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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Floriculture, or the growing of plants for ornamental purposes, particularly for flowers, is yearly assuming larger proportions in the United States. The industry consists in growing annual, biennial and perennial plants either under glass or outdoors, and in the disposal of the same in wholesale or retail markets. These products are sold as cut-flowers or potted plants to be used for indoor or outdoor home ornamentation, or for planting in public parks, about schools and other public buildings, or in cemeteries for ornamental purposes. (For home flower-gardens, see p. 1747.)

Importance of the industry.

The floricultural statistics taken from the census of 1910 show a marked increase in the importance of this branch of agriculture within the previous decade. The acreage, as given for this census, was 18,248 as compared with 9,307 as given for the census of 1900. The total valuation, as given in this census, was $34,872,000, an increase of 85.9 per cent as compared with the report of the census for 1900. The figures were compiled in nine large geographical divisions of the United States. These were New England, Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic, East North Central, West North Central, East South Central, West South Central, Mountain, and Pacific.

From its beginning the industry has centered around such large cities as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. The business is now assuming considerable importance in Chicago, St. Louis and other large cities in the Middle States, the South and West. Statistics show that the largest floricultural output comes from the Middle Atlantic section. The states which compose this section arc New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The total valuation of products from this section is $11,810,076. The second section of importance is the East North Central, composed of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, in which the figures given were $9,029,125. The third important section was New England, where the total valuation was $4,677,316. The smallest output comes from the Mountain section, composed of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Here the output was $753,914. The most rapid increase in the industry during the decade seems to have been in the Pacific section, composed of Washington, Oregon and California, where the valuation of flower products sprang from $726,968 in 1899 to $2,175,572 in 1909. New York leads other states in floricultural products, having an output of $5,110,221. The rank of other important states is Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio.

Floriculture is intensive agriculture; consequently the acreage devoted to the industry is not so large as in other branches of agriculture. The amount of capital invested in glasshouses and their equipment is considerable. The return from the products, however, is immediate. Commercial growers and men making a business of greenhouse construction, estimate that it costs from 60 to 90 cents a square foot of ground covered to build and equip a modern range. The growers estimate that the products from such an area the first year should cover the cost of construction.

The flower-growing industry in the United States has not yet assumed the large proportions that it has in many European cities. The early colonists were an extremely practical people and paid little attention to the distinctly ornamental features about the home. As wealth increased, however, there came to be a more liberal use of flowers and plants; hence a larger demand for them in the industrial world.

Floricultural statistics for the Dominion of Canada are less complete than for the United States. The following are figures furnished through the courtesy of W. T. Macoun, Dominion Horticulturist:

Capital invested, approximately....................................$1,500,000

Square feet of gloss............................................... 6,000,000

Annual output..................................................... $1,000,000

Area covered....................................................... 120 acres

History of the industry.

The early history of the floricultural industry is obscure. It was merged to such an extent with other branches of horticulture and other industries that it could hardly be called a distinct industry. Previous to 1825 there is record of but few commercial flower-growing establishments. From 1830 to 1840, rapid progress was made in all branches of the work. The demand for glasshouse products increased to a considerable degree. Better houses were built, better systems of heating were devised, and consequently better products were put on the market.

Even the glasshouses of this period were extremely crude affairs. The framework was of large dimensions, the glass small in size, heavy and thick. The roofs were largely portable, being made of sash. About 1855 the first house having permanent sash-bars was built by Frederic A. Lord in Buffalo. The wooden superstructure of this house was heavy and the interior light conditions correspondingly poor, but it was a vast improvement over sash-houses. This type of construction was met with favor by glasshouse men, and many houses of a similar type soon were built. Glass of larger size was used, and this was embedded in putty instead of being placed on the outside as in sash-houses.

Previous to 1870 the principal business of the florist was the growing of potted plants. The flowers from these were often sold as cut-flowers, but the business centered about growing potted plants for outdoor bedding and other ornamental purposes. The cut- flowers of that early period were comparatively of a small-flowered, short-stemmed sort—heliotrope, camellia, tuberose, bouvardia and those of a like nature. Although the carnation was introduced as a florist crop about 1852, it was of little commercial importance previous to this date. About 1865, Dailledouze & Zeller of Flatbush, Long Island, began to breed the carnation, and between 1866 and 1872 several new varieties were introduced by this firm. Garden roses had been popular for many years, but few attempts were made to grow them under glass previous to 1870. They then came rapidly into public favor.

From 1870 to 1880 the demand for both potted plants and cut-flowers increased rapidly. More attention was paid to city and home ornamentation, and consequently more park and private conservatories were built. Each year witnessed improvements in construction, and consequently better grades of florists' products. In the last twenty years the advances which have been made in cultural conditions and the improvements in florists' crops have completely revolutionized the industry.

Improvements in glasshouse structures, and their heating.

