Vegetables have their seasons and so do flowers. Yet, if you walk into any grocery store or flower shop, you’ll notice that certain flowers, like roses and orchids, are available year-round. When Valentine’s Day comes around, roses conveniently all reach their peak perfection. But the real story behind these blooms isn’t so rosy.
Show your love for the earth by skipping the pesticides and giving local flowers instead of mass produced roses.
We caught up with Lili Cuzor, a local floral artist and owner of Tigers to Lilies, to learn more about the business of flowers. “When one purchases flowers from a flower shop or flower mart, the buyer usually doesn’t know where the flowers and plants are coming from, how far they have been shipped, under which growing conditions they have been placed under, how many pesticides and hormones have been used to grow them, and how much of an impact that one specific bloom has had on the environment. Some flowers are force-grown out of their proper season in green houses and shipped across the world before they arrive in a vase in your home! These are all things that are easy to ignore because we are not used to thinking of flowers and plants in that manner,” Lily explains.
Like food, flowers are also grown on farms and they play a big part in our carbon footprint. According to a San Francisco Chronicle investigation of contaminated wells and waterways near a California lily farm, flowers grown with conventional techniques contribute to the contamination of our watershed through fertilizer and pesticide run-off, which can in turn impact wildlife and human health.
Going back to those perfect Valentine’s Day roses and where they come from – more than 120 million roses are imported from South American farms that use pesticides restricted in the US and labeled as highly toxic by the World Health Organization, the New York Times reported.
“In my opinion, there’s nothing romantic in the large-picture cost that the exotic flowers have on the environment, especially if they were force-grown, sprayed, packed, shipped, and then unpacked and set up in a shop already a week old.” Lili’s approach is to find what’s locally available. “When possible, I try to forage as best as I can. Foraging is wonderful for many reasons, including being mindful of what your surroundings are, picking things that are in season and growing naturally, learning about what grows natively in your surrounding environment, and understanding what the impact is one makes when picking from a nearby garden, a sidewalk, a field or simply while out on a walk as opposed to buying in bulk from a flower shop or flower mart.”
Lili also encourages everyone to check their local farmer’s market for what’s seasonal and to think outside the box, “Herbs, grasses, and weeds create beautiful arrangements too. It’s not only show-flowers that get all the attention.” Herbs such as basil, sage, and lavender also add a wonderful sensory experience with mood-lifting aromas. Take a stroll and observe your natural environment to learn what normally grows in this climate. For those who love gardening, how about growing your own wildflower box? Growing native wildflowers encourages beneficial insects to visit your yard and provide the additional benefit of keeping away pests while also pollinating your garden.