Canadian Flowers for Canadian Brides
Are you ready for “the Season” — that crazy period between May and October when you’re inundated with happy (but somewhat frazzled) couples.
In all the discussions about designs, colours, and blooms, have the words sustainable, local, and organic entered the conversation? If not, be prepared; they soon will. The “Seed to Centrepiece” movement is on the rise and will surely shake up the way you do business.
We know Canadian florists depend on a few major sources for their blooms: imports from South America and Europe, and greenhouse growers. In Ontario, more than 250 greenhouse growers supply the Canadian market with locally grown cut flowers and potted plants throughout the year. Imports and greenhouse-grown flowers play a vital role in sustaining a vibrant retail floral design industry. They provide consumers access to a wide variety of stunning flowers, whatever the season.
But nipping at their buds is an emerging sector: Canadian farmers with field-grown products appealing to customers who prize sustainability and local flowers.
Let’s meet a few of those growers.
In 2016, Adele Hinkley and her sister-in-law, Jen Laughlin, assumed management of Mary Clark Flowers, a retail institution since the 1950’s in British Columbia’s beautiful Fraser Valley. Hinkley and Laughlin quickly relocated the business from a Chilliwack mall to the farmlands of Rosedale, a short drive east. Moving deeper into farming territory helped them evolve their holistic approach to floristry. The ladies grow much of their own product, and what they don’t grow, they try to source from local farmers. Their design style is grounded in traditional techniques while drawing inspiration from farm life and nature’s woodland beauty.
Sas Long is a farmer-florist in bucolic Prince Edward County, Ontario. About seven years ago, Long ditched life in the big city to pursue her dream of running a flower farm. Today that farm, FloraLora, is a leader in the farmer-florist movement. Visitors can purchase her flowers at the farm or online. She also sells at farmers’ markets, including the ever-popular Toronto Flower Market, as well as directly to retail florists who covet her high quality, sustainably grown flowers. Long is a floral trailblazer who is disrupting the world of retail floristry. And she’s not alone. There are dozens of farmer-florists across the country, and the number grows with each passing season.
Janis Harris watches that growth very closely in her role as the Canadian representative for the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, a U.S. organization that now boasts upwards of 60 Canadian members. Harris and her husband Mark were traditional farmers, and only started growing flowers on their St. Thomas, Ontario farm as a sideline about nine years ago. Today cut flowers are their main crop. Like many growers, the Harrises also offer a design service to their clients. Harris says brides are looking for something different and appreciate the seasonality of locally grown blooms. They understand that peonies in September in Canada don’t make sense and prefer to work with the natural rhythms of the calendar. This philosophy aligns quite nicely with the flowing, slightly wild style currently dominating wedding flower trends.
Every movement needs a leader and many cut flower farmers look to Erin Benzakein of Floret Flower Farm in Washington for inspiration. In her beautiful new book, Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden, Benzakein equates the growing demand for local flowers with the local food movement. “Food lovers have eagerly embraced the practice of eating what’s in season, and many of the world’s most respected chefs base their menus on the freshest regional ingredients they can find, with the knowledge that produce flown in from thousands of miles away, at the wrong time of year, pales in comparison to perfectly ripe treasures picked nearby, at their peak,” she writes.
Many believe the local flower movement is where the local food movement was ten years ago. However you measure such trends, it seems we are on the crest of an exciting floral wave. Life is cyclical. And the cycle of sourcing beautiful blooms for weddings is looping back to where it all began: to local growers providing beautiful, seasonal flowers harvested at their peak, fresh from the farm.
Today’s savvy, environmentally aware couple is forcing designers to expand their floral worldview by bringing it closer to home. Clients will question the value of flying in flowers from thousands of miles away when local flowers are readily available. They will expect you to source and work within your local eco-system. There are many reasons to support the farmer-growers. Locally grown flowers are as beautiful as anything flown in from South America. Supporting local economies while reducing the environmental impacts that are unavoidable with imported flowers are two more excellent reasons. From a business owner perspective, maybe the best reason to support the farmer-florist movement is the positive impact on your bottom line. Local flowers are long lasting and cost-effective blooms that will appeal to value-conscious millennials. And winning the support and loyalty of millennials may be the secret to long term business success for retail florists. According to Esther de Waard of the Flower Council of Holland, millennials “want to connect with a brand and tend to bind themselves for the long term to a brand that conveys values that reflect their personal values.”
The shake-up is coming. Will you be ready?