Sunday, 8 February 2015

Flower fiddlers and painted plants

I’m sick to the back teeth of seeing flowers and plants tinkered with to the extreme – dyed, painted, glittered and abused beyond all recognition.  From the fluorescent Heathers in alarming shades of lime green, hot pink and acid yellow; so often a staple of garden centre offerings, to the ghastly array of dyed florist favourites this trend is slowly becoming an acceptable industry standard – can we come back to the beauty that nature provides and remove these monstrosities for good? Please.

For years we’ve seen small numbers of plants fall in to these novelty offerings, more often at seasonal peaks, but more recently I’ve seen such things available on an altogether more regular basis.  Perhaps I’ve become attuned to these crimes against nature? Perhaps you’ve noticed them too? 

Just before Christmas I came across a very sad sight.  If you follow me on Twitter or have liked my Facebook page then there’s a good chance you would have seen this already.  Yes, I’m talking about the glitter-smothered succulents.  These poor things weren’t simply dusted or sprinkled with glitter, oh no, they were coated. Much like a fingernail covered in glittery nail varnish would be, only I think we should remember these are actually living things and there’s no need to “enhance” their aesthetics.  With this suffocating layer plants would have had no ability to photosynthesise or respire, leaving them with no other alternative than to shrivel up and die, that is if they didn’t rot from the inevitable overwatering.  This begs the question, if these plants were sold as purely ornamental things, as opposed to houseplants that would grow on and develop, then why not produce them in plastic, stone or glass ensuring they last beyond a few weeks or months at best?  Or is this a rather na├»ve attempt for the horticultural industry to get rid of it’s surplus stock at knock down prices? Hmm.

Another crime was spotted last week on a lunchtime jaunt to a local supermarket. From afar I spotted a rather intriguing bunch of what appeared to be Lilies.  These Lilies, originally a pristine white, which for most people would be the epitome of style and elegance, now resembled a bad tie dyed t-shirt.  Revolting in shades of purple, pink, red, orange and blue; akin to a primary school experiment I remember when we placed flowers in food colouring to show how blooms take up water, these flowers appeared to have no commercial appeal at all, unless of course your tastes harked back to the 1960’s when psychedelia was en vogue.  My question is this: why don’t these supermarkets and florists simply grow plants with different coloured blooms in the first place?  They’re certainly available and when it comes to the wonderful Lily the range is pretty wide, with a few exceptions.  This is also the case for Chrysanthemums, Roses, Phalaenopsis orchids and a wide range of other blooms that are often vandalised to suit the tacky tastes of the consumers.

Could it be that supermarkets and florists find it financially beneficial to buy bulbs, blooms and plants in bulk (i.e. discounts on bulk orders of white Lilies) and then choose to sell some “au naturale” and others doctored to increase choice and bolster profit?  To my mind, I can’t see this being the reason as I’m sure such operations don’t work in such a simple way but those in the industry may be able to shed more light on this.   Another suggestion would be that growers produce extra stock and latch on to seasonal activities or sell products to large retailers at knock down prices? Another alternative, and a more plausible suggestion, would be that people actually prefer their blooms with added sparkle or in luminescent shades to match their, what I can only assume is god-awful, interior decoration and taste? After all, consumer demand directly influences supply so there must be a call for it.  Personally, I’ve not succumbed to this although I have seen the odd bouquet that incorporates dyed flowers from large florist chains but in the majority of cases I’d say natural blooms appear to be much more desirable.  If it is the case that consumers are driving the availability of these Frankenstein-flowers then I’d question why exactly.  If they seek variation, new colours or shapes, or added interest, then they need look no further than what is already on offer from the myriad of independent growers here in the UK.  Of course, there’s no glitter or paint in sight here (in the most part anyway) but there is a wide rage of colour, scent, texture, seasonal variation and oodles of interest and originality. 

When it comes to flowers and plants no one does this better than Mother Nature herself.  Of course, breeding and cultivation techniques have led to “improvements” but is there really a need to physically guild the lily, so to speak?  I’d argue not and I can only hope that others feel the same way about this too.
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