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 naïve 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.


  1. I share your distaste of this kind of thing. I remember seeing it for the first time with heathers dyed in garish colours. I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now. I am a nursery stock producer. Selling my plants through garden centres. Essentially I do the same thing now as I was doing 30 years ago. Rooting the best plants I can. Potting them and selling them to garden centres. The industry doesn't really work like that any more though. It's global now. Cuttings are often taken in Costa Rica, rooted in Israel and potted in England. It's no longer good enough to produce a few hundred thousand plants and hope that you can make a living. There is a great growing conveyor with foreign material coming in at one end and the garden centre customer at the other and when there is no one in the garden centre then it's the DIY shed or the supermarket to take up the never ending supply. I don't put my plants onto benches until at least mid Feb simply because there is no footfall but by the end of January most benches are stocked high with spring bulbs that were shoved three to a pot on a machine in November then fiished with a lovely big picture label. Most of these are destined for the skip for they flower and go over in a gnats crotchet and are usually supplied sale or return. They are there to claim the space. They are there so that when the old fashioned guy arrives in March with a van full of beautiful, peat free, British grown alpines and herbs at their peak. It's too late I've missed the bus.It's in the same ball park as what you were talking about. A poor product, a tin fiddle, something that is destined only to lower the expectation of what a plant can be. Shoved under the faces of unwary shoppers that just want to bring something home. I'm appalled . However the only way forward is to educate. Blogs like yours need to be shared and spread around as much as possible. It's hard because sometimes you find that even people in the trade fail to understand where you are coming from but hopefully we can get the message out there.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment. I'm glad industry professionals also feel the same and want to highlight the problem. I know who I'd prefer to buy from. Keep up the good work and I'll try my best to highlight such issues in future. I only wish I knew who you were!


  2. I agree totally with Mr.Anon (above). The smaller, local, producers usually have a better product which will grow well and last a lot longer. The vast majority of plants sold at Garden Centres go to people who have very little idea about what they are buying, and the plants last a few weeks before being replaced with something else - preferably blooming when purchased so that it "delivers" immediately!


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