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 🙂

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 🙂

   

About Flowers On Pearl Harbor Day

The Flower Wreaths...

Every year I am commissioned to create wreaths of flowers for the various veteran, ceremonies including Pearl Harbor Day; oddly it is now a different kind of order.  Flower remembrances for Pearl Harbor Day are traditionally tossed into a body of water, and somehow it seems people are aware of something amiss and requesting them to now be totally biodegradable.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The new veteran ordering questioned me: “Why do we have to ASK for something non toxic-aren't flowers & wreaths made of natural things from a florist?”

american grown flowers

The 90%... Imported-Plastics-Foreign

For me, that is the best question anyone could ask even if it is a loaded one for sure.  Between the wreath forms, the plastics, the acetate, the paint, and the foams-there is nothing natural at all, much less biodegradable for Pearl Harbor Day or any day.  I ask you, what is the difference between poisoning our water or our soil, a landfill is one thing but a river is another?   We need to take a care with them both.  Nearly 90% of the flowers used at over 90% of florists and any flower outlet are imported with probably a 90% chance they are delivered in an import vehicle-which to me, is not a nice way to honor any veteran much less those lost at Pearl Harbor.

Traditional Wreaths

I get it-it’s so easy to make a wreath using all the ‘innovative’ and manufactured, flower mechanics of today.  It’s more expensive, but it’s quick and it requires little thought or creativity.  And it supports the global economy-which of course.....is more important than our own.   The wreaths I made for these ceremonies started with a vine, 2 branches, and an idea-the traditional way.  The greens and flowers are layered, tied, proudly grown in the US, and a US made ribbon.   The patriotic picture we aspire to paint with all our little American flags made in China, and veterans remembrance flowers imported from Columbia; in my thoughts does nothing to honor any veteran or ourselves.

hand made wreath for veterans

The back of the wreath.                          No plastics-no foam.

Remembering Pearl Harbor Day

 My Mother has a faded photo of a skinny, 18 yr old kid who I remember had the softest voice and disposition and seemed anything but soldier material; her older brother.  My grandmother had a silk scarf he sent her from his tour in Japan that always fascinated me as a child. He was one of the lucky ones who did not perish then, but over 2400 did at Pearl Harbor in 1941.  A day, FDR rewrote his speech to say “this date will go down in infamy”

 Maybe today, a fitting honor would be to take the time to find just 1 local/American made item and buy it-instead of an imported.  Even the course of a mighty river is changed when it bends and every little change adds up to a big one.  As the veteran was leaving he turned and said, “thank you for what you are doing here, the guys we are honoring would be proud of you,  and so am I.”

I was grateful and proud, and it made my day.

Lynn 🙂

American grown flowers for non toxic veterans wreath

A real American wreath!

Buy From Local Pet Friendly Stores

With our honor a few years ago, as chosen one of the Merchant Success Story's on IndependantWeStand.org ;  I thought I would  again pass on just a few of my  itty bitty thoughts about buying local that are easy to do.  Sometimes we get caught up hurrying and forget.   Actually they are simple and itty bitty, but really huge in impact.  It may seem a little more effort and a few more dollars, but in the end it is a super good thing for us all, human and hound alike.  Please let me know where you go locally, or if you found a really neat local business that I should know about-especially if it is pet friendly...like ours!

Me shopping local!

Here are my tips to buy local

*  Visit a locally owned and operated business just once  per week-support your own town and shelter.

*  Look for the Dog Whisperer’s book at a corner book store first  not online

*  Eat lunch (that gives leftover bags!)  at the local sandwich shop down the street not  the franchise-visit with your neighbors

*  Buy your next gift at a local store-not  at the mall or chain store.  No long wait and we get home sooner for the walk.

*  Buy a toy at that cool local toy store-they have mindful not  mindless toys.

*  Get your medicine at a local pharmacy-they know  your name…and mine!.

