Buying Local and Organic Flowers

The cut flower industry is finally beginning to wake up and smell the roses, reports the New York Times. There is money to be made selling organic and sustainably raised flowers.

Lovely, as far as it goes, but like the organic spinach that goes from California to New York, most of those flowers are going a lot farther than necessary.

And of course choices are severely limited; Do not look to online flower sources for combinations like this
bonica-and-ladys-mantle.jpg
Bonica rose and old fashioned lady’s mantle(in garden, but it could have been in vase)

As local tomatoes and strawberries make clear, splendor and short travel time go hand in hand. Same deal with flowers: the closer you can get to homegrown the tastier your options will be.

This is not news to most of you, including Rachael and Jesse, who wrote in last week looking for

“someone in the Hudson valley – Orange, Putnam or Rockland or Westchester – that sells or uses organic or locally grown flowers. We’re having an event early July/late June and would love to support local.”

Having been out of the event racket for over 25 years, I have zip in the way of firsthand info. (if you have any, send it in!), but I can suggest something almost as good and a great deal more widely useful: a visit to Local Harvest, where the national database is searchable by location, crop and type of vendor. A trial request for farms + flowers + Warwick ( the first place I could think of in Orange county) brought up 57 listings and there was a flower farm on the first page so it’s probably one of many.

Finding your perfect match is unlikely to be instant , especially if you use the shopping tips below. It’ll take even longer if you take my advice and cover your posterior by ordering everything you need from two different farms. It’ll cost more too, obviously, but when the event is important it’s worth having insurance.

Most retail flower farms are small; weather is highly variable – a hailstorm might hit one location and leave one 10 miles away unscathed – and in real life, manure happens. Worst case, you’ll have done even more for local farms and will have extras to give away. Flowers for those who’ve helped with the event is always nice, or you could donate them to your local food bank. People who can’t afford enough to eat have probably gone without cut flowers for quite a while.

Flower Farm Shopping Tips:

* Does the grower sell by single variety or single color or, ideally, both? If so, is the price per stem or per bunch and if the latter how large is a bunch?

* Does the grower offer unusual fillers like the lady’s mantle above or the artemisia below?
qalaceartemesia-horz.jpg
That’s Queen Anne’s lace being a weed in the artemisia ‘Silver King’, an equally pernicious invader. Plant it once, have it for all time.

* Be sure timing is agreed upon. It’s best to cut flowers in the morning and keep them cool, but the grower may not have much in the way of ideal storage space. The sooner you can pick them up, the sooner you can get them home for proper conditioning.

Last Minute LOCAL Flowers for Valentine’s Day in the Hudson Valley

Yes we can! Rhinebeck’s famous violets have gone the way of les neiges d’antan, but there are two surviving hothouses that grow beautiful anemones and sell them retail, first come first served:

Battenfeld’s and Ralph Pitcher & Sons, (845) 876-3974

anemone-bud.jpg
An anemone at Battenfeld’s

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3 Comments »

  • Now thats a lot about flowers that i did not know .!!

  • Mark Kurtz Said,

    We grow and sell flowers in the Hudson valley. We are neighbors to another flower farm High Meadow. We do great weddings and we are reasonably priced. The flowers we grow are not sprayed with anything. We use natural predators to control insects. Why would we spray insectiside that kills predators faster than the pest.
    If you google green or local flowers you come up with a ton of florists who import flowers from Ecuador or Colombia. They market organic roses. Anyone who has ever tried to grow tea roses knows what a preposterous claim this is. If you are truly concerned about green ask how far your flowers will come from the field and will they be cooled during shipment

    • Leslie Said,

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for weighing in — and reemphasizing the title of the post. I hope you’re a member of Local Harvest so shoppers in the Hudson Valley can find you.
      Have you read Flower Confidential, by the way? It’s a great report on the cut flower industry, very well written and very illuminating.

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