This week was British Flowers Week – a moment in the year for us to spotlight & appreciate a slightly different type of ‘flower’ to the one we usually talk about…
The conversation around seasonality & locality is not an unfamiliar one to GAIL’s when talking about produce, but what does it mean when we apply the same lens to flowers? To explore this topic in more detail, we teamed up with the SSAW collective, a community of chefs, florists and growers who use the natural beauty and flavour of the season to encourage us towards a more sustainable way of life.
What is your favourite British flower this season & why?
Poppies are a firm favourite here at SSAW. Especially this time of year when they are everywhere! Paper thin and so fleeting in their lifespan, they are such a joyful presence in fields, verges, parks and gardens in June and even though they do not last long in a vase they perfectly encapsulate the ephemeral beauty of nature and our growing patches would not be without them.
We have become so used to imported blooms which don’t move and last weeks, but nothing is ever still in nature. Flowers should change in a vase as buds open, scents emerge, stems bend and petals unfurl. Watching them unfold is part of the experience of bringing flowers into the home and poppies are a wonderful example of this: A fleeting moment of extraordinary beauty that reminds us of the incredible beauty of life. In fact the latest member of the SSAW family has even been named after them which can only be testament to how much we love them!
Where do you get your flowers from?
We grow most of the flowers we use ourselves, as this means we can rest safe in the knowledge that they have been grown in harmony with nature. We do also buy in from flower farming friends who grow locally on a small scale, chemical free. Having transparency in our supply chains is key. For us it is not just an ecological question, it’s an ethical one too as it is much easier to trace growing conditions with flowers grown in the UK, where worker rights, wages and pesticide usage are more regulated.
Why is British flower week important?
At SSAW our work is dictated by the British growing season. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the UK food and farming community, we have become much more accustomed to thinking about the provenance of the food we consume, who grew or raised it, and how they did it. Yet so far, the same attention has not been drawn to the floriculture industry.
For this reason, British lowers week is hugely important. There is still so much work to do on raising awareness about the impacts of the global floriculture industry. Floristry is so often associated with nature and things that are natural, but the truth is that the global floriculture industry as it currently operates could not be more unnatural. It may come as a surprise to most that despite this time of year being so visibly abundant in flowers across the country, the UK floristry industry is still propped up almost entirely by imports from Dutch wholesalers who manage the trade of flowers grown all across the globe.
British flowers week is all about encouraging both florists and consumers to buy more British, by showcasing the diverse and abundant varieties of flowers available from growers and talking about the importance of supporting those working tirelessly to give florists access to the beautiful flowers they produce. June really is the height of the British flower growing season too, so it really is the time to be buying locally grown. Not only are all your florist favourites available but lots of unusual varieties that artisan growers specialise in.
How can we best support this movement?
At SSAW our aim is to raise awareness and to empower customers to be able to make more informed choices or to feel more confident asking questions. With knowledge comes power and using our purchasing power can have a real impact. So we encourage you to look at labels, ask questions, have a conversation with your florist about where their stock has come from and consider the conditions in which it has been grown. Support local, there’s likely to be a small-scale grower within easy distance if you live in the UK (@flowersfromthefarm have a great finder app on their website).
Find out more about The SSAW Collective by visiting their website: www.ssawcollective.com or follow on Instagram @ssaw.collective
Photography credit: Maria Bell