I’m a big nerd when it comes to my love for locally-grown, organic flowers. I get overly excited. Like a terrier. ‘Slow Flowers’, a derivative of the Slow Food Movement, is a concept coined and tirelessly advocated by the remarkable Debra Prinzing (author of The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers, as well as, you guessed it, Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm ) to describe the on-going shift towards a more conscious floral consumerism. Just as people have become more aware of where and how their food is produced, they are starting to realize that the same principles should be applied to the cut flowers they buy (the ones sitting in a vase on the table right next to their local, organic food). We should strive to farm flowers in the same ethical manner; free of chemicals, free of excessive packaging, and free of incredibly long-distance travel that requires fuel, preservatives, refrigeration, and even more packaging. Furthermore, the slow flowers concept champions the organic flower farmers; those who dedicate their lives to responsibly producing those gorgeous blooms.
Ten plus years ago, when I was running my floral event company, the slow flower concept was completely unheard of. I used to get so angry, too–showing up in the wee hours of the morning to the Los Angeles Flowermart and paying top dollar for materials that had literally been flown in from Holland or Columbia that very morning because a bride needed *this exact shade of pink* tulips and roses. How crazy is this? It made me irate, actually. This is not to say that there weren’t locally-grown materials available there–in fact, I tried to buy those whenever I could. But the wedding industry, at the time, kind of drove this ‘anything is available any time of year’ mentality that meant materials were often shipped from the other hemisphere. It was this insipid ‘Yes-ism’ that went something like: “Oh, you want scarlet peonies? Well, they aren’t in season, but let me just call Australia”. I was guilty of this mindset… though, at the very least, it bothered the living daylights out of me.
I used to fantasize about having a huge piece of property where I could just grow the flowers myself (at the time, I lived in a teeny-tiny house on a teeny-tiny urban lot–even teeny-tinier than the one I live on now) and then create events exclusively with those materials. But that just wasn’t how it was done. You don’t get *this exact shade of pink* tulips all year round when you grow them and sell them locally (if you even ever get it at all). You get what is in season…which is always gorgeous, but might not match that Home Depot color card you brought to me and insisted I find the exact floral manifestation of (true story). Ultimately, I was so disgruntled with ‘how things were’, that I left the business all together. I wish I had had the gumption to dig my heels in then, but life was sending me in another direction.
It sent me to the Farmhouse, where we moved right after I closed down the flower company. Naturally, I was reeling a bit at that time. What was I supposed to do with my life now? I missed the flowers, and I missed the actual art of arranging. It’s rather cliché, but I also missed the ‘giving’ of flowers. So while we threw ourselves into the renovation of this old house, I also threw myself into designing an organic garden that would give me enough flowers to get my fix.
For a few years, I busied myself with house projects and ‘playing’ in the garden. Oh…and I started a blog. 🙂 My foray into the world of social media brought with it a trickling awareness of change within the floral industry. I began stumbling across blogs and Instagram accounts of florist farmers such as Floret Flower Farm in Washington, and Saipua in New York. And, of course, I followed. I began to see florists dedicating themselves to using only local, responsibly-farmed flowers, such as Farmgirl Flowers in San Francisco. And places like Lila B. Flowers in San Francisco and Silverlake Farms in Los Angeles defying the odds (and, in the case of Silverlake Farms, changing the laws) to grow sustainable flowers and produce for sale and for floral design, in the heart of the city (cheers to that). Go follow all these wonderful companies (full list of links at bottom)–you won’t be sorry!
I started hearing (*seeing, *reading) Debra’s name a lot. When The 50 Mile Bouquet came out, I ate it up–almost literally–the images (photographed by David E. Perry) are downright yummy. Here is a fascinating glimpse into the stories of the farmers, florists, and designers that make American slow flowers their life (but first, might I suggest reading Amy Stewart‘s Flower Confidential so that you can see exactly what these farmers are up against with mainstream floriculture). Close on the heels of The 50 Mile Bouquet came Prinzing’s aptly-titled Slow Flowers, a veritable user-manual for building 52 weeks of breathtaking seasonal arrangements. For anyone dabbling in the art of DIY floral-arranging, this book is chock-full of ‘recipes’ and tricks of the trade. My favorite trick of hers? Instead of using that green goblin of the floral trade, florist foam, use chicken wire inside your container to stabilize your materials. Brilliant. I may or may not have an excessive amount of chicken wire laying around.
But it gets better. You may be thinking this is all good in theory, but not so easy in practice. If you’re like me, trapped in the middle of a huge city, you may (ironically) be a little stranded when it comes to accessing locally-grown flowers. You may naively get really excited and buy peonies from Trader Joe’s thinking they are locally-sourced and then, after the fact, find out that they actually came from Canada. I’m not naming names. (To be fair, both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods source local flowers when possible, but not exclusively.)
So what is one to do (especially if you aren’t able to have a cutting garden of your own)? There are more and more resources online for finding your local flower farmer. For starters, visit the brand new slowflowers.com. Prinzing‘s latest endeavor is an actual online directory of floral studios, flower shops, flower farms, and designers who use American-grown flowers, or as the case may be, grow the flowers themselves. This incredible list of vendors is growing every single day. FieldtoVase.com is a lovely spot on the interwebs created by the brains behind Farmgirl Flowers, Christina Stembel, as a hub for all things locally grown and floral. Here, you will not only find a list of incredible contributors and a growing list of resources, but you will find a delightful blog spotlighting industry creatives and the very latest news.
There are a number of organizations that you should check out, as well. The California Cut Flower Commission (ccfc.org) has some fabulous resources, information, and meet-your-farmer type highlight stories for California-grown flowers. The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG.org) is full of a wealth of industry links and information, but most importantly, you can search their website for local growers and flower shops by state. When you are shopping for flowers, look for the new American Grown stickers that make American flowers easily identifiable at your local market, or for the CA GROWN stickers that mark the abundance of blooms that come from the Golden State.
I simply can’t urge you enough to seek out flower vendors at your local farmers’ markets. This really is the best way to ‘know your farmer’ and support them, whether it be for flowers, produce, etc, etc. And if you’ve got the space and the will, grow yourself some pretties of your own. One of my favorite things is to purchase a local bouquet, bring it home, and add to it from my own garden. There’s my bliss. Right there.
I love that consumers are embracing slow flowers and the simple notion that seasonal is better. I adore reading stories about weddings designed with locally-sourced materials; brides and event designers actually choosing sustainability from the get-go, and in some cases, absolutely highlighting it. It warms the very cockles of my heart to see how times have changed and are changing still. Yeah. I said ‘cockles’. That’s how I roll.
AmericanGrownFlowers.org— A brilliant initiative to ‘brand’ American grown flowers so that they are easily distinguishable to consumers. Love it. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, for all the latest news.
Saipua.com–You’ll find information on their flowers, their farm, and their flower school here. Oh, and soap. They make that, too. Follow their adventures via their blog and their wonderful Instagram feed.
SilverlakeFarms.com–this one’s near and dear to me because they are, quite literally, near to me. Follow the happenings at this beautiful little urban farm on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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