Rather than purchasing cut flowers sodden with pesticides and thereby supporting the chemical habit of large-scale growers, consider buying organically grown cut flowers at local farmers' markets, or growing your own.
'Most cut flowers are easily grown by organic methods at home,' says Ann Lovejoy, author of 15 gardening books, most recently Naturalistic Gardening (Sasquatch, 1998). 'Give them good soil, ample water, and good air circulation, and there will be no need for herbicides or pesticides. Commercial growers run into problems because of the scale of their operations (which precludes personal attention for each plant), and because monocultures often attract diseases and parasites.'
A variety of flowering house plants can be cycled in and out of display as they come into bloom. Holiday plants can be kept for years, with proper care. While it's difficult to find out how houseplants that you purchase were raised, once they're in your possession you can take charge of their care. Consider organizing a cutting swap with fellow houseplant enthusiasts.
Bulbs for such exotic beauties as white narcissus from Israel and amaryllis from the tropics, as well as familiar garden flowers such as tulips, can be brought to bloom indoors for a long-lasting, showy display. Most need to be chilled for eight or more weeks before planting, so plan ahead for midwinter bloom. 'Forcing' bulbs generally exhausts their reserves, but they can often be replenished for next year by planting them in fertile, well-drained soil after they're done blooming, allowing the leaves to die back naturally.
GO FOR IT--PUBLICATIONS
Ann Lovejoy's Garden Newsletter
9010 Miller Rd.
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
$15/yr. (12 issues)
Organic Gardener's Annuals by Peter Loewer (Van Patten, 1993)
Smith & Hawken Forcing, Etc: The Indoor Gardener's Guide to Bringing Bulbs, Seeds, and Branches into Bloom by Katherine Whiteside (Workman, 1999)
Garden Centre/Virginia Tech Horticultural Extension:
'Flowering House Plants'
National Gardening Association
'How to Keep Holiday Gift Plants at Their Best Year-Round'
New Mexico State University, College of Agriculture and Home Economics
'Poinsettias: Year After Year'
Organic flowers and vegetables.
Hana Flower Company
Tropical flower arrangements.
Be sure to check your farmers' market for local organic growers.