Thicket’s commitment to sustainability

Hi, I’m Lisa, farmer florist at Thicket, and I’m in love with the beauty of flowers—their vibrant and nuanced colors, their intricate and varied shapes, the way they brighten a garden and bring life into a room.

But even more than gardens and arrangements, I’m in love with the natural landscapes where people first found flowers growing and, enchanted, began to cultivate them.

The Monterey Peninsula, where Thicket is based, is home to sandy dunes and redwood glades, oak and pine forests, and vast expanses of chaparral, and they are glorious. Each of these interwoven ecosystems not only helps meet our physical needs for clean air and water, food, medicine, and materials, but offers a place where we can breathe deeply and tap into our inner sense of awe.

These habitats deserve our care and protection, and that’s why I’m so passionate about building sustainability into every single aspect of how I grow, design, and arrange flowers at Thicket. Every decision is made with an eye to reducing or eliminating waste, minimizing any environmental impact, and wherever possible, actively supporting and nurturing the people, plants, and animals that make up my local ecosystem.

Read on to learn how I prioritize sustainability in every facet of my work.



Flower farming practices

I grow as many of my own flowers as possible, which allows me to apply the organic, regenerative methods described below while eliminating the environmental footprint generated by importing.

As a flower farmer, my aim is not only to reduce the harmful impacts of certain modern farming techniques, but to actively nurture the soil and support a vibrant ecosystem. This includes protecting the complex relationships within the natural habitat, and minimizing or eliminating any use of synthetic inputs.

Flower selection

Sustainability begins with the plants I choose to grow. Trying to produce flowers out of season, or grow plants not suited for the climate, demands a heavy price in terms of resources.

To reduce this impact, I select in-season, climate-appropriate flowers. For me in Monterey, this means varieties that can thrive with little water (including California natives not commonly available to florists) and do not require lots of summer heat or winter chill. I grow all my plants in the field, with no heated greenhouses or extra lighting to force blooms.

Seed starting and propagation

The vast majority of my flowers begin as seeds or cuttings, which I nurture on site into blooming plants. This allows me to control the entire growing process and eliminate the footprint of transporting large plants with soil.

I use sustainable coconut coir, a byproduct of the coconut industry, as a replacement for peat extracted from shrinking natural bogs. Most of my smaller seeds start their lives in soil blocks set on reusable trays. For larger seeds and cuttings, I rely on a combination of recycled nursery pots and sturdy, reusable plastic seedling cell packs and trays, which I clean and store for many years of waste-free reuse.

My seed-starting area is inside my house, requiring no additional ambient heat. I rotate seeds that require warmth to germinate across a single heat mat, and grow seedlings on under low-energy lights. In my mild California coastal climate, most plants are ready to move outside into the natural sunlight very soon after sprouting.

Fertilizer

To supply the nutrients my plants need while keeping the soil healthy, I rely mostly on applications of compost (purchased locally and produced on site from green waste) and worm compost (produced on site from household food scraps), chop-and-drop cover crops grown as green manure while beds are fallow between flower crops, and interplanting with nitrogen-fixing plants. I use a natural liquid fish emulsion to feed seedlings before they are planted out into the soil.

These practices not only feed my crops, but prevent water pollution via fertilizer runoff (which is a direct concern for me, since there’s a seasonal creek running behind my land).

Water-wise irrigation

For annual flowers, I use a combination of drip irrigation and hand watering, mostly with rainwater that I harvest over the winter and store in two large tanks (1000 and 800 gallons).

Many of my perennial plantings are California natives that naturally require little to no additional water in this climate, and others are irrigated with household grey water. Water from flower buckets, vases, etc. is used to irrigate trees and shrubs.

No-till farming

Leaving the soil undisturbed and cutting plants instead of pulling them out (leaving the roots to decompose) benefits soil microbes, reduces erosion, and improves soil structure and water retention. I use no-till methods in all my growing.

Mulching

I apply natural wood chips or shredded green waste around annual beds and around the plants inside perennial beds. This practice helps retain water in the soil, decrease water use by reducing evaporation, and prevent soil from washing away, while also decomposing over time to feed the soil.

Pest and disease control

Instead of large-scale monocultures, which deplete the soil, increase the risk of disease outbreaks and pest infestations and offer little benefit to local pollinators and other species, I grow a wide variety of flowers and companion plants in a small space. To prevent the spread of disease, I practice crop rotation between my different beds and growing spaces, monitor plants closely and remove affected plants quickly.

I interplant crops with flowers that attract beneficial insects to help control small soft-bodied insects such as aphids, and occasionally spray plants with essential oils (such as lemongrass) mixed with water to discourage sap-suckers.

I hand-pick larger insects and use netting, simple traps, and reusable mesh bags to protect blooms.

