Let’s see what Costco has in bloom

by Debra Prinzing on March 31, 2010

in How We Did It,The Book Project,The Sustainable Marketplace

Look what I came home with from today's visit to Costco


When David and I tried to find a publisher for an earlier incarnation of this book in 2008, we ran smack into the mindset that sustainable flowers are inaccessible.

I recall distinctly the comments from my top-pick publisher: “Well, sustainable and organic cut flowers aren’t readily available to consumers so why would people be interested in a book about the green flower movement?”

Found at Costco: Hot pink and vibrant orange sustainably-grown tulips. I combined them in a teal-glazed pot with sprays from my backyard California pepper

We choked on that one. I mean, all you had to do was walk into Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Sam’s Club and a few other mass-market retail grocery stores to see that among the many choices, it was possible to find flowers obtained locally from small farms, many of which were truly “in-season,” and even a small selection of flowers carrying the VeriFlora label.

Sustainable flowers were right under our noses if only we looked, noticed and inquired of our neighborhood supermarket.

A recent article in Audubon magazine cites 2008 Organic Trade Association figures: $19 million worth of organic flowers were sold in the U.S. That number is continuting to grow at a vigorous pace.

Today, while picking up some groceries at my local Costco, I stopped to see what was offered in the tower-of-flowers, that black plastic case filled with buckets of bunches and bouquets stationed close to the front of the store.

Lo and behold, I discovered a rainbow of pretty – and sustainably grown – tulips. Yeah! Thanks, Costco. You’ve done good! Check out the packaging: Sustainably Grown in USA. Note the web site on the label, www.tsvg.com.

The label says it all

I came home with two generous bunches purchased for $8.99 each and looked up that link to discover it is none other than California’s Sun Valley Floral Group. This is one of the last commercial cut flower farms in the U.S., featured by Amy Stewart in her book, “Flower Confidential.”

I betcha anything the pretty tulips I purchased came from Sun Valley’s Oxnard farm, which is about 25 miles north of my local Costco. There is an amazing tulip selection on their web site.

I decided to display my pink-and-orange combo in a glazed turquoise flower pot (a birthday gift from writer-friend Nan Sterman). After cutting the stems and stripping off any damaged leaves, I filled the vessel with the 30 or so tulips. They looked a little naked and in need of a petticoat.

Nothing's more "local" than your own backyard vegetation: trees, shrubs, and other great foliage sources like my California pepper tree

Searching my garden, I wanted something delicate and lacy – greenery that would enhance rather than obscure the flowers.

Fortunately, I noticed the California pepper tree shown at left; it is the largest one of two that graces my backyard. It wasn’t hard to clip some of the stems hanging down from the lower branches.

I remember how often I would purchase bunches of pepper berries and foliage when I lived in Seattle. It occurs to me now that they must have traveled up the coast from Southern California. Lucky for me, I no longer need to worry about the carbon footprint of that foliage in my designs.

I think it’s a very sweet combo. Much simpler than something a professional designer would create, but elegant just the same.

And it’s nice to know that when you search with intentionality, it’s just not that hard to find sustainable flowers. The more you often we ask retailers, supermarkets, and even florists, “where were these flowers grown?” and “how were they grown?” I think we’ll be pleased with the answers we hear.

Doesn't this arrangement look pretty on top of our piano, with the shutters reflected against the black top?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ellen Spector Platt April 2, 2010 at 5:17 am

Debra, I see you have beautiful vases of your own and don’t need to borrow any of mine. I’d love to know how long these tulips last (lasted).

Siobhan April 5, 2010 at 7:50 pm

I am a florist in Australia and I am becomming more and more facinated with sustainable flowers and their positive impact on the environment and your carbon footprint.

Kudos to you, your book and the US for leading the world in this regard, I sincerely hope we can follow suit, and soon.

Pam Cochran April 15, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Hey Deb, there is a local, organic tulip grower here in the central Virginia area. I went with Joe and the kids last Sunday for a picnic and to pick fresh cut, organic tulips. They’re still going strong and are beautiful. Sam chose to pick the “Ninja” variety!

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