Monday, 31 August 2009

the true price of a posy...

I love to receive flowers. Not only do you have the thought that went into getting them, but the wonderful colour and scent they bring to the darkest corners of the house. They are fleeting, but I enjoy every minute of them.

But, what is the true cost of a bunch of flowers? In monetary value, anything from free up to the hundreds, but the environmental cost? The truth can be a little hard to stomach.

The UK cut flower industry is worth about £2billion – almost the same as our music industry, and yet we are responsible for growing only 10% of them on UK soils. The remaining 90% is imported from areas as far flung as Colombia and Kenya.

In an age where ‘food miles’ are on the tip of everyone’s tongues, surely it seems a bit contradictory to have lovely local cheese, milk and meat in your basket alongside a bouquet of Kenyan roses?

But there are some who argue for the case of buying a Kenyan (or other imported) posy.

It has been widely published that the carbon omissions of an imported bouquet are lower than those of a northern hemisphere grown rose, as less lighting and heating is required in the growth period. But what about the travel, pesticides, packing, even the omissions from decay – the complete life cycle of the flowers – does this still ring true?

And even though the carbon omissions are a very large part of the argument, there are also the issues with worker welfare, wider environmental impact (draining of water from lakes to feed the floriculture industries), and the use of pesticides long banned in the EU countries.

Fairtrade flowers do try and address some of these issues, and of course you are given the reassurance that your pennies are not going to feed some fat cat whilst the workers suffer, but there are still a very low percentage of the imports registered under the scheme.

So, if you are not going to buy an imported bunch, where can you get your hands on some of the 10% that we do actually grow here, and why should you?

The first stop for many will be at the supermarket. Despite how I tend to bang on about how I detest the whole supermarket experience, there are a few that are least trying to support our UK growers.

Waitrose has a great raft of UK suppliers that it works directly with to produce a range of seasonal blooms over the year, and they are so proud that you can read all about it on their website.

Tesco, Sainsburys and Marks and Spencer also have a reasonable selection, and most are marked by a Union Jack or similar. Some even have the county that they were grown in marked on the wrapper.

Otherwise, there are some fantastic suppliers that you can purchase your scented and seasonal lovelies from – mostly directly from the farm itself. Check out Wiggly Wigglers, Country Roses and Scent from the Islands.

So why should we buy British blooms?

It stands to reason that the shorter the time between the picking and the displaying of the flower, the longer the vase life will be. Also, the large scale overseas growers tend to ditch scented varieties of flowers as they are not as productive, so lovely flowers, no smell. The UK growers also tend to be on a much smaller scale than their overseas counterparts, and so are hugely affected by market demand. If we want them, the supermarkets will get them. And, in times of hardship, we are keeping our own economy going. Never a bad thing.

Please don’t just sling a bunch in your basket next time you are shopping. Take a few seconds to look, and see if you can buy British.

1 comment:

  1. if you are ever in Ludlow, try the Ludlow Food Centre who sell wonderful bouquets of flowers and foliage grown locally in an old walled garden. I personally love English flowers and grow some amongst the veg so I always have a tiny posy on the table or window cill. It's so easy to scatter a few annual seeds and if they are ones with lovely seedheads one can have winter displays too. All the best to you Claire, hope to see you at Malvern later this month. Ann.