ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A three-day meeting of Alaska’s peony growers wrapped up on Sunday with a flower arranging workshop in Anchorage’s Sheraton Hotel.
Members of the public, along with a handful of peony farmers were given a hands-on lesson at arranging flowers that were all donated from different farms across the U.S.
Among the participants was Rita Jo Schoultz, owner of Alaska Perfect Peony in Homer, which was the first peony farm to open in the state about 12 years ago. Since then, she says about 200 farms have popped up across the state.
Almost all peonies grown in Alaska are shipped to the Lower 48. It’s an industry with stiff competition from other states and even other countries. But Schoultz says Alaska-grown peonies are superior in quality to those grown elsewhere.
“It's because of the cool growing conditions, they grow slower, when they grow slower then they're more compact as far as staying together and they have a longer shelf life,” Schoultz said. “And then they just keep growing and growing and growing of course with 22 hours of daylight.”
Still, there’s stiff competition in the Peony market, particularly with flowers imported from outside the U.S. A few years ago, the Peony industry launched the “Certified American Grown” brand, which helps consumers find and buy locally grown flowers.
“Most folks will typically purchase a locally grown product over an import, and that's not saying there's anything wrong with the imports, but there's an emotional attachment and we want to support our growers,” said Beth van Sandt, owner of Scenic Place Peonies.