About Sustainable Flowers
Every year we celebrate British Flowers Week by decorating our village phonebox with local blooms to help promote the British Flower Industry.
A short intro to The British Flower Industry and sustainable floristry.
It's quite hard to talk about what it is that we at Little Garden do differently without talking about what's wrong with the floriculture industry in the first place.
The British Flower Industry is an under-valued and rarely discussed topic in the typical British household. And for no bad reason.. other than no one really knows much about it!
This was certainly the case for Lois when starting her career in flowers. Most flower shops or studio florists source their flowers from the global flower market - an incredible beast which can pick flowers in Kenya, ship them to Holland, and then fly them to Japan, and have them in a vase on your kitchen table 48 hours later.
Needless to say this obviously has a monumental carbon footprint. On top of this there is often many poorly paid workers taken advantage of, as well as the harsh use of chemicals and pesticides (often considered illegal in the UK) sprayed onto the flowers to reduce pests and increase vase life. Not something anyone should be handling!
The modern day flower shop may also choose to arrange those flowers for a wedding in floral-foam/Oasis - a carcinogenic, plastic-derived product which not only harms the florist handling it, but also poisons waterways and marine life after it's been soaked in water.
A year into working in the industry we were asking ourselves, when did something so natural turn into something that really wasn't?
So the question stands - how did the UK come to rely so heavily on imported flowers? Okay our climate is not suited to growing exotics, and customer taste changed towards them in the 1970's, perhaps at the crucial moment we voted in to the EU. But it seems the combination of the two factors pretty much saw the end of commercial growing in Britain - with some notable exceptions. From the mid 1970’s, the British flower industry has faced one challenge after another, and struggled to be financially viable.
Well now it seems we’re going full circle. Environmental awareness and economics mean we’re taking another look at how far our flowers travel before they get to our stores.
"A year into working in the industry we were asking ourselves, when did something so natural turn into something that really wasn't?"
Our first year of Phonebox decor!
This year featured a simpler
understated flower 'halo' to coincide
with the Gaydon Village Fete
And for the less exotic? Flowers we are more than capable of growing in the UK - like Tulips and Ranunculus, Peonies, Roses - are all currently imported from the rest of Europe in thousands of tonnes per day. Our trade arrangements with the EU are still to be decided and no one knows how it will turn out, but the likelihood is importing will become more expensive than it is right now.
The time for investment in British flower growing has never been more perfect. The growers are there, they are expanding rapidly, seeking support, buying the land, developing their stock, their range… They’re devising clever means of combatting bugs and beasties, whilst encouraging diversity. Not returning to an old model of mass-production, but trying to find new and sustainable ways of growing that will offer us, the flower lovers, all the abundant blooms we could possibly wish for.
And as for sustainable practices? In just the last two years the amount of discussion around this has increased massively. New resources are coming our of the woodwork, books and Facebook discussion groups encouraging new methods and practices are incredibly valuable. Still floristry colleges around the country lag behind, but social media and #nofoam or #foamfree are providing just as useful a tool as any.
We love to encourage the public to help this growing trend and industry by buying British flowers and talking to their local florists about being as eco-friendly as possible.
Look out for our Eco-Friendly Practices workshop and Pick-Your-Own classes to help expand your knowledge on sustainable flowers.
Rainbow-inspired phonebox flowers to bring hope to the locals as we exited our first major COVID-19 lockdown.