’Sustainable’, eco-friendly’ and ‘green’ are seen absolutely everywhere these days. This is great, as it means as a nation we are really starting to care about the future of the planet, and are seeking out ways to minimise our input.
It does make me a bit cynical sometimes, however, as these are words that can just be bandied about without much behind them, and alongside these terms is a new one: ‘green-washing’. This is when companies make claims (often very obliquely) about their green credentials, or even just implied, when the only positive impact is on their bank balance.
We do use the word ‘sustainable’, and I think justifiably. The cut flower industry brings huge amounts of joy to people, both giving and receiving flowers, but the story behind the scenes is often far from joyful. To keep costs down, a huge percentage of our flowers are grown overseas (over 90% of UK sold flowers are imported) in regions that have not only a suitable climate, but also less responsible labour and environmental laws.
The exploitation, chemical use and water and transport involved means a simple bunch of flowers can have a significant impact. It takes 3kg of CO2 to grow a single rose in a Netherlands greenhouse system - that’s more than burning 1 litre of petrol or diesel. That dozen red roses for Valentines Day may not be such a romantic gift if your loved one also loves the planet. It’s a similar problem to some UK greenhouse strawberries having a bigger carbon footprint than imported Spanish ones - sometimes a rose flown from Kenya can be ‘greener’ than a rose grown a few hundred miles away, because of the artificial heating & lighting involved. Many of the chemicals used are chemicals that have been banned for years in this country, but we still sniff the flowers that have been sprayed overseas without knowing what’s on them.
So what’s better than a Kenyan rose? A British peony, a Dorset cornflower, an Abbotsbury snapdragon! We are obliged to grow with the seasons here, so no 16hr LED lights, no heating and no plastic poly tunnels - just natural flowers as & when the weather co-operates. It’s not just us - British cut flowers are undergoing a huge surge in interest and popularity, which can only be a good thing. From back garden set-ups to huge professional systems, British growers are producing fantastic quality and increasing variety. At the moment it’s early days here so we’re using mainly flowers grown at home, but to fulfil orders we are supplementing them with a few bunches ordered from other British growers, and will buy British if there’s something we can’t supply.
We are trying to reduce our environmental impact in other ways - reducing packaging, as much compostable/recycled/recyclable as possible, harvesting rainwater, encouraging biodiversity (have you SEEN our top field recently?!), using mulches, muck and compost to help the soil provide for the plants, and growing all our seedlings in peat-free compost. We’re hoping to keep improving - adding bird boxes, trialling different mulches etc, and always learning about what we can do.
I’m not a fan of absolutes: ‘always’ and ‘never’ don’t leave much room for flexibility, subtlety, learning or common sense, but we will always try to do what we can. Peat-free compost is one thing that will be an ‘always’ - there is just no excuse for using peat; peat bogs are such a precious, rare habitat, there is absolutely no justification for using it when such great alternatives are available. (I haven’t used peat for about 20 years, and wouldn’t go back now anyway.)
We don’t only vote every three or four years when an election comes along: we vote every single time we put our hand in our pocket and spend some money. We vote for cheap, or easy, or quality, or responsibility, or throwaway, or expensive, or ‘sustainable’. It is a daily opportunity to flex a little democratic muscle and show what we want, what we value and which direction we want things to go in. We can’t always do everything perfectly, but we can usually do something better.
We hope that you will appreciate our flowers for what they are - a pretty, cheerful bouquet, but also be happy knowing that in buying them you are casting a vote for a shorter supply chain, a more biodiverse growing system and a genuinely more sustainable future for a growing industry.