A floral designer shares the glaring difference of Valentine’s Day at a large retail florist vs. a florist that sources locally.
I have worked in the floral industry for four years, which means that I have spent a fair amount of time preparing, designing and all-out-hustling for Valentine’s Day, one of the busiest days of the year for florists. So while many are eating breakfast in bed and whispering sweet nothings, on February 14th, florists everywhere are waking early and getting straight to work.
The first Valentine’s Day I worked as a florist was at a large, retail florist that sold everything from potted ferns, to pre-made arrangements, to tropical flowers. A few weeks before Valentine’s Day, my manager placed an order at a nearby floral wholesaler. The week before Valentine’s Day, long cardboard boxes of flowers arrived, pushed in on fully loaded flatbed carts.
Long-stem red roses, puffy babies breath, baker fern, lilies and mums; I didn’t know how these flowers were grown, or where they came from. These flowers came safely packaged in layers of cardboard and plastic. Out of water, sterile and pristine; they were dirt free, bug free, and scent free. These flowers were shipped from many different countries, but I didn’t know from which specific ones, nor did I really care.
I spent hours processing these flowers. I would first use a knife to cut off the piece of plastic that bound the box closed. After opening the box, I would pull out a single package of flowers and trim the stems. Then I’d place the flowers in water. If needed, I’d then remove a final piece of plastic or cardboard that protected the flower heads.
I filled up bags of trash as I worked. The packaging needed to protect these flowers during shipment created an astonishing amount of waste. The fact that these flowers would be wrapped in cellophane and placed in another, brand new delivery box before leaving with customers made it even worse.
Thousands of flowers left the shop on Valentine’s Day. Though I had processed and touched these flower countless times, I felt little emotion as I sold them to customers. I knew the names of these flowers, but that was about it. These flowers were beautiful, but they meant little to me. They were just flowers.
I am now lucky enough to work at Local Color Flowers, a floral studio that uses 100% locally grown flowers. Valentine’s Day at Local Color Flowers runs much differently. When Valentine’s Day flowers begin arriving at the studio, they will arrive in water, and in buckets that can be reused again and again. These flowers will be freshly cut, possibly with bits of dirt and dew still clinging to them. There will be some varieties I’ve used countless times, and some I’ve never seen. There will be little or no processing involved before I can select one of these flowers and put it straight into a Valentine’s Day arrangement. These flowers exude life, and it’s impossible not to get excited about them.
These flowers will be delivered by flower farmers that our whole shop knows and cares about. We’ve visited and even worked at their farms. We’ve seen how these flowers are grown and that they aren’t being sprayed with harmful chemicals. We’ve driven the same short route these flowers travel to get to us.
Our studio will design many arrangements this Valentine’s Day. Each one will be slightly different. They won’t be designed with a static formula of roses, fern, and babies breath. Instead, they’ll be designed as we experiment with a new variety of vine, or figure out how to showcase a brilliant red anemone. These arrangements will be unique, personal and reflections of our local landscape.
It’s an amazing privilege to work with such a quality product. Local flowers keep my mind reaching and my heart open. I love handing someone an arrangement made with local flowers and telling them with confidence where each flower was grown. I love promising someone that these flowers will last for days, and that they will fill up their house with the sweetest scent. I love how choosing local flowers is making a measurable difference in the world, and truly spreading love on Valentine’s Day.
Note from Sister Eden Co-founder Lori Hill
If you love flowers like we do, then support florists who source their flowers locally! That means they come from within a few hundred miles of their studio. And if that is not possible, support florists who only use American-grown flowers. It’s easy because more and more florists are joining the “slow flower” movement. To find one near you, visit Slow Flowers.