Better Than Roses: Finding Responsible Flowers Or Gifts For Valentine's Day

Published: February 10, 2019 at 07:15 am


If the most important vote we cast as individuals is what we choose to spend our money on, there are some things to keep in mind before reaching for flower bouquets this Valentine’s Day. From where the flowers are grown to what each purchase supports, local growers and industry members weighed in recently with items to consider and alternative gift ideas.

Choosing a flower bouquet while shopping at one of Newtown’s three grocery stores is certainly an expeditious way to check off buying the perfect petals for a loved one.

Big Y Floral Sales Manager for Newtown Patty Brisch said a good portion of her store’s merchandise is from Sunshine Bouquet Company. According to a description provided by Big Y, Sunshine Bouquet Company is “an international leader in the supermarket floral market, providing its clients with the freshest flowers, innovative designs, and great value.”

The company is certified by the Rainforest Alliance, which ensures it promotes decent wages for its employees, practices sustainable farming methods, protects forests and wildlife, and invests in education, health, and infrastructure, according to the description. The Sunshine Bouquet Company began in New Jersey before branching out to Florida and Columbia, which allowed “Sunshine to provide efficient, rapid delivery to the United States.”

Ms Brisch said Big Y also offers flower bouquets and potted plants from local farms, like Cavicchio Greenhouse in Sudbury, Mass. Since Big Y is headquartered in Springfield, Mass., its local farms are located in Massachusetts or Connecticut.

Newtown Big Y Store Director Angelo Soto shared a list of all of its local farms, and those include Casertano’s Greenhouse in Cheshire, Connecticut Valley Flower in Hamden, Geremia Greenhouse in Wallingford, and Grower Direct in Somers.

“There are so many local things to chose from,” said Ms Brisch.

From choosing to support a conscientious company to finding ways to support local farms there is more to consider than just the color of a bouquet’s assorted flowers.


Off-Season Options

Connecticut-grown flowers can be difficult to find in the winter.

Natalie Collette of The Gardenist of Norwalk offers floral arrangements and designs, along with garden design support and maintenance, according to her Facebook page, The Gardenist. She mostly sells her flowers to local florists and people who contact her directly.

A farmer florist, Ms Collette said she has private properties where she plants seasonal flowers, all organically. She harvests and creates bouquets along with maintaining a dahlia farm in New Haven. Growers in Connecticut, unless they have a greenhouse, do not grow flowers out of season, she observed. This makes it more difficult for local shops to maintain locally grown flowers in the winter months.

When asked for ideas for alternative Valentine’s Day presents, Ms Collette recommended gifting a living flower arrangement or foraging for a bouquet of seasonal elements. Potted plants from a nursery also provide year-long enjoyment.

“If it is a perennial, you can enjoy the plant from when you purchase it [until you] plant it in the spring,” said Ms Collette, who is currently selling house plants.

Around mid-January, Evelyn Lee of Butternut Gardens LLC of Southport shared a presentation in Bloomfield with local farmers on flower growing in Connecticut.

“We’re trying to get Connecticut-grown flowers to become a thing in people’s minds,” said Ms Lee, adding that this time of the year is hard for local growers. “... I think for next year, there is a better opportunity.”

Ms Lee shared information about the Slow Flowers Movement, which, according to a website for the movement, slowflowers.com, is “a response to the disconnect between humans and flowers in the modern era. It aspires to reclaim the act of flower growing, recognizing it as a relevant and respected branch of domestic agriculture.

"Slow Flowers connects consumers with the source of their flowers, putting a human face of the flower farmer and floral designer behind each bouquet or centerpiece. The value of local, seasonal, and sustainably grown flowers is heightened when there is transparent origin labeling of all botanicals sold to consumers and professional florists.”

The website was created by author Debra Prinzing. Ms Lee recommended Ms Prinzing’s book The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local, and Sustainable Flowers and Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, by Amy Stewart, for those who wish to know more about the flower industry and the positive impact of supporting local farms.

Locally grown flowers stay fresh longer and have a smaller carbon footprint than those purchased from afar. As a result of her discussion with local farmers in mid-January, Ms Lee said she is working to build a stronger consortium of growers. She is also looking for partners in various towns in Connecticut to create flower pickup points for her flower subscription service, which is offered seasonally. Anyone interested in reaching Ms Lee can contact her through her website, butternutgardens.com.

Since locally grown flowers are hard to come by at the moment, Ms Lee suggested Valentine’s Day gifters can purchase a flower subscription service for their loved ones or a subscription to a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Shortts Farm & Garden Center, 52A Riverside Road in Sandy Hook, an organic fruit and vegetable farm, offers a CSA program. Questions about 2019’s CSA program can be e-mailed to farmerjim@shorttsfarmandgarden.com.

Farming 101, a certified organic farm in Newtown, offers more than 60 varieties of organic heirloom tomatoes, flowers, greens, carrots, beets and other seasonal products, according to its Facebook page, Farming 101. Jennifer Gaskins, who owns the farm with her husband, Trout Gaskins, said customers at local farmers markets have observed that locally grown flowers and vegetables last longer than those shipped in from farther away.

For those who want an alternative to buying flower bouquets, some greeting cards are made with flower seeds inside them, ready to be planted. There is also a plethora of DIY directions online to create “seed bombs,” handy compact clusters that can be made with native seeds.

C.H. Booth Library, 25 Main Street, also offers a seed bank in its Gathering Room. Take out a romantic book, select seeds, and make an activity of planting and watching love grow while reading to one another.

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