TODAY'S GREEN MANTRA: I will challenge myself to get creative with flora grown within 200 miles of my home.

Day 39 / 365

My first conscious introduction to slow flowers was on a photoshoot I was modelling in for Jshoes. It was being shot at the dreamy organic estate called Dean’s Court (I write about the magical experience HERE) and was being prop styled by an amazingly talented soulful senorita by the name of Kelly-Marie Burdekin. For one of my shots, Kelly-Marie created a bouquet of flowers which matched perfectly with the shoes and outfit I was wearing. As I waited for the lights to be set up, I had a quick wander around the estate and noticed that each of the pieces of foliage in my hands had been created from flowering plants which had popped up around the estate and surrounding gardens.

I had never before thought about where my flowers came from in a way that gave me an answer deeper than “from the earth". Growing up in Canada we have an abundance of flowers in the Spring and Summer but everything seems to die in the Autumn and Winter, so when I bought flowers in the colder months, I figured farmers had grown them in greenhouses locally. To me, flowers seemed too delicate and frivolous for travel, and thus, logically and financially ridiculous to import.

Turns out I was wrong. And because of the use of low-cost imports which supply the majority of the flowers wefind, 50% of U.S flower farms have gone out of business since 1992. According to an inforgraphic I was sent by founder Debra Prinzing, 75% of Americans don’t know the origins of their flowers (same goes for their food). 

Currently the U.S imports around 80% of flowers sold. 40,000 boxes of flowers arrived daily, and during the weeks of Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, that number jumps to between 80,000 and 120,000, which means about seven daily flights, six days a week are up in the air to bring them from where they grow to where they’re bought (and eventually dumped in the bin).

Strangely, it’s not really a matter of supply and demand, it's about education. The 1,500 flower and foliage farms in the U.S who farm using sustainable practices can grow enough fresh, seasonal, unique and fragrant varieties of flowers to feed our floral addictions. We just have to vote with our coin and show the florists that we want to buy local.

One might wonder why the flower industry ever took this turn, turns out, it's cocaine. 

The flower industry only began shifting this way urns out this shift began in 1991when the Andean Trade Preference Agreement was enacted, it was in part caused by the U.S Government’s so-called “war on drugs” which had made efforts to shift agriculture in South American countries from cocaine production to a crop of similar value. And that crop was flowers, especially roses, carnations and chrysanthemums.

This move put a hiccup in the cocaine cartels and also devastated the local floral industry. To top it off, the new move added to the havoc being reaped on both humanity and the planet as it encouraged low labour costs and low cost productions with zero environmental regulation enforced. The chemicals and pesticides used on the flowers to keep the crops plentiful and alive for their airplane ride and distribution now guarantees that each time you take a whiff of your gorgeous bouquet, you're inhaling a shit ton of chemicals which also happen to be weapon against bees and other insects important to biodiversity.

Luckily, the Slow Flower movement is gaining genuine growth as conscious consumerism begins to flourish, even in areas where winter frost threatens to halt flower production all together, companies like Len Busch Roses in Minnesota are growing sustainably, through the winter, in greenhouses which are powered through cooperation from local municipalities which allow them to generate greenhouse heat from donated landscaping cuttings.

Even if you're not in reach of Len Busch Roses' conscious creations, Debra Prinzing has some suggestions:

Sourcing locally in the winter isn't easy for many North American florists, but I'm inspired by many creatives whose arrangements use live houseplants (succulents, orchids, begonias) and forced bulbs (amaryllis, narcissus) as well as dried flowers and gifts from nature like boughs, branches, pods and twigs. Everyone has their own ethos about local and domestic sourcing and I admire how much creativity comes from florists who limit their radius to, say 200 miles, even in the winter.

So with that in mind, and Valentine’s day only days away, here’s some ideas to consider if you’re a purchaser of floral things for your loved person(s), knowing that your efforts and creativity will support local jobs and economy, create a smaller carbon footprint, help preserve farmland, and promote more sustainable and environmentally-sound practices. 

- How To Shop For Slow Flowers - 

1. Ask your florist/grocery/wholesaler for locally grown flowers, if they don't have them, tell them you would love to see them supply some local options

2. If you're buying in a grocery store, look for origin-specific labels

3. If neither your local florist, nor your grocery store can provide you with sustainably sourced local flowers, try visiting:
[USA] for some terrific sources for organic and locally grown bouquets.
[UK] The British Flower collective has some wonderful floral stylists too. 
[CANADA] Design Sponge has a great list of local florists in the U.S.A and Canada

4. If that doesn't work out either, buy your partner seeds to plant in the spring or a gift certificate for a local floral shop for when their favourite flowers are in season!

I couldn't have written this article without the help of Debra Prinzing and Kelly-Maria. If you'd like to learn more about slow flowers, follow Kelly-Marie on her blog and instagram. You can also listen to Debra Prinzing's podcasts or order one (or two!) of her books.

'Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm' by Debra Prinzing

'The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers'
by Debra Prinzing