With the beginning of spring comes Mother’s Day and there are daffodils aplenty to presented in bunches to lucky mums, but what of the so-called Mother’s Day traditional flower, the pink carnation?
If you have ever paused your busy life to consider the environmental impact of commercially grown cut flowers then you probably already know it’s not great. I decided to have a look at the growing of pink carnations that are coaxed into flower over two months early to be available for Mother’s Day.
Apparently, pink carnations were the choice of the wealthy Victorians with greenhouses and gardeners able to nurture carnations to bloom as early as March. That is they could afford a heated greenhouse that keeps the temperature at seven degrees celsius or above for the entire winter. I think you can see where I am going with this. The wealthy Victorian had access to both cheap labour and cheap fuel and was more concerned with ‘progress’ than social and environmental concerns. Fast-forward 150 years and the idea of heating greenhouses for out-of-season food let alone cut flowers has become contentious.
Naturally, research and new ideas and new technology are being busily discussed by the UK government and associated farming and horticulture key bodies with a target to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. Whereas the Dutch horticultural industry aims to be CO2 neutral by 2040. Since 2020 they’ve had an experimental, emission-free greenhouse up and running. They have been researching all aspects of growing food and flowers under glass with greenhouses constructed from smart materials using heating from ground source heat pumps or air source heat pumps and drawing electricity from solar panels. The are also experimenting with the use and conservation of water, the cultivating of new varieties of plants to better suit ‘new’ conditions and finally to managing pests and diseases in a manner to minimise horticulture’s environmental impact.
But is isn’t all only talk here back in the UK as you can already buy British grown tulips in bloom during March from Smith and Munson who are a family run business producing premium quality flowers. They are well on the way down the road in reducing those negative environmental impacts associated with commercial horticulture. They grow their full range of tulips hydroponically, their glasshouses are heated with biomass boilers and their coldstores are powered by electricity from solar panels. Sadly, they do not grow the pink carnations that would have been the favourite for a Victorian mother as these days carnations are not the most fashionable choice for a mum’s bouquet.