Thursday, October 24, 2013

Field to Vase and the "buy-local" flower movement...

A couple of weeks back I had the honor of attending a special Field-to-Vase dinner, sort of the floral equivalent of a Farm-to-Table dinner, held at the Leach Botanical Garden here in Portland.
flowers from Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers
everywhere you looked that night there were beautiful
American-grown flowers

Hosted by the California Cut Flower Commission the evening was an opportunity to meet flower farmers from Washington, Oregon and California and learn about the challenges they're facing as an industry. Other attendees included floral retailers and wholesalers, designers and even a few fellow bloggers.
I had to sneak outside and take a few pictures
of the garden
I really need to make another visit to the Leach Botanical Gardens soon
nobody grows mossy trees quite like the Pacific Northwest
a huge hanging staghorn fern

I met so many wonderful people that night - in the floral coat
is Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farms, in the oatmeal sweater
the very talented floral designer Françoise Weeks
and on the far right my friends, and fellow garden writers,
Kate Bryant and Ann Amato-Zorich

To me the ultimate local flower is one that comes from my garden. And while I’m at it let me clarify that “cut flower” doesn't always mean there is a bloom involved. More often than not whether I’m buying stems at my local florist or foraging something from my garden or neighborhood there is no flower – just foliage. In fact most everything that is pruned in my garden makes it indoors and into a vase, why not? If I love it enough to plant it in my garden why not enjoy it indoors too?
and me, with two ladies I really admire...
Lorene Edwards Forkner (middle) and Debra Prinzing

However if I can’t find what I want in my own backyard (and let’s face it there aren't a lot of King Protea blooms to be found there), then of course I want to buy a flower grown right here in the United States, right? I mean why not? Logic tells me they’re going to be fresher, and thus last longer. And economically speaking why wouldn't I want to support a farm worker and owner here in the U.S. rather than one in South America?
Lane DeVries of Sun Valley Floral Farms addresses the group

However, that night I learned "80% of the cut flowers purchased in the U.S. are not grown in the U.S.” – California Cut Flower Commission
beautiful floral arrangements in Debra's American
pottery collection decorating the tables

80%! That’s remarkable don’t you think? During dinner (which was an amazing meal from Simpatica, utilizing local ingredients, of course), there was a lengthy discussion about what could be done to change that percentage. Flower Farmers from California, Oregon and Washington all shared their thoughts. The most basic answer to the question is for us to ask. Ask your florist where the flowers they’re selling come from. If you don’t like the answer then tell them why. Of course buying in season from your local farmers market is a great alternative, but not one that's always possible.
I was slightly envious of her pottery collection
but of course the flowers were the real stars

Later that night there was an exciting announcement from Debra Prinzing, author of Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm and The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers. She’s launching a website SlowFlowers.com; a nationwide online guide to where you can source American-grown flowers, making it even easier to buy local. The site currently says "Coming Fall 2013," but as these things go I believe the launch date has been pushed back to January 1, 2014.
slowflowers.com

close-up of the gift arrangements we were given to take home

naturally once at home I transferred the gorgeous
flowers to one of my vintage vases

Since that night I haven't had the need to purchase cut flowers or foliage, the bounty of fall in my garden is filling every vase and then some. However the next time I do I will definitely ask about the origin of the flowers I buy. What about you, is this something you'll think about?

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

22 comments:

  1. Oh, I'm excited to hear about the launch of Debra's website, it sounds like it's similar to LocalHarvest.com, which helps you find farmer's markets and CSAs. Great shot of the weathered brick wall at the botanical gardens!

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    1. And I'd never heard of LocalHarvest.com - thanks Alison!

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  2. I glad to hear that there is a local flower movement. I highly recommend Amy Stewart's bestseller "Flower Confidential" - a behind-the-scenes look at the flower industry. It will make you think twice about ever buying cut flowers again (that are not local).

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    1. Indeed, that book was an eye opener.

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  3. I need to get back there - the last time I went was with mom and she had a broken foot. I wanted to see the lily ponds, but it will have to wait until next summer now.

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    1. Definitely challenging terrain for someone with a broken foot!

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  4. This movement really seems to be gaining momentum. I think a lot of credit goes to Prinzing's book or rather books (I didn't know there was a 2nd one until I read your post). The Seasonal Bouquet Project (http://theseasonalbouquetproject.com/), which I've participated in on and off, is operating on the same theme.

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    1. I've enjoyed your bouquet photos Kris but never followed the link to the source, thank you for sharing it here! (and I love your latest bouquet!)

