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The Sustainable Flowers Podcast:

A conversation about sustainable cut flower growing and designing between two passionate Canadian  growers trying to figure it out.

Heather and Clara grow cut flowers for market on the northern edge of the Canadian Prairies.  In this podcast they discuss the issues they face and alternatives to conventional approaches that they are putting into practice or are trialing to ensure that their small-scale flower farming operations are sustainable. Looking to the past and to new technologies to learn the whys and hows, they discuss everything from peat to floral foam, Antirrhinum to Zinnias as well as their weekly adventures on their Zones 2 and 3 flower farms.

Apr 24, 2019

This week we talk about floral and other horticultural foams.  The most commonly available foams to the floriculture, floristry and horticulture industries are phenolic or polyurethane plastic foams.  Because of their lack of degradability and other issues related to the hazardous chemicals used in their production, those of us working in horticulture and floristry and floriculture should be aware of the issues. 

Today we chat about these foams and some of the R&D into alternatives or "improvements" to the foams (all of which is very new). 

Our key message is the same as that of some of the big name designers who avoid the use of floral foam:

Work like it never existed!  Floristry and horticulture existed way before the 1950's when these  plastic foams were invented

Because of the issues related to foam toxicity, lack of degradability and full life cycle costs, we feel it is best to just avoid using them altogether.   And, we should encourage our researchers and policy makers to spend money on improved organic crop production, greenhouse technology to reduce footprints, etc. , rather than spending money on alternatives to plastic products we don't really need, and which are questionably "environmentally friendly".

The links or research documents we reference in this episode are:

Instagram "No Floral Foam" hashtag

MSDS sheet for Oasis Floral Foam 

Link to Tobey Nelson Events Instagram Post discussing degradability of "new" floral foam from oasis

Ahmad, I., Dole, J. M., Clark, E. M. R., Blazich, F. A. 2014. Floral foam and/or conventional or organic preservatives affect the vase-life and quality of cut rose (Rosa * hybrida L.) stems. Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology. Vol 89 pp 41-46

Basso, M.C., A. Pizzi, F. Al-Marzouki, S. Abdalla. 2016. Horticultural/hydroponics and floral natural foams from tannins. Industrial Crops and Products 87 (2016) 177–181. 

Wheeler, R., S.H. Schwartzkopf, T.W. Tibbits, R.W.Langhans. 1985. Elimination of toxicity from polyurethane foam plugs used for plant culture.   Hortscience 20(3) 448-449. 


In an upcoming episode we will be hearing from some of the leading designers who avoid the use of foam and how they achieve their amazing results- so stay tuned for that episode coming up in future weeks. 

Our theme music was composed and performed by Heather's son Callum, and the challenging job of audio editing was completed by the brilliant Laura Eccleston.