Blogger: David Dahlson
When is a florist not a florist?
When he grows over sixty acres of flowers in Ecuador.
When is a grower not a grower?
When he produces beautiful hand-tied bouquets in the European style for sale in the USA.
At Bellaflor, in the small but rapidly growing town of Puembo, in what will shortly become the suburbs of a virulently growing Quito, they have been producing a wide selection of attractive cut flowers for many years now. Because they are at a lower elevation than most of the rose farms, Bellaflor produces a rose with a somewhat smaller head than is typical, and I would say that in many cases not so vulgar. They also grow beautiful gypsophila, as well as wide array of other flowers including chrysanthemum, veronica, amaranthus, lysimachia and molucella to name a few. Recent introductions include succulents, senecio cineraria and variegated mini-pittisporum (niger). For many years they have been producing export quality flowers, but the owner Hans Peter Hug, was forever lamenting the discarding of perfectly good flowers that were too short to meet export criteria. This where the European florist within Hans Peter’s personality prompted an examination of the marketplace and how these shorter stems could be better put to use.
Hans Peter Hug is originally from Switzerland where he received training in floral design, and as a young man moved to London in the sixties to be where the action was. He worked as a florist in Hendon, about 5 miles from where I grew up, and it could be I passed him on the way to the bowling alley in Hendon, one never knows. Peter eventually found his way to Ecuador where he started a small growing operation, while I travelled to Los Angeles. A little known fact is that Hans Peter did the landscaping at Florecal in his early days in Ecuador!
For me personally, Hans Peter is a wonderful spirit in our industry and his passion is incandescent, a trait sorely lacking in the flower business. He really knows about flowers, and also understands their peculiar magic. Yet his passion is founded on a platform of flower design and methodology that is peculiarly European and involves various economies in one’s work and one’s art. The economy that is required to be successful in a flower business is one of not wasting anything, but rather seeing all organic materials as having potential for design, and in turn generating revenue. I can see in my mind’s eye to this day a floral presentation some twenty years ago by Rene van Rems, a dutch designer residing in California. He was cleaning a stem of Aster Nova-belgii, and pointing out that all the lower laterals, although short, could be used for other work; and that by cleaning from the bottom-up, rather than by stripping the flowers from the top down (as is so often the case in many American shops), you would gather enough material to contribute to several other arrangements, thereby increasing the potential for profit. He highlighted this fact by telling the audience that as a student his teacher would rap him across the knuckles if any flowers, however short, fell to the floor!
Thus, in this same thrifty tradition, Hans Peter Hug decided to start using this shorter material to make rather petite posies and small bouquets. For several years, he was met with stout resistance from the American floral marketplace, but today is shipping thousands of delightful, charming and casual posies into the USA. But in contrast to most bouquet operations, Hans Peter has managed to not only teach his predominantly female staff to correctly bunch the stems in a spiral and hand-tie all the bunches (no rubber bands in sight!); but also instill charm and whimsy into every bouquet, a feat that is very difficult. Of course one of the main keys to this is to have a wide array of materials at hand to create these items, an obstacle that Hans Peter Hug has no problem with. And he continues to search for new items that can be grown in his micro-climate, in order to have a menu of blooms and foliages that can be combined in an endless array of possibilities. What is particularly impressive and noteworthy is that during all of the rush of Valentine’s Day, his team was able to produce, obviously mass-produce, these items and yet retain an attractive simplicity that is quite beguiling.
I know this to be true from seeing the results, some of which are pictured here, and then learning that Hans Peter was off skiing in Switzerland with his family.
He continues to grow wonderful floral items for the professional designer, and at Mayesh they present many of Bellaflor’s items on a daily basis, as the company still strives to produce wonderful items for the professional floral designer. Of late they have introduced several kinds of senecio cineraria, or Dusty Miller, as well as the classic “Iceberg”, a floribunda rose developed by Kordes in 1958 that is fabulous for wedding work.
Look out for the brand, and ask a Mayesh sales associate about their flowers and availability.