Meet The Seasonal Florists Putting The Planet First This Valentine's Day

Did you know that 90% of all purchased flowers in the Uk are imported from overseas?! And 250 million roses are grown each year for valentines day?!Why not consider opting for seasonal flowers this year?  The cut flower market is worth upwards of $55 billion per annum— with this comes huge negative impacts on the environment through greenhouse rose production and toxic chemicals and pesticides, simply to be thrown away after one day. This year why not consider giving seasonal flowers instead of roses? 

 Jemma speaks to SSAW Collective, Flowers By Imogen and Wolves Lane Flower Company to learn about the seasonal florists who are changing the way we buy flowers. 

1. SSAW Collective: A community of chefs, florists & growers committed to an ethical way of working with seasonal produce, advocating for positive ecological change in our food, flower and farming systems.

Find SSAW Collective at www.ssawcollective.com / @ssaw.collective

J What inspired you to start SSAW Collective?

S Growers that had all worked in the hospitality industry, we were inspired to set up SSAW having seen the disconnect between food and flowers and seasonality in the events that we worked on. So often the same attention given to the menu all locally and considerately sourced was not given to the florals which were often out of season and imported. Eco conscious brands that genuinely cared deeply about the supply chains of their products wouldn’t think twice about the food served at their events or the flowers sent to their clients. SSAW collective was built around the importance of thinking about the provenance of all aspects of an event from the nutrients to the napkins. To be consistently mindful of the environment, whether it is food or flowers, or a full styling service with every element of your event considered both ethically and aesthetically.

J Could you share the process of how you source your flowers?

S We grow the majority of our flowers ourselves on plots just outside London. From April to November, all SSAW bunches and the vast majority of flowers we use on our events are field grown by ourselves. We occasionally buy in from our flower farming friends and other small market farms that exist in the UK but mainly we design with what we have readily available in mind, dreaming up installations to make the most of a glut of a particular flower. Single varieties en masse always look effective and this is an efficient way of ensuring that nothing goes to waste. When we think about sourcing both provenance and production process are key. Locally field grown, seasonal flowers are always our preference. We have chosen to only use flowers grown in the UK because this allows us to have more transparency in our supply chain. For us it is not just an ecological question, it’s an ethical one too. It is much easier to trace growing conditions with flowers grown in the UK, where worker rights, wages and pesticide usage are more regulated.

J Please describe your company and how you prioritise sustainability?

S Our entire ‘ethical events’ business model is based around prioritising sustainability and championing regenerative practises in the food and farming industries. We are meticulous about building relationships with our suppliers and having traceability in our sources. We make no exceptions when it comes to sourcing materials or producing an event. This can sometimes be restrictive but forces us to be more resourceful and helps to remind us that collectively society we have all become so used to accessing information, things, materials, people, instantly. We do everything we can to channel a slower and more humble approach to the services we offer, which we feel helps to promote a more realistic and therefore sustainable way of living and working.

 

2. Wolves Lane Flower Company: Based in North London, they hope to inspire people to embrace seasonality and a more sustainable relationship with flowers. 

Find Wolves Lane Flower Company at www.wolveslaneflowercompany.com / @wolveslaneflowercompany

 

J What inspired you to do what you do? 

C After a decade of working in London as producers, Camila in fashion and Marianne in performing arts, we longed for a more sustainable way of life, one that would give us a greater, more tangible connection with nature. We both grew up in the garden with plant loving parents but lived in flats with postage stamp backyards post university. We joked for 10 long years about a life of soil where we'd work with flowers and after we arranged the flowers for Marianne's wedding in 2015 we were hooked. However the global cut flower trade posed many challenges to our environmental ethos. For those that don't know: The global cut flower industry is worth approximately $29. 2 billion. After years of ordering flowers for clients, for fashion installations and events we felt that the only way we could work with flowers and know as much as possible about the supply chain, was to grow them ourselves. The range of chemicals used in industrial flower farming is terrifying. At Wolves Lane we hope to inspire people to embrace seasonality and a more sustainable relationship with flowers. Encouraging people to grow their own flowers is an even bigger priority for us. WLFC will never be able to grow on a massive scale, we rent a tiny scrap of land and an unheated glasshouse in north London, but we see every person who decides to grow a window box of violas instead of buying a supermarket wrap of imported roses as a win. Growing anything: vegetables or flowers has the power to reconnect us with nature, to see how small changes can have a huge impact on the ecosystem. We believe that those small but vital connections with nature encourage humans to be better environmentalists and custodians of the planet.

J Could you share the process of how you source your flowers? 

