Your crawfish are from down the bayou. Your beer is from the Northshore. And your live music is just a streetcar ride away. The best things in life are local. So why should your flowers be an exception?
Welcome to the “slow flower” movement, and its New Orleans outpost, Pistil+Stamen Flower Farm and Studio.
Local florist farmers have a different approach from the commercial flower industry, which imports about 80 percent of its blooms from foreign countries, mostly Columbia. The traditional flower industry is “like big agriculture, minus most of the regulations, and add carcinogens and formaldehyde used as pesticides and fungicides, ” explains Pistil+Stamen co-founder Denise Richter. “The conditions are unhealthy for the workers.” Flowers are cut a couple of weeks before arriving, very well refrigerated, at your florist. By contrast, locally grown blooms have the feel, appearance and, most importantly, the fragrance, of freshly cut flowers.
“We grow only local, seasonal flowers,” says Richter.
Pistil + Stamen combines entrepreneurship with social consciousness. According to Richter, the new company strives to be “community, ethically and environmentally minded.”
Its main flower field is 4,200 square feet of formerly blighted property on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in Central City. Richter and her business partner, Megan McHugh, were delighted to transform a blighted lot into something useful. The beautiful urban space contributes to the “local pollinator habitat.”
“A lot of what we do is about education. When customers come to us with a particular idea, we educate them on what we CAN do which is local, sustainable, seasonal,” says Richter.
Richter grew up in New Jersey and moved to New Orleans to start the local Edible Schoolyard program, a post-Katrina project of Alice Waters, the organic food guru. A plant enthusiast, she enjoys New Orleans’ year-round growing season. In gardening parlance, Richter is happy that she has been “transplanted” to New Orleans, where she has become “rooted.”
Richter excitedly lists the flowers that will soon be thriving in the cooler fall weather.
“We’ll have bachelors’ buttons, court jester chrysanthemums, snapdragons, sweet peas, nigella, Queen Ann’s lace and roses. Also daffodils, anemones, ranunculus, alliums, and paper whites. And scabiosa, all varieties,” she recited. “This is all about celebrating what we CAN grow.”
Asked how Pistil + Stamen competes with traditional florists, Richter replies that the prices are comparable. And, she adds, “we explain that we are really selling a different product. We only sell seasonal, very fresh flowers.”
That point was proved as I was leaving the flower field and stopped to admire some gorgeous pink blossoms growing there.
“Oh, yes,” agreed Richter. “They are in a wedding this weekend. “