*  Visit a local nursery for your lawn & garden needs-buy quality not quantity that’s safe  for me,  the bees, and the butterflies too.

*  Supplement your groceries at the local Farmers Market- taste  the difference-yum I do.

And from my world….try to visit our local pet stores, businesses, and groomers.  I know it is easy to go for a “one stop” of food, treats, and grooming too; but they are big, big, chain stores and that money does not stay in our town much less our animal shelters.  If everyone went local then maybe these businesses would be able to contribute for a dog park!

P.S.   FYI….My greyhound rescue group used to have Meet & Greets for ex racers needing homes; but now the big box pet chain won’t let us unless we give them your names for marketing purposes.   I guess they are not really walking the talk of thinking about rescues-it’s just about the sales, so… sorry Mr. Dog Whisperer Cesar, we adore you but...........                                                      we are not obeying that command!

Believe,

Willow  xxoo  

China, shopping our store.

pp.ss. My fav pet store besides ours of course..... is Positively Pets right here in New Windsor-pet friendly too!

It’s Valentine’s Day- Flowers And Me!

Valentine dog Ok all you humans, I think it is time to start preparing for the big day.  Valentine's Day is around the corner and if you wait too overly long my appointment book for personal photos & greetings will be filled :), and many flowers will be spoken for already.  

As you can see I am already giving myself a trial run as I don't want to be last minute.  All who visit on Wednesday & Thursday will have more time with me as Friday will be limited to about 3 minutes.  Being a celebrity is such a difficult business.

We have some beauty of varieties coming in from Cally like calla lilies, anemones, French (yes the big 2 ft.ones) tulips...oh wow.   

 You know we have the most beautiful flowers alive so click the link below-choose your rose meaning then call me text me...make your appointment-and reserve me AND your flowers!

Call Willow 845-562-2820

Text Willow 845 527-0017

Cheers!

Willowwillowpaw

Choose Your Rose Meaning

   

For Valentine’s Day Save Yourself & Protect Your Identity

Valentine’s Day Gifts

Valentine dog

With the approach of every heavy retail, buying time; I always think “here we go”, and here we go again with Valentine’s Day 2014.  A time of in your face ads, promises of quality, and shelves of cheap imported gifts-including flowers.

The big three gifts of this day are predominantly jewelry, flowers, and chocolate; with plush animals, lingerie and electronics rounding out the top 6 with total sales of nearly 16 billion dollars nationwide. Hmm we muse; then why are our communities in such financial situations if all this money is out there being spent. Because… most of the 16 billion will leave America whether with the products origin or the avenue used to make the purchase. And now, we have another threat-identity theft.

Do The Valentines's Day Math

Waste moneyIt is a simple equation; a townspeople and main street shopping sustain each other.   If one or the other leaves, the town suffers and the people suffer.  Sometimes we get caught up in things and just go with the flow, kind of like lemmings.  We sigh and say “well that is just the way it is now”.

A ‘local’ Target, Walmart, or any other is not a local business, it is a corporate giant with a local presence-big difference.  It is of no wonder our local economies are in such trouble; we are giving all of our money to big corporations who send it outside the US border, ironically in return for inferior quality goods made outside the US.

Protect Your Valentine's Day Heart Protect Your Identity

If your dollars are spent in local, businesses almost $70 out of every $100. stays local as opposed to  chain mega-stores where 60% of the nightly deposit is sent out of the state and country within 24 hours.  There is no Valentine heart, only enough is kept for their local expenses and the rest sails.  And this most definitely, includes big online merchants, because spending it there sends none of the money anywhere near your town much less our country.

 And now, yet another reason to stay local… your credit & debit cards are safer.  We don’t care about your identity; we care about you coming back again.  Identity thieves and hackers don’t concern themselves all that much about the local jewelry store and florist-they want the big guys.   

