It’s British flower week, a wonderful opportunity to celebrate British grown flowers in all their wonderfulness. We should certainly be looking to raise the profile of flowers grown in this country, to highlight the potential environmental benefits that come from not flying flowers around the world. British flowers can be a class apart – find me a place in the world where you will find more flower joy than in a quintessential cottage garden on these shores.
But let’s not be nationalistic about our flowers. We should differentiate all flowers by the same yard stick – quality, scent, environmental impact etc. Buying British beef just because its British is quite frankly silly, without knowing anything about the animals history, what is was fed and what conditions it was kept in.
The same applies to flowers. The only difference between flowers grown in heated greenhouses here and the Netherlands are the slightly longer miles they travel to get to our shelves. While flowers grown in heated greenhouses in the UK are said to use more C02 than those grown without heat, but flown into the UK from places like Kenya.
Here in Cornwall the fields of daffodils are often seen as an iconic Cornish image, but the truth is these huge monocultures contribute terrible runoff into our waterways, and daffodils are sprayed numerous times with chemical sprays, and provide limited habitat for wildlife.
If you are looking to make the ethical choice when it comes to buying flowers, then try to buy seasonal flowers, grown without heat, in natural conditions and without any air miles. Avoid flowers that have been sprayed with chemicals – look for organically grown flowers. This is not always easy, because flower labelling is not like food labelling, which is a little strange when in reality they are comparable products – although its unlikely you will find organic flowers in the supermarket.
There is only one way to ensure you are buying ethically grown flowers and that is to know your grower, how they grow their flowers and how they then transport them. Locally grown, seasonal flowers grown without heat or chemicals in the UK are the ultimate winner.
And the good news is, British flowers that are grown sustainably are in vogue, while more and more small-scale growers are popping up all the time and people are begging to understand that flowers out of season, grown in heated tunnels and bred to be ‘longlasting’, lack la joie de vivre, and at best have a scent of the cardboard packaging they were shipped in.
Here on our little farm, we passionately want to be part of the shift towards more ethically grown flowers, to not just be farmer-florists, but also to campaign and advocate for better more ethical flowers that literally don’t cost the earth – but thrive in balance with nature.
Still, I doubt a couple of hand to mouth hippies living the good life can lead this shift, and thankfully we are not alone, there are lots of small scale, low-input flowers growers throughout Britain, and florists that only stock ethically grown flowers. Have a search on Facebook or Instagram to find these people near you – then support their efforts, buy their flowers and help educate others.