Flowers from here, elsewhere and everywhere – Pasadena Star News

  • American Honda’s 2022 Rose Parade float depicts a young girl’s passion for flying. It is estimated that 30,000 flowers were used to create this AES entry. The rocket flames were created from Christmas red mums, red carnations, white mums, white dendrobium orchids, yellow carnations and yellow oncidium orchids. Artist rendering courtesy of Pasadena Tournament of Roses

  • Pre-pandemic visitors could get a glimpse of the parade by watching volunteers work tirelessly to adorn the Rose Parade floats with all the natural and floral elements at Rosemont Pavilion in Pasadena. However, for the 2022 parade, public access for viewing tanks has been canceled. Trevor Stamp, Collaborating SCNG Photographer

  • Cal Poly’s float, “Aquatic Aspirations,” descends Colorado Boulevard on January 1, 2020. The Cal Poly entrance is one of the few regularly certified to have at least 85% of its flowers grown in California, and the one of the few self-built tanks decorated by sponsors. Keith Durflinger, Collaborating SCNG Photographer

By Jenelyn Russo

After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the 133rd Tournament of Roses Parade, in all its floral glory, returns to the streets of Pasadena on New Years Day.

With the 2022 theme “Dreams. To believe. Achieve. All eyes will be on the hundreds of thousands of fresh flowers, seeds, herbs and other natural materials that are used to bring the tank designers’ visions to life.

As 40 of these larger-than-life floats roll down Colorado Boulevard, the question becomes, where exactly did all these flowers come from?

Historically an event that celebrated foliage grown in California, the Rose Parade now features plenty of international flair, including carnations from Colombia, orchids from Thailand, proteas from Africa, and roses from Ecuador.

Tim Estes, president of Fiesta Parade Floats, has worked the last 56 Rose Parades, starting as a float decorator when he was just 8 years old. Founded in 1988, the award-winning parade float design company has The UPS Store and the City of Torrance on its customer list. Estes recalls that 40 to 50 years ago, 85 to 90% of the floral products used on the Rose Parade floats came from California. Now he estimates it could be closer to 10 percent.

While California’s state of constant drought may come to mind as the culprit for the decline in the Golden State’s floral contribution, the answer is actually more global in nature. With the ability to provide lower labor costs, Colombia, Ecuador and other countries in South America are able to cultivate float design objects such as carnations, chrysanthemums and the namesake roses of the parade at a cost much lower than that of the United States.

Related: How much does a Rose Parade float cost?

In addition, these countries can produce flowers that are larger and more uniform in size and color. As float designs over the years have gotten bigger and more complicated, consistency has become key.

“If I want to put 40,000 roses on a float, I need them all to be the same color,” Estes said.

There are exceptions to this holistic approach, as every year a handful of Rose Parade floats, such as the joint entrance of Cal Poly Universities of Pomona and San Luis Obispo, achieve California Cut Flower “California Grown” certification. Commission, with at least 85 percent of the flowers used on the float grown on state farms.

But with the majority of float flowers arriving from the sea, the effort to get them to their destination in time to decorate the week between Christmas and New Years is no easy feat. For an event that already required an almost perfect mix of timing and logistics, the flower industry this year faces the same supply chain issues that currently plague many networks in the global market.

“The ability to source this massive amount of flowers in a very short window of opportunity, at a vacation time when people don’t want to work, is already a tough business,” says Bob Mellano, vice president of Mellano & Company. “But it’s as if the difficult nature we normally deal with is now multiplied by 10.”

A third generation floral company founded by Mellano’s grandfather in 1925, Mellano & Company has been providing flowers in one form or another to the Rose Parade for almost 90 years. This time, they’ll be providing the flowers for 21 floats (nearly half of the parade’s entrances), either through produce grown on their 400-acre farm in San Diego County or through vendors around the world. whole. But not without a bit of luck.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in the flower industry on many levels, starting with the growth cycle. At the onset of the pandemic, there was an instant decrease in the demand for flowers and labor to work on farms. As a result, many varieties were not planted.

When restrictions eased, demand for flowers returned almost immediately, mainly due to the large number of weddings that had been postponed. Mellano says the past six months have been the busiest he has ever seen in the industry. Flower production remains below normal and sourcing of some flowers has been difficult. He made early contact with his customers, including Fiesta, and made sure to place orders in June for delivery in December.

But even though the product is slowly coming back, the next challenge for flower pickers has been managing the shipping.

Cargo planes to Miami or LAX are typical South American flower routes, but shipping containers off the southern California coast are having a negative impact, with many larger or luxury retailers opting for for transport by cargo plane instead of sea freight. to bypass the waiting time.

This means less room on cargo planes for flowers – and a drastic increase in costs.

Mellano estimates shipping rates for freighters to LAX are up 45 to 50 percent, with rates rising even more to Miami. At the end-user level, Estes estimates that a product that was previously priced at $ 100 can now cost closer to $ 150 to $ 160.

Flowers arriving from Europe present additional challenges. Irises and other bulbs arriving in the United States from the Netherlands normally travel via commercial planes, and with fewer flights and limited space available, Mellano estimates that these shipping costs have increased by almost 300%. .

Concerns about receiving the flowers in time to decorate the big day of January 1 do not end when the product arrives in the United States as the trucking industry faces a labor shortage near by. of 80,000 drivers, according to the American trucking associations.

But Mellano and his team have worked hard to stay on top of these issues, and he’s confident that orders for fresh flowers will arrive at the Los Angeles distribution center just before Christmas in time to be delivered to the parade float builders. from December 26. .

“Right now I feel pretty comfortable with where we are with just about everything and our ability to pivot into something else that will work for them,” Mellano said in November. “I feel a lot more confident about this now than I did four, five or six months ago.”

Pivoting is something that float designers had to do a lot this year as well, as some of the varieties of fresh flowers, dried flowers, and seeds commonly used for float decoration have been harder to find.

“Over the years we’ve always had a Plan A and a Plan B in case anything changes, but we never reduce the floral impact on our floats,” Estes said.

Scott Lamb, floral director at Artistic Entertainment Services (AES) agrees. Lamb is in his 50th year of working on the Rose Parade floats and counts companies such as Honda, Wetzel’s Pretzels, and the San Diego Zoo among AES ‘client list for the 2022 Parade. The uncertainty he and his team have had to navigate in recent months, Lamb is confident both in the swift arrival of his floral orders from sources such as Mellano & Company and in the backup plans they have put in place. up in case they don’t. t.

Either way, he’s delighted to welcome the return of all the sounds and sights that come with this beloved New Year’s Eve tradition.

“It has been a monumental task to deal with COVID in the back of our minds,” says Lamb. “I look forward to January 1st.”

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