Don’t Poison Your Valentine


Ready to pursue your heart’s desire? All set for the big day of rampant romance? Did you spring for a sparkling expression of your everlasting love or do you plan to duck into the Kroger for a cellophane cocoon of the most well-travelled bouquet sixty dollars can buy?

Diamonds and perfume

Roses and chocolate

Nothing compares to our craving for profit

That was a little love poem from those in the “industry” of all things contrived, you know, love, happiness, generosity, security. Things we cannot possibly experience without spending some money first. I am not unaffected by the sentimental fumblings caused by Valentine’s Day. However, it is not because of roses and chocolates that I love my husband. Love requires more. It requires constant attention, every ounce of our energy, and all of the courage we can muster. Over a lifetime, this kind of commitment is tested in ways no mere institution could ever hope to endure. Love is our greatest responsibility to one another. We have poetry and prose that tells us everything we need to know about love and yet so many of us are willing to settle for sappy or sexy substitutes. Valentines are fun. Let’s not mistake them for love. Day after tomorrow they will be on the clearance rack.

Hearts In Nature

Of course, nothing says I’m sorry for being a jerk like flowers. If I had to choose between anything and flowers, I would choose flowers every time. I love to receive them, to grow them, to photograph them. Having fresh-cut flowers in my home any day is a luxury, and each time I purchase a bunch I am reminded of the book “Flower Confidential,” by Amy Stewart, who tells the story of big business that has invented holidays to promote sales of the chemical dependent commodity that is the cut flower.


The price per stem we pay often comes at a much higher price to workers who grow, harvest, and prepare flowers for shipment. Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, preservatives – all used in commercial flower production – negatively affect the health of workers who make it possible for us to enjoy the beauty of roses bred for longer vase life. Consumers get the most bloom for their buck, but we also get exposed to harmful chemicals when we bring them home and lie them on the kitchen counter to remove leaves and arrange them.


Stewart explains that a better business model is needed to make a difference in the cut flower industry. Of course, consumers must demand safe working conditions and less toxicity in the products we purchase in order to change industry standards such as pollute for profit. Like love, this requires constant attention, energy, courage, and commitment. I wonder, once we are made aware, how we can ignore our responsibility to the ones we love.


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14 thoughts on “Don’t Poison Your Valentine

  1. These are really beautiful photos, they’re warming. I also really appreciate the diversity of flowers you’ve given us. I too love flowers in my home but hadn’t thought about what you’ve informed us of here. And yet, it seems so obvious, of course how will they provide millions with millions of beautiful, perfect, superbly colored flowers? I guess we should all give thanks to the people who make this possible for us and pray for their health and the courage to fight for a safer industry.

    One more reason to be grateful for our opportunities to grow our own flowers and really I can’t wait. With that in mind I have to thank you for this great post and these images that excite me further to plan for my own beautiful yard.

    Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

  2. Wow! I love the images but had no idea about the herbicides and toxic dangers. I suppose it makes sense, bigger, better, and all. I saw the image and read your description of the luxury of having cut flowers in your home and found myself thinking I should indulge in that more. I haven’t had flowers in the house in ages, maybe I should buy some on the way home, what a treat. Then I get to the meat of the message and am now pretty firm on enjoying them in the files behind the house au naturiel. BTW, that first rose shot is something sublime, the softness of the petals captured perfectly. All the images are wonderful, but that one – wow!

    1. You should have fresh cut flowers to enjoy in your home. They will make you happy. During spring, summer, and fall many farmer’s markets have at least one vender who sells cut flowers. Of course, au naturiel is also a perfect way to appreciate the beauty of flowers. You have meadows of wild flowers to enjoy. Nothing beats that. You also appreciate the blossoms of ice crystals. Loved your snowflake posts. Check out the link above to the Frontline video about Ecuador’s flower power. Some growers get it. Sure, there is money to be made, but they don’t have to jeopardize the safety of their workers to do it and their are integrated pest management options that reduce or eliminate the need for poisonous chemicals. So, it is like anything else we purchase, food, clothing, etc.There are sources for healthy choices and then there are the greedy polluters. It’s a matter of who we want to support.

  3. I love the old little kid’s “penny” valentines – one of those makes me smile – anytime.
    When I was in college you could buy a nice bunch for 50 cents from street vendors who got the “not so perfect ones” from the Tyler rose farms. It was such a treat. There’s a daylilly farm north of Houston, but you never saw those for sale except in flower shops. I’ve forgotten how many tullips fly into Bush airport each day – that seems so unreal.
    Valentines Day means holiday event pricing for flowers, restaurants, and everything. Not worth it.
    Great post about the flower industry – few think about all that
    You take the most beautiful flower pictures

    1. If you get a chance, read Flower Confidential.The characters are funny and interesting. Their stories are real, and the author does an excellent job of telling the complete story. Taking pics of flowers (HA, picking flowers) is something I truly love to do. I’d travel the world if I could just to enjoy a flower garden. Luckily there are some wonderful gardens close to home I can visit anytime I want to fight traffic on LBJ.

    1. They do, but I am often surprised by how innovative people can be when they try. I am also amazed at how many people are willing to overlook unfair labor practices and unregulated pollution when it isn’t in their own back yard.

  4. Such beautiful images! I’m not really a flower person–I tell my husband not to spend his money on that for me (though chocolate will always do…)–but I enjoy looking at them. Especially yellow roses. So pretty.

    We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day anymore. We’re both good with that, and frankly, it just makes life a little bit easier. 🙂

  5. Great title for the post. My enduring memory of Valentines Day is the sheepish lineup of guys a few years ago waiting to buy flowers at Safeway at the end of the day. Thankfully that’s not the highest expression of love and commitment.

    1. Thankfully. I read somewhere once that George Burns took flowers home to his wife, Gracie, whenever he had a “clandestine meeting.” I don’t know if that is true, but I think it is why I prefer to purchase flowers myself.

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