Wild flower weddings and natural funeral flowers: what does foam free mean?

Over the past few years, thanks to the tireless campaigning of people like David Attenborough single use plastic has become an important issue in our quest to become more environmentally friendly. For the average person this means cutting down on things like straws, take away coffee cups and plastic bags and bottles, but it may surprise you to know that this also has an impact in the flower world.

Flowers grown in the Briar Rose cutting garden

Flowers grown in the Briar Rose cutting garden

Many florists are trying to find ways to become more environmentally friendly, however for some people this seems to be jumping onto a trend rather than making a genuine commitment to the environment. I see many posts on Instagram talking about seasonal flowers and showing things that could not possibly be grown in the UK at the time of year they are posted, perhaps they mean seasonal colours instead. So if you are interested in truly seasonal flowers question your florist about where they come from. The seasonality of flowers is one of the things that makes them beautiful, but it means you can’t always get the precise flower you want all year round.

Photo by  Ed and Aileen Photography  Flowers all grown at  Millpond Flower Farm

Photo by Ed and Aileen Photography Flowers all grown at Millpond Flower Farm

One way for florists to be more environmentally friendly is to buy more locally grown flowers as this cuts down on air miles, and often these growers use fewer pesticides and do not wrap their produce in plastic but deliver in reusable buckets. For the past few years I have been growing my own flowers and have joined the brilliant collective Flowers From the Farm, where you can find more about the amazing flower growing community in the UK. I have also been buying for Scottish growers such as Millpond Flower Farm and Scottish Cut Flowers, where I have been working one day a week.

Natural foam free heart tribute. Photo by  Fotomaki Photography

Natural foam free heart tribute. Photo by Fotomaki Photography

Another area that has become big news in recent years is the use of floral foam, or Oasis, as it is more commonly known. This green foam is something you’ve likely seen in churches or at your grannie’s and can be soaked with water as a source of moisture for flowers. It has become integral to funeral designs and large event floristry in particular. However it is not biodegradable and contains harmful chemicals that can be breathed in by the florists working with it, or these chemicals can make their way into our water systems once buckets that have had foam in them are washed and cleaned. This then has an impact on the environment at large.

I have been trying to cut down on the use of oasis over the past couple of years, which involves a degree of ingenuity as you have to come up with new ways (or return to the old ways of moss and chicken wire) to create the same look as you would with floral foam. I will admit I am not 100% foam free yet but I am making a commitment to try to slowly edge it out of my designs. Particularly in my natural funeral designs, I offer foam free alternatives so that if you are planning a natural or green burial you can have beautiful funeral flowers that fit with the ethos of the burial ground. If you want to see some of the amazing creations being made without floral foam search for the #foamfree or #nofloralfoam hashtags on Instagram.

Why should this matter to you when choosing your wedding flowers or funeral flowers? Well I think there is a common misconception that because most of the materials are flowers (ie natural) that there is not an environmental angle to think about. But if you are interested in being more environmentally friendly and supporting local growers with your flower choices then be sure to talk to your florist about it and make sure that your designs don’t just look natural but actually are environmentally friendly.