There are no regulations to limit chemicals used to preserve the average rose. Two-thirds of domestic cut flowers are imported, and most of those come from South America, countries such as Colombia and Ecuador where land and labour are plentiful and inexpensive. The other main sources are California and The Netherlands.
A local source in the environmental community says that she wouldn't put a typical store-bought bouquet on her kitchen table. Her concern is the poisonous chemicals the petals are dipped in to keep them looking fresh may flake off invisibly into her food.
"My suppliers---I won't buy from them if I think they're sketchy," says Neville of My Mother's Bloomers (5640 Spring Garden, 422-2700), who says that, in fact, there are far more reputable suppliers of cut flowers from South America now than 10 years ago because of consumer demand for more ecological practices. His supplier who imports through Toronto is conscientious to provide fair trade flowers. "The Dutch have been good for years, and in South America they'll only buy from socially and environmentally responsible ." For Neville, it means his roses may be 25 cents more per stem, but for him, and presumably his customers, it's worth it. "It's not all organic, but I want to know the soil is going to be OK to grow things in and the water ."
Neville will also necessarily source cut flowers from the greenhouse operations in the Annapolis Valley: He has weddings this summer where the bride and groom won't take any flowers that have been flown in and are happy to pay for what may be more expensive blossoms.
Clearly it's up to the consumer to demand these particular flowers, and with 95 percent of the roses we see imported, we need to be more demanding. The Flower Shop (1796 Granville, 423-7134) find that the demand for specifically local flowers isn't huge from their customers, but will still occasionally source both fair trade flowers and cut flowers from greenhouses in the valley, including local daisies, tulips, gladiolas, peonies and lilacs, and even dogwood, pussy willow and sheet moss. If we ask for it, they will order them more often.
Also making efforts to source fair trade and local is Props Floral Design (1664 Granville, 429-1935), finding Asiatic lilies and snapdragons, among others, from Nova Scotia suppliers. One of their suppliers is Waldo Walsh, of Birchleigh Farms in the valley, who used to provide flowers for the Atlantic Superstores before they centralized their purchasing outside the province. Now you need to go indie to find his field-grown gladies.
Some of his customers include Select Roses (30 Farnham Gate, 443-7673) Dean's Flowers (6025 Stanley, 454-0900), Pilcher's Flowers, (2778 Windsor, 455-3120), Charles & Vern's Flower Salon (6172 Quinpool, 423-7746), Irises Flowers (1534 Queen, 424-8344), Inglis Flower World (5365 Inglis, 425-1880), Barrington Florists (1505 Barrington, 423-9912) and Janet's Flower Shop (69 Portland St, Dartmouth, 463-9484).