Show Your Valentine You Care

buy local flowers.jpg370x383  

I am both an ecologist and artist first however, I am also a small business advocate and ever so proud of America.  Along with greening my business; the second aspect of restructuring to a sustainable eco florist also meant finding local & American anything and everything because I care about my customers, and the planet. 

Please don’t let me feel that all I and the 100’s of other businesses have done is in vain.  I believe you care-so make the effort .  Don’t let your purchases be guided by the cheapest prices because in the scheme of things you will pay dearly. 

 

This Valentine’s Day and every week, seek out a local business, see all they have to offer, see who they are, and remember…. when you buy from a local, small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home or an identity thief run to the mall with your credit card.  Buying local helps your neighbor’s daughter get dance lessons, her little brother get his team jersey, their Mom put food on the table, and their dad pay the mortgage. 

 Your personal information is safer, your credit cards are safer, and your bank account is safer.  Customers are the shareholders of local businesses who really strive to make you happy because, they have a name,  a face, and ….we live here too, probably right down the road from you.  It’s not all about the money and yet it is all about the money.  One hand washes the other and also dries the other, and we really need to slow down, take a moment, and just think about our choices-before we have none. 

Be safe, call direct

Lynn 🙂

Winning Flower Displays

This years theme  was "Seasons Of The Hudson Valley" for the displays in the Horticulture building at the Duchess Fair.  After much deliberation and thought I came up with a life size Mother Nature dressed in the 4 seasons and with the added feature of wings. The second display was a twist on the 150th anniversary of Saratoga Race Track. As everyone knows, all my displays must come with a subtle message involving the environment or its creatures.

 Mother Nature was made of all local grown botanicals with a sign promoting them along with the plight of our US flower farms, chemical use on the imports, and a plea to buy local.

The top half of her

The top half of her

Izzy tagged

And, what a job she was...tedious and detailed. Her Head was spring, her chest was summer, her hip area was autumn with corn, squirrels, and acorns.  While her long skirt was winter cedar, cones, and fat blue jays!

 

Making the wings seemed a wonderful idea but as all my ideas seem great at the time-making it is always a different song!  I thank my best helper ever, Isaiah-Izzy to me-for being so patient in wrapping and wiring.  🙂

The second display was a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Saratoga Race Track.  As you all know, I am not a proponent of any animal racing even though they love to run and I love seeing them run; but the state of the animal racing industry is horrific.  The other side we do not see is dark, dangerous, cruel, and not at all a happy picture.  With that, I thought about what if things were reversed and it were the horses going to see humans racing!  So I decked  them out in their fine Saratoga hats decorated with their favorite things for a day at the races.  I posted information on the plight of our native, wild horses... of course.  And thanks again to Izzy-as he recreated the famous white fountain surrounded by red flowers.

fair horses

Fair races sign

All of the displays were beautiful, and all the florists & landscapers who participated should be thanked as we all do it labor free to make the Horticulture building a beauty of Nature.  It is a load of work but we love it.

Yay

Yay

  Until next year...   Lynn

National Parks Poached For The Floral Industry

As an environmentalist and eco florist, it is a 24/7 task of constant research and eye monitoring in all areas of the floral industry.  Just when it seems I have discovered and conquered one issue, 5 others  crop up and side wind me; again making me ashamed of my chosen field that I fight to preserve against all sort of forces; and I love so much.  To me, it must be akin to meeting the love of your life, and then through the years finding they have a double side to them that is dark and dirty, secretive, and just a plain lie. A side that challenges everything you believe in, thought you knew and trusted, and a side that violates you.  It is heartbreaking; and I am ashamed of myself for not investigating further on this suspicion I have harbored for the last 10 years when I was first told that, ” salal is an invasive tree in plentiful supply that grows everywhere out west”.   And I believed them.

