Creative designs with fresh flowers are what East End Flower Alley specializes in. *Photo supplied

Creative designs with fresh flowers are what East End Flower Alley specializes in. *Photo supplied

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Many of us are aware of the benefits of organically produced meat and vegetables, but probably have not even thought about organic flowers.

Alison Bardgett, co-owner with husband Chris of East End Flower Alley in St. George’s, has given the matter plenty of thought.

“Organically grown flowers result in a much fuller bloom and natural fragrance,” Mrs. Bardgett said.

The focus at East End Flower Alley is on organically grown, fair trade (VeriFlora) flowers. Mrs. Bardgett explained that the organization VeriFlora “organizes the policing of the fair trade floral industry. Flowers have to go through a rigorous process to get certified. They either have to be totally organic or working toward being completely organic before being certified. It is better for handlers, and with no

use of chemical pesticides it has got to be better for the environment and for farm workers.”

VeriFlora describes itself as “an agricultural sustainability certification and eco-labelling programme recognized as the gold-standard in the floriculture and horticulture industries.”

Its programme is administered by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), a global third-party certifier of environmental, sustainability and agricultural product quality claims.

It is all about farming practices and the need to build soil, conserve water and support healthy ecosystems which at the same time benefit workers, consumers and the environment while meeting the consumer demand for cut flowers through sustainable farming practices.

“I would like to be at the stage where we only have fair trade flowers,” Mrs. Bardgett said. “But there are certain things you can’t get through the fair trade organization. If we have specific orders, sometimes they are not available in that colour or variety. So we have a mix of about 80 per cent organic.”

As the island does not have a cut flower industry almost all flowers have to be air freighted. What is surprising is how quickly the flowers arrive in Bermuda after they are cut, considering they are grown in Ecuador, Colombia, Holland, California and are delivered via New Jersey and Boston.

“Door to door, we generally have a 24-hour turn- around,” said Mrs. Bardgett. She went on to explain that on arrival at the airport the cut flowers are subject to a rigorous microscopic inspection for insects that could be a threat to our environment.

As a result there have been times when consignments have had to be destroyed. “When that happens we work with our suppliers who go back to the farms to eradicate the problem,” said Mrs. Bardgett.

At East End Flower Alley they try to recycle as much as they can.

“We use glass containers wherever possible and tell clients they can recycle with us,” said Mrs. Bardgett. Brides can also hire glass vases and containers.

Spoilage is an occupational hazard for any florist and Mrs. Bardgett is busy working on a solution. “I try making potpourri from the spoilage.

It is an interesting process, especially with the humidity, as many batches get mould and don’t dry out. It remains a challenge to do it.”

For ceremonies at sea Mrs. Bardgett makes sure that the wreaths are completely biodegradable and is ‘horrified’ that wreaths containing styrofoam are floating on the ocean.

“I make the wreath shape with twisted willow, and from natural wood and foliage from here, and use organically grown flowers in the wreath display,” said Mrs. Bardgett.

East End Flower Alley run a Flowerpeutic Workshop twice a month in the shop, as they believe that flowers have a positive affect on people.

“We show some techniques at the beginning and people have a glass of wine or soft drinks. Claire Bleeker (senior florist) and I give a short demonstration on the theme of the workshop. It could be Bermuda cedar, kettles or many other topics.

“It’s more about tuning out to everything else when you are concentrating in that creative zone . . . it is hands-on. As soon as we have shown the technique part they go and select flowers . . . and the creative buzz in the room is incredible.

“It is fascinating to see how the arrangement a person creates matches their personality. It’s amazing when they step back from the structure they have created and I ask them to describe their personality. . . it is an extension of themselves.

“For those two hours they are completely tuned to everything that is going on; concentrating just on one thing. They feel like they have been on vacation and have had a fun evening . . . totally relaxed as they disappear into our world.”

Flowers can imitate art as Mrs. Bardgett proved when she exhibited her artwork at Masterworks recently. Her paintings, inspired by old masters, were accompanied by flower arrangements that reflected her interpretation of each piece of work. “Everyone who came through commented on the fragrance,” Mrs. Bardgett said. Indeed, it is the fragrance of organically grown flowers that many have commented upon, suggestive of former times and a simpler life.

East End Flower Alley is raising our awareness, not just of the benefits of organically grown flowers, but also for the need for cut flowers to be produced at sustainable growth farms that have the environment and the workers’ best interests in mind. I

East End Flower Alley is proud to announce the opening of their new outlet in Bermuda’s most popular health store, Down to Earth, as of Friday August 27.