A Certain Vintage
I never thought I would be such a proponent of the American Grown-American Made movement, but after writing The 50 Mile Bouquet and Slow Flowers, I have gained newfound appreciation for companies that provide jobs to American workers. We should all make an effort to both value and promote domestic farms and domestic manufacturers. Hey – even my books are printed in North American (not Asia!), on FSC certified paper with soy-based inks. I have my publisher to thank for making the choice to not print overseas.
Here, for you, I have compiled a list of my must-have floral design tools and accessories. Sadly, it has been a challenge to find all the Made-in-the-USA products I want. For example, I can’t find any women’s gardening gloves that weren’t made in Asia (yes, there are some leather glove makers still around in the US, but those products are intended for a more rugged gardening activity than floral design!)
And then there are those companies that label their packaging with phrases such as: Designed in the USA; Assembled in China. That’s not really what I’m looking for either. Nevertheless, I am here to share some glimmers of hope that American manufacturing is alive and well in the specialized world of floral design.
Here are my favorite floral design products. I recommend you check them out and make a conscious choice with your dollars! When you read a sentence like this one: “. . . carefully manufactured in Seattle by skilled craftsmen paid a living wage,” from apron designer Janna Lufkin (Raw Materials Designs), you really want to support her spirit and her faith in her company’s lifeblood, the workers who turn her ideas into tangible products!
Florian floral snips (for herbaceous and woody stems), $25.95 plus tax & shipping. This fine point scissor shear is made in the USA and is an excellent hand pruner. It is ideal for flower arranging, Ikebana, Bonsai and other precise hand pruning activities. This hand pruner shear features precision ground stainless blades and comfortable polypropylene ribbed grips with a brass thumb lock. Size: 7 1/4″ long. Florian also makes a fine rachet pruner, which you’ll find useful for cutting thicker branches of trees and shrubs. *Rachet Pruner is $36.95 plus tax & shipping.
Garden Party’s Thorn strippers (for stripping rose stems), designed by a floral designer and made in the USA, $11.95 plus tax & shipping. This colorful and lightweight tool has a spring-action handle to protect your hands from thorns, while the finger supports ensure a non-slip grip. Durable metal blades are honed to reduce tearing or peeling of the rose stem. Size: 6 inches long.
5 stems dark purple lilacs (Syringa vulgaris), grown by Sunshine Crafts and Flowers
5 stems hot-pink peonies (variety unknown), harvested from my garden
There’s a lot of wisdom to be found in the Dining pages of today’s New York Times. Mark Bittman’s “The Flexitarian” column focuses on changing our relationship with meat, learning to eat less and re-thinking our food dollar.
You can basically take the term MEAT and replace it with FLOWERS to come up with a very credible explanation about what America’s flower farmers are up against. You know, that notion recently shared by none other than our nation’s Vice President Joe Biden about how cheap, imported flowers are “good for U.S. consumers.” No, Mr. Vice President, they are not. Cheap anything has a huge price. In the case of flowers, if you believe that cheap flowers are good, that means you aren’t concerned about living wage farm jobs in the U.S., about preserving farm land or about encouraging rural economic development. So there is a price to pay. For food writer Mark Bittman, the story of meat gives me a great analogy for flowers. I’ve taken the liberty of changing his story so you can see what I mean. Read on. . .
I feel best when buying from a farmer or farmer’s representative I know, or think I know. But even assuming this is possible, it has what at first appears to be a decided drawback: cost. It’s difficult to nail down averages, but if commodity meat (FLOWERS) — I’m talking about red meat (ROSES) here, but most of what follows could be argued about almost any product — costs something under $10 a pound (PER DOZEN) in most cases, and national brands from humanely treated animals like that from Niman Ranch or Coleman Natural (DOMESTICALLY PRODUCED FLOWERS) cost maybe twice as much, meat GARDEN ROSES from local farmers costs considerably more. It’s not uncommon to spend $25 or more a pound (A DOZEN) on beef (FLOWERS LIKE ROSES) from a trustworthy DOMESTIC source.
The immediate response that we as consumers have to this is “ouch.” Counterintuitive as it may seem, this is good for everyone.
Relatively large-scale sustainable and “natural” or “organic” or “humane” farmers might raise 500 pigs (UNDER 10 ACRES OF FLOWERS) in a year— they are not getting rich. We want these farmers to earn a living; they are stewarding the land in a manner we appreciate and they are providing us with the kind of food (FLOWERS) we want to eat (ENJOY, GIVE TO LOVED ONES, BRING INTO OUR HOMES); they are not using antibiotics (CHEMICALS) routinely or torturing animals (DAMAGING THE ENVIRONMENT). Nor are they likely to be receiving, directly or indirectly, federal subsidies. And they are providing us with meat (FLOWERS) that tastes better (ARE HEALTHIER, FRESHER, LOCAL AND SUSTAINABLE).
