Valentine’s Day is traditionally the day when your knight in shinning armour comes crashing through your door on his gleaming white stallion with a rose between his teeth, a pack of Milk Tray in his lap and a fist full of Love Hearts to declare his undying love for you. Well something like that anyway.
The rose (as well as Milk Tray and Love Hearts) has become synonymous with love and Valentine ’s Day thanks to the Roman goddess Aphrodite. Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love and Beauty as well as the Goddess of Flowers and was mainly associated with the rose. Flowers are considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful sexual organs so it makes sense that they are so closely connected with love and beauty.
It is estimated that in the UK 1 billion roses are sold for Valentine’s Day, but where do all these roses come from? Well the majority of them come from Kenya but they also from Columbia and Holland. Not only do these roses have some serious air miles on them but also many of them are not grown in an environmentally sustainable way.
A large proportion of the roses grown in Kenya are grown on the banks of Lake Naivasha. In some ways this is good as it’s a very profitable export business that has brought jobs to the area and wealth to Kenya, however, in other ways it’s a disaster. Farms rely on the lake for irrigation, pipes feed the greenhouses straight from the lake. Water’s being drawn out faster than it’s replenished and water levels have dropped considerably. Not only has the drop in water levels become a disaster for declining hippo and bird populations but also for farmers and the Kenyan economy. If it carries on at the rate it is currently dropping, in time there just won’t be any water left to drain out. With the export of roses from Kenya on the up its also means an increase on the export of water, Kenya’s scares natural resource.
So what flowers can we give our loved ones this Valentine’s Day which have slightly better green credentials than the rose?
Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, camellias and narcissus are all flowering and looking beautiful at the moment. Luckily here in Cornwall (well the Isle of Scilly is almost Cornwall isn’t it?) we’ve got Scilly Flowers and the Eden Project who both provide beautiful British grown bouquets delivered straight to your door. However if you just can’t say I Love You without a red rose look out for roses with a Fairtrade status and why not mix in some native foliage like ivy (Hedera helix), dogwood (Cornus alba) or corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’).