C We grow them all ourselves! We grow from seed, tuber and bulb. Our season runs from March - November for fresh flowers and we sell our own bleach and dye-free dried flowers in November and December. If we're providing the flowers for a particularly large wedding and need to source extra flowers we inevitably turn to our British flower farming network Flowers from The Farm. Here we can always find a grower that shares our environmental ethos and grows wonderful flowers.

J Please describe your company and how you prioritise sustainability?

C WLFC is a flower farm based in north London. We are farmer florists who grow seasonal blooms for weddings, events, workshops and florists. We are chemical free, farming with an entirely organic approach. We have never used floral foam, so all of our wedding and event work is made using traditional techniques using a lot of sustainably sourced sphagnum moss and reusable chicken wire. Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do from how we treat our soil to our relationship with plastic. We follow the no dig method of gardening which is all about locking carbon into the soil and adding organic matter. We sow cover crops to protect the soil but also to attract pollinators and create a healthy ecosystem. We source all of our spring bulbs from a neonicotinoid- free supplier, as we don't want our tulip bulbs to be sprayed with a pesticide that is harmful to bees. The seeds we sow have either been saved from our own crops or are sourced from open pollinated seed suppliers. We have a professional drip irrigation system in place so that we can be sure that we're not wasting water. Rather excitingly, at the Wolves Lane site, funding has been awarded to create a rain water harvesting system which means that within a couple of years we'll be able to irrigate with rainwater that comes off of the roofs of the glasshouses. Using plastic is almost inevitable in gardening, it's very hard to avoid. However we always invest in more durable plastics to avoid waste, we've been sowing into the same seed trays since 2018. You won't find any of those flimsy single use plastic trays at our site. We save all of our pots and have only ever bought recyclable plastic pots, which unfortunately isn't the norm for plant pots. We try to avoid using weed suppressing membrane as it's a long lasting plastic but can fray and the threads get into the soil and our compost heaps, so we build our paths with cardboard and woodchip. It takes a long time but it's great for our core strength! We compost as much as we can and add all of the spent flowers from our wedding work into our compost heaps. We grow as many open faced varieties as possible for pollinators as so many cultivars make it hard for insects to reach the nectar they want. We don't usually need to encourage our clientele  to embrace seasonality but some couples have specific ideas on the flowers they would like for their wedding and it's an integral part of our process to champion seasonal flowers. 

 

3. Flowers By Imogen: An all British grown, low carbon florist and farm, heroing the seasons. 

Find Flowers By Imogen at www.flowersbyimogen.com / @flowersbyimogen

 

J What inspired you to move into seasonal floristry?

I I had been doing floristry as a hobby for a while, learning how to garden very young with my mum and arranging the gorgeous flowers I picked up from the Somerset countryside where I grew up. I found it so relaxing and loved creating something that made people happy (myself included!). However, when I started looking into it more as a career and did some training, I was shocked at the waste, amount of plastic and importation of the flowers (90% of flowers are imported in the UK). I couldn't BELIEVE florists were still using floral foam too, which contains horrendous toxic chemicals like formaldehyde - can you imagine? I loved doing flowers first and foremost because of the beautiful British flowers that grew in my garden and in the wild. So I wanted to start my own floral business to change the industry and offer people another option.

J Could you share the process of how you source your flowers?

I All of my flowers are British grown which is a key USP for me. A lot of my flowers last year came from my own small cutting garden in Sussex. At the moment, we are building a bigger flower farm in Bristol, where I hope to source all of my flowers ultimately, as we have a bit more space! At the moment, I source my flowers as locally as possible: I used a farm in Walthamstow a lot as well in last year's season, and I'm based in Clapton, Hackney so you couldn't get much more local! Many of my dried flowers come from local flower farms too in Kent and Surrey. The furthest I source from is Cornwall and Lincolnshire. I know and talk personally to each farmer I buy from regularly, so I know everything has been ethically grown and there's much more of a community feel. 

J How do you prioritise the planet through your work?

I The fully British grown flowers that are sourced as locally as possible means my carbon footprint is super low. I'm fully seasonal, and use predominantly dried flowers in the Autumn/Winter months where there are little flowers around in the UK. I never use any plastic and my packaging is all zero waste. I never use chemical dyes as I believe the flowers are beautiful enough on their own. I never use floral foam and I have lots of reusable/sustainable floral mechanics up my sleeve for flower installations. The farm in Bristol is such a dream for our sustainability, as it means I can send all flower waste back to the farm for composting and I know we're using no chemicals on our lovely plants. We use the no-dig method on the farm too, which is better for the soil. We're growing lots of bee-friendly flowers as well!

 


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