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Maybe it’s those dazzling bouquets we’ve been seeing lately at farmers markets, but we’ve got blooms on the brain. Fortunately for all of us HOMEGROWN types, there’s a movement afoot that's making it easier to get our hands on freshly cut local blooms. You’ve heard of slow food? Meet slow flowers.

 

WHAT ARE SLOW FLOWERS?

Sure, every flower is kinda green. But in the same way there’s a difference between locally grown tomatoes and those pasty imported imitators you find in the dead of winter at the supermarket, there’s a difference between slow flowers—also called specialty cut flowers, sustainable flowers, and green flowers—and flowers that simply have green stems and leaves. Those tulips at the grocery store? They sure are pretty, but they might have come from as far away as The Netherlands or Kenya—and they probably received a dose of chemicals to keep them looking fresh picked during their two-week journey abroad.

 

Just as fruit, vegetable, and livestock farmers are working to provide local organic food for us HOMEGROWN eaters, a new wave of farmers is doing the same with flowers: growing blooms that are raised free of chemicals and sold within miles of the land where they were planted. Actually, plenty of food farmers grow flowers, too. More on that shortly.

 

For a thorough introduction to the slow flower movement, check out the new book The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers, by Debra Prinzing. Mother Earth News offers a great excerpt, and Garden Design magazine has a short but informative Q&A with Prinzing.

 

WHERE TO FIND SLOW FLOWERS

• Your local farmers market. Lots of farmers sow flowers in fields that are getting a break from food production—which means you can cross peppers, chard, carrots, and zinnias all off your list on market day. Looking for a farmers market near you? Try Local Harvest’s online market finder.

 

• If you’re a member of a CSA, check with your farmer to find out if he or she offers a flower share. (Just picture it: eye-popping, fresh-cut blooms every week!) Not a member of a CSA? The Robyn Van En Center's search tool will help you find one.

 

• You can also find locally grown flowers nationwide at selected green florists, many of whom opt to use materials like chicken wire in place of nonbiodegradable floral foam. The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers has a tool that lets you search for slow-flower growers and retail outlets by state or by flower.

 

SO, YOU WANT TO GROW YOUR OWN SLOW FLOWERS

• Before you sell your house to seed your nascent flower farm, North Carolina State University offers some basic info on sustainable flower growing, including an intro, a history of cut flowers in the United States, and handy links.

 

• Some university extensions, including UMass, offer help and resources.

 

• Definitive books on the subject include The Flower Farmer, by Lynn Bycaynski; Specialty Cut Flowers, by Allan Armitage and Judy Laushman (also by Armitage: Armitage's Garden Perennials); and Field Grown Cut Flowers, by Alan Stevens; plus, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers publishes The Cut Flower Quarterly.

 

HOW TO KEEP YOUR GREEN FLOWERS GREEN (AND PINK, YELLOW, AND ORANGE)

While imported flowers need chemical preservatives to keep them looking fresh as—yep—a daisy, locally grown flowers come straight from the field, meaning there’s less time for them to wilt before they hit your dining table or nosegay or boutonniere. Even so, some useful tricks exist for keeping your green flowers greener, longer. Just last week, we received the following in our inbox from Farmer Sarah at Massachusetts’ Red Fire Farm.

 

Flower stems are like pipes bringing water up to the bloom. You want to keep the pipes clean of any bacteria that may grow in the vase in order to have longer lasting flowers. Here are a few methods:

 

>> Keep your vase as clean as your dishes, changing the water often. 

>> Re-cut stems about 2 inches above the tip when you get home.

>> Any foliage that ends up below the water line of the vase will quickly gum up the water, so strip off any leaves that might get wet.

>> Keep your flowers in a relatively cool spot, ideally out of the sun.

>> Remove individual elements of the bouquet as they wilt. Some flowers have longer vase lives than others, and removing the delicate ones will help keep the water clean and the bouquet looking fresh.

 

Also from Sarah, two recipes for flower preservatives—a.k.a. homemade flower food:

 

Cut Flower Preservative Recipe #1

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach or 1 crushed aspirin tablet

1 quart warm water

 

Cut Flower Preservative Recipe #2

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach or 1 crushed aspirin tablet

1 quart warm water

 

SPEAK UP!

Have you made a point of buying—or growing your own—slow flowers? Think soil should be used for food, not blooms? Weigh in below, reread HOMEGROWN Life blogger Rachel’s own flower dilemma, then find more HOMEGROWN 101s on topics from propagation to irrigation to fruit-tree grafting.

 

PHOTOS, FROM TOP: (ZINNIAS) BLUERIDGEKITTIES, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (BOUQUET) FLOWERS FROM TEXAS SPECIALTY CUT FLOWERS, COURTESY OF JENNIFER; (FARMERS MARKET) ELYSIANFIELDS, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (DIANTHUS) MARGO REHM; (SUNFLOWER) KAYLA; (VASE) MAYRACE, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (GIRL WITH PETALS) MELISSA SCHAEFER

 

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