“Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day – like writing a poem or saying a prayer.”
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Right beneath our noses something sneaky is happening. Our choices are becoming more limited, even as it appears that there is greater diversity in the marketplace than ever before. Some things aren’t even what we think they are anymore. Like milk. Milk has become a manufactured product, rather than a natural one.
Test me out, and see if I’m right. Take a walk through your local supermarket. Are some of your favourite foods no longer being stocked? Have many of them become available only as home-brand or generic brand items?
The truth is that fewer and fewer companies are producing and controlling more and more of our consumer take-home items. Small companies are absorbed into the larger ones and many of the brands we know and love disappear forever. Why, even my local lolly hangout, The Mullumbimby Chocolate Shop, is finding it harder and harder to source the old varieties of sweets. Many of these companies produce their candies by hand, on equipment from the 1800s and 1900s. As owners die, or the companies are taken over, these old lines are phased out in favour of mass produced sweets. Goodbye Lemon Sherbet Bombs and Raspberry Twists, hello Skittles and Snickers Bars.
Add to this the global giant Monsanto, which dominates seed production and distribution throughout the world, and my world is painted a little drabber.
But I digress, because today I want to talk about flowers. There is a link between the two themes though, I promise!
There is a dairy farm not far from mine where two elderly brothers tend a flower garden. It’s not just any flower garden; they grow dahlias, and enter the blooms into the local Agricultural Shows every year. The brothers grow an enormous variety of types, and they sell the excess flowers for ten dollars a bucket. The buckets are placed under a tree on the side of the road, with an honour system, so that you leave your money under a rock in their letterbox. They ask that you bring the bucket back when you’re finished…
At the end of each season the men collect the seed from their plants, including any variations from type or new crosses. The seeds are then painstakingly placed into labelled envelopes, catalogued, and stored in boxes in the shed until next season.
Some of the seedstock goes back to the men’s own grandparents. Relatives brought a veritable garden in their luggage when they came out from England by boat, in the form of saved seed. Other seed has been traded locally with neighbours who got their own seeds from family in Europe or America. And of course seed is often exchanged at shows and garden fairs.
Every time I look at these dahlias now I wonder about the story behind them. I think of the people who tended the plants, saved the seeds, passed them on.
It saddens me a little. Most people get their gardens from the Nursery section of a supermarket or a mega hardware store these days. There’s so little choice – a predictable selection of propragated plants, multiple cheerful punnets of a few common annuals, one or two special varieties being plugged by TV personalities.
Few modern gardeners save seed. Most people don’t even know how to plant or care for a garden anymore. So many simple skills for sustainability being lost. I do consider growing flowers to be about sustainability – sustainability of our soul and our creative heart, and sustainability of relationships and ties throughout history. Sure we need fruits and vegetables for survival, but an existence without flowers would be so much less satisfying.
Perhaps there is some small pocket of space where you can create a friendship garden or help keep heritage varieties of plants in existence. Join a garden club, or talk to the oldies in your local area!
You can also buy heritage plants and seeds from the following places:
The Diggers Club – Australia
Eden Seeds – Australia
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – America
Landreth Seed Company – America
Thomas Etty Esquire – UK
It’s gardening, not rocket science. Truly it’s not hard, and it can be very rewarding. If you’re time poor, or have no space to garden, at least buy produce from your local farmers markets, and support the growers who care about biodiversity and quality food.
And while we’re at it, why not vote with your dollar, and support the many other small businesses that provide us with variety, quality and employment in other areas of our lives? Avoid the large and no-name generic brands. Ask for your favourite brands by name. Your purchasing power keeps these businesses alive, and allows us to enjoy freedom of choice.
At times you may feel powerless in this world, but as a consumer your dollar counts. Use it to vote for variety! Bless ♥ xx