Make Mothers Heart Sing-Help An Animal With Flowers For A Cause

sea shepherd flowers

Help Sea Shepherd save a whale

For Mothers Day Or Any Day-Flowers For A Cause

So, here we go again into one of the busiest flower buying times of the year, and with it comes the pocket lining of billions for the big, foreign, conglomerates who supply the flower buying outlets online and off, chain & grocery stores and every gas station and street corner you see.  These same conglomerates who continue to force our American farms out of business, fund foreign countries,  and ruin the environments around the globe with their practices. And the human side?  Sweat shop labor is not only in the clothing industry and not only in China.

 How about something better; why not do some good for something good instead.   If you have an animal adoring or tree hugging Mother or you…adore animals & trees;  I invite you to visit my Flowers For A Cause online section for some very unique flower arrangements I have created in honor of animals.   I donate all the profits (yes, I really do) back to the various organizations that help them. What better way to honor your Mother than with a one-of-a-kind flower creation of only American grown flowers that both makes a stand, keeps the $$ in America,  and benefits our animal kingdom?

 

A photo I took of an Eastern Wild Horse-Assateague Nat’l               Seashore Maryland

 

To benefit the American Wild                  Horse Preservation

 

As an artist and naturalist, I love what I do; but the reason I have done what I have with my business is a mission.  A mission of awareness to what is really happening in my industry, support our own country, and to give a voice to those living things that have none; with the hope some will heed it.  In today’s world I know it is really hard to think beyond your own issues, and I know there are many human tragedies and I know we all have a plate full-but there are some creatures out there that need our attention more than our own-immediately; because they are getting pushed under the rug all for profit.

As I have said many times…IF we are to consider humans the supreme beings on this planet then with that also comes the responsibility to take care of all those beings sharing this planet around us-from the trees to the elephants to the bees.  If we all were to do whatever we can no matter how small; collectively a difference could be made in the world with those voices heard; we would have a movement and maybe things just might be on the path to be righted.

 

Here I am visiting the Catskill Sanctuary                           and loving it.

 

To benefit the Catskill Farm                              Sanctuary

 

So please, if you are wanting to give Mother flowers next week, please check out my Flowers For A Cause first and see the designs I have created for any occasion and perfect for Mothers; from a charming Nantucket basket to save the whales for Sea Shepherd to a sunflower topiary to save our wild horses for the American Wild Horse Preservation.

And while you are at it, add a bar or 2 of the NY made, organic, Rescue Chocolates-where here too-every dime of profit goes to help dogs & cats in shelters, their advocacy, and foster programs.  Make your heart sing as these options don’t cost you an extra cent-I give up my profits for you which…. is my heartsong.   Make your Mom proud-there’s no better gift than that.

And please…if you are reading this and not inclined to or cannot give flowers; it’s ok you can visit the websites I benefit and just add your name on a petition and then do your Mother a good deed-my Mother always says ‘deeds are the best’!  🙂  Then  share this to everyone you know anyway-lets get some eyes open and help a movement!

rescue greyhounds

2 lucky rescued greyhounds-the                                sweetest dogs alive 🙂

 

Our basket to benefit greyhound                       rescue…of course

 

And those luscious chocolates………..

chocolates to help dog shelter

The raspberry hearts….

 

 

Buy Local Grown Holiday Decorations-Not From The Sunday Papers

As I read the Sunday advertisements yet again this year, all the floral departments of the local big box stores from grocery to department to home stores were filled with great, bargain options.   With the Holidays upon us-of course they are full of holiday flowers,  poinsettias, and wreaths.  With that, I will explain the offerings, the prices, and of course the claims for you to make your own conclusions on the real price of the decorations and if they are really a bargain….and for whom.

Colorful Rose Bunches

 

A local ad for imported roses

Here is a 10 stem bouquet of roses with the certification of Fair Trade Kenya.  First lets understand Fair Trade certifications.   It is not affiliated with government and defined for those South American, African, etc. growers who are acting sustainably in some way whether by labor, environment, or social standards.  This could mean anything from offering child care to recycling of water to a comparable wage.  Most teach/employ disadvantaged communities a skill and support the local labor force with a fair wage.  It sounds wonderful and really is a start to a greener mindset, but… it is the most loosely veiled certification unfortunately, when concerning flowers.   The first thing from this ad of course is, how fair of a wage can a worker make with these roses selling for under $5.00?  After, being grown, flown, and transported to the various US outlets.  The same way discount stores sell Chinese made $1.00 goods?  I leave you to figure that one yourself as it is kind of obvious.  In fact just a few months ago, local African activists burned to the ground a huge SA owned flower farm they said was poisoning their water and ruining their land.  It is said, the grower is pulling out of Africa now.

