With valentine’s day coming up the need for flowers is skyrocketing, on average $2 Billion worth of flowers are gifted each year. Gardeners have lots to do, timing and proper planning are very important as they prepare to sell 79% of their annual flower sales in just a week. There is lots of science that goes into mass producing flowers, and manipulating the environment for maximum growth.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
One way greenhouses maximise flower production is a deep understanding of photosynthesis and specific plant needs. Simple needs of a plant include water, sunlight, and CO2 and flowers are no exception. These elements are essential for quickly growing plants because they are necessary for the process of photosynthesis. Greenhouses were invented to create an optimal environment for these plants when the environment outside is too harsh. During the winter the flower company Donalson’s based in Sussex, UK, are able to continue to produce fresh flowers. Donalson’s is one of the last producers of chrysanthemums in the UK. Inside their massive greenhouse (covering 10 acres!) there are many innovative techniques used to continue rapid production. Saplings are planted in small squares of dirt then covered with plastic sheeting to increase the humidity and heat which helps them to root more quickly. The greenhouse is heated to 21°C and bright lights are used to supplement the natural daylight. Flower spacing is different per season with the winter flowers being spread apart more allowing more leaves to receive sunlight, and the summer flowers tightly packed. These techniques may not seem like scientific breakthroughs but they are revolutionary in the flower industry, allowing the Donalson’s to produce “17 million chrysanthemums every year.”
Image from Wikimedia Commons
The Donalson’s have beautiful chrysanthemums, but when it comes to February 14th nothing beats a classic rose. The typical rose is red but my personal favorite is a pink rose, another biological phenomenon. Through codominance pink roses (and other flowers) are allowed to exist. Codominance is a unique relationship between two variants of a gene where both traits are shown. This is demonstrated in pink flowers, where one parent has genes for a red flower and the other has genes for a white flower, the offspring then shows a combination of the traits or pink flowers. There are many techniques for cross breeding flowers and it can even happen naturally. Paul Zimmerman Roses Consulting & Design and other rose breeders look at gardening as an art form. To “breed flowers” they take pollen from one flower and put it on another in hopes of getting a rose that is more fragrant, disease resistant, different size, shape, or color. Many people don’t know that in flower breeding they must select a mother and father rose, the mother produces the seed, and the father provides the pollen. And through trial and error roses have become more elite each year.
Whether it’s red roses or pink chrysanthemums many people will be rushing to the store to pick up some flowers this valentines day weekend. What might be thought of as a cliche gift is actually a display of how biology is used in every part of our lives, whether we know it or not.