“I believe the world would be a much better place if we were all a little more connected to each other and to the natural world. My purpose here today is to inspire that connection by growing and arranging cut flowers”
I usually get nods of agreement when I say this at the beginning of my talks, classes and events. I am preaching to the converted. It’s a great statement too. Who wouldn’t agree with that? And that’s what I thought. But recently I was pushed to respond to someone who didn’t agree.
I was confidently chatting to another parent whilst waiting to collect our children. I told him about my work towards creating a certification for cut flowers. He was a Lawyer specialising in “Sustainable Law” like green energy certificates and the intellectual property of electrical car batteries alike. His work was about making and shaking the world… So was mine, I saw a connection of purposes.
But he didn’t. Cringe.
He said in the most polite and ‘meant-with-kindness’ way, but nonetheless brutal:
‘I’m sorry but does anyone care about flowers or where they come from’.
His comment sat with me for a long time. I felt exposed. I was speaking about my work with a sense of parity, believing that we had a common vision. He genuinely didn’t see that nor what was important about flowers.
I still rehearse a pithy response to that question but there is no sound bite with which to reply on this. Flowers did not seem essential to him. Not like food, water and air. They don’t keep us warm, they don’t get us from A to B. To this person they were inconsequential, a frivolous decoration to life. I wondered if that’s how many people felt?
Floral Artists and Growers talk about how seasonal local flowers ‘represent the now’ a connection to seasonality. They are a conduit for creativity, reminding us of the ephemerality of life. All very good. Yet this can sound like it’s for someone who has the luxury of space, time and money to arrange and enjoy flowers.
Similarly, there was a discussion on Woman’s Hour last year, it was how the presenter felt when receiving flowers, in her words “just another type of housework”. The invitee argued how wonderful cut flowers were and that perhaps the point was missed. She wasn’t convinced.
There are plenty of other ways to connect to our spaces, our local, to the natural world - just go for a walk.
We have gathered and arranged flowers for millennia. As I wrote in ‘Decorating at Christmas’, the Romans made evergreen wreaths from the abundant laurel, to celebrate the midwinter festival of Saturnalia. Christmas Wreath workshops are more important to florists now than perhaps Valentines or Mother’s Day. A real desire to connect to the season by working with natural materials and making something oneself.
Flowers are at every occasion. If in doubt, we reach for them to say so many things. Thank you, I love you, I am sorry, get well soon. Your home looks like a florist shop from well wishers when a child is born. I have never known a wedding or funeral without a flower.
They symbolise the importance of an occasion or simply the desire to give something meaningful. When you go to a friends for dinner and to say Happy Birthday. Flowers often say what we want to say but better.
Why do we give Olympians and Formula One Drivers bouquets when they win? The Opera singer at the end of a performance?
Flowers are literally everywhere.
Flower mean so many things and each occasion, from corporate to intimate, is a need to demonstrate an importance. A gift of thoughtfulness, emphasising on beauty and meaning, even if perhaps we can’t articulate that ourselves. It is a deep intrinsic desire to be connected to the natural world. We reach for the flowers as a shortcut.
This is the first in a series ‘Why Flowers Matter’, the second will be delivered next Sunday. I want to take you a little further into the world of flower growing. Is it as beautiful as you thought?
Until then, I hope you have some winter blossoms to cut and enjoy by your bedside.
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I could feel myself getting cross at the lawyers comment as I just couldn't understand it. Flowers have played such a huge part of my life . They make people smile and happy when gifted, they remind you of the person who gave them to you when you receive them, they lighten any room, they (like music) bring back memories... oh I could go on. I loved reading your floral notes and look forward to next weeks instalment.
I suspect your lawyer knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. It'll come back to haunt him.