Beautiful Lilies

 

An imported lily mislabeled

Pictured here is a stem of ‘oriental’ lilies;  however, these are not oriental lilies.  There is no certification stated and the ‘bunch’ size is unclear.  There are three main classifications of lilies imported to the US.

1-Oriental is the top of line-they are typically the largest and come in white, pink, or two tone white & burgundy (Stargazer).  Yellow is the rarest and as so, commands a high price tag, usually $10+ per stem, and mainly from Holland-the most expensive grower of lilies.  3-5 blooms

2- LA lilies which come in many solid colors and a smaller bloom than oriental.  2-4 blooms

3-Asiatic lilies also come in many solid colors and are the smallest of the group. 3-4 blooms

This ad has a photo of one of the most expensive and lilies from Holland, but it is logically impossible to be an oriental variety as advertised.  They are in fact, advertising the small Asiatic lilies from South America in a bunch? Lilies are a single stem, bulb so they take up a bit more space to grow for less flowers .  As for any sustainable certifications, there is none here as with most imported goods.  I am sure the issues with this ad are pretty clear.

Holiday Décor

 

Imported and not very healthy

Here is a multitude of poinsettia options and a balsam wreath.  There are 2 types of poinsettias plants in general circulation.

1-A single plant with a single bloom, which a pot can have 4 or 5 single plants, and can be 10”or 4’tall.

2-A single plant with multi blooms.  These are pinched to create side blooms and traditionally a shorter plant.

There are small local growers, but very few mega, commercial, poinsettia growers in the US; with most being only in the temperate states. With that, nearly all the poinsettias you see here in the states are grown in the Canadian Provinces.  Sadly, they are only plastic sleeved and sent on a bumpy, cold, truck journey from their protected greenhouses.  Which, is why by Dec. 24 they look pretty unhappy in your home and on clearance with curled and wilted leaves. They not only have had a traumatic journey in and out of cold temperatures, but they are lacking the proper care in cold doorways or fruit departments; which ironically emit ethylene gas that further lessens their lives.  Poinsettias are a tropical plant native to Mexico and very fragile creatures-more so than even your favorite houseplant.  When you purchase local grown, you get a healthier plant that will easily last until it’s time to put it in the summer garden.  Plants are a living thing and supposed to live on; when you purchase one you take on the responsibility of the care of this living thing not unlike a pet, and not just a disposable decoration.

Wreaths

Here in the US  approximately 15% of the evergreens are  cut on the West coast and the upper northeast, with the other 85% from Canada.  The wreaths shown here are a single faced, wreath; and little known that they are  made from evergreens cut in October; stacked, and held for trucking in mid November.  Ever notice how they are kind of flat and dry? The month of dry storage does this, and also why they shed so many needles every time you open your door.  There are tree farms just for cutting, but many of the evergreens are cut from virgin forests; something I really don’t want on my conscience or my door no matter how cheap they are.     It’s your choice.

And..Those Little Trees

Every year we see them; the miniature evergreen trees in foiled pots laden with plastic ornaments.   As a certified tree lover, I cringe wishing I could buy them all and take them home.  Most are outdoor varieties and can only withstand a dry and warm house for so long-not unlike the cut live tree in your living room.  To live they need special care to hold them for planting in the Spring.

There also are pallets of Norfolk Island pines in every store from drug to home improvement outlets.  They are temperate house plants native to the Norfolk Islands and landscape trees in Florida where they grow 3 stories high- and not really a true pine tree at all.  They are a very soft hearted plant usually dusted with sparkles and smothered with bows & ornaments on its delicate branches.   These should be purchased as a tropical, houseplant and treated as such.  They are not cold hardy, and will definitely freeze. It always amazes me how tenacious all the houseplants in these outlets try their best to survive.

The Lacy Norfolk

 

If you take a moment to think about the history and quality of all your holiday decorations, you will find some of the little secrets in the trade and mass markets.  The cheap plastic everything sold everywhere actually come at a huge price somewhere.  Imported flowers come with numerous environmental & social issues attached with fancy marketing slogans and misleading information. Stressed plants are doomed the moment they leave the greenhouse and not a good or compassionate bargain.   The stale, dry evergreen wreaths were alive and healthy a month ago and now seem only good for mulch.

Add in that these items are all treated with an assortment of chemicals for all sort of preventive, preserving, pest and disease; then we are all using  our natural resources in a detrimental way.  For sure, these poor communities around the world are glad to have any wage, but so would our own homeless population and farms here.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Fair Trade certification for economically and depressed communities in the US?  That would really attack our unemployment and something to label for.

