Why I Design with Local Flowers

Originally published in Et Toile Magazine  – August 13, 2020

I had just received my first wholesale order of flowers, shipped in from Colombia via Miami. New to floristry, I had planned an editorial to build my portfolio. I was ecstatic to finally design with O’Hara Garden Roses, and every bride’s favorite, eucalyptus.

You can imagine my horror when, just a few hours after unpacking and hydrating the flowers, my hands began to break out into an angry and swollen rash of hives. I was a florist allergic to her own product.

I felt the disappointment deeply. I couldn’t take joy in touching the product I had been dreaming of designing with for years. Flowers are an art medium for me, and being able to touch the stems, feel the petals, test the turgidity of the blooms, without gloves hold a precious importance to me. Like a potter who can feel the clay beneath their fingertips, that direct connection with the flowers is something that makes my craft better. I also knew I was taking on a risk to my new company. What if one my brides had an allergic reaction like I did? What if it happened on her wedding day?

I needed a solution. That’s when a simple web search led me to Blue Sky Flower Farm in Elko Minnesota.

The owner of Blue Sky Flower Farm, Rachael Ackerman, was shocked when I told her about my allergies. She suggested that maybe it wasn’t the flowers. Maybe, it was the way they were grown. She sent me home with eucalyptus she harvested that morning. Much to my delight, after designing with her eucalyptus, there was no angry rash and no itchy hives.

It turns out that I was reacting to the chemicals used to treat the imported blooms.

I started using Rachael’s flowers, and my allergies disappeared. As I designed with the best from her fields week after week, and even used dried flowers and branches in the winter, my appreciation for seasonal flowers grew. When I would occasionally order imported blooms, the difference in bloom quality was evident: the locally grown flowers had stronger stems, longer vase life, and superior scent. As an artist, I was continually challenged to create something new each week with local flowers.

Traditionally, florists have their “go-to” blooms – not unlike how we may purchase the same items from the grocery store each week. But now, I had the equivalent of a florist’s farmers market. I had different ingredients each week, leading to both subtle and dramatic variations on my designs. I was in love.

Blue Sky Flower Farm in Elko Minnesota is a perfect example of how local flowers are changing the wedding and event floral industry for the better. Local, chemical free blooms are lovingly tended by hand and harvested just a few days before event day by farmer Rachael Ackerman. Rachael brings the flowers directly to my studio, meaning longer lasting blooms, especially for delicate favorites like Dahlias. I can personally attest to the high quality of these flowers; they are truly a joy to work with.

“Local flowers are so beautiful and reflective of our natural being,” says Ackerman, “they support our local economies, our neighbors, our friends. They allow us to enjoy blooms that would not otherwise be available and they haven’t traveled thousands of miles to be in one bridal bouquet.”

While the global flower industry is focused on cheap mass-production, local is something completely different.

“For me, it’s the seasonality,” says Ackerman, “why wouldn’t you want the best flowers for the season? Tulips in spring, peonies in the summer, dahlias in the fall, you chose your wedding day for a reason, shouldn’t the flowers reflect that?”

What started as a practical move to chemical-free flowers, led to a discovery of something more exciting – a new appreciation for the beauty of seasonal blooms.

This article originally was published as part of a larger feature in Et Toile Magazine. Read the full article here.

For More Information on Local Flowers

For information on finding local flower farmers in your area, visit Slow Flower Society

For information on sustainable floral design, visit the Sustainable Floristry Network

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