The local flower farming movement has grown in recent years. Buying local cut flowers reduces the carbon footprint of your flowers tremendously. Cutting out miles, and many toxic chemicals used to transfer flowers across borders. That said, we can take sustainable flower growing a step further, during these times of climate change.
I’ve been really interested in Ferriss Donham’s flower farm in Maine, as she challenges herself to grow cut flowers with just compost and rainwater. The result does not reduce the beauty, quality, or charm of the flowers. Example here.
“Grow what works, let nature do all the work, keep looking to the earth for answers,” Ferriss says. I asked her, what are 3 basic things to remember when attempting to grow flowers as sustainably as possible. Ferriss says:
The most sustainable flowers are:
Native or happy in your zone without greenhouses
I think this is a great starting point for any of us to get started growing cut flower sustainably! Thank you Ferriss! If you want to learn more from Ferriss and have the opportunity to ask her questions about growing eco-friendly cut flowers, please join us on September 10th at 11 am PST for the Growing Flowers Sustainably Workshop! Book your spot here.
Here is part two of our Portugal Flower and Garden Retreat this past May!
For the 2nd part of our retreat, we based ourselves in Aldeia da Mata Pequena a 300 year old village, restored to historical accuracy, near Mafra. This is a super special place that all the guests really connected with. Each person or group stays in their own little cottage but we can walk to each other’s cottages and join at the central house for activities.
Highlights of this portion include:
-A foraging walk with renowned wild plant expert, Fernanda Botelho. We went on a hike with Fernanda and she showed us what we can eat, she also shared some ethnobotany with us, explaining which plants were traditionally used in the kitchen or for utility. After our hike, Fernanda showed us what we could make with our foraged ingredients. We combined our wild foods with a special vegetarian meal made by A Praca Sintra with all locally grown ingredients.
-We foraged for flowers searching with a design-oriented lens and made wild foraged arrangements and flower crowns. We made wire-free flower crowns using a compostable method.
-We made wild centerpieces learning low-bowl mechanics, and stayed a table with vegetarian food that we enjoyed picnic style on our terrace.
-Other highlights included a day out in Sintra for the students, a whirlwind afternoon tour of a palace and formal gardens (that we had almost to ourselves!), and a farewell dinner on the beach. We also enjoyed a picnic style traditional Portuguese meal delivered in baskets by a local cook and her mother.
-Thank you to all the students, and guests for making this such a special experience. Our collaborators brought so much joy for plants and flowers, we all left inspired. There’s something super lovely about connecting with other flower and plant lovers!
A special thank you to our collaborators who made this such a beautiful experience:
Aldeia da Mata Pequena
A Praca Sintra
Paula Guimarāes our event producer and co-host.
If you’d like information on future retreats, contact Chelsea here or sign up for our retreat emails. We have just announced a new retreat for May 3rd-May 9th 2023.
*Disclaimer: Despite going above and beyond government regulations for COVID, we had 4 cases of COVID in our group. We have since increased COVID measures to include mandatory PCR testing, and revised our itinerary to only outdoor activities. We’ve also revised our scheduling to include more time between retreats to avoid future cancellations and postponements as much as we can. We will still include daily testing, mandatory vaccination, masking when in transport and indoors, and distancing as necessary.
A current favorite flower combination includes cinnamon basil, cornflowers, and cowherb or Vaccaria hispanica (you could get a similar look with Gypsophila elegans). Cowherb is actually a native, endangered plant where I live so I was happy that it was included in a wildflower mix I recently planted. Planting cutting, and replanting and saving seeds of native flowers is a great way to practice sustainable floral design.
If you want to learn more about sustainable flower growing and arranging, please check out our workshops at September Flower School!