 I only ask that you think before picking up that bunch of flowers at checkout, or grabbing that wreath while you are buying a drill; or asking just where it came from.  Spend your dollars wisely on quality for yourself and your gift recipients at local venues.  Money talks, it always has.  And we just have to realize that maybe a fresh and beautiful, local grown wreath is not $9.99 and you have a limited budget.  Well, how about making your own decoration then?   It would sure be fresher and more meaningful; and…. I think you would see that $9.99 isn’t near enough what your creation is worth.

think, live, buy local and…green

Lynn 🙂

Please Say Goodbye To Balloons

The Fish & Wildlife has finally conceded to just one of the campaigns of my green floristry practices.  Balloons are bad for us, the environment, and especially our wildlife.  Poor balloons; we all grew up with these celebratory friends but they are not as they were.  Is anything?  No longer made of rubber but yet a toxic mix of ingredients that never biodegrade and a colorful attraction to animals who think the colorful bits are food causing their demise.

balloons bad for environment

From a fun to horrible.

And the metallic mylar?  Even worse with the added addition of conducting electricity.  Meaning, they can cause an electrical outage.  And to add fuel to the fire; we have about exhausted our natural supply of helium due to the balloon.  How sad something of innocent joy has become such a toxic profit.

 Here is a great article from OneGreenPlanet and the all about it site BalloonsBlow  

Celebrate with flowers not balloons-it’s not worth our wildlife.

Dream green always-do what you can.

Lynn 🙂

Making A Show for Our National Parks-The 100 Year Cenntenial

As the Duchess Fair kicks off, it is time for the competition, floral displays to beautify the Horticulture Barn.  With a theme this year of ‘passport to the world’ I knew immediately only one idea I would create.   My passport is and always will be to any of our National Parks; the most awe inspiring places in the world.  There is no need to travel around the world when we have these magnificent places right here in America.   From Acadia to Yosemite, each having it’s own magic to take your breath.   This year is the 100 year centennial and John Muir would be proud for all these precious areas that have been saved.   The National Park Service has a great promotion to ‘find your park’ and I hope you will.

As always, everything I do is complicated.  Nothing good is ever easy my grandfather would say-he was right.  Whenever I see something easily put together I am not impressed.  Easy is ok-but complicated is great.  My first component idea was to recreate the National Park Service sign seen in every park;  and not a carnation thing but yet with all the detail made in natural leaves, twig, and moss. Yes, a nightmare of time.  I started with a picture.. then graphed it.. and then copied it meticulously with ‘gifts from nature’.

NatParkgridstart

6 hours later I was searching in the yard for the 2 perfect branches to nail into a sign bracket.   From there the display was all clear in my mind.   Moms life size wolf, my precious white birch stump & logs, my old hiking boots (which I hiked through Yellowstone with), my backpack from Glacier, and moss, moss, and more moss.

my natparksign

A turtle here and a butterfly there, a found Montana  antler, and feathers from Muir Woods In CA  Easy peasy when you already love what you are recreating.  Which is why I always tell my students, ‘create your passion’as the design will come to you naturally.

Fairdisplay2

Fairdisplay1

Of course what better way to celebrate than with an arrangement of American grown flowers.  No South American or African flowers & goods here!

Fairdisplayflowers

butterflynatpark

Fernarrangement

fairdisplaybackpack

FYI-Bear grass grows wild everywhere in Glacier-hence why I stuffed my backpack with it.  Adding a vintage postage card finished it off.

I hope you all will get the chance to #FindYourPark in your lifetime as they are an unspoiled environment  just as Mother Nature intended.   There is a peace in this nature because we are nature.  The moss is our grandmother and the trees are our brothers.

“And that the sun shines Is beautiful as long as it is wild.” John Muir

NatParklogo2

Go find your park-and help save it

Lynn 🙂

A Floral Badge of Merit On NBC-The Original Purple Heart

A purple, heart shaped patch named the Badge of Merit was the first US military award both designed and issued by George Washington himself to the Continental Army on August 7, 1782 at his headquarters in Newburgh.    This was the first time in history that military awards were presented to common soldiers.  In Europe it was a long standing honor to be presented an award but of course to only high ranking officers.   However as General Washington said, “the road to glory in a patriot army and a free county is …open to all”

Original Badge of Merit patch

Original Badge of Merit patch

When I was asked to create a design for the NBC  shoot at Washington’s Headquarters, I immediately knew it had to be both striking for the camera and suited for the setting.   I also knew there was only one idea-replicate the Badge of Merit , the predecessor of the Purple Heart.

