It’s a flurry of activity these days on the premises of a handful of orchid and ornamental plant farmers in the district.

The commercial utilisation of Valentine’s Day, which falls on February 14, as a major marketing event has come as a windfall for the small-scale growers here.

Their farms, spread over the suburbs of Neyyattinkara, Kallambalam, Navaikulam, and Nedumangadu, were once fallow paddy fields, which now run on a profit and provide local employment.

In high demand

The demand for locally grown exotic flowers to embellish hotel foyers, restaurants, jewellery shops, garment showrooms, discotheques, marriage venues, and upmarket homes in Chennai, Bangalore, and Mumbai has been abounding and it has peaked this Valentine season.

In the run-up to the day, the farmers daily send hundreds of orchid stems, Heliconia blooms, ornamental foliage, and genetically engineered miniature “gingers, pineapples and plantains” via road, rail, and air to the metros.

Rahul Raveendran, an orchid cultivator, says that gifting expensive and custom-made floral bouquets replete with orchids, roses, foliage and geraniums has become the order of the day in upscale cities and the trend has benefitted farmers here.

Exotic and brightly coloured orchids, particularly varieties such as the red Aranthera Teacher Julin and Ann Black, the bright yellow Beatrix, and the multi-hued Spider, are slowly supplanting the rose in floral arrangements, the flower traditionally considered the icon of romantic love.

The demand for orchids has encouraged several unlikely people to enter the business.

For instance, Madhu Sankar sold his provision store in mid-2000 and started orchid cultivation on one acre of leased paddy field at Navaikulam.

Today, he runs his own four-acre farm.

Growers here say that they are willing to help newcomers start their own farms.

The Kollam archdiocese has reportedly evinced interest in farming orchids and ornamental plants.