It's World Earth Day today and it seemed as good an excuse as any to break my blog writing drought. Being green is a subject close to my heart. I joined Greenpeace in my early teens and my first greenpeace walk was to Save the Whales. I wore the t-shirt and everything :) I remember making my mum and older sister use this very sticky "Ozone-Friendly" hairspray (remember this was the eighties when hair was impossibly big!) much to their disgust. Ozone depletion is a concern for many countries and now I find myself living in a country with serious concerns about ozone depletion. Seems like it's going to take more than a change in hair spray. I've taken my tree hugging tendencies with me as I've moved through life and now I'm seeing all kinds of news stories about the state of our oceans that I was fighting to protect 20 years ago. It seems that sadly it's got to a point where we can no longer turn a blind eye.
So what has this got to do with flowers? Many consumers aren't even aware of the amount of chemicals that their flowers have been treated with before arriving in a vase in their home. We are very consumer aware about the origins of our food and whether our fruit and veges have been treated with chemicals yet flowers and chemicals haven't entered the public consciousness yet. Or at least this issue is just beginning to be talked about. Just recently a friend admitted that she wasn't concerned about flowers being treated with chemicals because she didn't eat them. Fair point but what's the first thing you do when you get a bunch of flowers? Sniff them? Yes of course you do and if these flowers have been dipped in fungicide you will be inhaling those chemicals. Then you'll unwrap them from the plastic, touch the stems to snip the ends and those chemicals will be absorbed through your skin. Then, once the flowers have had their day you may responsibly compost them and add that compost at a later date to your vege patch. The chemicals then enter the food chain and you will consume them through your carefully grown veges. Not all flowers are grown this way but it is always worth asking where your flowers come from and what chemicals they may have been exposed to. So what can we do when buying flowers without turning our lives upside-down?
This is a really easy one. If you can possibly buy local and support your community then do this. Not only are you reducing car/air miles but you are also more able to actually build a relationship with the local business and you'll be able to ask where your flowers come from and whether they've been sprayed with harmful chemicals. Many florists support local growers (and thank you to those who support me) and proudly advertise this. Of course not everything can be grown in your local area so sometimes florists will have to obtain imported flowers. It's all about balance and it's all about choice. Also It's very tricky for growers to be totally organic because it's very difficult (impossible in some cases) to source organic seeds, tubers, corms and bulbs. Look for Spray Free and you'll be pretty safe in the knowledge that these blooms will not have been in contact with harmful chemicals.
This is a no brainer to me. We've been encouraged to buy fruit and vegetables seasonally and it makes total sense. They taste better because they're being grown when nature meant for them to be grown. Who has ever eaten an imported strawberry in mid winter? Disappointing right? It barely resembles the strawberries grown in summer. No taste and half the size. Then there's all the electricity used to grow it in the first place. There's just no point. It's the same with flowers. Don't ask your florist for dahlias in Spring or tulips in Autumn. Enjoy the huge variety of flowers as they bloom throughout the season. It might be a case of stepping out of your comfort zone and trying a bloom that you're not familiar with. I hold various workshops throughout the season and love to introduce new flowers to people. Look out for my seasonal Pick n Mix bunches available from next Spring. An easy way to try new flower varieties that you may come to love.
Avoid plastic wrapped flowers
Flowers do not need to be protected by plastic. In some instances, in the heat of summer, the plastic wrapping can even assist in reducing the life of the flower as it heats up in it's own little plastic greenhouse. Tell your local supermarket that you don't want plastic but prefer brown paper. sometimes, when I'm selling bunches at my local market, customers ask for the bottom of the stems to be wrapped. I don't have plastic so use brown paper. However, If you don't like bare stems that are a bit damp when transporting home in your car just keep a basket or box in the boot of your car. Pop them in and there will be no water splashes on the upholstery. Boxed flowers do look lovely and are very convenient but the flowers are bunched into plastic water bags and this creates unnecessary plastic. Being green does requires a bit of pre planning and habit forming. I've got into the habit of putting my re usable grocery bags straight back n the car after my grocery shop so they're ready for the next time. If you're taking flowers to a restaurant to give to a friend just ask the staff to put them in water while you have your meal.. If you're taking them to a friend's house just pop them in a container until the hostess can find time to put them in a vase. Yes it takes a bit more thought and is less convenient than a plastic wrapped bouquet in a box but think of the planet and the good you are doing. Plastic is the enemy.
I've ben thrilled to see the rise in popularity of dried flower arrangements which I'm sure has a little to do with the increasing awareness of the dangers of oasis (the green substance used to create certain types of flower arrangements). Oasis is full of chemicals including formaldehyde which are harmful to the florists who touch it, the consumer who breathes it in within their home and to the planet when it is disposed of after the flowers are long gone. It is a product of the oil industry and is a plastic. I've been using oasis rings for Christmas Wreaths for the last few years to meet customer demand for this particular look. However, I'm seriously considering going back to my roots and creating wreaths the way I used to create them back in the UK - a wreath form, wire and interesting foliage, flora and fauna that dries beautifully. It's all about education though. I'm not sure how well these will go down at Christmas but change has to start somewhere.
Champion businesses who care
I created a story on Instagram recently about the very cute Little Frimley Kitchen and their compostable/reclyclable cups/straws/cutlery/take out dishes. I saw it as a huge reason to go and support them aswell as their delicious pies and baked goods! I also supply their bakery and their sister cafe with flowers for the tables and the counters which, being spray free, I'm happy to display near food. As business owners and consumers we all have a responsibility and we can all vote with our dollar to make our point heard. So if you know of a business going above and beyond to do their bit for the planet make sure you applaud them and spread the word.
Photo cred : Felicity Jones @Greenisthething
If I look back at my flower farming journey I instinctively began using methods that worked in harmony with nature rather than against. I began growing flowers purely for pleasure and to encourage bees and beneficial insects to our property. When we bought our land it was an apple orchard that had relied on conventional spraying for many, many years. Slowly we ripped out part of the orchard which became our garden for the children. We planted a small woodland and sowed a wildflower meadow. We obtained two bee hives (although they've now moved to Carterton with their bee keeper!). We planted up a fig orchard (no spraying required) and planted rows and rows of flowers. We changed the lease of the apple orchard at the back of our land to an Organic company. We were thrilled when this same company leased our neighbour's land on one side and bought the land on the other side. We are now pretty much organic all around us but it's taken eight years. We have Tui, bell birds, morepork and so many bees, monarch butterflies, ladybirds and other wildlife that I just know that chemical free living is the right thing to do. I'm not an eco warrior by any means but it's worked for me and my flowers are a quality product that I'm proud of.