A Rose Is Not Just A Rose Anymore: Cut Flowers Or Guerilla Gardening

(Image from Roses Fabien Ducher)

We all love flowers and here in Japan, you can find a local hanaya-san on every corner. People do love flowers. Problem is, it is getting difficult to know if the cut flowers available are locally grown. The cut flower market is considered to be worth US$7-8 billion in terms of retail value. 90 per cent are traditional varieties such as chrysanthemums, carnations, roses, orchids, and lilies. The chrysanthemum is one of Japan’s national flowers, but where was it grown, or what is the total environmental impact?

Some flower shops are noting an increase in excema and skin problem in workers who are handling the chemical-laced cut flowers.

Similar to certified organic food, there is now a way of knowing how to choose cut flowers from producers that avoid or reduce harmful pesticides or herbicides.

To speed things up, sounds like we need more guerilla gardening, but until then, what is a poor Romeo-san supposed to do, when his Julia-chan could need a little encouragement?

The rose, as we know it, was first noted in the first printed catalogue of roses from Gerard's garden in Holborn, dated 1596. Sixteen names, in Latin, are listed, all species and variations and sports of species. In 1696 Plunkenet added R. multiflora (the Polyantha or Japanese Rose) as the Dutch were bringing home varieties of precious East Asian flowers to Europe.

Today, our Romeo-san would be glad to know that there are some 2,400 rose growers in Japan, but not so glad to learn that the growing area and number of growers here is slowly decreasing. Japanese rose production is characterized by small scale farming with a focus on quality for sales to the local market. The market for the most popular varieties of flowers in Japan is very competitive. The major supply countries of traditional varieties are:

* Chrysanthemums: Malaysia, China, Korea, Taiwan
* Carnations: Colombia, China
* Roses: Korea, India
* Orchids: Taiwan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore
* Lilies: Korea, China

Japanese companies now make investments or have partnerships with suppliers in these countries and control product quality and standards.

If Romeo-san wants to know what those standards are, he would have to wade through a lot of website data and go through great lenghts to call the companies and convince them to tell him the details.

Our Romeo-san may wish to resort to reading poems, but, alas, these days, a rose is not just a rose: UPOV, the Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, stipulates that a rose that is bred and controlled by a plant breeder, is now a market commodity! Or else! The rose breeder will take a royalty each time a single rose of that particular variety is sold anywhere in the world, on the international market.

In South Korea, they just recently introduced their first new type of rose, that they think they can promote internationally, and make US$1 per each cut flower sold, anywhere in the world. This could be good news, as Korea imports 98% of all its cut flowers.

A Japanese company called MPS Floral Marketing decided that they had had enough. They started working with the Japan Floral Marketing Association (JFMA) to set up a network for holding workshops about environment-friendly horticulture. They wanted to promote the Dutch MPS certification system. MPS stands for Milieu Programma Sierteelt, an environmental horticulture certification program that originated in Holland in 1995:

MPS Japan certifies flowers and ornamental plants grown using environment-friendly cultivation methods. The new network is called the MPS Participant Network Conference. MPS Japan was funded and founded by JFMA in August 2006, and has been promoting environmentally proactive cultivation inviting on flower producers to participate in a green certification system called MPS-ABC, which started functioning in January 2007. In this system, participating growers record and report data on pesticide, fertilizer and energy consumption and waste management. When data covering a period of 12 weeks (3 growing terms of 4 weeks each) is reported, the grower receives MPS Participant Logo Mark labels with an evaluation rank (A, B, C) indicating the level of their environmental effort, and the labels can be put on the products.

MPS-A, B and C are environmental registration certificates. This program lets consumers know that growers were fulfilling their social responsibility. They also work in close cooperation with distributors and flower shops. The certification labels publicize the industry's active role in the environmental movement.

Ranking their environmental effort now helps growers improve their management system. About 4,500 organizations around the world have been certified and 31 countries have adopted the MPS-ABC system.

If you are going to buy cut flowers, start asking for these labels and systems, and if your flower shop doesn't know the first thing about them, tell him/her about it, or go to another shop.

Update: Thanks to spicnspanish: VeriFlora is the floral certification to look for in the United States.

Japan for Sustainability: Eco Certification System for Flower Cultivation Established in Japan

Read more on Treehugger:
About VeriFlora: New Sustainable Floral Label
Sustainability at the Hampton Court Flower Show
Chelsea Flower Show Explores Climate Change
A Handbook for Guerrilla Gardening

Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp

Tags: Environmental Certifications | Japan | Netherlands | Shopping | South Korea

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