All of which may not make up for spending $30 instead of $15. But there are other reasons you can live with these higher prices.
It’s widely accepted that large quantities of red meat may be problematic, health-wise , and
We know that many people have made it a goal to eat less meat (CONSUME DOMESTIC FLOWERS) because large-scale industrial FACTORY FLOWER production is damaging to the environment. This is to a great extent what flexitarianism BEING A LOCAFLOR is about, after all.
Here’s a way to think about it: The price of food in general is what economists call “inelastic” — you’re going to eat something no matter the cost. But The price of any particular food like meat (FLOWER) is elastic — you will buy less as it becomes more expensive. Though it may at first seem paradoxical, this is a good thing from nearly every perspective.
I am saying this: Spend the same $30, or $50 or $100 or $300 on meat FLOWERS that you now spend each week or month, but buy less and buy better. You might compare this to an annual purchase of 20 $5 T-shirts made bychild labor (CHEAP, IMPORTED FLOWERS GROWN BY LOW-COST LABOR) versus one of five $20 T-shirts (BOUQUETS) made by better-paid and better-treated workers from organic cotton AMERICAN FLOWER FARMS. Expensive meat from real farms is a more extreme example of this less-is-better policy.
I hope you can follow where I’m going with this word-play. The takeaway message to me is that American Grown flowers might cost more, but they are higher quality, they will last longer, AND, they are sustaining American flower farms.
A dear friend of mine is getting married today, in a state halfway across the country. None of her close friends are there to support her, mostly because she only recently moved away from Seattle to be close to her sweetheart. But at least she’s going to hold a bouquet of flowers I made Wednesday and sent via FedEx overnight delivery service. Her new husband will be wearing a sweet little boutonniere I sent along.
Here’s how to successfully make and send a long-distance gift of flowers:
1. Select durable flowers with fairly tight buds. I chose all Northwest-grown flowers in a cream-to-peach-to-coral palette:
Forget flowers grown far from home. You’ll find the best blooms right in your own neighborhood – straight from a local flower farmer.
The growth of local farmers’ markets is staggering – up 17 percent nationwide in 2011, according to the USDA (USDA Farmers’ Market Data). And as more farmers’ markets establish in communities across the U.S., you can be certain to find more beautiful flower stalls, which is great news for the DIY floral designer, hostess and nature- lover.
When you shop at a weekly farmers’ market, look for fresh, seasonal and uncommon floral crops – you’ll be wowed by the selection and quality. Yes, it’s fun to meet the people who grow these blooms. But you can also learn from their experience and knowledge — ask your flower farmer for tips on how to care for their beautiful stems at home. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy farmers’ market flowers and extend their vase life:
Selection: Most farmers harvest their crops as close to market day as possible, ensuring very fresh varieties – straight from the field. Shop early in the morning for the best choice (plus, flowers are always happier when it’s cooler!). If the market is in an uncovered location, expect to see large awnings or umbrellas to keep the floral products out of direct sun. Look at the stall’s hygiene – are the buckets clean and filled with fresh water? Be sure to ask “Where is your farm?” and “Why type of growing practices do you use?” – let the vendor know you appreciate sustainable practices.
What to look for:
When choosing a mixed bouquet, look at all the ingredients to see that they are equally fresh. The focal flowers, softly-textured delicate elements and foliage should feel plump; not wilted or limp. When selecting a straight bunch, often called a “grower’s bunch,” check that all the stems are similar in length and all the blooms are similar size.
10 stems red peonies, grown by Ojeda Farms
7 stems each ‘Purple Sensation’ and ‘Cowanii’ ornamental alliums, grown by Choice Bulb Farms
12 stems lady’s mantle foliage (Alchemilla mollis), harvested from my garden
9-inch tall x 5-inch diameter hand-blown glass vase
Create a collar: You can use flowers or foliage to ring the base of a bouquet or arrangement as a finishing detail. This technique is usually done as the bouquet’s last step. For this arrangement, I pre-cut the greenery and then added it beneath the peonies, slightly overlapping each stem as I worked around the circumference of the bouquet. Here, the lady’s mantle visually separates the dark red peonies from the wine-red vase.
© Debra Prinzing, all written and photographic content. Website design/development by Willo Bellwood/Metric Media