Guilty Flowers

I’ve been struggling with some guilty feelings about the source of some of our flowers. Straight up: most of them are not local. My friend Debra Prinzing wrote a fabulous book that was published this April called The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers, and it’s about the importance of local seasonality in the floral industry. Her book was a nagging reminder (in a good way) of the challenges we florists face when satisfying our customers while also taking care of the environment. It seems like the two are often mutually exclusive.

Let me explain: If you, my customer, want a beautiful garden-style vase arrangement with roses, lilies and hydrangeas, I’m going to make it for you. None of them were grown in Florida, so I had them shipped in. The fuel used to transport them was costly in more ways than one. There’s the impact on your wallet, because part of the cost of the flowers is in the shipping; and there’s the cost to the environment, like lowered air quality from burnt fuel.

Another issue is that in natural growing conditions, hydrangeas are in season before roses are, so to create an arrangement that includes both requires a contrived scenario that is anything but seasonal.

There are local options for flowers. In Central Florida, there are a host of orchid farms, and we do sell their orchids here. Our dish gardens are made from tropical plants also grown in huge greenhouses just north of Orlando. At certain times of year, we can get Florida snapdragons (which are much prettier than their imported counterparts). Sunflowers, too. But Debra (and most of her readers, I would guess), are dealing with Southern California floriculture, which is completely different. You can grow roses commercially there, which means flower shops can sell roses, almost year-round, drawing only from the farms of California.

Were I to impose such a limitation on our shop, we’d never be able to sell roses, our mainstay. Our roses come from Ecuador, and there’s nothing sustainable about them. But they are gorgeous, and our customers love them. When I hear and see their reactions to our rose arrangements, it helps me deal with my guilt. Meanwhile, I believe in Debra’s mission, and I’m going to uncover as many local sources as I can. Check back with us on the blog, where I’ll be posting each time I find flowers grown nearby. ~Sarah

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