November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Thanksgiving bounty! One of our centerpieces for the table.

Paradise found!






Another example of some or our not so traditional Thanksgiving flowers!

Enjoy the sunshine!



We like to spread a little sunshine around during the holidays, especially when we are in the middle of our long winter rainy season! You won’t find those dark brown mums in my store during the holidays, I think they are just too dreary! We need more sunshine here in the NW in the winter, although I did see my shadow today for a few minutes 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you get to spend it with your loved ones!


I know this is a weird question for ME to be asking…but I had something happen to me the other day that made me stop and wonder if technology is good or bad.  Personally, I love technology and think it has done amazing things for people to be able to connect on a global level.  Even as recent as ten years ago, I couldn’t get on the internet, look up a farm in Ecuador, let alone even think about being able to contact them cheaply, efficiently, and instantly.   In my opinion it’s done wonders for humanity!

Now with that said, I know there are those folks who think technology is evil and ruining society by forcing us to not connect with real people face to face.  I’ve heard all kinds of comments and arguments for and against the technology argument.  I’ve heard people knock twitter,  facebook,  myspace, and blogs, and I think technology does do a good job of showing the good and the bad in people. But is it technologies fault?

I was really surprised the other day when I had a prospective new client leave a rather nasty message on my phone.  First, let me explain, I am a small company with two phone lines, so that if one is busy, it will roll to the other line. If both lines are busy, it will go to voice mail, where you can leave a message and I will call you right back after I finish with the customer who called before you.  Now I will be the first to admit that during the holiday rush, this might be a little frustrating, but I’m not one of these mega companies with one of those crazy phone systems, you know, the kind that says push 1 for directions, 2 for a map, 3 for hours, and thanks for calling??? you know the kind that you never get to a person, or get to leave a message or even get your question answered.  I give really personalized service and most all of my customers praise us on our high level of service.   So you can imagine my surprise, when I retrieved my voice messages, only to hear this mans voice, here is what it said:

” SOOOOOO…I wassssssssss going place an order and I’m trying to give you some of my moooooney, BUT since I refuse to play telephone tag, and yooooouuuuu obviously don’t need any more business, I’m not going to order from you, I will get my needs met elsewhere!!!!!! ”

Needless to say, I was a little more than ticked off that someone would leave such a nasty voice message, but then I thought about it and decided he was frustrated and had a right to voice his displeasure even though I still think he could have been nicer about it. So I called him back and apologized for the trouble, and he proceeded to tell me that it was people like me who were ruining the earth with technology.  So I asked him, if he would have been happier with a busy signal?  Honestly, the way my phone rings all day long, without two phone lines you would probably get a busy signal.  Is that better, than my lovely voice, apologizing for the message, promising to call you right back 🙂   He never really answered me, he just thanked me for calling back and told me he had ordered some where else.

I just wanted to put it out there for people to think about because I am curious what others think about the subject of technology.  Do you think this customer’s frustration was really about technology or just a reflection of how we all feel with regards to poor customer service which is so common now.  And do you perceive it as poor service if you get a voice message system?  Should we go back to the days of sharing a phone line with our neighbor, any one remember party lines? 🙂

Lately, I’ve been hearing all the talk about buying local, and supporting mom & pop business owners and I agree that it is important to try and do that.  Recently in talking with some of my customers, I realized that they have no idea where flowers come from, and how buying flowers is helping many families survive in small villages around the world.

Everyone has heard the stories about pesticides and pollution and harm to workers, but for every one of those stories, there are new stories about how the industry is working hard to create standards that improve quality of life and promote the safety of workers.  What workers wanted was for the Western consumers to be their voice , because without a demand for certified-organic and fair trade flowers, the Ecuadorian flower industry would have had little incentive to change, and it’s working. Companies are finally working to improve their environmental management.  What they don’t need is people campaigning for consumers to stop buying flowers, because they are very dependent upon having a market. Same holds true for me, although I understand the need to eat, and if given a choice of buying flowers or food, of course I’m going to choose food, but in some countries, working the land and growing flowers gives them their food.

I invite you to read some of the stories and educate yourself on the subject.  It’s an important issue.

The Rainforest Alliance is just one of the many organizations working to conserve biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods by focusing on  land-use practices, and business practices and the health and welfare of agricultural workers.  They are trying to bring forth social responsibility by working with people who make their living from the land . They are focused on sustainable land practices that do not harm the environment or the health of the workers.

