Noot always know what lies behind a beautiful bouquet of red roses. Maybe they come from Africa with a long plane ride before ending up at our house. Or they are Italian, but also in this case they flew to Amsterdam where a Dutch wholesaler bought them – Holland governs the buying and selling of flowers – and, once resold, they made their way back to our florist. The international market works like this. Transportation, again by plane, is not without ecological consequences and low-priced products in distant countries don’t always respect the environment and workers. For several years, starting from the Anglo-Saxon world, a new paradigm was born: “flower farming”: a model that is also gaining ground in Italy with the aim of offering the consumer an Italian flower, local and zero km, respectful of seasonality and cultivated in a sustainable way. Of a non-serial, but natural beauty. There is also an association, Slow Flowers Italywhich brings together growers, florists and floral designers who subscribe to this philosophy.
What exactly is a sustainable flower? There isn’t a single definition, but among women in flower farming – the sector has a very high presence of women – there are shared principles. First of all, no chemicals, neither to fertilize the soil, nor to fight pests and diseases. We try to consume as little energy as possible, avoiding greenhouses with lights and heating. The growers sell to florists or directly to the consumer, and propose arrangements with their flowers, but all this happens in a short distance, because transport, in addition to being expensive, pollutes. We are also ecological by creating as little waste as possible: plastic and non-biodegradable flower sponges are not used for bouquets and arrangements. Recyclable materials such as wrapping paper, wire mesh and reusable containers are preferred, in which the cut flower is placed in water.
The life of those who do flower farming is tiring: the plants require daily attention and the months full of events such as weddings have a fast pace. However, as the entrepreneurs interviewed by iO Donna tell us, it’s worth it.
Giulia’s flower farming: «Our organic tulips last much longer»
Giulia Repetti 34 years old, mother of three children, owner with her husband Andrea of the Cascina Brontola farm ( farmhouse grumbles. com) in the province of Piacenza
«I was thinking of becoming a landscaper but Andrea had moved to the countryside and got me involved. We built the company from scratch. I started inserting flowers, I fell in love with this lifestyle and it has become a choice that also allows me to be close to children. Today flowers are just a piece: we have goats, laying hens, bees, vegetables, we produce flour from our own wheat, jams and preserves. Everything is organic, without forcing. For my plants, I have three unheated greenhouses, and in the fields I use a non-woven fabric cover to bring forward the spring harvest. I also grow edible flowers. The production is wide: daffodils, tulips, zinnias, amaranths, celosias, gonfrene, dahlias…
People notice the difference between sustainable and non-sustainable flowers: a bouquet of my tulips lasts longer than one that has been in a cold room. Those who come to us during flowering are struck by the varieties: traditional production focuses on only a few, those that are easier to transport and package. I never stop. Vacation? Never more than two or three days.’
«We have reinvented the family business»
Teresa Cugusi 37 years old, created Flowers with her sisters Laura and Mara Puscina ( puscinaflowers. com ), in the province of Siena. She is the mother of two children
«It all started in 2014. After studying in the artistic field, we found ourselves sharing the desire not to lose the bond with the earth. We wanted to reinvent the family farm. By chance, we approached the flowers. We liked the idea of having a garden in which to produce, even to create flower arrangements in which to test our artistic vein.
The debut with cornflowers worked: we now have a hectare of shrubs and trees as well as our annuals, perennials and 300 English roses. Mara has been out since 2019, now she lives abroad. Laura and I, with our supportive retired mother and four employees, we range from weddings to hotel supplies, we sell bouquets and hold workshops for florists. And then, there’s the picking: for example, in April, a guided tour with the possibility of picking 10 tulips yourself.
With our flowers, we manage to be 80 percent self-sufficient: if we lack specimens of a certain type and color for an installation, we integrate with Italian products by purchasing them from a wholesaler. My favorite flower? Poppies: not just red, but pink, blush, purple, white… We also have zinnias, cosmeas, dahlias, sweet peas… Biodiversity is important: we also use wild flowers and leaves, we like to experiment with different varieties».
