As a garden designer, the word sustainable has been a part of my lexicon for quite some time now, and as a dedicated foodie, I’m a regular at my local farmers markets, where I know the benefits to be had from choosing organic produce, cage-free eggs and grass-fed beef. But it wasn’t until I met Debra Prinzing and learned about her passion for seasonal, locally grown flowers that I thought to apply these ideas to the floral trade.
The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers is the result of years of interviewing and photographing sustainable growers, designers and florists from all over the country. Most of the book paints a series of individual portraits, whether it is a husband-and-wife team working 16 hour days to grow peonies and dahlias in Washington state, or San Francisco floral designer (and personal friend) Baylor Chapman, who transformed the unused edges of an asphalt parking lot into her own sustainable, outdoor "warehouse".
I now understand that the bulk of the industry is made up of “factory flowers”, bred to be shipped long distances and therefore doused with chemical preservatives to make the trip. Between the chemicals and the carbon footprint of transporting a flower hundreds - or even thousands - of miles, it’s easy to reach the conclusion that sustainable, local flowers are a far better environmental choice, not just for the planet but in our own homes as well.
Despite sharing sobering facts like these, the book is not a giant lecture on sustainability (and if you’ve read some of my past reviews, you know I hate being lectured to), but rather a celebration of the beauty of old-fashioned, seasonal blooms and the spirit of community. Many of those interviewed talk about the rewards of selling directly to floral designers and the general public, and the pleasure they take in sharing how their blooms are grown and should be cared for.
And the photos! The 50 Mile Bouquet’s co-creator is renowned photographer David Perry, whose beautifully realized pictures not only highlight the charm of an old-fashioned bouquet, but also capture the individuals who have dedicated their careers to, in the words of Diane Szukovathy “leaving the land in better shape than we found it.”
The 50 Mile Bouquet is a love letter to the joy that comes from a fresh posy of seasonal, local blooms. Lingering over photos of decadent, pastel-colored peonies or reading about the bride who picked and arranged the vibrant dahlias of her wedding bouquet will have you wondering how anyone could prefer an outrageously priced, chemically-doused box of long-stemmed roses.