Sure, the most sustainable option is to not harvest flowers at all. But every now and then our heart needs a little joy. In your vase, sustainably harvested flowers shine the brightest. Here, we discuss why the conventional flower harvesting industry is so harmful to the environment, and what great tips sustainable flower activists Xenia and Nadja from Mentha Piperita have for us.
For your birthday. For an anniversary. Or simply to add a splash of color to your apartment on a gloomy rainy day - flowers make everything a little more beautiful. No wonder: there are even studies about it, which show that the sight of flowers and their scent relax our brain.
But as natural as flowers might be, they can also cause the earth a lot of suffering. Conventional flower farming is a global problem. Flowers are often planted in very dry areas, for example in Kenya. There, they consume vast amounts of life-giving water. Pesticides and agricultural poisons end up on monocultures, where people often have to work under undignified, underpaid, and unhealthy conditions. Afterward, the flowers are flown halfway around the globe, causing large amounts of CO2. Then, are tulips from geographically closer countries a more sustainable hit? Unfortunately, things are anything but flowery here, too. Many flowers in conventional agriculture are grown in greenhouses, which consume a lot of electricity and also produce significant amounts of CO2. So - no more cut flowers at all from now on?
Sustainable flowers from Mentha Piperita and the Slowflower movement
More and more flower farmers and florists decide to grow regional, sustainable, and resource-saving natural flowers and to use them for their creations. Shorter distances, organic fertilizers, and open-air growth as well as a seasonal planting calendar make Slowflowers the first choice for people who want to be mindful of the earth. We met Xenia and Nadja from Mentha Piperita. The two grow regional, seasonal, and sustainably cut flowers just outside Hamburg.
They are part of the Slowflower movement, a Germany-wide, colorful collective of flower farmers, florists, and flower gardeners. There are also organized Slowflower movements in the USA and Canada. It's worth discovering which great people in your region are growing sustainably cut flowers. By the way, you can also process your wilted flowers into fresh compost at KALEA and use it for the next round of gardening or on the balcony.
For KALEA, Xenia and Nadja answer exciting questions about the regional flower economy and explain to us which flowers are currently particularly good for planting.
How did you come up with the idea of planting regional flowers?
Xenia: We have both loved flowers since our childhood - and have always loved gardening and arranging flowers. In 2019, we read an article in Hygge Magazine, which was about two women who grow Slowflowers in Denmark. We were immediately totally enchanted and suddenly it was clear: we want to do that too.
What do you love most about your work?
Nadja: Spending time in nature, watching the flowers grow, being able to arrange flowers that we have grown ourselves, and above all: the exchange with interested people. It is so nice to see the positive response to the idea of the Slowflower movement. It gives us the feeling that we can really make a difference and improve the world.
What is the biggest challenge when it comes to sustainable flower farming?
Nadja: Being patient and trusting is sometimes not so easy. Dealing with pests like slugs and removing weeds by hand all the time. In the end, it's always about accepting that nothing in nature goes according to plan and yet somehow it's perfect.
Are there flowers that I can plant well on my own balcony or in the garden in spring?
Xenia: Oh yes, late spring is the ideal time to do it. Most summer flowers are frost-sensitive anyway, and can't be planted or sown until mid-May. For example, small snapdragons, cornflowers, marigolds, and nasturtiums are suitable for the balcony. In the garden, there are actually no limits to the selection. In the fall, you can also put tulip and daffodil bulbs in the ground and look forward to the coming spring.
How do you fertilize your plants? Do you even make your own compost?
Xenia: We fertilize with compost and Kleepura, a vegan organic fertilizer. Once we get settled in our new field, we definitely want to fertilize with our own compost as well. But since we need large quantities, we always buy certified compost as well.
You offer your flowers from April to October - what do you recommend people do during the winter months to be able to have some floral joy at home?
That's easy: dried flowers and dried grasses. You can dry so many varieties as well and then they conjure up a bit of floral joy in your home even in the winter. In addition, there are a few flowers that bloom even in winter and early spring, for example, lentil roses and flowering twigs.
Thank you, Xenia and Nadja, for your time and the wonderful interview.
Photo credit: Xenia Bluhm & Patrick Lipke