This is how I feel this month after reading the Sierra Club’s account of yet another environmental assault because of floristry in the Olympia National Park in Washington state.  Photographer/writer Greg Bleakney* investigated the illegal pillage of millions and millions of tons of salal leaves, moss, bear grass, and conifer branches for the floral trade each year, illegally.  One more secret and heinous act for money.  These 4 products are stocked at every florist in the world, and 4 of my own favorite things to use on a daily basis.  They are highly sought after in Europe (especially by the Dutch designers) and evidently a lucrative, US export legal or illegally taken.  Salal leaf is included in every one of my hand tied bouquets, while bear grass wisps from each design.  The cedar boughs are a sacred aromatic as my must have woodland accent, and the moss is everywhere in my store.  All the evergreens touted “grown on west coast farms” are something I await anxiously each November.

A "licensed" picker of salal

 The center of this pillage is Olympia National Park.  A temperate forest and a jewel of the northwest that is home to a rare eco system of flora and fauna.  It was also the inspiration for the Twilight movies with its misty shrouds, and ancient trees dripping of moss and ferns. A place of wild and wildlife supposedly protected from any attack of human degradation according to the federal government. Along with what I always question as alleged, sustainable harvesting; there is a huge black market to fulfill the demand for 100 million dollars worth of 27 million pounds of salal exported each year.  Money and the environment, the constant war.  According to the expose, the Department of Natural Resources, private landowners and packing houses called brush sheds, issue local permits to legally harvest forest products in certain areas.

The Department however, is severely under manned (due to government cuts or I suspect also turning the blind eye) with only 8 officers to patrol over 5 million acres; doing the best they can.  This poaching is no different from the drug or animal trade, and operates the same.  When one set of poachers is caught, another set moves in.  The thought is I’m sure; with so many acres who cares if some is pillaged and it’s free?  But 27 million pounds is a bit more than ‘some’. That’s how the American buffalo disappeared. Thoughts of my favorite quote emerge; “every day we lose 116 square miles of rainforest, or about an acre a second.  And… how every day we will lose 40-100 species and no one knows if the number is 40 or 100.”**

A park officer surveys the damage of cedar from poachers for the floral trade

Just SW of the park is the Native American reservation of the Quinault tribe that Gregg quoted  reservation, resource protection officer  James Smith who reported  in 2010 the ravaging  of 40-80 acres of bear grass in just one season.   They are now hard pressed to find any quality, grass for even their basket weaving.  In the same year, a hunter came upon poachers who had destroyed two, separate, multi acre stands of trees taking 40,000 lbs of white pine boughs for the holiday wreath trade; leaving bare branches.  All I see in my mind are the massive stacks of bundled wreaths for sale everywhere in November, and now wonder if the trees were raped for our Holiday doors.  Worse, I further wonder if all the wreaths I have sold up to now have been from an honest, sustainable source or were they from an old growth forest.

A moss laden ancient tree is keep secret to keep poachers from finding it.

 And about the moss…When I was a young camper, even then I would always search out the moss beds.  They were soft, warm, and clean being a natural antiseptic.  This affinity for moss is still evident in the store as I use it every day in some design context or display.  Obviously, I am not the only moss lover as the amount taken for the floral trade every year is estimated in the “tens of millions of pounds”.  I am dismayed at the sheer volume of that figure.  We only have 60,000 retail & wholesale florist in the US, so I am assuming another export.  In Olympia it is pulled from the forest floor and stripped from the trees-with the tree bark.  It can’t possibly all be grown on moss farms as I am told-so again I ask myself; where are all these boxes of moss coming from really.  Moss is an ancient and important plant to the eco system, taking years to cover the ground.  As you well know, if you have ever had a shady spot in your yard; a 5 inch clump will take quite a while to grow to 3 ft.  I watch mine patiently.

