Locally sourced peaches are sweeter; locally sourced fluke is fresher. It’s not news to anyone that the closer to home your food is sourced, the brighter it shines. The same is true for almost everything, like the flowers on the kitchen table. If you don’t have a green thumb, there are plenty of local growers who harness their understanding of the growing seasons to bring the brightest bouquets to the markets throughout the spring, summer and fall.
As we creep toward the end of summer, late summer sunflowers are lining up like soldiers in the field, and you can find them bursting from local farm stands as well. At Pike’s Farm Stand in Sagaponack, they sell these strong-stemmed, long living cut flowers by the bunch and as single stems. For only $1.25, you can bring home a single tall sunflower to brighten up the kitchen window.
Regina Whitney, of Regina’s Farm Stand in East Hampton, loves cut flowers like cosmos, zinnias, snapdragons and black-eyed Susans. She arranges them with locally grown herbs.
“We use parsley, dill, basil, rosemary and sage in our arrangements,” she says.
The use of herbs alongside flowers adds another dimension to the arrangements, evoking the power of smell along with the striking quality of the colors of the flowers.
Laura Smith, who along with her husband owns Serene Green Farm Stand on Noyac Road in Sag Harbor, grows some of her flowers right on the land behind the farm stand. The rest of her flowers, including peonies, zinnias, hydrangeas and sunflowers, are sourced from six different farmers on the North Fork.
“The flowers make people smile,” says Smith. “They’re a miracle. My husband always says how he finds it to be amazing that a small brown seed planted in the brown earth transforms itself into such magnificent colors.”
At Serene Green, they also grow their own lavender. Next year they plan to grow their own sunflowers, gladiolas and cosmos. That way, people will see the crops growing right there, and they will make that connection from the earth to their table.
Anastasia Casale of Sag Harbor Florist has found that people looking for flower arrangements are more and more interested in sourcing locally and seasonally. Not only does this fit in with the green movement toward more environmental practices, but it’s also more cost effective. Casale grows most of her own flowers at a farm on the North Fork between April and November. She also travels in to the flower district in New York City to hand-select flowers from all over the world.
When she can, she sources locally. Orchids, which are not native to the area and therefore need to be imported as small plants, are an example of a species Casale likes to buy locally. A farm on the North Fork plants the baby orchids and grows them so purveyors like Casale can select the ones they want.
“There are greenhouses all over the country [for orchids],” explains Casale. “But I get mine from a local greenhouse because I like to hand select them, just like I hand select all my flowers. I would never order them online.”
Perhaps the most valuable thing about buying flowers from local purveyors is the accountability. When you buy flowers shipped in from across the world, you have no idea how long they’ve been sitting on a refrigerated truck, and you have no idea of the practices of the farmer who grew them. By buying locally, you can put a face to the product. You know where your flowers are coming from, and you can ask questions and expect them to be answered knowledgeably. At this time of year, when the fields are bursting with flowers grown and harvested right in our own back yards, supporting your local flower vendors has never been so easy.