Roses are red, violets are blue, can they be green?
By: Terry Engels
Green is the new red. The cut flower industry has traditionally used chemically intensive means to obtain a quality product, and since 1991 has been centered out of the United States. Question is, if you want to be more green-minded, how do you go about it?
There are easy options to pursue. Buying local is the first choice for the freshest product, and one that doesn't require enormous transportation costs. Many local florists offer flowers grown organically by area boutique growers from late spring through the fall. However, winter does present its problems for Minnesota Valentine flower enthusiasts. Enter Len Busch Roses, a local grower that provides not only the freshest roses but also lilies, tulips, alstroemerias and gerbera daisies to local floral wholesalers. Year-round production in their area greenhouses makes this possible. They promise a quality product thoughtfully produced with regard to the environment and their employees. "We believe all results should happen under the umbrella of stewardship to the world in which we live, by serving people and managing our resources wisely."
This is not a certified organic grower. However, their expressed concern for various aspects of the growing process mirrors those who seek Fair Trade, Demeter, and Veriflora certification. (See sidebar for definition of terms.) Many area florists speak highly of their flowers and the process by which they are produced.
One such retailer is Jennifer Zierke of Prairie Crocus Design, LLC, Eden Prairie. She promises sustainably-produced, eco-conscious flowers for her customers, and thinks that Len Busch Roses is topnotch. Jennifer can also obtain Fair Trade and Veriflora certified flowers. "Fair trade flowers have a beautiful scent," she states. "They come direct to me and do not sit in a warehouse." She offers to craft hand-done "green" arrangements for Valentine purchasers.
There are of course a number of online options, from mass producers to the more personal Organic Bouquet, the first online source for sustainable flowers, started in 2001. According to spokesman Gerald Prolman, "This is a matter of supply and choice, rather than supply and demand. The more we make it available, the more people ask for it."
For flowers from a family farm try the web's first grower-owned organic flower source, in Chico, CA. "Growing our flowers organically just makes sense to us since our family lives and works on the farm everyday," says Marc Kessler, who operates California Organic Flowers with his wife Julia.
Consumers should be aware there are issues when using online services. One is loss of control of the outcome. There are many steps in producing a bouquet beautiful enough to express the fondest emotions, from selection to trimming to arranging a unique collection, according to Kate Thomssen of St. Paul's Stems & Vines. This is the kind of service that no mass-market source can guarantee.
If you do choose to use an online source, make sure you are getting what you are promised. Check out the terms listed on the below to assist your choice.
Terms to know when buying green:
Organic: A way of growing plants that evolved post-WWII from the ideas of J.I. Rodale, which promote sustainability by attention to soil care and use of natural rather than artificial chemical products.
USDA Certified Organically-Grown: Refers to a designation awarded by the US Department of Agriculture to growers who maintain strict standards such as three years of chemical-free production, use of certain approved fertilizers and plant care products, and organic seeds.
VeriFlora Certified: The VeriFlora Certified Sustainability Grown label is a guarantee that flowers and potted plants have been produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, meeting the highest standard for freshness and quality. These standards are overseen through an independent inspection process.
Fair Trade: An international movement that promotes fair prices and environmental stewardship in the developing world. Begun in Europe in the 1960s, it ensures that small producers get a fair price for their goods, long-term contracts which provide real security, and support to gain the knowledge and skills that they need to develop their businesses and increase sales. It does not necessarily mean certified organic, but participants agree on ecostandards.
Fair Trade Certified: The official endorsement from the independent, third-party certifier TransFair USA that a product has been purchased according to International FairTrade criteria. These criteria are established by FairTrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) which makes annual inspection visits to ensure that companies honor these standards.
Demeter Biodynamic Certified: Demeter certification represents a historic internationally-based whole-farm approach to agriculture. A not-for-profit organization, it is the only certifier of Biodynamic farms, processors and products. Some European flower sources use this certification.
Terms like All-natural, Eco-friendly, and Sustainable have no universal meaning, so there is no real guarantee of what they mean to the consumer.
Jen Zierke of Prairie Crocus Designs notes that Fair Trade roses are labeled on each stem with certification and origin.