A few summers ago, I was having a nice conversation with a Florida native about my stance on offering only ‘US grown” products and mentioned that my cut ferns are grown there.  He asked which farms they were grown on and when I asked why, he hesitated but told me he had worked around many of those farms.  After an awkward silence, he informed me that not all the ferns packaged in FLA boxes are created equal and they are actually supplementing their crops with South American grown and…. repackaging them in Florida.  He was a truck driver who delivered fresh products from the Miami airport.  That airport is the main eastern hub for imported flowers and plants from South America, and that’s exactly where these shipments were from.  I thanked this man for his time and conversation and walked away both deflated and elated that I had yet uncovered another secret.

You can learn so much by talking with people, asking questions, and reading even the most unlikely publications.  The Sierra Club is known for its environmental mindset so I read it faithfully; John Muir’s writings have always inspired me.  However, when I read this month’s issue, little did I know I would find anything related to the floral industry,  nor chatting with a man who I seemingly had nothing in common with, but yet who brought information unknown and so important to me.  I encourage, no I implore you to ask where your floral and plant purchases are from and who grew them.  85% of all flowers are grown outside the US while most of the houseplants come over the border from Canada.  Bryan Adams is a super guy, and I adore Celine Dion, but I wish the Canadians would keep their plants for their own-the journey here kills one third of them, and the rest succumb to big box neglect.

 I will again be sharpening my microscope to the chain of product in the store from now on and I will never assume anything again.  A mantra my Mother forever quotes; and another example of who to listen to and who not to.

Forever thinking of the trees,

Lynn

Always I thank the SierraClub.org

and

**my praise to photographer/writer Greg Bleakney   gbleakney.com

*** my admiration to David Orr professor of environmental studies Oberlin College….who wrote that 17 years ago, I can't imagine the tally now

For The Love of Local Grown Flowers

The local grown flowers for the tri-state are now at their peak.  They are breathtaking, vibrant, and just a flower lover’s dream.  Each week I anticipate the new cuttings; waiting to see what is available.  And, somehow they always seem better than the previous weeks.  Just so many varieties like zinnias, dahlias, sunflowers, gladiolus, hydrangea, and the list goes on.  And then the herbs; its daily aromatherapy for all who enter the shop.  Why would anyone want the inferior, imported flowers?  There is positively, absolutely no comparison; for more reasons than one.

Flowers Are For SniffingWillow always accompanies me to the flower market and we have a grand time. A wonderful little extra I love is watching her sniff and nuzzle from bucket to bucket- with no fear from me towithhold her. Last week as I sniffed and nuzzled the lavender, she settled on some millet foliage and snacked away. This of course would be out of the question with imported flowers because of the chemical use, and I thought how children love to do the same thing and how fearful I would be to see a little face nuzzling in a Colombian daisy. Flowers were made to be nuzzled and sniffed up close on impulse, not from afar or washed first.Wheat...Grasses...Queen Anne's Lace

A Favorite Flower? While Willow seems impressed with the giant, millet & sorghum (aka bunny tails-hmm an obvious maybe for a greyhound?); I think this year I am most impressed with the coxcomb.  That odd, out of this world shaped flower that does not really look like a flower at all, but yet a wild, rippled, ladies fan.  The soft velvety heads seem to tease you to pet them like a puppy’s ear-they are irresistible. The colors further entice another of our senses in the strongest burgundy, the hottest pink, and the coolest greens.   Nature in its glory, but oddly with no two ever similar in size or form.   Ranging in size from 3” to 7” they each have their own personality and dry perfectly; making them a good choice for dried flower designs-especially wreaths.

Velvet Flower...the Coxcomb

 

Flower Lore

The generic name is derived from the Greek ‘kelos’ meaning burned, they are commonly called woolflower & velvet flower.  The English definition of coxcomb is a ‘conceited dandy who is overly impressed by his own accomplishments.’  How odd, because they do dominate the cooler for attention, bowing I think only to the giant sunflowers.   They do redeem themselves by being very medicinal for multiple ailments and their leaves a food akin to spinach.

