Fair Trade Floristry at the Victoria and Albert Museum

We are delighted to be offering a workshop at the beautiful Victorian and Albert Museum. Long have you found us enjoying Postmodernist, Brazilian or Afropolitan inspired Friday night lates at the museum and making a B line for Hussein Chalayan talks or Yojhi Yamamoto exhibitions. Now it is our turn to share our art of Thinking Flowers? with you. Our aim is to inform and inspire you with ethical flower thoughts surrounding the global cut flower industry coupled with simple design-focused tips on colours, containers and compositions you can use at home.
We are looking forward to a fun day (10:30 to 16:30) of sharing flower thoughts on Saturday 1 December. We have worked hard to have a concession rate of £64 so as to make it more affordable for everyone (£80 full price). All the materials are included and you get to take your bouquet home. For more information, see http://tinyurl.com/8tanxql

Thinking Flowers Thursday: The Lotus

It’s Thinking Flowers Thursday! Today, we’re thinking about the many meanings of the lotus flower. Most of you will connect this flower with Buddhism, but did you know that it was an important flower for the Ancient Egyptians too?

The Egyptians linked the lotus flower to the sun, which disappears at night and reappears during the day, and so it came to symbolise ‘rebirth’ in their culture. The famous Egyptian Book of the Dead, is known to include spells which transform a person into a lotus, thus allowing for resurrection.

Have you ever seen a lotus flower emerging from a murky pond? Chinese poets use lotus flowers to inspire people to continue striving through difficulties and to show their best part to the outside world, no matter how bad the circumstances may be. This is understood as being just like the lotus flower, bringing beauty and light from the murky darkness at the bottom of the pond.

We hope we’ve inspired some flower thoughts in you today! Do you have any memories associated with lotus flowers?

Lauren has this story from her travels:

I remember losing my way through the winding back streets of the Balineese city Kutu. Distressed by the pollution and litter, I was saddened to my stomach by the destruction we have caused to the beautiful places we are gifted to live in.

After a few more uncharted turns I was on a dusty and busy main road. I had reached the furniture district situated a little out of town, so the artisans could have work space and show rooms. There was a really bad smell like open sewage. I covered my nose and mouth and ran. I couldn’t help stopping to spit out the water that had sprung into my mouth, as I looked for best place to do that, I saw a flash of colour, bright and vibrant, illuminating pinks and purples, with verdant greens for as far as I could see.

In the swampy open sewer there were field Lotus flowers spread out, stretching right up the derelict building. The water was gone from my mouth and now streaming from my eyes. How could something so exquisite grow in such squalor? I wanted to walk amongst them, to feel their water roots on my feet, but there was no way as I could feel the teeming of the bacteria.

I left Kuta the next day after a harried escape plan to the mountains. I had cried every day there as I was so distraught buy the tragic sea of destruction the tourists left. They were also building a massive sewage pipe into the sea, awaiting the arrival of a new hotel. I had had enough of seeing comdoms, coke cans and Burger King cups floating in the whisking white waves. It is almost like it had become bearable, or I was desensitized to it, in London, but the harsh juxtaposition of raw, creative nature and mindless destroying was cutting deep. I realized the Lotus was like us, and that even in the mess we cause we can be enlightened, we can change, we can blossom, there is hope and we have the resources.

When my mind is muddied with sorrow and my thoughts of hope swamped with doubt, I remember the Lotus flower and how naturally triumphant it was.

Thinking Flowers? Shortlisted for SMK Campaigner Awards

Thinking Flowers? are very pleased to announce that we have been shortlisted for the SMK Campaigners awards, in the category of Environment.

This award is for campaigners working to provide sustainable solutions to the environmental problems we face locally, nationally and globally, and we are beyond thrilled to have been considered.

The SMK Foundation was established in 2005 in order to help develop a new generation of campaigners who will tackle the root causes of injustice. Set up in memory of Dame Sheila McKechnie, SMK is entirely dedicated to helping campaigners create positive and lasting social change.

There are still two stages to go, so all of your good wishes and #flowerthoughts are much appreciated at this time, and thanks to all of you for your on-going support of Thinking Flowers?

Please do Like us on Facebook (over to your right) or Follow us on Twitter @ThinkingFlowers for all the news as it unfolds.

Thinking Flowers? Thursday

Are you Thinking Flowers? today?

Red Clover

Red Clover

Lauren saw these Red Clover in a field in Alnmouth Northumberland and was stunned by their magenta colour; so loud amoungst the subtle country colours!

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) is native to Europe, and we’d be surprised if you hadn’t seen this around over the summer. Pratense is actually the Latin for “found in meadows”, so, no surprises there.

Usually accompanied by a drowsy bumble bee or two, red clover springs up everywhere. Amelia remembers being told by a friend at school that she too could drink the honey out of clover if she sucked at the pink petals! It seemed quite sensible at the time…

Red Clover is commonly used as a nitrogen fixer, to increase soil fertility. It is traditionally used in treating skin problems, as well as hot flushes and night sweats during the menopause as it helps the body to balance oestrogen.

These uses date back to the middle ages, when it was seen as a symbol of protection and good luck. The Romans, Ancient Greeks and Celts even revered it!