To be more historically correct…I made it by hand.  I cut a recycled (as always) styro base to heart shape covering it with hand dyed, purple burlap.  I used rope for  the words and vines; adding exact, real leaves.  The flowers could only…be my beautiful red, American grown, roses from Eufloria in CA.  Nothing compares to them in size, color, beauty, and eco growing standards.  In a rustic, old urn it all came together with the added and I thought, appropriate quirk of “English” Ivy tangled among it.  Striking at over 4 ft tall & wide; the camera loved it.

My Badge of Merit

My Badge of Merit 🙂

Only 3 people it seems received the Badge of Merit before it was replaced (never decommissioned) with the Purple Heart Medal.  Our own Purple Heart Museum in New Windsor is lucky enough to have one of them on display.

Happy 1776 on this our 240th birthday!  Think America-Buy American.

 

Lynn 🙂

For Memorial Day-Chinese Made American Flags & Foreign Grown Freedom Roses

There are many things that ruffle me… like our patriot holidays from Memorial Day, Independence Day, to Pearl Harbor Day is another that bewilders me.  I know we say we are all grateful for our brave hearts that have fought for us and our freedoms since the Revolution; yet we remember these war heroes, veterans, and our own relatives with parades and ceremonies displaying foreign grown flowers and Chinese made American flags.

americanflagsgraphic

Chinese Made American Flags

Of all the American flags we so proudly wave and display every year,  $5 million dollars worth of these American flags are imported with 97% from China.  At a local store the other day I witnessed a man so incised as to their flags all from China that the manager escorted him out.  Actually, he gladly left-without a flag I might add.

It seems someone in Washington got a clue and realized how hypocritical to have foreign made flags flown by government and military entities.  The All American Flag Act was passed (just last year) requiring them to fly only US made flags.   China after all…is a communist country that dismisses the same American values and freedoms all those people we honor fought for.    Like my Uncle who left to fight Japan for these freedoms at just 17.  As my famous quote-“I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t understand”; or rather how we can ignore it.  Are we really just all about ease & money?

My Uncle Buddy geared up for battle

My Uncle Buddy J geared up for battle

 

Foreign Grown Freedom Roses

A few years back, South American rose growers started a Memorial Day flower effort by generously offering red roses for the headstones in Arlington Cemetary.  There was much fanfare and accolade to them for doing so and seems now to have morphed into a US based, non profit of MemorialDayFlowers.org.    The effort is still using the same imported roses that… now seems a profit as they take your credit card or better yet Paypal.   Great marketing emphasis is put on the rose variety named Freedom as it’s obviously an appropriate, however this is not a rose named for veterans or in memory of anyone.  It is a blanket cultivar variety that includes many color roses.   Again, I don’t understand how putting foreign grown roses on our US veterans graves is an honor; especially since these same foreign flower farms have nearly eradicated our own American flower growers.

I know… it’s all about trade agreements and world economics you say; and I know these farms and factories create jobs for these people they say.  However I think if you ask any veteran what he is/was fighting for, the answer would be America and not the foreign flower growers or flag makers.

If you really want to honor them—take the time to find American grown and made items as I do here at the store.  It’s all I offer.  It’s not easy, but nothing good ever is.  They are out there, and they may or may not be a dollar more; but that dollar will help our country not someone else’s, and that to me is a true honor to our veterans.

Be a real hero to them as they were and are for us-give a veteran an American grown rose or bouquet with an American made flag.  The roses are not flown around the world to get here, they are fresher, last longer, and just beautiful.  The flags are twice the size at 18″‘, have sewn hems, extra long wood poles, and turned wood finials.  I have them both, and my Memorial Day wish is for all florists & stores to have them..someday.

May we never forget that freedom is not free…or from a discount store

Lynn 🙂

Veterans Vase finis Charity

Call or stop by for your American flowers & flags.

flagbundle2

 

 

 

Natural Easter Egg Dyes

I recall my Mother always having one of those little box kits miraculously appear to ‘naturally’ dye eggs for Easter.  Such excitement & mystery that little box held for me.  Still today, it is a harbinger of Easter and  I can’t picture the holiday without seeing racks of them in all the stores.  They are only dried forms of commercial food coloring, but they sure held a magic for me, and still do.   Even though, I now know about toxins of artificial food coloring and dyes, the appeal of the box is hard to resist- as is many of our traditional, non eco-minded products.

