Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mamas, babies, beauty, and flowers for the FUTURE

Ok, forgive me while I go completely gushy over these BEAUTIFUL photos taken by Angela from Angela & Evan Photography!!!!! This is my friend Katie, at nine months pregnant, surrounded by a garland of eucalyptus, privet berry and garden roses that I created for her...... she is so GORGEOUS!!!! I can barely stand it! And there is a great story here too.....


Years ago, Katie was a student in the Environmental Horticulture Science program at Cal Poly. Cal Poly creates a float for the Rose Parade every year, and Katie became involved with the float her sophomore year of college. During her first year working on it, she was surprised to learn that a lot of the flowers used to decorate the float were grown in South America, not California. This seemed to her somewhat ironic, since the parade was founded to show off California's bounty of agriculture in the winter. SO, like the rockstar that she is, she went about changing things: She spent the next two years touring California cut flower farms, establishing relationships with local California rose growers and the California Cut Flower Commission, and completely transforming the flower ordering process for Cal Poly's float to use California roses and flowers rather than imported ones. Then she got the float California Grown Certified, which it has been every year since! Talk about a legacy......

 
A few weeks ago, Katie asked me if I would make her a garland to wear for her maternity photo session. I was thrilled by the idea, and really excited to create something for someone who cares so much about locally grown flowers.

 
When I went to the flower market to pick out the materials for Katie's maternity shoot, I knew they HAD to be as local, seasonal and sustainably grown as possible. They were, after all,  going to be surrounding my pregnant friend's belly; and she does, after all, have quite a clear passion for local flowers! 

 
I love how Katie’s story and this photo shoot speak to both the importance and beauty of local flowers: if we're talking about mamas and babies, we're talking about life cycles. Flowers grown hundreds of miles away, sprayed with pesticides that harm both the earth and the people who grow them, flown in on airplanes that run on jet fuel, fumigated at the border.... does this sound like something you would give to your pregnant friend? Something you want to encourage knowing the damage it is creating to the world her baby will grow up in? I hate to say it, but this is the sad, ugly truth of so many of the flowers in the American marketplace... (for a great, easy-to-read look at some flower industry stats, check out this Pop Quiz on the Field to Vase site).


I started Botanique with a mission to use local, in-season flowers to create exquisitely beautiful works of floral art. As the business has grown, I have come to realize some of the challenges of this mission, and some of the reasons that many businesses do not have this model: although it is counter-intuitive, the truth is that high-quality, sustainably and locally-grown flowers are almost always more expensive than their imported counterparts. Working locally and seasonally means you cannot use any flower, any time of year, which goes against our "This is America! I can have whatever I want!" mentality. Sticking to this mission has meant turning down business: a couple with their heart set on peonies in September will probably not be a good fit for us, as peonies are only seasonally available in the spring; someone looking to get their flowers for the cheapest price out there will probably not hire us, as our flowers are never the cheapest price out there. 

But there are PLENTY of plus sides to the seasonally-inspired way we work, and for me they far outweigh the challenges outlined above. There is a huge qualitative difference with local, in-season flowers- they glow. Instead of being out of water for days as they make their way across the world, they are harvested directly into water, and in the studio within a day or two of being cut. They are fresh. They smell amazing. And they have a special "of the moment" quality, because they actually reflect nature in that time and place. They feel alive, and they really speak to our need for natural beauty and connection to our environment. Not to mention that by purchasing flowers from local flower growers, local agriculture and the local economy get a boost! It's a win-win-win-win-win.

 
For Botanique, local means "as close as possible to home.” This starts with the flowers, foliage and other botanical ingredients that we grow in our backyard Cutting Garden in Seattle. Though we can't possibly grow enough flowers to supply all of our work, something from the garden invariably makes it's way into nearly everything we create. We are really lucky here in Seattle to have some incredible local farms just an hour north of Seattle in the Skagit Valley, as well as other parts of Washington and down into Oregon. This next layer of local- Northwest Regional- supplies most of what we do, especially during our growing season (March-October). If we can't get what we need within this Northwest sphere, we look to California, which has an abundance of blooms year-round. Given that we are smack in the middle of our off season for Northwest blooms, I can't say that the materials in Katie's garland and hair piece were Washington grown- but they were all from California, as close as possible given the time of year. 

 
I will admit that there are times when we do buy imported flowers- we are not perfect, and emergencies do happen. But we work DAMN hard to source our flowers locally, and it is nearly always possible to achieve an uncompromisingly beautiful selection from within that three state range. A project like Katie's photo shoot reminds of why we are so committed to this mission despite the logistical and financial challenges it sometimes presents: The BEAUTY! The FUTURE!

 
After I came home from this photo shoot, the phrase “socially and artistically responsible” came into my head. This feels like a good marriage of our absolute devotion to beauty, and our belief that we cannot pursue that beauty without thinking about the context from which it comes. We are striving to flower life's important events in a way that pursues the highest, possible artistic outcome, the most beauty, and the best, healthiest outcome for people and the planet. It's EXCITING!

 
Thank you Katie for inviting me into this intimate moment, and letting me share your story and these images! And thank you Angela of Angela & Evan Photography for sharing your breathtaking work! I can't wait to do something like this again....

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