Do you have any sunny, summer memories of red clover? Have you ever used red clover to alleviate itchy skin, or rashes? Share your #flowerthoughts with us in the comments and on Twitter!

Welcome to Thinking Flowers Thursday

We’d like to welcome you to the first of many Thinking Flowers Thursdays, where we invite you to share your flower thoughts with us. So much of what makes flowers important are how we feel about them, what we use them for, and how we want to make other people feel. So, what are you thinking? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!

Yesterday, Thinking Flowers met at the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden to enjoy what sunshine there was, and to see the flowers, of course.

white flowering nettles at the southbank

Hands touching a white flowering nettle

This is Lamium album, a white dead nettle, which looks like a stinging nettle, but is completely safe to touch. It can also be used medicinally: “…as a gargle for sore throats and inflamed gums, and as a compress for wounds, haemorrhoids, eczema and burns.” Amazing what dangerous looking plants can do when we learn how to use them.

Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle flower

Milk Thistle is another dangerous looking but very helpful plant. The seeds of Silybum marianum contain silymarin which is used in treating liver disorders.

Hands holding a calendula

Hands holding a calendula amongst many calendulas

Calendula is a beautiful, edible flower, often used in salads or as a replacement for saffron. It can also be used to soothe skin inflammations. In the language of flowers, Calendula means sorrow or sympathy, and who wouldn’t be cheered up by receiving some of these colourful blooms on a sorrowful day?

Have we got you Thinking Flowers yet? How do you feel today? What flowers would you most like to have in a great big bunch on your desk, or at home? Are there memories associated with these flowers? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! We’ll also be tweeting out flower thoughts using the hashtag #flowerthoughts.

(You can now follow Thinking Flowers’ adventures on Instagram! Our username is thinkingflowers and we hope you’ll join us in the digital world.)

Thinking Flowers? visits the Chelsea Flower Show

floral display at the Chelsea Flower Show

As we mentioned in our previous post, Thinking Flowers? was lucky enough to win tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show this year. This also included access to the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden and the chance to meet Arne Maynard, the garden designer!

Laurent-Perrier garden at the Chelsea Flower Show

When we arrived at the garden, it really took our breath away. And then again, as we inhaled the gorgeous scent emanating from all the beautiful blooms. We would have loved to have bottled the smell and brought it to each and every one of you, but for now you’ll have to imagine a rose-tinted perfume of fresh air which lightens your heart as you breathe it in.

rose mounds in the Laurent-Perrier garden, Chelsea Flower Show

Roses trained by weaving through pliable hazel domes in Arne Maynard’s signature style

Arne said of the garden that it was designed “as a ‘real’ garden, which will appeal to any visitor with a love of plants and a keen eye for plant combinations.” It certainly did that! We were fascinated by his method of training roses, and he explained that it has always been the way he has planted them. Although the start by growing at the bottom, they do wind up and up and eventually turn into enormous mounds, bursting with rose blooms.

On his journal of the event, he says “I was truly touched by all the comments we received. It was such an affirmation that the design I felt would evoke memories of childhood gardens, and romantic, hazy summer days, really did achieve the reaction I had hoped for.”

Lauren of Thinking Flowers? in the Laurent-Perrier garden at the Chelsea Flower Show

Lauren standing in the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary garden at the Chelsea Flower Show

Thank you again to Wild Card PR for this wonderful opportunity!

Now, you might be wondering why Thinking Flowers? only visited the Chelsea Flower Show this year. Well, we’re going through something of a composting period at the moment, with the organisation itself. There will be a lot of behind the scenes stuff going on, the plotting and planning of a social media overhaul for one thing, a potential re-branding scheme in the works and a new manifesto and direction for us. We’re still all about ethical flowers, but it’s time to start creating a map so that we can reach our destination of educating the U.K and bringing ethical flowers to every event possible. You can watch out for videos, illustrations, new areas on the website and there’s a couple of of projects we can’t even tell you about just yet! We’ll still be regularly updating the blog with flower facts, so do add us to your blog reader, make friends with us on twitter and share the site with your loved-ones!

Upcycling at the Chelsea Flower Show

A quick update to let you know that Thinking Flowers? Will be visiting both the Chelsea Fringe and the Chelsea Flower Show this week! We’re very excited to have won tickets from Wild Card PR to attend the Chelsea Flower show, and the Thinking Flowers? team will be having champagne with Arne Maynard in the Laurent-Perrier Bicentennial garden. You can follow the garden on twitter at LPGardenCFS.

You might be wondering what happens to all the waste after the Chelsea Flower Show. How ethical and environmental can a huge flower show like this really be? Actually, very!