It really isn’t easy being green sometimes  because all these wonder innovations hold special memories created to save us time; and time seems now more important than anything to everyone.   I began to wonder how eggs were dyed before the magic box came to be.  Turns out all you need are fruits and vegetable (save all your scraps!) and….of course the time.

So below I list what you need to have a wonderful, egg dying evening with no thought to all the must dos and hurry-ups beyond just how blue your egg is turning.   Send me pictures of your ‘onion’ egg creations and I will post them for all the box people to envy!

What to use for natural Easter egg dyes:

Water-vinegar-vegetable oil

Blue….purple or red cabbage & blueberries (makes blue on white eggs, green on brown)

Green….spinach

Orange…carrots, paprika, yellow onion skins (makes rusty red on brown eggs)

Red…red onion skins, cherries, beets

Violet….red wine, hibiscus tea, red onion skins

Pink….shredded beets (makes maroon on brown eggs)

Yellow….turmeric-2 tbl. ground

Lavender…1 bag Red Zinger tea

How to make the natural dye:

Add 1 cup of the item/items to 4 cups of water and bring to a boil; then simmer covered for up to 30 minutes.  Like the box dye, it is ready when its darker than the color you want.  You can always check the color by dripping some on a white dish.

Let your dye cool to the touch,  fine strain it then add 1 Tbl.  vinegar.  Arrange room temperature, cooked eggs in a deep dish or bowl and completely cover them with the dye.  Put the bowl in the refrigerator and chill until you like the color.  Dry them oh so careful and rub on some oil to polish with paper towel.

Have fun!  Lynn & Willow

Green House Plants for Clean Fresh Air Indoors

use houseplants to breathe clean air

Sick House Syndrome (SHS)-have you ever heard this term?   It has been bantered around quietly since a NASA study years ago but public awareness of SHS came to light loudly with hurricane Katrina.  Unknowing to so many well meaning, construction companies and celebrities donating and building temporary housing; they made the rescued people ill.  Today, the composition of nearly all of our building materials, furniture, and daily living items are made from synthetics, glues, resins, and chemical ingredient lists a mile long that permeate our rooms called offgassing.  Formaldehyde, benzene,  polyvinylchloride (pvc), and trichloroethylene being the undisputed kings.  I believe they will soon rule the world.

The unsuspecting, naïve souls we are-we love it-as Lynyrd Skynyrd sang..”oooh that smell-can’t you smell that smell?  Yes, the new car-yummy, the new carpet-clean aroma, or the newly painted walls-so refreshing.   Hmmm but is it.   It is chemicals that give us the ‘smell’  of everything from new mattresses & bedding, furniture, all paints-glues-varnishes, plastics, to printer inks, and..shoes & clothing.  And the list goes on an on beyond my writing space here.

In the winter months especially; at both home and work we are sequestered indoors with little to no fresh air flow.  The always present dust, pet dander, and microbe allergens combined with these chemical cocktails really doesn’t give us much chance for a healthy, winter existence.  Our windows are closed for months with little to zero fresh air.

However…we have a secret weapon as always in Nature with indoor houseplants.   Plants and trees are the lungs of our world as they alone produce the oxygen that make all life on earth possible, which is why cutting our forests is so perilous to our life on the planet.  They add moisture, suppress the airborne allergens, and magically siphon out the 100’s of  chemical toxins now used in our daily products.  Not least of all, they also lift our spirits and decorate our indoor rooms beautifully by bringing a little of the outdoors in-that which most have so alienated themselves from.

palm tree houseplant for cleaning the air

Remember those palms always gracing the Victorian parlors?  Evidently they instinctively knew something 150 years ago we don’t.  A 6 ft. Areca Palm will release 1 quart of water to the air every 24 hours and remove as much pollutants as any portable air cleaner & injecting the same amount of water as small humidifier-electricity free.  Now that is real eco-green living.

I am presently compiling a complete plant list with ratings for specific chemical removal .  There are night workers like the old fashioned  Snake Plant or ‘mother-in-laws tongue” which are best for your bedroom obviously, while others work better in daylight.  Some remove more of one chemical than another making them suitable for nurseries or specific businesses.

Do you own or work in a nail salon?  Come by the store and pick up a Spathiphyllum- aka the standard Peace Lily; they are the hardest workers for acetone.    Who knew……

spathyphyllum plant to clean the air

Thank Nature as it holds the cure to all our problems-it is our friend- always has been.

Think Green ,
Lynn

Save the Easter Plants

Plant or donate your Easter plants instead of tossing them.  Don’t sentence  them to the landfill.

