In a parallel to the culinary world’s slow/sustainable food movement, the idea of buying nearby flowers is taking off.
Just in time to explain it all, here comes the book: The 50-Mile Bouquet—Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers, by garden writer Debra Prinzing and photographer David Perry. Also billed as “The Organic Flower-growing, Gathering and Design Guide,” it’s a paean to the new floral alternatives. This month I talk with Debra about why we should take advantage of this latest trend.
#1. Higher quality: We’ve all gotten used to buying (or receiving) flowers that only last a few days. Debra says purchases on a more local level will have fresher, just-picked blooms, so they’ll last longer. Local also means you’re more likely to find growers using organic methods, whether certified or not. Although we don’t eat most flowers, organic practices mean less chemical exposure for everyone involved, from greenhouse workers to consumers—and the earth.
#2. Price = Care: Many low-priced bouquets offered today are long-distance travelers, shipped from places like Ecuador. To keep costs down, corners must be cut. “Often,” Debra says, “these flowers are not held well, post-harvest.” That means less attention to the picky details that local growers pride themselves on—optimum harvest times, specialized cutting, organic preservatives, and cool rooms. Local pricing reflects that special care. What you receive is actually a better bargain. And of course, sometimes buying nearby means getting a terrific deal because shipping costs are minimal.
#3. More Floral Choices: Imported flower growers are confined to only those plants that will tolerate the rigors of extreme shipping. Local growers can consider many more possibilities. “It’s like having two colors of crayons in the box versus twelve,” Debra says. “Flower farmers can select their crops for fragrance, color and interesting elements, such as fruiting raspberry canes, or crab apples.”
#4. Seasonal Awareness: Thinking local makes decorating with summer flowers in the dead of winter suddenly seem silly—and expensive. Peonies from New Zealand could cost $15 a stem. The grow-local advice, Debra tells me is, “If you need peonies in your wedding bouquet, get married in peony season.” For home gardeners, especially those who can extend the season with a greenhouse, the enjoyment of decorating with what you’ve grown is a celebratory experience.
#5. A Better Shipping Alternative: If you want to wire flowers, extend your idea of local to include buying American-grown. Debra tells me there’s an organic form of FTD., California Organic Flowers, a mail order farm, ships fresh-picked bouquets all over the United States.