The 50 Mile Bouquet

I have been waiting a long time for this book by photographer David Perry and the well-established garden writer Debra Prinzing. Surprisingly, the book took years to find a publisher; but the end result, a comprehensive survey of the cut flower industry coming to grips with local and sustainability issues, benefits us all. As Perry and Prinzing state in the book’s introduction, “Consider this the ‘slow flower’ guide to organic flower growing, gathering and design.”

Picking up where Flower Confidential, Amy Stewart’s 2007 expose of the decidedly un-local world of commercial flowers left off, The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers introduces a burgeoning movement of flower farmers, florists and gardeners who are determined to re-think where our bouquets come from and how we sustain a year-round demand for cut flowers.

At the core of the book are stories of hardworking committed flower lovers who are making a living with beautiful bouquets in a manner that treads lightly on the earth while building communities that support local farms. Prinzing’s profile of more than two dozen passionate devotees of local and organic flower sources, illustrated by Perry’s working portraits, communicate a joyful energy, convincing us these folks are determined to change an industry.

I loved hearing about farmers in Seattle, Portland, and Boulder banding together to form local marketing co-operatives. Or the Los Angeles sweet pea grower/reluctant activist who got City Hall to unanimously pass the Food & Flowers Freedom Act so that backyard gardeners and local residents could sell their garden bounty.

Tender stories include that of an octogenarian rosarian who delivered a homemade bouquet to her governor and a California bride who personalized every aspect of her wedding’s flowers from bouquets, to corsages to cake.

Beyond local and sustainable, The 50 Mile Bouquet  also takes a look at organic floral businesses on a larger scale. A profile of a commercial Oregon rose grower includes a page of tips for growing a sustainable rose that includes artificial light in winter and Mylar energy curtains; and a West Hollywood luxury floral boutique that imports organic blooms from four continents.

The slow flower movement is strong on the West Coast where most of the stories originate. Anyone who loves cut flowers will be inspired to see an industry evolving to support local sources, how it is responding to what we all know are sensible growing practices, and how real people are making it happen. Filled with practical “Grower’s Wisdom” tips, flower arranging tips for all seasons, and heartwarming stories of folks who love having flowers in their lives, this timely and beautiful book should help sustain the interest and grow awareness about where our flowers come from.

Saxon Holt, photographer
Novato, California