Summer has sprung with green. But what about fuschia? goldenrod? periwinkle? With a relatively small community growing “cut” flowers, the nascent locaflore movement still learns from some trial and error what will grow well and sell well given our sometimes frigid Junes, occasionally sere Julys, and frequently soggy Augusts.
Local small scale farmers have had varying successes year to year with cut flowers. Seed to Spoon has had more success some years than others, says Sarah Crocker, with an introductory year in 2011 using a “mixed seed” making bouquets with whatever surprises arose. This year they are geminating physalis, zinnias, craspedia, scabiosa, and hollyhocks. Jeremy Carter of Nagels Hill Agri-Products focuses on specific cultivars that last well: Oriental lilies, Zinnias, ornamental grasses, Dahlias, and field flowers: asters, snapdragons, calendula, sunflowers, delphiniums. This year he is re-vamping his greenhouse of hybrid tea roses to allow for the use of a tractor through the rows, making it more cost effective to maintain. These flowers are grown without herbicides or pesticides, which some people prefer when decorating a dinner table. With table bouquets in mind, Jeremy figured out how to grow his dahlias in the middle of a large tilled plot to keep earwigs from ever infesting the flowers. These gorgeous earwig-free dahlias and other blooms from local growers can be found throughout the summer at the St John’s Farmer’s Market.
Challenging any large scale local cut flower industry is still the pound for pound cheapness and reliability of imports. For example, Holland Nurseries has growing annual and perennial decorative potted plants down to a science, but with all their years of expertise locally and their rows of productive green houses, their floral design department still imports their cut flowers. If you need certain flowers for a certain date, locally grown can be difficult as a field of sunflowers just may not bloom on time for a wedding given the vagaries of our weather.
While these challenges may be obvious, the locaflore advantages are interesting. You cannot talk about flowers without thinking about bees. Newfoundland has, so far, been spared from most of the global devastation facing honey bee colonies. More flowers grown locally may mean more succour, untreated with neonicotinoids, for our pollinators. These pesticides are argued to be one of a number of factors adding to the complex decline of world wide bee (and other pollinator) populations. Other advantages include a potential high economic yield on a small acreage. Flowers can also be grown and harvested without worry about the lead levels of our downtown soil. Finally there is the largely untapped frontier of indoor floral operations. The availability of LED lighting has made this much more energy and cost effective. Lilysmith (709-727-2880), fun by Felicity Roberts, has taken advantage of LED lighting and is now a budding niche wholesaler of fragrant oriental hybrid lilies and calla lilies.
In conclusion I will address the elephant in the room: cucumber flowers are actually quite pretty.