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Scent, Seasonality, and A Sense of Nostalgia
“ When we can grow stunning flowers here in the UK, why are we flying so many in from the other side of the world? “
When you visit your local supermarket and perhaps pick up a bunch of brightly coloured but scentless flowers have you considered their journey to the shelf? Did you know that about 90% of UK retailed flowers come from abroad? Or that many of them are flown into Holland and then shipped once again to the UK?
As Extinction Rebellion ( EX ) are beginning to highlight, the use of carbon-intensive production and shipping methods will need to be adapted to create systems that will be more sustainable going forward.
This is leading to a new breed of UK flower growers who are determined to restore a past industry by grasping more of that market and persuading the public that local and seasonal is the way to go. A win-win scenario supporting UK businesses and helping to reduce the carbon footprint of each cut flower stem.
Although, as a nation, we are not hugely enthusiastic flower buyers – UK consumers have the third-lowest per-capita spend on flowers in Western Europe – the retail value of cut flowers in this country is approximately £2.0bn of which around £1.8 are imported, mainly from Holland.
This really demonstrates how Dutch multinationals have seized control. The flowers they sell are either cultivated in vast glasshouses in Holland or flown – and in some cases shipped – by the millions of stems, after being treated with ethylene blocking chemicals to delay ripening, from farms in Africa and South America.
“ Being transported back to memories of English country gardens and scented flower meadows. "
The Flower Acre at Tollerton is one of a growing band of dedicated artisan growers and florists who champion British blooms. From the heady fragrance - a selling point that distinguishes British flowers from foreign imports - of sweet peas growing in the unheated Glasshouse, to the brilliant colours of late-season Dahlias the overwhelming sensation at The Flower Acre is of being transported back to memories of English country gardens and scented flower meadows.
For many of this new breed of growers the internet has completely transformed the landscape for British flower growing, underpinned by the integrity of provenance, freshness and an ability to offer something different from the mainstream.
Whether it is possible for these Artisan producers to make a living in a market that has for decades been driven by high volumes and low prices remains to be seen, but with a gentler footprint on the earth’s resources and the embracing of new marketing channels, this may be possible.
“ The wholesale value of British-grown cut flowers sold last year reached £82m “
For these Artisan British growers, however, there are encouraging signs that some people are changing their minds about what they want from a bunch of flowers.
While sales figures have shown for years that 90% of flowers sold in the UK have travelled hundreds, if not thousands of miles to get here, a report just released by the National Farmers Union shows that the wholesale value of British-grown cut flowers sold last year reached £82m – which, says Amy Gray, the NFU’s horticultural adviser, means they now have 12% of the market.
When we can grow stunning flowers here in the UK, why are we flying so many in from the other side of the world?
“ So next time you think about sending some flowers consider asking where they came from and what were the true costs. “
In the UK there are no subsidies and no support from the government for the horticultural industry. This is in marked contrast to Dutch horticulturalists, who were heavily supported by their government for years as they built glasshouses, developed R&D expertise and marketed their wares internationally coming to dominate the market in the European Union.
Meanwhile, there are concerns for those involved in the production of flowers from further afield where production techniques often involve serious health and labour standard concerns for flower farm workers in developing countries
So next time you think about sending some flowers consider asking where they came from, their true meaning and what were the true costs, both financially, and environmentally of producing them. If the answer concerns you perhaps consider buying local and British, or if its a celebration card for a friend take a look at www.flowerheads.co.uk