No floral foam for me! An environmental and sustainable guarantee.

Floral garland made with no foam. Photo by me.

I started in this business as a home gardener. For years before I owned Passalongs Farm or made a single wedding bouquet, I tended large perennial gardens, tried to grow veggies, and worked at a farmers’ market, where I fell in love with farmers and farm culture. Personally, I’ve always recycled, cooked from scratch as much as possible, and tried to reduce waste. I’m thrifty, environmentally conscious – oh, and happen to be partnered up with a husband whose business is energy efficiency in all forms. We are not as green as some, but greener than most.

When I started creating floral designs beyond simple bouquets I was astonished at the amount of waste there is in this business. An example: if I buy 24 roses at our local wholesaler, not only have those roses traveled from who knows where (Central America or Colombia, likely) and have been refrigerated for who knows how long (3 weeks?) but they come wrapped in lots and lots of packaging. 24 roses from the wholesaler are wrapped in layers of paper, cardboard, and finally plastic, then my wholesaler wraps all the flowers up in more paper or puts them back in their waxed shipping boxes.

Contrast that with flowers I buy from local farms: unwrapped, maybe with a rubber band holding them in bunches, transferred from their buckets to my buckets.

Contrast that with flowers I grow myself in my permaculture beds: I simply walk out my door and cut them. Yes, there were costs and fossil fuels and shipping involved, depending what it is I’m cutting, but there’s no packaging to throw away or recycle.

So, even though I acknowledge the waste in purchasing flowers that have been shipped cross-country (or cross-countries), I don’t see doing without my wholesaler in the near future. As I grow my business I’m discovering that I like having the variety that the wholesaler provides. I don’t grow roses, for example, and I don’t want to grow roses. They’re too picky and buggy and unpredictable. I don’t know anyone locally who grows roses in quantity. The ones I get wholesale are also beautiful, uniform, and easy to work with. So we’re stuck with the imported roses for the time being. I also live in western Massachusetts and our flowering season is realistically only about 4-5 months long. I could push it with a greenhouse, but for now I’ve made the choice not to do that. So I will always need to buy flowers from someone else. Preferably local growers, first, then second, certified American grown, or purchased directly from farms in other growing zones whom I’ve connected with over the years. But sometimes in the interest of time, efficiency, the look I’m going for or a particular color scheme – not to mention cost, I need to throw all these principles to the wind and buy out.

So – I’ve chosen not to be 100% purely seasonal, local, and home-grown when it comes to the flowers. But I’ll tell you one choice I’ve made that I feel very strongly about: NO FOAM.

Foam, sometimes called Oasis (after one of the companies who manufacture it, is a tool many conventional florists use to create floral designs. It comes in blocks or other shapes, and is used to hydrate and anchor designs that may otherwise be difficult to create. There are likely other reasons to use it, but since I have no formal floral education those are the reasons I can think of.

When I first started out I figured foam would be part of the equation. The first arch installation I did  (for practice) used foam.

floral arch
First arch installation I made. Used floral foam. Didn’t need to.

I figured I needed it, because that’s what everyone else did. And while, sure, it kept the flowers and foliage alive for a couple of days, I ended up with some nasty bricks of oasis that I just threw away. Fine, if it was biodegradable or compostable – but it’s not. Also maybe fine: if it was the only way I could create installations and arrangements that looked good. I’m not a purist. I would love to be 100% sustainable all the time, but I’m also practical. But neither of those things are true. It’s not biodegradable, and it’s easy – maybe even easier now that I’ve done it a bunch – to create gorgeous designs without using foam.

Like this:

floral arch
Arch installation made with no floral foam. Photo by me.

And this:


floral arch
Floral arch made without foam. Photo by Eric Limon Photography

Or this:

floral arch
Floral arch made with no floral foam. Photo by me.

Or this one:

Floral arch made with no foam. Photo by me.

You see, it can not only be simply done, but done beautifully as well!