Buying flowers is a Valentine’s Day standard, and few gifts make someone feel as admired as a big, vibrant bouquet. A study by Rutgers University researchers in 2005 concluded that flowers have both an immediate impact on happiness and a long-term positive effect on mood. People who are regularly around flowers demonstrate a higher sense of life enjoyment and satisfaction. They are a fail-safe gift that everyone loves. But have you ever considered the environmental impact of buying flowers?

Many commercial florists sell tropical and rare blooms, but even basic varieties are often shipped from farms across the country, stored long-term in refrigerated warehouses and trucks and sometimes grown using harsh pollutants. Because of this, a movement has begun to encourage purchases of local plants from smaller growers to avoid the larger environmental impact of an otherwise feel-good industry. Many farms in Baltimore have taken notice and joined the movement with enthusiasm, and one local florist has committed to selling flowers entirely from local sources.

Local Color Flowers, a full-service floral design shop in Charles Village, is dedicated first and foremost to working with local farmers to prove there is beauty around us 12 months a year. Buying locally cuts down on the carbon footprint of the company and allows the florist to vet the growing process as well as the treatment of farm workers (another issue in the larger flower industry).

Using only plants grown locally (their definition is 100 miles from their own studio), designers work wonders on custom bouquets and arrangements year-round  using only plants and flowers they source from here. Many of their growers work even closer than 100 miles, farming flowers and even vegetables right inside Baltimore City.

Owner Ellen Frost opened Local Color Flowers in 2008 with high hopes of proving that she could join the movement of local flowers as a high-end floral design business. The shop’s main business is large events like weddings. They meet with customers before design consulting to make sure they understand the limits (and ultimately, the fact that she relies on small growers and the weather of a single region, and therefore can guarantee a color pallet, but not any specific blossoms) of their offerings. Despite those limits, the shop has earned rave reviews and partnerships with big-name customers by offering the same design quality customers expect from a commercial shop with the added bonus of supporting local agriculture.

Over a decade after opening, business is booming and the list of farmer’s working with Frost has grown into the dozens. The shop’s variety of offerings has expanded, too. Arrangements recently featured include their first Maryland Grown banana leaves (yes, really) from Seaberry Farm on the Eastern Shore. More tropical plants are stocked from a company called Furbish in Baltimore, specializing in bio-walls inside large light-filled buildings.

Although their largest business is weddings and special events, Local Color Flowers also offers workshops in wreath-making, flower-arranging and cutting, as well as selling to private customers and offering a flower subscription CSA (community-supported agriculture), in which customers can get flowers delivered periodically. You can order bouquets online, sign up for one of the shop’s fun Open Studio events to design your own bouquet (the next one is Sunday, 2/12) or stop by the open shop hours every Saturday morning during the Waverly Farmer’s Market to pick up a pre-made bouquet.

Flowers from anywhere will make someone happy this Valentine’s Day, but it sure is nice to know that right here in Baltimore, someone is planting seeds and watching them bloom.

Local Color Flowers can be found online at

Rachel Bone

Rachel Bone is a regular contributor to the Baltimore Fishbowl.

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