We all await spring with Easter being the signal that it is not far away.  The potted bulbs have arrived in the store giving an instant refreshment from the stuffy indoor air we all have tolerated.  The hyacinth and snow white lilies are nothing short of glorious for scent (natural aromatherapy like no other), while  the daffodils and jonquils are just the happiest things around.  Like sunflowers, you just smile when you look at them.

But….I always worry at the fate of all these beautiful lilies and bulb gardens going out my door at Easter; and the 1000’s even more in the mega stores, gas stations, and garden centers.  Are they a momentary joy for the day?  Are they welcomed into the recipients family of other plants or…. shunned after 2 weeks?   Are any from years ago still entertaining every spring as they should be?  Does everyone realize these are a living entity?
Yes, I am the kind who buys those poor, ignored, on clearance, cypress trees in the grocery store the week after Christmas-they pull at my heart at their lack of care as I know how hard they tried to live. All plants are living beings in my eyes, and I feel just as responsible for them as I would for my Willow.

1909 postcard

Unfortunately, in our saturated world of goods upon goods; there are millions of these plants grown every year-with the majority imported from Canada; and every year they are sentenced to a landfill after only a few weeks of giving us their best.  All that human energy and fuel to get them here picture perfect-seems a huge waste all around and an unjust reward for their sweet pleasure they so freely gave us.  I can never grasp why someone would carelessly toss them instead of taking a minute to plant outside.  Each Spring I drive by dumpsters loaded with spent lilies and headless, pots of tulips; abandoned and left to die.   I think we should start a community project in each town of ‘Save the Bubs”.  Think what a show it would make for our towns, parks, and government buildings every spring-and the money saved.
All your traditional Easter bulbs including lilies, tulips, hyacinth, daffodils, and narcissus, are perennials.   Which means….they bloom every year.  They are cold hardy, easy adapters, and faithful souls.   Each year at spring they will come back and bloom profusely without a bit of care.  They know what to do and when to do it all by themselves; and it is so easy to give them a chance.  As the leaves turn brown cut back the stem and just replant them outside when frost warnings are over. That’s it!
If you would prefer an early, indoor show next year; water them as any other houseplant through the summer.   Bulbs need a cold period to rest and rejuvenate so at summers end I store them in a cold basement or refrigerator to sleep.  Around late January I wake them up, repot, and start their diet of weekly watering  in a sunny spot.      And then…..like magic they come alive.  This year my narcissus was blooming during our January blizzard; it was just the best.

local grown jonquils

Local grown jonquils

If you are not inclined toward dirt, potting and watering; then give them away to your favorite gardener, or better yet-a park or inner city area that needs beautification.    I have even seen them blooming in the woods-an obvious attempt to disown them-yet they lived on.
Always saving,  Lynn

Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards-Some Good & Bad Things?

Hi Casey-this one’s for you and California Cut Flower Commission and Debra at Slowflowers!

**Dear friends, A little background on this post.  Martha Stewart has initiated a new program whereby she is giving various US companies an American Made award.  This is a super idea, however there is debate as to her criteria with one of the latest awards given to online startup BloomNation who promote local florists online directly to consumers with a tagline of “American Made”.  The debate stems from the fact of American Made what? There are few to no American grown flowers or products offered by the member florists so Casey Cronquist of the California Cut Flower Commission along with American Grown programs and promoters (me too!) are questioning the decision and her program.  This also opened up discussion on various areas with the industry, problems, and imported flowers in general. I have written an article of what I see and know of the industry and decided to post it on my website to also enlighten my visitors of just what is happening in the industry and to get your thoughts.  CA grown flowers

Everything you posted Casey on the CCFC blog has such merit as always-applause 🙂 so you inspired me to take the time out to write and walk the line with you.  As you know, in 2001 I chose to transform my full service florist of then, over 20 years; to strictly US grown product AND to green certify the business.  Was it simple?  Definitely not back then-it was a time consuming fright, and still takes a concerted effort with a continued waiting game for some products.  But I did succeed.

I found a half dozen or so who gladly shipped to me for our issue season in NY, winter.  Some may say the carbon footprint is higher to fly in US flowers, but how much-what difference whether you fly them or the wholesale house flies them?  Yes there is a footprint in every action we do every day, so whether imported or American flowers, we all have huge energy footprints in all aspects of life and business which need serious thought.  You pick your battles compensating somewhere else (like the energy it takes for those giant Chinese vases many  designers use to get here) and carbon insets and offsets are always a positive initiative. So in rebuttal-yes, it was possible to be strictly US grown even back then and for me, today it is second nature- and yes the s/h is higher but the quality, longevity, and scent are incomparable. (btw-I will always be thankful to Chad at Eufloria, Gerald at the then Organic Bqt, and Chastity at Mayesh for being the firsts to help me. 🙂    California grown roses

