A major storm last fall and an unusually warm winter mean that supplies of Florida leatherleaf will remain tight for Mother’s Day, say growers in the Sunshine State.
“We are seeing improved quality on the leatherleaf and tree fern in spite of still tight supplies,” said Jana Register, director of sales and marketing at FernTrust in Seville, Florida, a co-op of 13 family farms and one of the largest growers and shippers in the area. “Supplies will still remain tight after the holiday for leatherleaf in particular.”
Wind damage from Hurricane Matthew in October was severe across Central Florida, with some estimates placing total crop loss at more than 50 percent and some growers seeing 100 percent losses. Warm winter days later led to spring-like new growth that affected other design room staples just before Valentine’s Day, including variegated and green pittosporum.
Indeed, the “strange weather seems to have lessened the volume we are seeing in the fields for the normal spring crops,” Register said.
Erik Hagstrom of Albin Hagstrom and Son Inc. in Pierson, Florida, echoed Register’s experience, noting that “leatherleaf supply is very tight as we did not have much of a winter, so to speak.”
“Our spring crop, used mostly for Mother’s Day, has came in late and very small,” he added. “Most companies [in Central Florida] are down in acreage to begin with either still recovering or forever changed from Hurricane Matthew.”
Repair work from Matthew is ongoing and unlikely to end soon, agreed Register.
“I think the last of the saran structures that are to be repaired in the industry have had tops replaced within the last few weeks, finally, as materials arrived,” she said. “So, there are brighter days ahead. We knew progress would be slow, but the amount of work and time required to get things back in order has been challenging for the growers.”
Still, she added, there are bright spots — and growers are busy in the run-up to the holiday.
“Pitt and the other woody ornamentals are beginning to harden off and I think we will be able to fill Mother’s Day orders on those items in time for the designers to work their magic,” she said.