• ljmarkson

Why My Family Doesn't Sends Me Flowers Anymore

Updated: Feb 13

My family shows how much they love me by not sending me flowers. They know I don’t want flowers covered in pesticides that are grown and shipped from thousands of miles away.

I have nothing against this gorgeous bouquet of flowers at a local flower shop. I just couldn't enjoy it wondering if it was drenched in pesticides and preservatives to keep the flowers so lovely. It would be worth asking the question about where the flowers were sourced.

The fresh cut flower market in the U.S. is a 7-billion-dollar industry. Around 80% of the flowers are coming from other countries - 70% of the flowers are grown in Columbia and 23% in Ecuador. A heavy ecological imprint is the real cost of a bouquet of mass marketed flowers. The floriculture industry uses an immense amount of synthetic pesticides and water, pollutes the local environment, generates an outsized amount of carbon emissions because of refrigeration and long-haul transport, and exposes workers to dangerous amounts of fertilizer, insecticide, and floral preservative toxins.

The innocent and lovely wrist corsage bought at the local florist and worn next to the skin is typically soaked in a toxic mix of chemicals so it can be transported thousands of miles and still look so fresh and beautiful.

There are still options for sustainably grown cut flowers. The growing trend of farmer florists in the floriculture world expanded during the pandemic as the floral industry struggled and more people embraced local agriculture and micro-farmers.

Locally grown flower stands like this are becoming more accepted as people want to know where their flowers come from much the same way they want to know where their vegetables are grown. (This photo of a stand at a flower farm called Passalongs was taken when I visited Western Massachusetts a few years ago)

Locally grown flowers still take up only a tiny portion of the ornamental horticulture industry in Georgia, but it’s an encouraging direction. A list of Georgia farmer florists who grow pesticide-free, local and seasonal bouquets can be found if you just search “flowers” on the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s agricultural products marketing program called Georgia Grown. Some farms include Good Life Flower Farm, Whimsy Flower Farm, Honeysuckle Market Garden, Bee N’ Blooms, and 3 Porch Farms. I haven’t checked out all the farms, but locally grown means the flowers probably aren’t available for Valentine’s Day but will be for other special occasions during the growing season.

Farmer florist flowers are often not native, but they are sustainably grown and organic so they are not toxic or damaging to the environment. I like to think the fields they are growing in are a nectar source for native bees until they are cut. These are from a local farmers market last fall.

I'm a bit of a purist in my yard because I think every native flower contributes to the local ecosystem, so a lovely bouquet of organic, non-native flowers from the farmers market is a welcome surprise.

There is nothing sweeter than a bunch of locally grown daffodils from the farmers market! Valentine's Day is at the beginning of our Atlanta daffodil season when native bees are still safe and sound hibernating and don't care what flowers are blooming.

Flowers are not the only botanical way to show your love on Valentine’s Day. My husband and (grown) kids know native plants bring me joy. They don’t know much about native plants so I’m more likely to get a generous gift certificate to buy more native plants. In Atlanta there there are some wonderful local native plant nurseries including Beech Hollow Wildflower Farm, North Georgia Native Nursery (previously named Nightsong Natives), and Nearly Native Nursery.

A gift certificate from my favorite native plant nursery is always a welcome gift! This is a photo of Beech Hollow Native Plant Nursery not far from where I live.

For the backyard nature lover, any of the suggestions from a list I made for the holidays might work. It’s not always possible, but I try to support small businesses by shopping locally. This week I bought small, funky, eco-friendly, botanically inspired gifts from a local Ace Hardware to make everyone in my family smile. Each independently owned Ace store has a different version of a gift boutique!

I think my sweet cat Merlin is a little upset because there's nothing for him in this collection of fun, quirky and eco-friendly gifts I bought for my family for Valentine's Day from our local hardware store.

Local specialty shops and restaurants are a great place to find locally sourced or ecologically-minded gifts that might have a nostalgic connection for your special someone.

Kinship is a small Butcher Sundry shop near me with locally sourced meat, but also has a cute, neighborhood focused gift section.

For the hardcore native plant devotee, their idea of the perfect gift may require a little outside the box thinking. A dear friend once brought me a bag of worm compost I was as thrilled to receive it as I would have been if she brought me a little vase of flowers!

The small bag of worm castings my friend gave me is long gone, but for the right person, a bag of worm castings is a gift that says you "get" them!

If your Valentine is ecologically minded, you can scroll through the list of 305 environmental organizations on Cause IQ and find one to join, donate or buy merch for a loved one. (You will need to make a free account to do a basic search.) My top Atlanta suggestions would include Georgia Native Plant Society, Georgia Audubon, Trees Atlanta, and the Southfork Conservancy. Another love donation option is to help restore habitats by donating to Trees for a Change and dedicate a tree in a US National Forest damaged by wildfires for a loved one. Yet another unique way to show you care is to donate to the friends of the park group you and your Valentine live near. In Atlanta Park Pride has a list of the friend groups.

Of all the mugs in our cupboard, this Atlanta Audubon Society coffee mug from a few years ago is by far one of the most popular.

I look forward to giving gifts to everyone I love for Valentines Day. I’m going to guess whatever I get from them will have something to do with nature, but I also love food so I won't bet on anything!

In my house I am as likely to get home baked and decorated cookies as a nature gift. No complaints from me. Just no nursery flowers please!

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