#whybuyrosesinfebruary is a campaign by S.S.A.W, a collective representing sustainable florists. It aims to pose a question that few delighted romantics are likely to ask themselves as they blushingly receive a dozen red roses from their beloved. Why buy roses in February?
Before I go on, I seek not to blame either the giver or the receiver of roses. There are many things that need changing in this world, and though we are helplessly caught up in the system, we are not powerless to question it.
In most parts of the world, including here, roses are not in bloom in February, as a quick glance down my front path confirms – right now they are in need of a good prune and are looking less than lovely in their bare-legged gawky nakedness. But in the UK alone, 8 million roses are required for just one day, 14 February of course. Which means they have to be grown in energy intensive greenhouses – often with heavy doses of pesticides and requiring huge amounts of water – and flown in to meet demand. That’s not very romantic.
We say you should know where your food comes from, but how many of us ask where our cut flowers come from? Are they grown in Kenya, which has light and heat, but is suffering from water scarcity and consecutive years of drought? Or are they grown nearer, in the Netherlands, not known for its balmy climate, but equipped with an array of energy-guzzling growing tents? It turns out that 33% of the roses imported into the EU are from Kenya, while in the UK 80% of cut flowers come via The Netherlands.
What if, instead of roses, we could offer locally grown seasonal flowers? A bunch of snowdrops, some early daffodils or maybe a pot planted up with sumptuous Iris reticulata? And then we might ask, why buy roses in February when you can enjoy them in all their glory in May and June?