Sunday, 4 April 2010

Marché aux Fleurs

Every two years for 3 days Hyères celebrates their very profitable cut flower industry. The Marché aux fleurs opens its doors to the public. Organises bus tours to a specific cut flower grower. Whilst waiting for the bus you can watch the floats being decorated for next day’s parade, admire the incredible long stalked flowers (1 m long in some cases) used in the flower displays, followed at the end of the day by a défilé, once more all the dresses were decked in flowers. The highlight of the second day is the flower floats parade through the city.

The cut flower industry is very important to the region. The Marché aux fleurs is the 4th largest auction house for cut flowers in Europe, the first three being in the Netherlands.

Flowers grown locally are :

Anemone, Anthirrhinum (Snapdragon), Anthurium (Flamingo flowers), Arum lily, Carnation, Gerbera, Orchid, Peonie, Ranunculus, Rose and Tulip

This year’s chosen flower to represent the three days of festivities was the Gerbera. Commercially it is the fifth most used cut flower in the world (after Rose, Carnation, Chrysanthemum and Tulip).

What makes the Gerbera commercially so interesting is that it comes in many different colours suiting different occasions. The size of the flower varies from the smallest, the Gerbera mini (7cm), to the large Gerbera flowers with a diameter of 12 cm. The Gerbera mini is the more popular of the two because it is easier to transport, its neck does not need to be supported. Its bigger sister has lost some of its popularity as it has become associated with funerals besides being far more delicate.

Gerberas are found in the wild in South America, Africa and tropical Asia. They belong to the Sunflower family. The shop variety is mostly a cross between Gerbera jamesonii and Gerbera viridifolia, both found in South Africa. In the 19th century Richard Lynch first crossed Gerbera jamesonii with Gerbera viridifolia.

The flower on the left is a Gerbera jamesonii, the flower on the right is a Gerbera viridifolia
The result of this cross is known as Gerbera hybrida. The flower we buy in the flower shops or markets. Every year new varieties of Gerbera hybrida appear on the market.

The flower has multiple rings of increasingly large overlapping petals surrounding the central disk. The central disk consists of lots of disk flowers, the disk flowers open as the flower gets older. When the flower is freshly picked not many of the disk flowers have opened – one way of determining the freshness of the flower.

During the visit their representative explained to us, that the running of the greenhouse was completely computerised from the amount of light, warmth, water to fertilizer the plant receives.

He gave a few statistics of costs involved :

This particular greenhouse cost 1 million € to construct.
It houses 84,000 Gerberas in pots.
Each plant produces during its two year life cycle, 60 flowers.
Depending on the time of the year, one Gerbera flower fetches between 15-25 cents.
His profit is 10-15%.

Some more info :

Coco fibre is used instead of soil, it absorbs water very well, but at the same time excess water drains easily.
Each plant receives 1/2 liter of water mixed with fertilizer 4 x a day.
Excess water is collected from underneath the plant and recycled.
The plant receives 8 hours of light a day. Too much light makes the plant grow too fast and vice versa.
Curtains are used to cast shade.
During the winter lamps are used to bring in extra light.

It was well worth a visit.

Info : Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia

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