­pany, also be­lieves in the profit po­ten­tial of the flower busi­ness. That is why it is like­wise in­ten­si­fy­ing its dis­tri­bu­tion of seeds and full grown an­nual flow­er­ing plants that in­clude dif­fer­ent florif­er­ous be­go­nia cul­ti­vars, dwarf marigold, vinca, pe­tu­nia, zin­nia, celosia, and many more.

East-West Seed is well known as pro­ducer of var­i­ous “pinakbet type” veg­eta­bles and other high-value crops. But in re­cent years, it has given much at­ten­tion to flow­er­ing or­na­men­tals. Si­mon Groot, the com­pany’s Dutch founder, is re­spon­si­ble for the in­clu­sion of flow­er­ing plants in East­West’s of­fer­ings. Af­ter all, Groot, who is now re­tired but re­mains as com­pany chair­man, is a mem­ber of a fam­ily that was in­volved in flower seed pro­duc­tion for sev­eral gen­er­a­tions. When the orig­i­nal com­pany was ac­quired by an­other firm, Groot was pre­vented from en­gag­ing in the same line of busi­ness. That sent him to the Philip­pines to start the seed pro­duc­tion of trop­i­cal veg­eta­bles, mainly the pinakbet va­ri­eties.

DWARF POIN­SET­TIAS - King Louis Flow­ers and Plants, which has its main pro­duc­tion area in Baguio, is about the big­gest pro­ducer of dwarf poin­set­tias. The com­pany dis­trib­utes th­ese in Metro Manila and else­where. It is also strong in cut flower mums as well as dwarf pot­ted chrysan­the­mums.

The seed sup­pli­ers don’t just sell the seeds. They also teach the grow­ers how to pro­duce healthy seedlings and vig­or­ous plants. Al­lied Botan­i­cal, for one, is sup­ply­ing ger­mi­nat­ing me­dia that is ster­ile; there­fore, there is no need to ‘cook’ the soil for ger­mi­na­tion. They also have spe­cial­ized fer­til­iz­ers that can pro­vide the macronu­tri­ents as well as the trace el­e­ments that can help grow­ers suc­ceed.

VER­TI­CAL GAR­DEN­ING – The new trend of putting up ver­ti­cal gar­dens in busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments, pri­vate homes, and other places is pro­vid­ing new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for land­scap­ers, sup­pli­ers of drip ir­ri­ga­tion, and small plants used in ver­ti­cal gar­dens.

HOB­BY­ISTS – The hob­by­ists and small plant grow­ers are also get­ting a share of the busi­ness. Some grow spe­cial plants for niche mar­kets that the big­ger oper­a­tors don’t find big enough. Ex­am­ples are mu­tant plants (mostly var­ie­gated) that plant col­lec­tors are look­ing for. One ex­am­ple of a rare plant grown by a hob­by­ist in­tended for plant col­lec­tors is the But­ter­fly fern that won a top prize at the ta­ble plant com­pe­ti­tion at the Hor­tikul­tura gar­den show. It had a price tag of R18,000.

There are many other rare plants for which mon­eyed plant col­lec­tors are will­ing to pay a high price. The most fa­mous of them is the var­ie­gated fo­liage an­thurium that was bought by a busi­ness ty­coon for a cool one mil­lion pe­sos in 2015.

Now you see, there is money even for the mi­cro en­trepreneurs in grow­ing flow­ers and rare or­na­men­tals.

Pot­ted Sun­bright Kids are more than just flo­ral ar­range­ments be­cause they fea­ture live plants used as decor.

Vis­i­tors pose with pot­ted sun­flower for sale at R75 each at the Al­lied Botan­i­cal ex­per­i­ment sta­tion in Tayug, Pan­gasi­nan.

Sun­flower with mul­ti­ple flow­ers. This is achieved by plant­ing old seedlings in the ground (such as those more than 2 months old).

This is the Vin­cent’s Pomelo va­ri­ety with a yel­low cen­ter. The gar­den va­ri­eties of sun­flower last long as cut flow­ers be­cause they are not pol­li­nated.

This is Vin­cent’s Fresh va­ri­ety which has a dis­tinct cen­ter and its petals are a more in­tense yel­low than Vin­cent’s Pomelo.

This is Vin­cent’s Choice with its light yel­low petals and black cen­ter.

Large-flow­ered be­go­nia show­cased at Hor­tikul­tura 2016 by East-West Seed.

Close up of the Lovers Nook by East-West Seed at the Hor­tikul­tura 2016 fea­tur­ing var­i­ous flow­er­ing an­nu­als.

Full view of the Lovers’ Nook by East-West Seed at Hor­tikul­tura 2016.

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