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  5. It's been ages since I visited Leach, too. What a wonderful occasion you had to revisit it! I love buying flowers, but it's hard to resist the unusual ones (like proteas) that "make" the bouquet, so it's good to know they are being grown in the US. This post certainly raised my awareness of the issue.

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    1. My neighbor 2 doors down grew up on a protea farm in California. When I mentioned growing a member of the protea family (grevillea) in my garden she told me that wasn't possible. I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm crazy.

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  6. Glad to hear about this movement. Looks like you all had a great evening. I very seldom buy cut flowers as I think that they only look good in a clean house. Since I have that whole allergy to work of any kind, cut flowers seldom cross the threshold. There is a huge complex of abandoned greenhouses on Vashon Island left from just a few years back when roses were commercially grown there. They moved the whole operation to Columbia where they don't have to pay for heat. Local roses would be hard to come by on Valentines Day, Mothers' Day, Christmas, etc. without the use of greenhouses when so many people want them. Could they compete on the market with less expensive flowers from abroad? Lots of things to think about. I will certainly ask about locally grown flowers if I ever buy them again.

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    1. It was a wonderful evening! One of the most remarkable displays of cut flowers I've ever seen was in a house with more layers of things (including dust) than your home will ever see. What made it so amazing was everyone of the flowers and stems was about a year past its prime. They were all dried in place and very sculptural. It was also a little "Grey Gardens" but obviously memorable.

      Roses are being grown right here in Oregon: http://www.peterkortroses.com/ but you do raise a good question about quantity when the flower buying public is focused on a single variety of flower all at once. Lot's to think about!

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  7. I read both of those books a while ago and am 100% convinced. What good that does the movement is in question, as my challenge to myself has been to find the stuff of bouquets in my own yard or woods at any time of year. I must confess it never occurred to me that something so exotic as Protea could also be politically correct. Now THAT could coax me into some new habits.

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    1. I love your challenge, so many people are blind to the possibilities in their own backyard! Of course there comes a time when everyone needs a crazy exotic bloom or two, thank god for California!

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  8. I must confess I´m envious... you americans not only have the most amazing gardens and plants, but also amazing cut flowers for arrangements. Although I never buy cut flowers nor make bouquets, I would if I could find those gorgeous materials. I´m glad you enjoyed!

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    1. I had no idea we were so lucky...thanks for helping me to better appreciate the wealth right at my corner grocery store!

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  9. Have to say, the last pic wow! And that shade of green (lime green?), wow!

    Definitely worth considering especially with the current concern now about carbon footprint, etc, as well as supporting local growers so their business will flourish etc. But what if in a location, demand outstrips local supply rather than just the need for cheaper priced flowers?

    I'm not sure what is the supply and demand situation here but until recently we've discovered that most of the cut flowers sold in the supermarket here comes all the way from Africa (Kenya is a major player), even with quintessentially British flowers like pinks and carnations.

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    1. Thanks guys! I'm still surprised sometimes that Andrew went with my painting the fireplace such a powerful color...

      "demand outstrips local supply"...I beleive this is what the Outlaw wrote about too, it's a very good question. My flippant response would be something like "why can't they be more imaginative and buy something besides roses" but then I've never been one to like roses so it's an easy out for me. I'm sure there will always be the need for flowers grown in warmer (and cheaper) locations, lord knows I'm hardly a lover of all things native (as evidenced by my garden). But if everyone just paid a little bit more attention to where their flowers are grown, where their money is going, it would be a good beginning. Lot's more to learn about this topic!

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    2. I suppose the easiest adaptation is if you have a particular flower you buy regularly and know sources that are locally grown, worth the effort to buy from these sellers even if they cost a bit more, within reason of course. Some flowers are just too exotic though, like King Protea so unlikely to be grown locally.

      Give us a nudge btw when the time comes to make reservations for the fling :)

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    3. Good points...I'm lucky with the protea...having California so close!

      I will definitely let you know as soon as you can register!

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  10. HI Loree, wonderful post ~ you brought me back to that gorgeous setting, the delicious meal and our collegial gathering of kindred spirits. What I so appreciate is how you bring gardeners, farmers and floral designers together into a single conversation. It was so great to be part of planning this event and I am thrilled that you attended and lent your voice! PS Your bouquet on the fireplace mantel is stunning, recast with your own style. PPS, yes, SlowFlowers.com is in a soft launch, but Jan 1st is the official launch date. Stay tuned! Debra, garden sister

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    1. Thanks Debra, I can't wait to see all the possibilities SlowFlowers.com will offer...you're an inspiration!

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