In the run up to Valentine’s Day, all the supermarkets and petrol stations are full of bouquets of flowers for people to buy their loved ones. However, it’s a fairly recent tradition to buy red roses, as historically in the UK we just wouldn’t have had access to flowers such as this in February. During the Victorian era they celebrated with more seasonal plants - pansies, violets, periwinkle and snowdrops.
Roses are beautiful but there is a massive downside to buying them for your loved on Valentine’s Day.
In the UK, the main flowering season for roses is from June and August. That means that to supply roses to UK buyers in February that they have to be grown elsewhere. The UK isn’t warm enough and doesn’t have enough daylight hours to encourage rose growth out of season. When we buy our Valentine roses (and other unseasonal flowers) they normally have to come from countries on the equator. Often they are grown in poorer or developing countries, in huge glasshouses.
Environmentally, these flowers are costing the earth. They are flown huge air miles and they are grown in huge heated glasshouses. These glasshouses can be the horticultural equivalent to a sweatshop. People are paid very little to work in horrific conditions and very long hours. As the growing environment isn't natural, the plants are susceptible to pests and diseases and are controlled chemically. To do this, glasshouses are fogged with pesticides and at regular intervals a cocktail of chemicals is sprayed into the air. Often workers have to carry on working in the chemical fog and it is rare for companies to provide their workers with PPE.
Exposure to most of these chemicals is dangerous to humans. Some are carcinogenic, so the workers are susceptible to various cancers and often die young because they don't have money to access to any medical treatment. So next time your partner runs you a bath with rose petals - don't get in it - it's toxic!
For our Valentine's Day events here at Hestercombe, of course we have decorated the tables with flowers, but you won’t find roses! Instead, we have taken our inspiration from the gardens and we have vases filled with Viburnum, Skimmia, Sarcococca and Cornus. All the plants are grown in the gardens and have a great scent.
If you want to treat your loved one to flowers today, ask a florist if they have locally grown, British grown or sustainable flowers on offer. Check the supermarket's labelling to see if you can buy something less toxic, with less air miles, and support the environment.
After all, love doesn’t have to cost the earth.
Happy Valentine’s Day from all the Hestercombe team