Kevin suggests I travel with him to Canby,
Oregon, to experience a production facility
and see firsthand the difference between
farm-made and Costco-made bouquets. I
jump at the chance.
We are met by Kendal Floral Supply president Ken Baca. With 1,500 varieties, 104 of
which are Rainforest Alliance Certified roses,
Kendal is the second-largest importer and distributor of fresh cut flowers in the United
States, and accounts for 25 percent of all Costco
warehouse cut flowers.
Their facility (pictured at left) takes my
breath away in more ways than expected. The
Rainforest Alliance Certified roses, in a rainbow of colors, beg me to take them home. But
it’s the chilly temperature, held at a constant 35
degrees Fahrenheit inside the plant, that grabs
Ken Baca explains, “Flowers age about
There’s much more to learn
three times faster at warmer temperatures;
this is why Costco’s cold chain is maintained
from harvest to warehouse.”
I’m shown photos of flowers stored at 32
degrees for five days and then stored at 68
degrees. They had a life of 11. 5 days, whereas
those held at 50 degrees for five days and then
at 68 degrees lasted only 7.0 days, a 39 percent
decrease in vase life.
Costco specifies 50 cm ( 19.7-inch) long
roses because stems are stronger and flower
heads larger. Also required for most rose varieties are slightly open buds, as they continue
to unfurl and hold better in the vase. Costco
sets a goal of two days from harvest to production facility and less than 48 hours from
production facility to warehouse. (Some
Costco warehouses receive deliveries daily.)
We walk through the plant. It mirrors
what occurs on Rainforest Alliance Certified
farms, with water and cardboard recycled and
green waste composted.
Baca randomly opens boxes of flowers
that have just arrived. They are magnificent,
with strong stems, no droopy leaves and buds
individually protected in sleeves.
I learn that vase life can vary from three
days to three weeks based on variety, place-
ment and handling. (In a quest for the perfect
rose, breeders sacrificed fragrance for vase life;
however, they are now working on having
both.) For best results, follow the guidelines in
“Surviving the first cut.”
Baca ends our tour by noting, “Rainforest
Alliance Certified roses are a symbol of pride
for all of us. Costco’s goal is to set the pace for
our industry, and that is what we’ve done.
Nobody touches Costco’s price.”
Costco’s Rainforest Alliance Certified 50
cm, 24-stem rose bouquet with greens and
rose food is $15.99 (less than 67 cents per
stem). A quick trip to my local grocery finds
50 cm roses offered at $2.99 per stem ($71.76
for 24) and certified fair trade roses at $3.49
each ($83.76 for 24).
I’d say Costco Rainforest Alliance
Certified roses are bloomin’ great. C
SEASONAL MIXED BOUQUETS (about
30 stems) and garden bunches (single
variety) are also sold in warehouses.
Costco purchases local, U.S.-grown flowers whenever possible, including the
majority of sunflowers, tulips, gladioli
and iris. While not certified, these farms
are pressed by Costco to perform within
the same Rainforest Alliance standards.
The new special-order program
makes it possible to order Costco flowers
ahead of a wedding or other big function.
Costco’s supplier, Kendal Floral Supply,
assigns a specific person to each order.
Kevin Gleason, floral buyer, provides
the details: “There are minimums, and
orders need to be placed seven business
days prior to the requested arrival date at
the warehouse of your choice. There are
no special handling or shipping fees.”
Look for the special-order phone num-
ber on a sign on the floral cooler or speak
to the cooler merchandiser, warehouse
duty manager or staff at the membership
counter. (Not offered the two weeks
before Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s
Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.)
You can also shop for flowers at
Costco.com; click on “Grocery & Floral,”
and then on “Floral.” Pre-made wedding
ensembles, bulk flowers, roses and select
Rainforest Alliance roses are particularly
Roses at Costco are a bloomin’ good value
Surviving the first cut
WANT TO ENSURE those fresh-cut
blooms will stay beautiful for as long as
• As soon as you receive the flowers, empty the accompanying floral
sachet into a vase of clean, fresh water.
• Using a sharp knife, cut the base
of each stem at an angle before placing
the flowers in water; this will ensure
the flowers are rehydrated.
• Remove foliage below the water
line to prevent bacteria buildup; retain
foliage above to maintain plant health.
• Keep the flowers away from
direct sunlight or indirect heat, including that generated from the top of
appliances such as TVs.
• Every three days, change the
water and recut the flower stems; if
possible, add more flower food.
Price comparisons made on 1/31/11 in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. Configurations
and price of all stems may vary due to shipping and availability. *Not Rainforest Alliance Certified.