The tendency among flower-growers now is to build large houses in preference to smaller ones. It has been proved that the cost of construction is cheaper and that these may be more easily heated, that plant-growth is healthier because of a more uniform temperature, that they are easier to construct and can be cared for with greater economy of labor. Glass of larger size is now used, and more attention is given details of construction to increase the light factors in the house. There have been many changes in methods of heating glasshouses during their history. From the crude methods of flues, various devices for heating with hot water and steam have been devised. Both of these methods have their advantages. In the earlier methods of hot- water heating, the pipes were large and the system was an expensive one to install. Steam, therefore, came into popular favor, especially in large commercial establishments. It is still generally used. In some sections of the country and in the growing of some species of plants, hot water is still used; but here better systems for forcing the circulation of water have been installed so it is possible to use pipes of smaller dimensions.

Improvements in flower crops.

The work of the plant-breeders began to produce results in the early nineties of last century. Many new varieties of chrysanthemums and carnations were put on the market. The violet then became an important florist crop. The early part of the twentieth century, however, witnessed a deluge of new varieties in practically all species. Breeding and improved cultural methods brought the qualities of the products far above anything produced in the previous century. Large-flowered carnations on long, stiff stems, violets of much larger sizes, and improved strains of chrysanthemums, roses and other species gave a remarkable impetus to the industry.

Previous to the beginning of the twentieth century, the American florist had interested himself in the culture of a wide variety of plants. In many cases the larger part of the products were sold at the range. The business, however, assumed such proportions that many up-to-date florists found that they could not profitably raise and dispose of their products at retail; consequently the retail flower-stores became more and more important factors in the disposal of the products. Wholesale commission houses and wholesale flower-markets were established in the larger cities so that the grower could devote nearly his entire time to the production of his crop. Many of the more progressive florists came to feel that they could not afford to grow a wide variety of plant species, but that it paid them better to grow one or two crops and to devote their whole attention to growing these in the finest manner possible so that they could produce flowers which were first quality in every respect; hence men came to be known as carnation, rose, violet, chrysanthemum, fern, palm and other specialists. This led to a wonderful improvement in the quality of flowers produced, and there was no call in the market for the inferior grades.

The buying public has had its influence in producing a better quality of florists' products. It has demanded not only better quality but something out of the ordinary. People tired of roses, carnations, violets and bulbous stock continually. The early part of the twentieth century witnessed a remarkable interest in orchids. The commercial man had to meet this demand. Twelve years ago an orchid could hardly be found outside of private conservatories. They were considered impossible to grow with financial success. Today nearly every up-to-date retail grower has his section of orchids, and nearly every large floricultural center has its orchid specialist. For many years it was considered impossible to get satisfactory results from sweet peas under glass. The introduction of new strains and careful study of cultural conditions made the culture of this crop possible. The forcing of hardy herbaceous perennials like antirrhinums, delphiniums, and the like, and the forcing of hardy shrubs and other rare, hardy stock has furnished the flower-grower with a wonderful range of the more unusual plants.

Many large American flower-producers are now managing their business on a departmental scale. There are retail and wholesale departments; palm, carnation, orchid, rose, chrysanthemum and bedding departments, each in charge of a specialist in growing that particular crop.

The flower exhibitions held from time to time in the larger cities have had a beneficial effect on the uplift of the business. These exhibitions have been viewed by thousands of retail buyers. The choicest products of the flower-grower's skill have been exhibited, and the public has become dissatisfied with the inferior grade of commercial flowers offered for sale in the average flower-shops. They have demanded better products, and it has been the work of the flower- grower to produce these qualities.


Within the last ten years there has been a remarkable increase in literature on flower-growing. Such papers as "The Florists' Exchange," "The American Florist," "Florists' Review," "Horticulture," "Gardening," "Gardener's Chronicle of America," have kept* the grower closely in touch with the work in the gardening world. Many publications for the amateur, like "The Garden Magazine," "Country Life in America," "House & Garden," "Suburban Life" have assisted in giving the American people much valuable information regarding flower-growing about the home.

A long list of books might now be given, dealing with commercial and home flower-growing. Among these, valuable for the commercial man, are: "The American Carnation," C. W. Ward; "Commercial Rose-Culture," Eber Holmes; "Chrysanthemums for the Million," Charles H. Totty; "Violet-Culture," B. T. Galloway; "Orchid Culture," William Watson: "Florist's Manual," William Scott; "Plant-Culture,'* G. W. Oliver. Excellent books for the amateur are: "The Rose," H. B. Ellwanger; "Window-Gardening," H. B. Dorner; "The Garden Month by Month," Mrs. M. C. Sedgwick; "Making a Bulb Garden," Grace Tabor; "Roses and How to Grow Them," Doubleday Page & Co.; "House Plants and How to Grow Them,1' Parker T. Barnes. E. A. White.


The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

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