Judith Blacklock
Flower School

Sustainable Flower Arranging

As anyone who watched David Attenborough’s wonderful Blue Planet 2 series will be aware, our over reliance on plastics is having a huge impact on our natural environment, and we can all play a part in making a difference, in particular with regard to single use plastics. From reusable hessian bags, rather than plastic ones for our grocery shopping, to recycling food packaging and ending our dependence on takeaway coffee cups and shop bought bottled water there are lots of simple changes we can all make that add up to a big change.

There are also many ways that floral designers can do their bit to support the environment, through their plastic use as well as other environmentally friendly choices.

Smithers Oasis is now producing a 51% biodegradable floral foam which is a positive step in the right direction, and there are lots of exciting alternatives to floral foams already on the market such as pin holders, chicken wire, tape and moss.

The movement towards using British grown flowers is leading to a reduction in the carbon footprint of cut flower production, as less fossil fuel is used to transport the flowers around the world. At a glance, cut flowers seem anything but sustainable but this all depends on how and where they’ve been growing. Fields full of organically grown flowers are a precious resource for bees, butterflies and other insects important in our ecosystem, and encourage infiltration during heavy rain, helping to reduce the risk of flooding.

At the flower school we like to demonstrate that sustainable flower arranging is possible, and it does not have to cost more. Last year I designed two biodegradable alternatives to the poppy wreath for Remembrance Sunday for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. To date, the poppies used are most commonly made of polyester fabric or plastic but both are non-biodegradable. In addition, the fabric poppies stain the graves over time. For both versions I created a base from flexible willow and used garden twine to bind on plant material. In the first wreath I used plant material that represented the countries most heavily involved in the support of the CWGC. Eucalyptusfor Australia, Picea(spruce) for Canada, dried lotus seed pods for India, Phormium tenaxfor New Zealand, Leucadendronfor South Africa and Hedera helixandTaxus (yew) for the UK. For the second version I created a wreath composed solely of Gaultheria (salal) as this is an inexpensive foliage that is long lasting, looks good when dried and is available in virtually every corner of the world.

This year we are offering courses in making sustainable Christmas wreaths that will last weeks on end using gorgeous foliage on a willow frame. We will also be demonstrating how to use chicken wire, moss and pin holders for stunning displays.