Woody cuts are portions of woody ornamentals used for floral or decorative purposes. These include foliage, flowering branches, fruit and seeds, as well as bare stems and branches. Numerous shrubs, trees, and woody vines can be grown commercially for these purposes. Cut flower growers may want to add woody cuts to their production line to diversify their products, expand their markets, and extend the floral season. Growers will need to be familiar with the different production and harvest requirements of a diverse group of plant material.
The demand for cut flowers has increased since the early 1990s. Woody cuts, which may be sold fresh or dried, have become a popular cut flower industry segment. According to the Census of Horticultural Specialties, woody cuts account for less than 25% of cut stem sales in Kentucky. Kentucky cut stem production (both wholesale and retail) was reported less than $200,000 in the USDA 2014 Census of Horticultural Specialties. This may indicate growth potential for sales of woody cut stems in Kentucky, particularly for operations already selling direct to consumers. The floral market shifts as consumer preferences change. Growers must be willing to adjust their production to meet these demands, a challenging task when dealing with woody plants. Marketing channels for woody cuts are similar to cut flower markets. Potential retail outlets include farmers markets, roadside stands and U-pick. Fresh cut material can be sold either as individual stems or bouquets. Most farmers markets and U-pick operations close in late summer/early fall, so growers utilizing these markets will need to locate alternative channels for winter and early spring material, such as pussy willows
A wide variety of deciduous and evergreen plant material should be planted to diversify the market offering and fill out the season. Consider a mix of the unusual along with the usual. Potential plant characteristics to consider include: native or adapted plant material; short time period from planting to harvest; quick re-growth after pruning or harvesting operations; good flower, berry and/or leaf retention; and long vase life. Maintaining plants that can be harvested at various stages of growth has the advantage of providing material throughout the various seasons of the year. For example, growers will want to be able to provide flowering branches in spring and summer; fall foliage and berries in autumn; and colorful or unique bare branches in winter. Woody stems that can be forced to bloom are another way to extend the season.