Flowers. When it comes to courting your Valentine, you gotta have ’em. Roses may be the standby for the holiday, but don’t overlook the beautiful, locally grown cut flowers available. This year, express your love for Maui as you woo your Valentine with a creative choice of flowers.
The locavore movement is nothing new; eating locally grown food has steadily gained support over recent years with restaurants highlighting Kula greens and Maui onions. Buying other products grown on Maui, like flowers presented on Valentine’s Day, is yet another way to help our community by preventing the import of invasive species and growing the local economy.
Like agriculture, the floral industry has become increasingly globalized. During just one week in February 2008, flowers and foliage shipped to Maui came from Columbia, Italy, Thailand, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Ecuador, Peru, California and Florida. Some shipments are refused or incinerated at the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture inspection facility because they carry pests and diseases not known to be in Hawai‘i. But consumers can help stem the introduction of hitchhiking pests.
“If we can buy locally grown things, there is less risk of invasive species being spread and it helps local businesses,” explains Glenn Sakamoto, training and education specialist with HDOA.
Carver Wilson of Maui Floral knows firsthand about the hitchhiking pests carried in cut flowers and foliage. He and other florists throughout the state have voluntarily cut back on their use of eucalyptus and wax myrtle as foliage in arrangements. These plants in the myrtle family are imported from out-of-state and are the likely culprit for bringing in the invasive ‘ōh‘ia rust that spread quickly, killing rose apple trees throughout the state. “The rust is a detriment, so we chose to use something else,” Wilson says. The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture is in the process of pursuing a permanent ban on the import of myrtle plants to protect against new strains of the rust out of concern for protecting native ‘ōh‘ia.
Some of Wilson’s suggestions for locally grown bouquets: Orchids, pincushion or king protea, anthuriums and ginger. These flowers are symbolic in their own right. Orchids represent love, luxury, beauty and strength; proteas represent diversity and courage; and anthuriums, hospitality.
To highlight the Hawai‘i floral industry, HDOA featured a bouquet of locally grown possibilities at last year’s Maui Agricultural Festival. Working with growers on Maui and the Big Island, HDOA showcased fabulous floral arrangements by professionals and offered festivalgoers the opportunity to create their own works of art using locally grown flowers. A similar event was held on the Big Island.
The events are one part of an effort to encourage replacing imported goods with Hawai‘i-grown products. This year consider where your flowers are coming from; it’s an opportunity to help protect Hawai‘i from invasive pests while showing a little love to your local flower grower and your loved one. As Wilson says, “I absolutely support and suggest people use locally grown flowers; it helps us all.”
Article by Lissa Fox Strohecker
Originally published in the Maui News, February 12th, 2012 as part of the Kia‘i Moku Column.
You can find all the articles in the Kia‘i Moku series http://www.hear.org/misc/mauinews/