I was reading this article on the status of agriculture in Africa, you really get a sense when you read the article, on  how much of a global business flowers are.  The country has been hit by more drought in the flower growing regions, and the economic aspects have hit them hard as well, since demand for flowers has diminished.  I know the economy has hit every one hard, but in some countries, it’s a bit harder, that little plot of land is all they have.  One of the positive things to come out of the drought, is that it is forcing them to look at new solutions, like hydroponics which reuses the water and makes more sense for a country that doesn’t have much in the way of water resources .  Nature always has a way of taking charge!

My friend use to make these little plush widgets, and he used to talk to me about how people were critical of the fact that he had his product made in other countries, but he was always so proud of the fact that this little village of people were able to make a living and improve there lives by hand sewing these little items.  He loved to go to the village and visit, and see them so happy at having a way to market their skill. I learned from him that there are always two sides to the story.  You can read more about flower growing in Kenya here:

This past week I was talking to one of the growers in Ecuador  who was telling me that roses would be in short supply from their farm for Christmas because they are pinching back the plants to have them ready for Valentines day.  Unfortunately they have to either sell their product at Christmas, and have none for Valentines day, or skip Christmas and have product for Valentines day.  Most of the farms in Ecuador are pretty small, something that I did not know until I became a florist and starting talking to farms.  What is amazing to me is that a rose that you buy on a Tuesday in my store was probably harvested on Thursday in the Andean highlands of Ecuador or Colombia, shipped via Fedex direct to my door and then to you the consumer.  Here was an interesting article in the Latin Times newspaper regarding Valentines day sales.  One more example of how we are all connected in a global economy.

A nice article explaining a bit about the Andean trade act and a more about Ecuadorian roses gives you an insight into the bigger issues facing our industry in general.

I have by no means covered all the countries that we get flowers from, which I will save for another post. Places that I will talk about in future posts, all the places that we get flowers from,  New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Holland, Italy, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru,  & yes, even the United States.

Don’t forget to make time to stop and smell the roses!

Let’s face it, flowers can be purchased almost everywhere. Every day I drive by the roadside flower tent, every week I visit the farmers market, and I shop the grocery store and I know from experience that they all think they can get in on the flower business and make a quick buck.

As a consumer you need to know that the standards  between flowers vary a lot between all of these sources.  There are flower rejects everywhere, and globally billions of flowers are purchased daily even though some folks think they aren’t functional or even necessary.   I’ve heard it all, “in lieu of flowers” or ” Flowers just die” or ” Flowers don’t last. I really can’t think of any other seemingly useless commodity that gives such delight and sends a message of forgiveness, or lets someone know you appreciate them, or tells them how much you love them, or that you are just thinking about them and miss them.

I’ve had customers who want to send plants instead, because they are long lasting, but I always have to remind them that plants come with a responsibility to be cared for.  It’s a little like buying a puppy for someone. You need to ask yourself if the person receiving your gift will share your excitement, once they know they have to care for it everyday.  Sadly, plants will die too if you do not take care of them.  At least with flowers, we know they are dead once they are cut, and that they are going to end up in the compost heap once they die in a few weeks, which is not necessarily a bad thing!  “Green” is good but make sure you think about the person receiving the gift and make sure they like gardening if you are giving them a plant.  Also, please don’t send a plant that is so huge that the person has to redecorate in order to fit it into their decor.  That is not a nice gift!   Sometimes the guilt free gift of flowers is a way better to go.

When I think about Brittany Flowers, I  think of ourselves as being at the top of the flower ladder, our flower shop is ” design oriented” . We are kind of funky now that we have relocated to our new design space which is way less than our grandiose retail storefront of the past 33 years, but one thing I can say for sure about us, is that we truly care about flowers! You are always guaranteed to have ” FRESH” and have access to a pretty diverse selection that comes from every country around the globe.  We buy from New Zealand, Holland, Columbia, Ecquador, California, Chile, Canada, Africa, Mexico, Australia, United States, small local farmers and organic farmers. It’s a hugely diverse business, and in some small villages and towns, it is the only source of income they have.

We know the flower business, we know how to care for flowers to get the most out of them, we know specific varieties,we know their life expectancy, and we know how to cater to our customers.  Our customer’s have impeccable taste, they are passionate about flowers, they enjoy buying flowers. The folks who buy from us are more than customers, they are our friends.  We’ve been there for the births of their babies and the deaths of their loved ones, and all the spaces in between the beads of life. I really encourage you to think about developing a life long relationship with your local florist. Find one you love and get to know what they do and how much passion they have for farming,  plants,  and the art of design. I wish you a new found friend in the process! I’ve  recently spent more time exploring these amazing photographs of water droplets of photography…if you love an artistic perception, you will love these photographs. Hard to imagine that ” Water”  could look like this!

Dahlias, roses, & gardenias

Dahlias, roses, & gardenias

Dahlias, roses, gardenia and freesia

Dahlias, roses, gardenia and freesia