The Sustainable Florist
My love for flowers started when I was young. I remember picking wildflowers on walks with my mom as she told me their names and encouraged me to smell (and sometimes even taste) them. Flowers have always evoked feelings of curiosity and wonder about how a small seed can transform into something so beautiful. How after the bleak of winter, the colour of a new life can emerge from under the snow, filling the air with sweet scents and hope for the spring.
I started working with flowers and plants a few years ago to help with my mental health. Living in a high-rise in Toronto with no outdoor space, I started collecting houseplants and bringing home cut-flowers to brighten up my space and surround myself with nature indoors. Working full-time in mental health research, horticultural therapy has become an important part of my work-life balance and self-care routine.
I wanted to spend more of my time around nature and greenery and started volunteering at The Sunshine Garden, a therapeutic garden run by FoodShare Toronto. Not only was I giving back to my community, but I was learning and benefiting alongside the participants. We grew flowers, vegetables, and herbs and I came to understand the importance of food justice work and sustainable growing practices. My time at the garden spreading smiles to my community was so rewarding and led me to pursue growing and designing with flowers.
A huge barrier for me was finding experience working with flowers that made me feel that same connection with nature. Flower miles, plastic waste, flower-foam, chemicals and dyes, and the ‘profit over person and planet’ mentality did not sit well with me when freelancing in the industry. I also became ill when working with some imported flowers, specifically those that were heavily dyed or bleached. This disconnect with nature led me to appreciate the beauty of local and seasonal flowers that have a lower impact on the environment. The Sustainable Florist was born to encourage more sustainable practices in the floral industry and bring about change to make flowers in my community safer for pollinators, people, and the planet.
Where Sammy Grows
I grow flowers in containers in my micro-farm in the Junction Triangle in Toronto, Ontario. By using wooden containers, fabric grow bags, and pots in my rented backyard and deck, I'm able to create a mini urban flower farm!
I also grow in a larger, in-ground micro-farm in Bowmanville, Ontario. This was built by my parents during the COVID-19 pandemic to expand the amount of flowers we could grow. In 2021, the Bowmanville garden is expanding with a greenhouse!
The Local Flower Collective is a hub for local florists to have better access to sustainably farmed Ontario-grown flowers. It is run by growers and florists whose goal is to ensure that more local and ecologically friendly flowers are accessible. The collective connects florists in Toronto and the GTA with growers as far east as Prince Edward County and as far west as Niagra. These are flowers grown by small farms in our local climate that don’t cross oceans or ride in planes. Sammy is a proud member of the collective, which helps connect her to local farmers and seasonal blooms! The best part is that the flowers are never wrapped in single-use plastics, which significantly reduces waste.
Sammy is a member of Ontario Flower Growers, where she sources a selection of locally-grown flowers and foliage. Sammy carefully selects her flowers based on what is locally-grown and untreated, with extra consideration around what is typically sold unwrapped without plastic. Ontario Flower Growers is essential to connecting Sammy to Ontario greenhouse-grown flowers in the winter months. Despite the emissions from heated greenhouses in the winter, Sammy prefers to source flowers locally rather than sourcing imported flowers that lack transparency about chemical-use and ethical work conditions.
As a member of the Floret Farmer-Florist Collective, Sammy is committed to supporting and promoting the seasonal flower movement so that it continues to grow and thrive. She will continue utilizing locally-grown flowers and foliage and prioritizing domestically-grown products over imported ones when local sources are not available. She is also committed to utilizing sustainable growing practices whenever possible. The Farmer-Florist Collective is intended to be used as a tool to make personal connections between growers, designers, and flower lovers and put a face to those behind our local flowers.
As a Slow Flower Society member, Sammy respects the seasons by celebrating and designing with flowers when they naturally bloom. She works to reduce flower miles and the transportation footprint of flowers and foliage by sourcing locally-grown product only. Sammy is committed to sustainable farming practices that respect people, pollinators, and the planet and to eliminate waste and the use of chemical products in the industry. She actively pursues equity, inclusion, and representation in the floral marketplace and supports flower farmers small and large by crediting them for their work and labelling flowers transparently.