I see there are many reasons the flower industry has problems as to why florists/designers hesitate conforming back to American grown.  Florists never had to wonder where their flowers came from, but now it takes a weekly, committed effort which most see as just one more thing to add to their already harried workday and cannot be bothered.  Adding another effort is a big issue in life today as we are all overwhelmed; it is so easy to just go on and turn a blind a eye.  Second, the competition and pressure for lower prices by mega corporations pushing flowers (many had direct flower contracts with various farms-even Whole Foods) is daunting.  They spend millions advertising (dictating) to the consumer what to buy when, and what to pay-whether for a sympathy arrangement or grand scale wedding.   With these corporate intrusions, the internet sites, the lack of expense for wage, chemical, or environmental regulations of foreign growing, a perfect climate, toss in the economy dropping in 08;  it was the perfect storm.   Soon every internet marketer signed up for an affiliate site to sell flowers to be filtered down to florists to fill, big box stepped in the game, and flowers by wire services ran with it all.  Each promoting inexpensive, imported flowers which the farms gladly sold them as it was a money dream come true to them. The exclusivity, local grown, designer arrangements, and beauty of fresh flowers was lost to capitalism.

Surprising me after my change; I realized a full service florist on a daily basis does not need 40 (out-of-season) varieties weekly any more than people in the northeast need mangoes in January (you are on point Christina-that is not contributing to any form of sustainability), but what consumers do like is 20-30 of the freshest, seasonal, and most beautiful varieties of US grown flowers available- arranged creatively.  It is all about quality, the design factor, and presentation because after all, that is what a florist does and I feel they need to get back to it.  All customers, inherently do want the best quality product out there and they love creativity as well; my customers would prefer 6 US Eufloria roses over 12 SA Rio roses any day of the week.  If it is US grown-they applaud it, and applaud the store even more for caring to stand up to the system to buy quality for them against a few dollars more profit.  That creates a loyal customer like no other.

southamericanglobewithflowers

We should also differentiate the impact of studio designers from full service, brick & mortar florists; not by talent J but with usage.  Sites like Etsy & BloomNation are wonderful for giving in-home, solo entrepreneurs exposure without having the expense and responsibility of a storefront.  However, we have to understand that studio designers are not florists in the sense of the word, so are not the weekly, bulk purchasers supporting this multimillion dollar, import industry with the day to day orders.  Hence, the traditional florist being the largest buyer of imported flowers, (through not all fault of their own) are the ones we need to get on track first to initiate the mindset.

Bloomnation-American Made?

I looked into BloomNation at its start-up, and quickly saw it was another avenue the likes of FTD for florists and designers but without the noose as Brooke spoke of-although not without other nooses.  Also to remember, studio designers cannot participate in flowers-by-wire services without a physical storefront so this was huge for them.  In an early interview, one of the founders stated they saw a gap when trying to order flowers (Which-they could have just picked up a phone …) Upon deeper research and with input from a relative florist, they learned of the huge volume of sales and easy commissions the big 3, flowers by wire services and the 1000’s of affiliate sites were generating online from florists, and how both florists and consumers were suffering and more than unhappy with them.   It was, in their eyes, a small but massive, money making niche to fill and the idea was born.  If they continue to do it correctly and keep the fees at minimum, it may just be-but reaching the online public is another battle, as like local florists, they don’t have anywhere near the marketing budget of its entrenched, big competitors.  (Which is where offering American grown flowers is I believe one of the possible keys to saving traditional florists.)

However, for this business to be given a MS American Made award (for what Slowflowers, CCFC, and myself for example are truly trying to accomplish and BloomNation is not) seems more than a technicality at best and a huge blunder for MS.  I know my industry and its products; I see the designs on BloomNation and I am also familiar with more than a few of the florists on the site and their product.  With that, I can in a minute-as I am sure you Casey and Debra can determine-the product is nearly all imported.  A few California OV stock & larkspur here, and some SV iris there, but not much more; excepting those florist members of course in CA flower farm areas.

BloomNation, is obviously running with the American Made tag as a slippery marketing term and I find it hard to believe that MS advisors would send her their way.   But the flower industry in general is very unclear and even more mysterious to most, even those inside it.  This American made designation most definitely alludes to the flowers used as US grown; but as always it will be left up to the consumer to decipher, and most likely the consumer will fall victim to the confusing insinuation as usually the case.  To give them a benefit of the doubt; this may have not been their original intent (it definitely was not in the business plan I read about)-but this is how many consumers take it-as did MS.  The word American should not have come into the picture, and even a slightly more ethical term would have been “designed by local, American florists”.  But then again, as opposed to who?  Loose flowers packed in SA and shipped?  All florists in the US are both local and American who fill all the online, arranged orders anyway no matter what site an order was placed on, so the point?  The real point is no middle man, affiliate site, or flowers by wire service, which this company should have been seen by MS as just a consumer direct to florist site only; and that they are not the only one out there.

