I’ve always considered myself lucky to have a “flower name” because I adore flowers but then, who doesn’t? Making a bouquet for the kitchen table is a habit I’ve had for as long as I can remember. It can be practically anything from the yard — flowers, grasses, fruits, herbs, branches, even vegetables gone to seed. Scissors in hand, I just roam around the garden or down the alley and there’s always something to bring in and admire.
A few weeks ago, inspired by the transformation of my garden from winter to early spring, I gathered a bouquet to photograph. As luck would have it, the very next day I was looking at Valerie Easton’s blog, Plant Talk, and lo and behold, she was sponsoring a spring bouquet contest. So, I entered and not to brag about it but… I won! One of the prizes is her lovely new book, Petal & Twig: Seasonal Bouquets with Blossoms, Branches and Grasses. Valerie is one of my favorite local garden writers and I’m sure you’ve seen some of her excellent writing in the Seattle Times or maybe one of her many books. Petal & Twig is a guide to living seasonally by bringing bits and pieces of nature indoors to renew our connection with the beauty that surrounds us.
For those of us who are passionate about eating local food, using local flowers to adorn our homes makes perfect sense. The local flower movement is gaining momentum at a fast pace even though 80 percent of all cut flowers sold in the US are still imported. Washington state is leading the trend in cut flower sales, second only to California. Our local flower growers, many from the Skagit Valley, have organized themselves, along with some growers from Alaska and Oregon and opened a cooperative in a warehouse Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood called the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. As the name implies, this is open for wholesale only but some of the same growers sell at our local farmers markets. One of my favorites is Choice Bulb Farms for their eclectic selection. You can find them Saturdays at the University Farmers Market.
A beautiful bouquet is always a welcome hostess gift. The next time you’re tempted to run into the grocery store and pick up some of the cellophane wrapped flowers, think instead about going to the farmers market and supporting our local flower growers.
Walking through the market stalls during tulip season can be overwhelming. The colors are gorgeous and the potential combinations are endless. You’ll find that most vendors have pre-made bouquets but are also open to incorporating your choices if you can bear to choose. These people are pros and the flowers are much fresher than what you’ll find that’s been shipped from South America. You can always ask each grower about their use of fertilizers and pesticides and usually they’re happy to discuss their practices with you. If you want to go straight to the source, The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is in full swing now until the end of April.
Don’t worry if you don’t make it to the tulip festival now. Later in the summer there will be zinnias, dahlias and sunflowers, just to name a few. If you have an event coming up or if you just want to bring some beauty into your home, think about using local flowers.
To learn more about seasonal, local and sustainable flowers in our region, check out The 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing. It’s loaded with information about the growing field of “slow flowers”.