The increasing demand we put on our planet and it's resources means that it's every person's responsibility to do their bit to help reduce their environmental impact. Shopping seasonally, locally and sustainably across all industries is just one of the ways to help make a real difference, and this goes for buying cut flowers too.
Whilst there's the argument that the international cut flower industry has created countless jobs - and particularly in areas desperately lacking opportunity - there is also a counter concern about the working conditions for these employees and not to mention the impact of transporting such large volumes of international flowers across the planet in refrigerated planes and trucks. In our globalised world, if you're wanting red roses for Valentine's Day in the UK you can certainly have them, but at what environmental cost? The great news is that if you can forgo the idea of red roses in February, there is increasing availability of beautiful and scented British alternatives to surprise and delight.
According to Defra, only 14% of cut flowers sold in the UK are grown in Britain. The remaining 86% come from the Netherlands, or from warmer countries such as Ecuador, Kenya and Ethiopia. This is a sad fact and one that needs to change, however the British flower industry isn't perfect and quality and year round supply is an issue and in certain circumstances imported flowers are required. I will always use British (and preferably my own) flowers where possible, but as a small scale grower offering services year-round, for larger scale, or out of season events I do occasionally need to source from further afield. I will always be transparent about where the flowers come from.
Flowers From The Farm - the not for profit organisation championing British growers - is a great network of members making it easier for customers to understand the provenance of flowers and make more sustainable choices. As a grower i'd like my customers to know that I grow all of my flowers in peat free compost (I use my own homemade compost where possible) as peat bogs are incredibly valuable, carbon-storing ecosystems and we certainly shouldn't be using them to create growing mediums. I also don't use any chemicals or pesticides - even if they claim to be harmless - and generally aim to grow as organically as possible. I follow Charles Dowding's brilliantly simple 'no-dig' method to preserve the integrity of the earth and to feed the soil. I do buy imported bulbs when needed, however I try to save seed where possible and if i'm buying in I try to use other small scale, ethical British businesses as a preference.
Bees are a grower's ally and I try to ensure there are enough flowers left behind for them to thrive in my small space. Helping the bees also means growing a huge range of flowers and foliage that benefit them, not just the ruffled, double blooms that look so gorgeous to us, but aren't much good for our hardworking pollinators. We've also built a wildlife pond to encourage the frogs that eat the slugs and we welcome ladybirds as our aphid army.
In terms of growing utensils and floristry sundries, I also believe it's my duty not to add to the plastics problem and I try to ensure everything I use is free from single use plastic and is home compostable/recyclable where possible. I hope that by being clear on how I grow and arrange my flowers, I can give my customers the knowledge that they've supported a small, sustainable business as well as the larger British cut flower movement.
The RHS recently released that buying home-grown bouquets of flowers opposed to those grown and shipped from overseas, provides a saving of 7.9kg of carbon per bunch. If you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint, but still want beautiful flowers, then local and British is definitely the better choice.
*Sourced from Jez Fredenburgh's 'Made on Earth, The 4,000 mile flower delivery' via The BBC & From Defra