Fair-trade flowers in February

A few years ago Caroline Boyce came into Galerie CO and presented us with her concept of a local, environmentally friendly flower service. If we paid up front, we could have a bouquet every week all summer created by Caroline using flowers that she grows herself, without pesticides, on a small lot in the Eastern Townships.

valentine

She had just started her business, Floralia. Love of flowers aside, we felt a strong connection to Caroline and her business model. She shares CO’s values and cares deeply about the impact that her products have on people and on the planet. We said “yes, please” to the flower service and have been working with her ever since selling her bouquets, hosting workshops, and acting as a distribution point for the subscription service.

Since that first meeting, Caroline’s business has grown steadily and she now provides her gorgeous bouquets all year round. Consistent with her philosophy, she has spent endless hours carefully sourcing the flowers that she will use when she can’t grow them herself during the winter months. She takes great care to understand where the flowers that she works with come from. We are the beneficiaries of all that hard work – now able to enjoy her uniquely striking bouquets all year round!

flowers

On Valentine’s Day, The Globe and Mail will identify Floralia as one of the ten coolest florists in the country. We couldn’t agree more.

Where did your love of flowers begin?

Long before I went to art school I was into organic agriculture. I worked on farms growing fruits and vegetables to save for my fine arts education. Even while I was in school, my focus was on environmental issues like consumption, and how its effect on nature. The environment has been a recurring theme in my work. After studying fine arts for several years, I took a break to go back to farming. Going back to the farm was really nice but I needed a project. So I worked with flowers on the side and became interested in the ‘slow flower’ movement in the United States.

Slow Flowers?

It’s very similar to the slow food movement with a focus on seasonal products that are good for the consumer, good for the farmers and good for the planet. There’s an appreciation for heirloom species, variety, local sourcing and small-scale production. These philosophies were being mimicked in the flower business and increasingly florists and consumers are interested in cut flowers that are interesting and perhaps a little uncommon. This is reminiscent of a traditional English approach to flower markets where people knew the small, local growers who were supplying the flowers. When working with seasonal products, it’s nice to have a conversation about the differences in varieties week to week.

floralia farm

How can the flowers we choose be good for the planet?

Of course when you’re buying flowers, you want them to be gorgeous, but the manner in which they’re grown can be sustainable and environmentally friendly.

What exactly does that mean for flowers to be “Fair Trade”?

Fair Trade is a certification and labelling process, which ensures consumers that the people who grow the flowers work in conditions that are safe and fair and that there is minimal environmental impact from the production process. The working conditions of the people who grow and harvest the flowers is really important to me. Organic certification is also available.

Eco-flowers are produced on farms that have been independently audited to confirm that they meet the social and environmental standards set by the labeling program. This means that third party independent professionals go to the farms on an annual basis and investigate their compliance. … At Sierra we have selected among the best standards. “VeriFlora”, “Fair Trade”, “Florverde” and Rainforest Alliance” each of whom represents significant steps towards a fully responsible industry. Each of these standards has a different emphasis on social and environmental issues. ~ Sierra Eco

Do you find that your customers are responding well to these labels?

Yes, definitely. There is a lot of interest in being sustainable when purchasing for personal consumption and for bigger events like parties and weddings. For example, one of my clients was interested in the health impacts of all the food and flowers at her wedding and it was important to her that she know the story of where the flowers came from and how they were grown.

Centerpieces by Floralia

So Sierra Eco is your supplier for when you can’t grow at home or get other local flowers? Can you tell us about that? sierra eco logo

Sierra Eco is a Canadian umbrella company based in Montreal that partners with certified fair-trade farms to distribute ecologically responsible flowers to wholesalers. It’s not a wholesaler as such, but a middleman between the farmers and the wholesalers. Sierra Eco requires that farms and growers are certified and it uses its purchasing power to ensure that growers are abiding by their certification standards, which means that that we florists can find eco-friendly flowers and encourage that production. I trust their label. Apart from Sierra Eco, it’s really hard to find fair-trade flowers.

Do you consider yourself a flower designer?

Yes, I do.

How do you think flowers play a role in home décor?

We spend a lot of time indoors and having a bouquet of flowers in your home is balancing. Flowers bring a natural element into the home that is alive, thriving and beautiful and can also be wild and unconventional. I think that people feel better when there are flowers around; they remind us to appreciate the little things.

flower design

How do flowers do that more than other types of plants?

Flowers have an expiry date; their beauty is fleeting and eventually they fade and die. While in your home, there is a certain amount of interaction with the flowers in their maintenance – playing with the design, rearranging, and changing the water. It’s meditative because you’re very present. Cut flowers remind us that things are not permanent, not to attach ourselves to things and to focus on the moment.

Potted plants are beautiful too, but after a while, you stop looking at them and noticing them. When you bring fresh flowers into your home, you’re suggesting to yourself that you’re going to take time to appreciate beauty.

You instruct flower arranging workshops. Why do you offer them? What not just make arrangements and bouquets and sell them to people?

The workshops are fun for me! It’s really lovely to introduce people to the flowers and show them how easy it is to create beautiful arrangements. Flower arranging is a form of art that is very accessible. It’s easy to just make something so beautiful once you’re comfortable with it.

I always make sure that there’s a wide array of flowers to work with to create the idea of abundance and limitless possibility. Imagine if I told you to make a dinner and I said “you pay a certain amount of money, and choose whatever you need to make that meal happen?” You can let yourself go, and use all the ingredients I provide. The participants feed off each other and get inspired by everyone’s ideas and energy. It’s an individual activity, but there’s a sense of enthusiastic collaboration.

What are you offering for Valentine’s Day?

This year I’ll be creating fresh, seasonal bouquets, which we’re offering with a complimentary box of artisanal chocolates from Saveurs CaO. I also have a workshop scheduled in March, which would make an awesome gift! Details are on our website: www.floralia.ca.

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

I get to be creative every day while bringing beautiful flowers into people’s lives, which makes them happy. And I am very proud that I am supplying a product that is ecological.

reward

What’s the most challenging aspect?

The administrative business aspect is the most challenging aspect for me. And that the flowers are so perishable! I feel the pressure most acutely before special events such as weddings – it’s really important to me that the flowers are as fresh as possible so the bouquets are as beautiful as they can be.

What’s your favourite flower right now?

Ranunculus.

ranunculus centered bouquet

Anything else you want to tell your Galerie CO fans?

Things are always changing. They should sign onto my newsletter and follow me on Facebook because I change what I offer all the time depending on what works with people. I’m trying to recreate the way you interact with florists. I want it to be interactive.

We’re a small business and growing all the time, so comments on our designs, workshops, service and anything else they encounter is welcome and encouraged. I want people to feel that their feedback is important because it really is.

Also, it’s not too late to get your Valentine’s Day orders in! Order deadline is 1 day before a delivery. Email info@floralia.ca or call 514-260-9096.

Check www.floralia.ca to learn more about how to order bouquets, the flower subscription service, and upcoming workshops. Activities will also be announced on Facebook by Floralia and by Galerie CO.

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