In Radical Gardening author George McKay quotes a Colombian activists as saying, “Behind every beautiful flower is a death. Flowers grow beautiful while women wither away.” She is speaking to western buyers on behalf of the 40,000 women that work in the Colombian cut flower trade. According to this CNN article, the United States imports more than 80% of its Valentine's Day roses. Most of them imported from Columbia and Ecuador. In the language of flowers, roses symbolize love and passion. The gifting of roses on Valentine’s Day will probably lead to many Valentine’s Day babies nine months from now, but will anyone involved in the ritual stop and think of the women withering away behind every stem rose? Giving seeds for plants that symbolize love and romance is a way to participate in Valentine’s Day that is slightly more sustainable and will create a connection to nature that will last longer than a week.*
Many seed packets are just as decorative as Valentine’s Day cards, and you can present your seed packets in creative ways to show that there’s some thought behind the gesture.
With an knife you can hollow out a box of chocolates and transform it into a gift box for seeds that express your feelings for your valentine. 'Loves Lies Bleeding' from Renee's Garden on the left and 'Heart Seed' from the Hudson Valley Seed Library on the right.
'Love in a Mist' beautifully rendered by the Hudson Valley Seed Library on the left. The old-fashioned flowers of 'Bachelor Button' get an update and serve as commentary of our modern times on the right. Saving 'Bachelor Button' seeds is really easy, BTW.
Adding to the list of seeds that mean love and romance, (or fit the Valentine's Day theme) and can be given in lieu of roses: 'Black Valentine' beans, Sweet peas 'Queen of Hearts', 'Exotic Love Vine', sunflower 'Valentine'. 'Forget-Me-Nots,' Lovage, and the green 'Love Lies Bleeding'.
If we were to examine the seed industry we would likely find that the conditions of workers in the trade where not that different from those of the cut flower industry*. But I feel that seeds are a gateway to living a life that is in tune with our communities, ourselves, and ultimately with nature- and the people we share this planet with. You can profess your love and devotion for your valentine this year by opting out of buying roses this Valentine's Day and instead giving seeds. Not only will the gift show that you've put thought and have an interest in the recipient's passion for gardening, but the resulting flowers will last longer than a bouquet of cut roses ever will If you have any suggestions for seeds and seed companies to buy from this Valentine's Day you can leave them in the comments below.