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 🙂

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!

Autumn Decorating With Bittersweet Vine

How perfect this owl and not impressed with the beautiful berries

Everyone loves what has been named bittersweet for autumn decorating.  Surprisingly, it is not the original bittersweet botanically; but yet a Solanum genus of Nightshade was first designated as such; which is not a cousin, relative, or even lookalike.    Through the centuries names get coined or interpreted and now to us what we know as bittersweet is just bittersweet, botanically incorrect or not.

 Next to pumpkins and maple trees, there is no match for the display it puts on a front door, or beautiful country table.  It rambles, it diverts, and it goes around and out west.  It is a free spirited thing that has no rhyme or reason, which is what I adore about it the best.  I work with what shape it gives me with no two designs the same-love it.  As Willow and I walked this morning, the woods seemed ablaze from the vibrant yellow and orange berries….everywhere we looked.   Alongside us, around us, hanging from the trees, and shooting out to grab our feet.  As we stood looking, I wondered if we stayed too long if we too would be wound up in this voracious vine.  For ever so long, it seemed a difficult quest every year to locate nice bittersweet for the store; and now here we stood with it about to attach itself to us.

Why All The Bittersweet

 So today, there are 2 vines we commonly refer to as bittersweet, and to a wanderer’s eye, barely different.  Our American bittersweet indigenous to North America is Celastrus Scandens and then we have the Oriental bittersweet invader of Celastrus Orbiculata, introduced from the Orient in the mid 1800’s as an ornamental and for erosion control. Hmm, as usual when you upset an ecosystem it never seems to come to a good end; I think we should have left it where it was. It is a foreign strangler, incredibly invasive and a real menace taking over in 25 states as far west as Montana.

Our Bittersweet

 We have nearly picked & decorated ourselves out of ours to where the NY State DEC named it a protected plant.  They have listed it as “”exploited and vulnerable”;  including it on their list to be officially, designated as rare.  Every plant has a specific purpose on the planet, none are useless and just weeds as many say.  Long ago before decoration; Native Americans knew to use it medicinally, for color pigment, and its vines for rope and weaving baskets.   So, if you are so lucky as to have our bittersweet; please try to encourage it to grow and protect it because we are losing it to a rival import.  If you would like to have your own American bittersweet seeds and plants; they can be purchased at various nurseries and seed houses across the country.

Is it American or Not

Like us humans the plants are basically the same yet different.  Ours has a larger berry of course; isn’t everything bigger, better, and louder in America?  🙂   However, unless you have a branch of each side by side it is difficult to go by berry alone.  The best things to look for are just 2 characteristics.  Ours has an elliptical leaf with berry clusters at the tips of the branches.  While our invaders have a bit rounder leaf with berry clusters all over the vine; wherever the leaves are attached.  Yes, what you mostly see everywhere and probably on your door right now is the invader; this bittersweet gang is trying to take over our turf and a woods war is on.  The oriental is tougher than ours; it smothers trees and crowds our low growth plants; and displacing our own through competition and hybridization.   You can always tell a gratefully freed, tree that spent its life encased with it by the scars the vines left.

Let’s Level the Field

The plant world is not much different from ours, as we are part of the same kingdom.  So being we all love bittersweet for decorating, lets level the playing field some.  One positive; many bird species eat the berries, as do other pollinators.   Whether you gather or purchase your bittersweet, first try to discern if it is American or Oriental.   If Oriental , which most is; decorate and craft carefully as any berries or cut stems can and will winter over and root in the Spring.  For this reason, and especially when the decorations are taken down; don’t add them to a compost pile or roadside where the seeds can germinate or the vines can root.  Spent vines and wreaths should be cut up and placed in a box or bag to dry –along with their dried berries.  In the spring they can then be disposed of with your normal trash.

 Plants are far from mindless, they are opportunists and survivalists. So decorate away because Autumn without bittersweet is like Winter without holly; just keeping in mind that every action has a reaction, even with the wily bittersweet.

     

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