The ornamental industry in Italy has been hit very hard by the pandemic. During the lockdown, many growers discarded up to 90% of their finished plants. Fortunately, since Italy is easing the lockdown, ornamental sales are increasing and positive vibes are arising. This is explained by Alexandro Bock of DIEM srl, who breeds and grows young and finished plants in Italy and supplies his varieties all over the world. For him, the period during the lockdown is usually 'low season', but also he experienced cancellations of his rooted cuttings and half finished plants in March, but as the sales started to pick up, growers called back their cancellations. This combined with their finished plants production and the current selection of new varieties for 2021 makes them work overtime.
Alexandro Bock in the greenhouse holding some of the new/potential varieties
No dip in sales after Mother's Day
After Easter, since the country started to ease the lockdown, ornamental plant sales started to increase, peaking at Mother's Day and importantly, not dipping after this Holiday. "Usually after Mother's Day, we have a bit of a decrease in plant sales, but this year we had not. All garden plants had a positive market." Now it is slowing down a bit, he explains, but this is mainly because people are since a couple of days allowed to go to the seaside again. But hopes for this season are high.
Positive Hibiscus sales
Also for the hibiscus, sales increased and not only volume wise, price-wise as well. "This year, the prices of the hibiscus plants were even a bit higher. The growers increased their prices a bit, and in turn garden centers, supermarkets and DIY stores too. And it did not have an effect on the sales. It seems that the consumer is not afraid to spend a bit more money on a plant that stays in the garden for a longer period." And Bock is noticing this trend for several years now and not only in Italy. "In China, the demand is increasing for several years and lately, we also receive more and more requests from Greece and Romania. Spain increased volumes as well over the last years, but is currently having a complicated season due to the COVID-19 situation"
Breeding going on
The lockdown is usually low season for DIEM and as they had to close the doors of the nursery that is situated in Latina, for 14-20 days, they had time to fully focus on breeding. "My father, mother and I were taking care of the plants, with my father focussing 100% on the breeding. He finished the selection and as soon as people were allowed to travel within the region again, our customers came to see it. Over the last 10 days we have been welcoming customers all over the country and showing them our new mini, medium and big flowered varieties. The feedback we received so far has been great, very positive and will help us decide on the final selection.