«I learned to plan and know how to wait»
Giulia Trentin 43 years old, founder of Zia Nina Flower Farm in the province of Treviso ( zianinaflowerfarm.com) and mother of three boys
«We live in the countryside, near the Piave. Partly for the desire to change after years of office work, partly to get closer to my husband Alessandro who has a nursery and vineyards, during the lockdown I started sowing flowers. It wasn’t enough for me, however: I wanted to have a specific preparation. So I followed the Floret online workshop and the Olga’s Flower Farm course. I was already sensitive to the issue of sustainability: I have three children and I’m more worried about the planet than covid. Alessandro is also attentive to the environment and people’s health. It was therefore natural to move towards the production of sustainable flowers. In addition to bulbous plants such as daffodils and hyacinths, I plant tulips, peonies, irises, alliums, then annuals and dahlias, which are my specialty. No chemicals, just manure in the ground.
Last summer, we had some problems with popillias, very harmful beetles: to protect the flowers, I protected them with organza envelopes, which I also used for the roses in my collection. I’m experimenting with long-stemmed ornamental brassicas this winter. Working well with social media, I have about twenty florists who buy from me. Sometimes there are those who ask for the impossible. For example, peonies in July: the seasonal flowering is in May. This work has also taught me to plan and know how to wait: nature has its times».
«Young brides choose sustainable flowers»
Olga Campagnoli 42 years old, owner of Olga’s Flower Farm ( off 2017.eu) in Longone al Segrino, in the province of Como
«I was born among flowers: my family has had a farm for four generations, but I wanted to do something else in life. Degree in Economics, two years in Paris… On my return, I worked as a garden designer for eight years, after a master’s degree in landscape design. And then in 2016, I felt like dedicating myself to flowers, choosing the path of sustainability. In one area of the nursery I planted zinnias, gourds, amaranths and cosmos and launched my flower farm the following year. My first clients were some florists and some brides, now weddings or furniture fair arrangements are part of my business. I only use my own flowers, if something is missing I can go to another flower farm.
I hold courses, I organize experiences for foreigners who come to us – aperitif, flower picking and creation of your own composition to take away -, I sell bulbs and seeds. I grow everything in the field, I only have a tunnel to protect the first bulbs and the last dahlias. There are four of us: besides me, two employees and my mother. I really enjoy working on the varieties of daffodils, tulips and dahlias. Every year I have news from Dutch breeders. People around me still struggle to understand my research work. Luckily it is easier with young brides, who arrive already convinced of the choice of having sustainable flowers».
Marzia’s flower farming: «We focus on varieties against the unexpected»
Marzia Barosso 34 years old, owner of Viale Flower Farm ( vialeflowerfarm.com) in the Asti area
«I started with a field of peonies in 2018. Growing flowers was nothing new to me: we’ve always had a garden, my mother had passed on the passion to me. I entered the world of work as a journalist. Collaborating with magazines in the horticultural sector, I got the idea of trying. Today, on my farm in the hills, I grow over 400 varieties of annuals and perennials: roses, dahlias, daffodils, gladioli, agapanthus, peonies, bearded irises. Producing seasonal flowers in the open field exposes you to risks, from sudden changes in temperature to insects: you have to focus on many varieties to face the unexpected.
This year we had Oxythyrea funesta, a kind of bug that nibbles on flowers. Using no chemistry, we hooded the flowers one by one: quite an effort. But severe drought is also a problem: the seedlings produced fewer dahlias. After the covid weddings have become the predominant part of the work. Young people are very sensitive to the environment. I tell them what flowers there are in the chosen period and the color palette. After cutting the cake, we disassemble the arrangements: the flowers become bouquets that the guests take home; cups and vases from our collection we take them away for the next ceremony. It’s more sustainable to enjoy flowers without wasting them.”
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