Blooming Sustainable: A Catch Up With Little Garden Flowers


Amongst the madness of Festive Prep, I managed to grab 10 minutes with Lois A.K.A. Little Garden Flowers, our wonderful floral supplier.

Read on to find out about her inspirations, plus tons of interesting info about sustainability in the floral world.
plastic free flowers
british blooms

Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself…

A. I’m Lois and I run the floristry studio Little Garden in Gaydon. Environmentalism is at the heart of what I do, and I’ve totally built my business around that being our main priority. I’ve always been passionate about the environment, ever since a Science teacher played us the Al Gore film ‘Inconvenient Truth’ at school when I was 13. I think I can safely say it changed my life! That in combination with my love for the outdoors and natural world made floristry a perfect combination for me. I love a good old adventure, lots of travelling, and working in the garden – all of which helps to inform my work as well as keeping my soul well-fed! 

Q. When did you first become interested in floristry? Is it something you always wanted to do?

A. It was probably about half way through studying for my degree in photography at Falmouth University when my mind started to wonder. I love photography, especially with analogue film, but I wasn’t liking the direction the commercial work would have taken me (lots of computer/desk work). Living in Cornwall was just as much of an inspiration as the degree itself, so I started to consider careers that would incorporate my creative thinking with the natural world. Floristry seemed like a good starting point, and it… stuck!

Q. What can you tell us about the issues surrounding sustainability in the flower industry?

A. Unfortunately it’s a pretty long list of issues, most of which is unknown to the public. I didn’t know about any of these problems until I started my career in floristry so it’s no wonder is such an ongoing issue.

The most common misconception about flowers is that they probably come from Holland. Whilst technically this isn’t false, that doesn’t mean the flowers are necessarily grown here. Holland is known globally for being the largest fresh flower distributor in the world. Meaning flowers are often grown as far as South America, are then shipped to Holland to be sold on auction, and then can be distributed to the consumer (as far as in Japan) – all within 3 days. Flowers are mostly flown on huge refrigerated cargo ships which have a huge environmental cost.

Many of the flower farm workers are living in poverty and have little to no workers rights, care or fair wages. The flowers are often sprayed with fertilisers and preservatives which would otherwise be banned here in the UK – yet the flower harvesters are expected to pick the crops with no protection to some potentially life-altering chemicals.

Most of the time when buying flowers you are likely to be buying a plastic-wrapped bouquet – which will also have been re-wrapped once or twice in its distribution process. Sometimes to advertise the original nursery, then the distributing auction house, and finally the supermarket or florists brand name. It really is a continual cycle of waste and overproduction everywhere you look.

Lastly, the other main issue (although there really are more than I have time to list here!) is Floral Foam – or otherwise known as Oasis. This is the green foamy stuff which your flower-arranging-grandma probably once used! You can poke your finger in it and it goes all squishy. Basically this stuff is the cherry on the cake for floral environmental damage. Floral foam is made of a complex combination of microplastics which don’t biodegrade, poison marine life, and hold carcinogenic properties. It has been detected in the stomachs of almost all tested seabirds in the UK, and has been coined as the florists version of asbestos – leaving no living creature safe from the stuff!  Unfortunately there is still no off-the-shelf alternative to floral foam, as the properties it needs in floral design is very hard to replicate. Meaning it is still very much widely used, mostly in wedding floristry and funeral work.

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Q. What materials and sourcing principles do you use to provide a more eco-friendly alternative?

A. At Little Garden we strictly use British-grown blooms all year round. Through the Summer this means our flowers are mostly homegrown or sourced within 20 miles from our studio, and the rest of the year we support some larger British growers based in Cornwall and Lancashire. Most of our flowers are pesticide free, and we try to buy plastic free flowers for the large majority of the year. Our customers bouquets come wrapped in paper, with a compostable sticker and string.

We are constantly experimenting with new ideas, techniques and products in the battle against floral foam for wedding and funeral work – and strictly never use the stuff on any given occasion. Mostly we opt for sustainably-sourced moss with compostable bags and wooden bases – making all our designs fully compostable. But I am very much keeping at the forefront of foam-alternative discussions, and trying to help fellow florists in the industry adapt their businesses to use more eco-friendly methods.

Q. Do you think awareness is growing (lol) of these matters, and the industry is responding?

A. I have been running my business for 4.5 years now, and in the last 2 years I have seen a huge shift amongst florists. There is much more awareness on the harm caused by floral foam, and more florists are starting to supporting the British flower industry. Whether this is for environmental reasons or because of the recent Brexit price increases – who knows..! But it’s a step in the right direction.

Generally speaking most customers who come to us already have some awareness about the issues floristry faces (which is how they found us!). But I’m incredibly aware of the sheer volume of people who still have no idea how much harm is caused by something which otherwise seems so innocent. I often think that because it’s a natural product, there is an instant association that it must be harmless and eco-friendly.

Q. What was it like exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show and how did you get the gig?

A. It was mad! Haha! We submitted a design back in November 2019 and didn’t really expect much from it. I’d never applied for anything like it before so it was quite a affirming experience to have the privilege to exhibit there! We had a 3x3meter installation space (basically… huge!) and focused our story on the preservation of our natural spaces. The BBC picked up an interest in the piece and we were fortunate enough to be featured on the BBC Chelsea Coverage with a strong emphasis on our environmental message. This really was the whole purpose of applying in the first place, so it really couldn’t have felt like more of a success. You can catch the piece (10 mins long!) on iPlayer – Chelsea Flower Show coverage Episode 11.

Q. Tell us about the services you offer…

A. So we pretty much do anything any florist would do – but in a wilderness-inspired style and with eco-friendly methods. Bouquets for delivery, subscription flowers, weddings, workshops, funerals, house dressings and Christmas work… we do it all! As well as stocking lovely local shops like Zero with our flowers… and wreath kits, which are available to order via Zero!

Q. Where can people follow your social media or find out more?

A. We are @littlegardenflowers on both Instagram and Facebook. For more information on the services we offer or a chance to join our mailing list, please visit our website www.littlegardenflowers.co.uk

plastic free flowers