Members of the statewide floriculture industry recently gathered last month for a lineup of horticulture seminars, market strategizing workshops and networking at the fourth annual “Tropical Trends Collaboration Now in the 21st Century” conference presented by the Hawaii Tropical Flower Council, Crop Productions Services and the Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association.
Held Oct. 19-21 at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, the conference culminated with the first Tropical Trends Design Competition themed for a destination wedding in Hawaii. Award-winning floral designer, author and educator Hitomi Gilliam served as the contest’s lead judge, assisted by Carol Okada of the state Department of Agriculture, and Margarita (Day Day) Hopkins, retired economic development specialist with Hawaii County.
“The contestants exceeded my expectations, producing interesting designs that illustrated their mechanical and professional knowledge,” noted Gilliam of Design 358.
Participating design contestants from Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii Island were tasked with using a surprise package of materials to create a bridal bouquet, a table centerpiece and one table setting “for the sophisticated bride and groom from New York City.” The winning contestants took home cash and the public was invited to attend for free.
“A competition like this brings out the best of what Hawaii has to offer, both in product and floral design, added Eric Tanouye, president of HFNA. “Many of our local designers have the talent to compete on the larger stage. Their designs were beautiful and definitely cutting-edge.”
Taking first place was Iris Viacrusis of Iris Gill Design in Hilo, followed by second place winner Sue Tabbal-Yamaguchi of Su-V Expression in Honolulu. Lia Mercado of Ainahua Florals in Kamuela earned third place and the people’s choice award.
“Local residents usually want flowers from the Mainland for their weddings but after seeing what we did with the Hawaii product, they were amazed,” shared Viacrusis. “Events like this can excite our citizens to request our tropical flowers for their weddings, which is more affordable than shipping product in.”
The first day of the conference focused on ways to improve floral production, delving into pest control, fertilizer and research. Saturday’s programs covered the importance of not only having a business plan, but also a marketing strategy with a Hawaii brand identity.
Attendees learned about capitalizing on the trend in interior scapes, like “living walls,” and got an update on the global production and marketing of cut flowers, blooming plants and potted foliage by worldwide authority Henry Winogrond of Novelle Consulting.
While discussing “Trends, Design and Demand in the Floriculture and Nursery Industry,” Gilliam told growers they “have all the right things”—quality, product with interesting colors and textures and good delivery with Fed Ex—but need to better market themselves.
“The market is not going to come to the small grower; competition is fierce,” emphasized Gilliam of Canada. “Collaboration of all growers is essential to sell product to a targeted customer wanting the Hawaii brand and all the wonderful attributes the brand has to offer.”
Tanouye agrees, adding, “It’s important to stay in the top tier of the marketplace by delivering on the Hawaii brand promise of highest quality, consistency, an ever-changing diversified product, and service with aloha.”
The 4th Annual “Tropical Trends Collaboration Now in the 21st Century” is a partnership between County of Hawaii Research & Development, Crop Production Services, Flora-Dec, Hawaii Export Nursery Association, Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association, Hawaii Tropical Flower Council, Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, Orchid Growers of Hawaii, State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture and University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.