Sunflowers-Chocolate for Honey Bees

Enjoy the Season

Our local crops usually run into late October or later depending on the weather.  And then, they are gone for another year.  I can’t stress or encourage you enough to enjoy them while they are here.  They are magnificent, last incredibly long, support our local farms & economy, and of course -feed the butterflies.

Echinacea-For the Love of Butterflies

For the love of them all, Enjoy...   Lynn

Buying Local Grown-the True & the False of Your Wreaths & Poinsettias

 Two of the most popular purchases for the Holiday beside trees are wreaths and poinsettias.  Historically only available at florists and nurseries and today sold everywhere in the oddest places that really… have no business doing so.  All big box stores from hardware to grocery to convenient stores and gas stations offer them both in mass –at amazingly low prices.   Poinsettias sit packed on racks, in cold doorways and fruit departments, while the wreaths are hung out for sale in late October.   How resilient they are and for so little money-the modern age-a real deal.

Here in the US, approximately 15% of the evergreens are grown and cut on the West coast with the other 85% cut and grown in Canada.  Canadian single faced, wreaths are factory made from evergreens cut in October and stacked, crated and held for shipping to the US.   Ever notice how they are a bit flat and dry?  If we were left without water and crated for a month-well we would be too.  This is why they shed so many needles and have a very short life.

Nearly all the poinsettias you see here are grown in the Canadian Provinces. They are plastic packaged and sent on a bumpy, cold, journey from their protected greenhouses to the states and then displayed with little to no care in the stores.   Which is why, by Dec. 24 they all look pretty sorry-and on clearance with curled, and wilted leaves.  This is not only from lack of proper care-but from the trauma of their trip.  Ironically, when displayed near fruit-their life is cut even shorter from the ethylene gas the fruit emits.  As a tropical plant native to Mexico; poinsettias are very fragile and temperate creatures-more so than even your favorite houseplants. So- we have products cut and made too early; products roughly shipped and cared for, products using a tremendous amount of energy and fuel to get here;  products of poor quality and longevity;  and money not only leaving our county-but our state-and our country.  In my mind; when we make these purchases it in effect means we accept sub quality and condone the failure of our local and US growers.

We have several local farms within 30 miles of us that I have purchased all of our made to order, double faced, wreaths and poinsettias from for 20 years.  There is no comparison in quality.  The large poinsettias are nothing short of wow, and the thick wreaths are huggable.   Every year I worry as they close another greenhouse or downsize their workforce.  I fear for them and refuse to purchase anywhere else; which earns me a grateful thank you.  Local/US grown evergreen wreaths will stay green fresh for up to 2 months with a weekly misting.    Healthy, local grown poinsettias will last until planting outdoors in the spring.   We have forgotten how things used to and still should be.   So my Grandmothers words; “you get what you pay for” is in fact…. the real deal.

Buying local is about more than supporting your local farms and growers; it's keeping the money in our own country;  the huge amounts of energy and fuel used getting it here; and getting a long lasting, quality product for your money spent.    When you send a poinsettia gift wouldn’t you like the recipient to remember you into February?   I can’t imagine you would want it otherwise.

I have nothing against Canada; in fact I absolutely love it there.  They are part of North America, our neighbor, I love the landscape, I love the food, and I love Celine Dion and Bryan Adams.  I just wish Canada would keep their products for themselves.   America has become the land of import, and it is costing us a fortune in ways that go beyond money.

This year before you buy, please read the tag or just ask where your wreath, tree, and poinsettia were grown; especially if they display a gazillion of them because then it’s just fuzzy advertising if claiming local grown. Better yet, search out the small nurseries and farms that grow their products-it’s a great day out in the spirit of the Season, and buying local is the spirit of the Season.

Check out the 3/50 project and learn why you should pick 3 local businesses and spend $50.  Then visit Independent We Stand  and see what spending $10. a month at your local business instead of bigbox chain does. You’ll be amazed at what the numbers calculate to our town.

Do good...Feel good,

Lynn