Tag Archives: south american flower growers

Old Fashioned Garden Roses

18 Jun

david austin rose milk glass 


Antique garden roses are the flower of choice in bridal flowers these days.  Not a week will go by at the retail flower shop I work in that we don’t get an inquiry about them or have the pleasure of working with them. Garden roses used to be the “unobtainable” rose for the average person.  South American growers started the crops about 10 years ago but would only sell them to wholesale suppliers in quantities of 144.  That is a very large amount of such a perishable flower, thusly, making it only available to the affluent customer.  But things have changed – requirements have lessened and now it is quite common to purchase as few as one dozen.  The average retail cost of a garden rose can range from $5 to $8 depening on the variety.

I have been the lucky recipient of garden variety roses for the past 8 Mother’s Days.  This year my rose bushes have been especially abundant because we have experienced a good amount of rainfall here in Southern Ontario.  I couldn’t resist cutting some of them and arranging them in a vintage antique milk glass vase that was given to me by my sister on my most recent birthday.  The vase is the perfect match to these old fashioned roses. Even though these roses only last about 2 days, their fragrance and beauty is well worth the effort.

david austin rose charles darwin

climbing rose hot pink rose

garden rose yellow golden showers

david austin rose othello hot pink

climbing rose dawn soft pink

garden roses

milk glass garden roses david austin


Tropical Paradise at the Living Fresh Flower School

5 Feb

I love my job! I love my job! I love my job! Today was the first class of the winter/spring term at that Living Fresh Flower School – and it was fantastic! As a teacher of floral design I get to have my cake and eat it too. Not only do I get to work with exceptional blossoms from all over the world, but I can share my life-long learnings of floral art with people who have a thirst for botanical beauty. And did I mention that I get to do all this along side my best flower friend, Tina Riddell?

Today’s theme was Tropical Paradise. We featured blooms from equatorial regions of the world. Who couldn’t use a bit of that during a Canadian winter? Contemporary, asymmetrical and artistic were the design styles of the day – our floral apprentices from today’s class embraced this theme with gusto!


If you missed our class today, we have many scheduled for the upcoming months! Our next class, on March 11, 2012 will celebrate all things PINK! The floral industry is favouring this shade, particularly the softer, pastel shades of pink. Unleash your inner “little girl” and come play with pink! (click here to go to the Living Fresh Flower School link – Colour Theory Pink)

Flower Confidential – Book Review

27 Apr

Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked up this book. In fact, I had no preconceived notions whatsoever – I saw the book in my boss’s office and decided to read it.  With a title like “Flower Confidential”, I figured, as a florist, I had nothing to lose.  How ironic.

In the early chapters, I hung on every word.  I ate up all the floral facts that author Amy Stewart, fed me.  Every day, after having read a chapter or two the night before, I would force-feed my co-workers at the flower shop with my new found knowledge.  Like, did you know that the more fragrant a flower, the shorter the vase life? Or, that once a tulip bulb produces to fruition, the bulb is discarded by the grower? How about, the pigment delphinidin, that is responsible for blue petals, is completely devoid in the genetic makeup of a rose (and most other flowers for that matter) and therefore blue roses are genetically impossible. And, South American grown gerbera daisies are grown in plastic pots without soil, Americans buy more flowers than they do Big Macs,  the cut flower market is a 40 billion dollar industry.  I could go on and on…..

But the chapters began to darken.  The truth started to surface as Stewart began to investigate some of the South American growing farms.  Of the more than 5 billion stems of flowers imported into the United States every year, 90 percent come from South America. After oil and bananas, flowers are the largest industry in Ecuador.  But interestingly, there are virtually no flower shops to be found in Ecuador.  After much searching, Stewart  eventually discovered a tiny shop in Quito, where the shop owner anonymously had this to say:  “Flower farms churn out a luxury commodity that does not serve the locals as well as they would be served if they were growing their own beans or by raising cattle, which would at least put food on the table”.  The workers in many flower farms take home about $150US per month (minimum wage).  Because the demand for cut flowers is at its peak during major holidays, workers are forced to work unreasonably long shifts and are not paid overtime for this.   Stewart writes “ workers are hired through third-party contracting companies that rotates employees from one farm to another to avoid having to pay benefits or higher pay for what more senior workers might earn”.  Sadly, child labour is a problem in this industry as well. UNICEF estimates that “6 percent of children in Ecuador ages 5 through fourteen are engaged in child labour”.

At one of the growing farms in Ecuador, Stewart took her readers on a journey. Starting at the steamy greenhouses where the flowers are grown and finishing at the cold production area where flowers are packed up for export – there were some pretty shocking revelations in between. “Fumes from a barrel of fungicide were so strong I could hardly breathe” writes Stewert , “ I kept my sleeve over my mouth, fighting the urge to run outside, wondering how the two dozen workers were able to tolerate it; they had no respiratory protection, not even a paper mask”.  Miscarriages, birth defects, reduced fertility, neurological disorders, headaches, migraines, fainting, and blackouts are all present because of the use of certain neurotoxic substances at these growing farms.

Sadly, the exposure to many of these toxic chemicals are not just limited to the farms where they are administered.  Florists that purchase these South American grown flowers for use in their shops expose themselves to the dangers of these pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides every day.  Although the chemical residues that are present on many of these flowers are illegal for use in Canada and the United States, there is nothing stating that we can’t import product that has had these chemicals applied to it.

Gaining this knowledge has been bitter sweet.  It’s important to educate ourselves so we can be aware of the social and health issues we are surrounded by every day.  Floral art is a very hands-on line of work requiring intricate handling – wearing gloves to protect ourselves from the imminent chemical dangers is not always an option. This frightens me.  I worry for my young female co-workers that have not yet had children, and may struggle with infertility when the time comes.  I worry for my florist friend that is pregnant and handling toxins daily.  I worry about the frequent rashes that we get at work on our hands, arms, necks and faces. I worry about what we are inhaling when we open up that box of imported roses and are bombarded by the smell of chemicals. And I wonder about who had to suffer to get these flawless flowers to me.  Is it all worth it? Every day I am surrounded by beautiful flowers, but at what cost??

**watch for an upcoming post that will investigate the European floral industry and the organic/fair trade movement that they have adopted