Chemical use

I do NOT use commercial flower food, floral sprays, or chemical pesticides on my farm, even those approved for organic growers. The only packaged products I use in growing flower crops are:

  • Chlorine tabs: used to reduce bacterial growth in buckets used to store certain flowers. The small amount of chlorine evaporates harmlessly, leaving the water safe to use on my plants.
  • Essential oils: most commonly lemongrass, mixed with water and a bit of dish soap in a spray to discourage sucking insects.
  • Gnatrol / BT (bacillus thuringiensis). A natural, soil-dwelling bacterium, which I use occasionally as a soil drench to control the larvae of fungus gnats in potting and seedling soil.
  • Fish emulsion, as a liquid fertilizer when starting plants from seed..


Floral design practices

Although many convenient, single-use design and packaging materials have been developed in recent decades, floral design thrived for centuries without them. Both in my retail arrangements and at weddings and events, I work with sustainable methods that allow for reuse, recycling, and composting of the mechanics that make my designs possible.

Flower sourcing

As described above, I grow almost all of the flowers I use in retail bouquets and arrangements and as many as possible for events. Whether I’ve grown them myself or not, all of my flowers are in season and locally grown (either at my own downtown Monterey location, or in the Monterey Bay area). This greatly reduces the plastic and cardboard waste generated by packing and shipping flowers.

Whenever possible, flowers I purchase are also organic—locally grown roses are currently the only exception.

I never import out-of-season flowers, or use flowers or foliage that do not grow in this area. If you have your heart set on something I can’t grow or get locally, I will happily refer you to another local florist who works with those blooms. Similarly, while I love to include seed heads as design accents, I avoid seed heads from invasive plants, especially for events at outdoor venues where they can easily disperse.

Occasionally, I forage for materials. My approach to responsible foraging is detailed in this blog post. I never use dyed or painted materials (although I’m considering experimenting with my own natural botanical dyes to color flowers). While I occasionally use dried or ‘everlasting’ flowers, they are ones I’ve grown or foraged myself and simply air dried with no use of chemicals.

No floral foam – design alternatives for installations

Oasis and other floral foam products have been in use since the 1950s. This single-use plastic item is extremely convenient for florists, allowing flowers to be securely and precisely placed while providing water. Unfortunately, while the foam crumbles very easily, it is not compostable: it simply breaks down into microplastics which contaminate water and disperse in the environment.

At Thicket, all of my work is always entirely foam-free. Instead of floral foam, I opt for reusable and compostable alternatives. If I will be picking up a design after an event, I may work with chicken wire, reusable cages, or flower frogs; if not, I try to use entirely compostable and natural mechanics such as coiled vines, natural pebbles or sand, and occasionally AgraWool (a home compostable floral foam alternative made of basalt wool with plant-based starch binders).

I make my wreaths on bases of grapevine (mostly grown here at Thicket) and creeping wire vine (an invasive species that I forage).

I secure mechanics with reusable wire, vines, or the stems themselves whenever possible, using floral glue or tape when needed.

Bouquets and arrangements

My everyday bouquets are tied with simple compostable hemp twine. My hand-tied bridal bouquets use all-natural silk or cotton ribbon. I never use plastic packaging—retail bouquets are wrapped with upcycled kraft paper packaging or grocery bags hand-cut to size.

Similarly, I make my cards from upcycled kraft paper and stamp each by hand, attaching them with twine or simply nestling the card into the flowers rather than inserting a single-use plastic pick.

Vase recycling program

I proudly purchase vases for my retail designs secondhand. This approach takes more time, but it’s worth it to give new life to items that are no longer wanted while eliminating the environmental footprint and copious packaging required to ship fragile items.

If you’ve received or purchased an arrangement from Thicket in a vase you don’t plan to keep and reuse, you may bring it back with the Thicket card in exchange for a $5 discount off your next order.

Waste: Compost, recycling, and donations

Floral design produces a fair amount of plant waste from trimming stems and leaves. I shred and scatter the majority of this waste to feed my trees and shrubs as green manure; any remainder goes to municipal compost pickup.

Cardboard and paper waste is upcycled, recycled, or composted.

For weddings and events, I donate any remaining flowers and arrangements to be enjoyed by patients at local nursing homes and hospice centers.


But can sustainable be: elegant, spectacular, creative…?

In a word, yes. All that and so much more.

We’ve been trained to trust large chains that serve up an identical product or experience regardless of the time or season, or even where we are in the world. We know exactly what we’re getting into, and that feels safe.

But is safe and predictable what you’re envisioning when your best friend opens the door to a surprise birthday bouquet, or when you walk into your wedding reception hand in hand with your new husband or wife? What about wonder?

I truly believe that flowers are not meant to be a predictable, identical commodity. Flowers that are grown locally, free from the constraints of surviving a logistics chain, can afford to be delicate and fragrant and gently curving and uniquely, utterly themselves.

Transcendent.


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