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Roses are red (with an ugly truth)...

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

A look into why we won’t be offering Red Roses this Valentines Day...

January has passed in a flash and with entering the second month of the year, it is clear from everywhere we look that Valentines Day is just around the corner; subtle hints of pink & red suddenly appear in shop windows, our favourite restaurants begin to advertise special ‘love’ themed menus & we can’t walk into a supermarket without a wall of heart shaped chocolate jumping out at us.

Along with that a barrage of Red Rose filled bouquets begin to appear. A flower that is synonymous with February 14th.

A flower that we have all become conditioned to associate with love and romance. From a red rose petal scattered bed, to a single rose between the teeth – all the best rom coms seem to feature the humble red rose. Is it even ‘love’ if roses don’t feature?

However, the story behind that lovingly sent bouquet of 24 red roses is anything but rosy.

The vast majority of Valentines Roses (amongst others flowers) are imported from developing countries such as Kenya, Tanzania & Ethiopia as well as Ecuador & Columbia. You can see the problem…

The flowers themselves are grown in countries in which the people struggle with years long droughts, famines and subsequent struggles with food production and water supplies. Yet, there are rows upon rows of healthy, blooming Roses (albeit chemically treated with EU banned substances) standing tall under a mass of protective plastic sheeting to shield the roses from the direct heat of the sun (ironically). Roses that have taken up thousands of litres of water to grow. One Rose along takes around 10 litres of water to grow.

To transport (which is via air freight) the roses are dipped or sprayed with toxic chemicals – many of which are banned within the EU and have been for many, many years. I discovered this via @fieldhouseflowers - whom showed the work of investigative journalist Hugo Clement (@hugoclement) discovering this first hand on a trip to a Kenyan Rose farm. Chemicals with known carcinogens, neurological effects & debilitating side-effects. Along with the chemicals and pesticides also used to help ‘safely’ grow the flowers too.

Still want to smell that heady Rose scented bouquet now?

The cost of these roses is extremely detrimental environmentally and morally, raises a number of questions too. Are the workers being paid fair wages? Are they being protected from these banned, toxic chemicals? Is this fair to the people of these nations? Is this the best use for water and land in these areas suffering drought and famine? I suspect the answer to all of these questions is no.

It is an interesting and complex discussion and one which no doubt will divide and still divides opinion. It is not about judgement towards florists or consumers still using and buying Red roses – as so often I just don’t think the education is out there for people to be able to make fully informed, considered decisions. I mean, who would really think this is the reality behind a ‘natural’ product?

I myself, was oblivious to these facts when first starting out – naively you think the industry of floristry is all sweetness and light but in reality there can be some ugly truths to which we have as a society turned a blind eye or don’t want to admit are problems. Questions which we don't dare ask. But if you know these facts, can you really ignore them? For myself, it is a resounding no.

There are still so many incredibly lovely flowers home-grown on our own little island at this time of year – spring flowering bulbs, hellebores, paperwhites, blossom, alstroemeria, sweet william, tulips – so many incredible varieties - to name a few. There are also Dutch and EU imported flowers too – which we do still use alongside/to supplement the supply of British flowers; from Ranunculus, Anenomes, Brassica, Iris, Snapdragons, forget-me-knots. It is a lot clearer to see where these flowers have travelled from, how they have been grown, that fairer wages are being paid, workers rights are respected and if any chemicals are being used, that they are regulated and ‘safely’ used. (That being said, all Dutch/EU flowers cannot be treated the same – due to the use of some growers using chemicals/pesticides - which raises another issue for another time.)

For positive change to be made, it starts with the smallest steps and this is our small step – no Red Roses. Buy different this Valentines Day. Ask questions. Think seasonal. Think of the planet. Think of the cost to nature.

Why not a gorgeous arrangement of British grown, speciality Tulips? A plant to keep for years to come? Or a seasonal mixed bouquet?

It's time for change.

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