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Guest Blog: How to Pick Sustainable Wedding Flowers

Green Grow the Lilacs…and roses, lilies and more

Going green with your wedding flowers is a growing trend (pun intended) and is not as hard as you may think.  Despite the fact that flowers are such a ‘natural’ part of our world, most people don’t realize that conventionally grown cut flowers can be quite bad for the environment.

Botanica Floral Desing

Being an eco-friendly florist, I get a lot of people asking me…”what’s not green about flowers?”

First of all, the majority of the cut flowers sold in the US are grown in South America under acres and acres of greenhouses that have replaced large tracts of rainforest. They are heavily sprayed with pesticides and herbicides,(many of them banned here in the US), as well as dipped into fungicides before being packed in boxes for their 1000+ mile journey to your local florist. All this plus the travel and extended refrigeration creates a very large carbon footprint.

Ah, but it’s not all gloom and doom. You can still have gorgeous flowers for your wedding while treading lightly on the earth. Here’s how.

Step 1 – Go Local

Not only does going local cut down on your carbon footprint, you’ll get fresher flowers as well! It can take anywhere from a week to 10 days or more for flowers to get from the grower in Ecuador to your local florist, all the while being out of water.

We are very fortunate here in Oregon and Washington in that we have so many local flower growers providing us with super fresh and gorgeous blooms. April through October is the prime season for local flowers but there are many options throughout the year.

Wedding flowers

Starting in January we have blooming branches such as pussy willow, forsythia, apricot and plum. As the season progresses we get tulips and other spring bulbs, lilac, viburnum, peonies, hydrangea (Oregon also has some of the best peonies and hydrangea around.), callas and dahlias just to name a few. Oregon has the largest dahlia grower in the country! Then there is Peterkort Roses out in Hillsboro who provides us with dozens of varieties of beautiful, sweet smelling roses all year long as well as lilies, orchids, ranunculus, freesia, anemone and maidenhair fern.

Step 2 – Semi Local

Can’t find the flowers you want locally? Go Californian or Canadian!  Our neighbors to the south and north produce super high quality and beautiful flowers that have a much smaller environmental footprint than the South American guys.

Step 3 – Go Organic

While the floral industry is years behind the produce industry in the amount of organic flowers grown commercially, each year I hear of more growers going organic. Here in the Portland area I buy from 4 different organic farmers that have beautiful and unique flowers to choose from.

Ideally organic is the way to go but unfortunately organic flowers are not available year round and are often in limited supply so if you go organic, you need to be flexible in your flower choices.

Step 4 – Sustainably Grown Flowers

Many growers in California as well as South America are now VeriFlora Certified Sustainable and or Rainforest Alliance Certified. What this means is that they are committed to reducing the amount of pesticides they use (as well as eliminating the really harmful ones), reducing runoff, composting their green waste, improving working conditions and providing health care and education for their employees. www.Veriflora.com

Ask your florist to look for the Veriflora certification label when buying flowers from California or South America.

bridal_bouquet_purple_green_local_the_foundry_botanica_floral_designStep 5 – Stay in Season.

Another way to help lower your carbon footprint as well as reduce costs is to use flowers that are naturally available at the time of your wedding. Be flexible with your flower choices and let your florist use whatever is freshest and in season.

One of the most popular wedding flowers is the peony and I often get requests for them out of season. If I can get them, they are usually very spendy and shipped in from Alaska, Holland, Chile or New Zealand. That’s a lot of miles not to mention $$$! So if your heart is set on having peonies for your wedding, plan on getting married in mid to late May or June.

Step 6 – Use re-plantable botanicals.

Succulents are very popular these days in bridal bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces.  Though they usually have to be wired (not to eco-friendly) you can remove the wires afterwards and re-plant them in your garden or in pots and they will re-root.

Step 7 – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Reduce – Depending on where you are getting married, you may not need flower for say, your ceremony or all the typical places that couples have flowers. For example, if the ceremony is outdoors, many times you can let nature provide you with natural décor. Many weddings in garden settings already have flowers all around.

Also ask your florist to help you choose design styles that do not require the use of floral foam. While it is a great design tool, it is petroleum based, made with formaldehyde and does not bio-degrade.

Choose glass or other recyclable containers. Not plastic. With the countless types of containers available for your flower arrangements, you should never have to choose plastic. Glass is always classy and affordable and most wedding florists have a large inventory of vases that you can rent. This saves some money as well. Another great source for vases is antique malls and vintage shops.

Reuse – Reusing flowers from one part of the wedding to another is a great way to help reduce cost as well as lower your footprint. Often times you can reuse all your ceremony flowers as centerpieces and other room décor. Bridal and bridesmaid’s bouquets make great centerpieces for the head table.

Recycle – If you are wondering what you are going to do with all the flowers after the wedding here are a few ideas. Give away centerpieces to guests as favors or donate them to a local nursing home, retirement center, women’s shelter or other charitable organization.  Most places would be thrilled to receive them and what better way to share your joy than by brightening someone’s day with flowers!

Compost – Unfortunately flowers are rather ephemeral and fleeting, but that’s part of what makes them so special. Once your flowers start to fade, instead of tossing them into the trash, turn them into compost. Toss them into your garden compost pile or into the green yard waste bins provided thru the city’s curbside composting program. Suggest this to your guests as well if they are taking flowers home with them.

Step 8 – Enjoy your wedding!

Guest Blog Written by:

Josef Reiter

Botancia Floral Design

503.358.4687

www.botanicafloralpdx.com

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