The World Is All Green-Or So They Say

This is the same happening with the terms ‘natural’ ‘fair trade’ ‘green’ ‘eco friendly’ or “sustainable’.  In marketing terms it is called green washing and every big corporation has jumped on the new green bandwagon as they now are attempting with American made.  It is the new gold in marketing-and just another way to get consumers to their brand which they never would have started if it were not the rage.  When we began seeing big energy companies making ‘clean coal’ commercials-I mean seriously now, how ridiculous is that.  Which is why new regulations are pending on many of these ‘eco’ terms including the word organic.  Again, this only confuses the consumer even more than they were and they don’t really know what they are buying.  The same goes with SA flowers and the many original & new ‘certifications’ they have. Who polices them I ask?  I am quite familiar and keep up on these certifications always hoping… (there are a lot) from Flora Verde to Rainforest Alliance and if you read the criteria (Veriflora is one of the most aggressive) you see it is very easy to do very little and be very certified something to put on the label.   But regardless, even the few commercially grown flowers certified USDA organic…are still imported, and this slippery marketing is the same with BloomNation.my grown in the usa pic cropped

MS is a huge celebrity, and as many in the green arena complained when Walmart started carrying USDA organic food (from Asia), one has to look at the positive because known businesses & celebrities always give a cause a loud push of awareness.  MS American made awards I agree are a very  ‘good thing’ as she puts it; as are her ‘green’ show episodes and articles-however they are few.   With all her promotion of non earth friendly, imported craft items, out of season recipe ingredients, paints, glues, and the list goes on…it seems just another bandwagon for her to jump on as she does not honestly seem to walk either talk in her company.  (although she appears to live her personal life quite local & healthy) Giving awards like these to companies like this with obvious, little investigation or truism, just turns this ‘good thing’ to detrimental and confusing.  I think MS needs help with this one Kasey. 🙂

US FarmS Lose-SA Farms Win

On another note mentioned here; over these past dozen years I have had quite a few flower representatives from SA call me in response to my activism and writing;  they are very polite, they understand, they applaud my environmental efforts, they even invite me down expenses paid to see all the great things the flower industry does for their people. (which no conversation ever touched at the expense of our American farms which I get the feeling they see insignificant, as we are the ‘land of plenty’ and they do after all, buy our tractors and such?)  I give them all the same response, I am so sorry for their plight but I will not change my position or my mission.  As an environmentalist I feel for them and all the planet and its inhabitants; but the social, environmental, and chemical regulations are not there and even if they were, not at the expense of our own farms.  There are millions of struggling poor businesses and people in the US who need help along with mind you; one of the poorest indigenous races in the world being Native Americans.  As a buy local advocate, stocking imported products to sell local seems redundant.  As an industry advocate, selling imported flowers at the expense of our farms seems redundant.  Many florists advocate and display ‘please buy local’ signs in their windows, while with a cooler full of imported product that was delivered to them from over 50 and more miles away in a refrigerated, Toyota truck.  What’s wrong with this picture? I don’t understand why they don’t understand.

Florists Can HelpThe Change to US Grown And..Sustainable Products

Unfortunately it seems when it comes to profits, trade, and the global economy, there’s no room for activism or to follow a mission. Ask the Chinese; they import next to nothing and export everything…including the flags we so proudly wave at parades.  I say if those in the floral industry want to really make a difference, then take a stance with your passion and walk the talk, make the vow to at least educate and enlighten your customers; give them the facts and the positives to using American grown and the detriments of not.  All flower vendors need to start carrying our premium, US flowers so people can see the quality and longevity for themselves, and more importantly to just enlighten them that flowers are imported!  Wholesale houses will get a florist whatever they want as they want their business, but first the florist must ask for it. I ask all flower vendors to follow and learn from the likes of those as myself and our newest pioneers like Kasey of California Cut Flower Commission, Slowflowers, and Certified American Grown… and then, if we really want to get a crown-we need to lessen the floral foam use as that… is one the most dangerous, toxic nightmares in the industry that has silently slipped through all the cracks of warning, regulation, or recycling…buried in our soil since 1954 and still is.

Ranting through the snow….Lynn 🙂