Recycling begins in the show’s own back yard, literally. During build-up to the show materials surplus to requirement are put in the “materials swap shop” for any exhibitor to use. Tools broken or no longer needed on site are sent to Tools Shed, The Conservation Foundation’s tools for schools recycling project run in association with HM Prisons. Once the show closes members of the London Community Resource Network swoop in and remove timber, compost, woodchip, bricks and a mass of garden material which they then pass on to community groups across London. Entire gardens have been created out of this unwanted material, most notably the Desmond Tutu Peace garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw and opened in Grove Park, Lewisham in July 2009. What’s left – hardcore and aggregate, soil and catering waste – is taken away by Powerday, a massive waste and recycling outfit based in North London, that boasts a 100% recovery rate (no landfill). Most of this is recycled with the remainder recovered as ‘ready to use’ fuel to generate energy from waste. Wood is shredded and sent to a heating and power plant, soil is reclaimed for land restoration projects and concrete crushed and reused in building projects. Last year 95% of all waste from the Chelsea Flower Show was recycled. In the last three years there has been a 24% reduction in waste produced at the show while energy from waste treatment decreased from 160 tonnes in 2008/9 to 1.85 tonnes in 2010.

(You can read the rest of this article at the Saga website, here.)

Thinking Flowers? are members of the London Community Resource Network, and Lauren shared her dream of creating an up-cycling scheme for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show as part of her dissertation, with her then-mentor and Chief Executive of LCRN.

Are you planning to go to the Chelsea Fringe, or the Chelsea Flower Show? The Fringe festival is continuing until the 10th of June, so you’ve got plenty of time to go and see some of the displays, installations, exhibitions, edible high streets on offer. There are events happening all over town, so you’ve got no excuse for missing out!

We’ll be back on Thursday with photos from our adventures, but you can follow us for some live tweeting action @thinkingflowers!

And in the meantime, you can watch this beautiful sneak-peak video of the creation of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden.

There’s also a beautiful sneak peek video below of the Laurent-Perrier garden.

Thinking Flowers? at Geek Girl Meetup 2010

As Lauren mentioned in the last post, she took the opportunity to speak at Geek Girl Meetup at the end of April, about not being a geek. That is also where we met, and I listened to her speak about her fear of social media. So I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself!

Hi, my name is Amelia, and I’m here to work with Lauren and Thinking Flowers? on the social media profile and strategy for the organisation. I love bringing people together through twitter, sharing ideas and information on blogs, and doing whatever I can to create community spaces online. Hopefully, my working with Lauren and Thinking Flowers? will bring forth beautiful blooms for the both of us, and for you too. You can find more of my social media thoughts at SocialAmelia, and I’m also working to create a safe space online for people to discuss feminist issues at Silence, Cupcake. I’m really looking forward to getting to know all of you, and bringing the Thinking Flowers? ethos into the wider world of the world wide web.

Without further ado, here’s a video of the talk which Lauren gave at Geek Girl Meetup. There’s also a transcription, so you can easily copy and paste if you’d like to quote any part of the talk and share it with people.


[…video starts part way through Lauren introducing Thinking Flowers?] …and we also create, we design courses, as well as actual installations for a various amount of different clients. We were doing the House of Commons, the V&A, the Tate Modern. We have a floral donation service, which is ensuring that flowers are upcycled, so when we have corporate clients we then upcycle our products into the community and to charities. And we also have a green waste disposal service, which ensures that all of the green products we use are composted. So we have a cradle to cradle, earth to earth strategy.

We also have quite a campaign arm, I guess we’re somewhere in between Divine Chocolate and The Body Shop, because we work with women that grow flowers. So I guess maybe some of you are thinking what’s unethical about flowers? And this is the fact that often women are used to grow them in countries which are suffering from drought, say for example Kenya, which is the driest part of the world, there’s women cultivating products that are ninety per cent water and are then flown to the wettest parts of the world. Not only this, there are women working with the reproductive parts of a plant and having their own reproductive systems depleted from the pesticides that are corroding their organs, and the soil.

So that’s really what spurred me on to know that I wanted to create an organisation that was about change and that was about people and was about products.

But these products have scent. These products make you feel things. These products are colourful. And for me, the internet was just not a way to do it! [Laughs] It was like, I want to be further and furthest away from something that doesn’t have eyes and doesn’t smile and doesn’t make me feel like I’m alive. So, even with the success that we’ve had, I still have shied away from the internet in any way; code, processing – all the things that I’ve learnt today. Because it didn’t make me feel anything.

There’s also a few other organisations that I’ve founded and run, like Field, which works with creativity and reconnecting people to their connectivity, so we’re currently working with dyslexics and using our environment to bring people back into the world.

At the moment, Thinking Flowers? is based in Brixton, and we work out of a women’s charity called Lambeth Women’s project. And we work with all sorts of different clients really – from the government, to individuals, charities.

So I’m going to talk a little bit about why I’m not a geek, I guess, and I think it has a lot to do with feeling a little bit disconnected. And, what made me realise that actually, being a geek is really important and really cool, was failure.

We are the type of organisation that can send out an email to our database and say ‘Meet up at half past five, in Southbank, bring flowers, dress in colour, and we’re going to do a floral intervention and give out flowers on the Southbank for Valentines’ day’, for example. And people will come! They’ll turn up, and they’ll be there. And they’ll give their time, and they’ll give their love, and they’ll give their thoughts. And these people are activists, they’re there to support us in our questioning of ethics and sustainability and engagement of global issues that are affecting women.

So, we were kindly chosen by an organisation called Civilised Money to launch their alternative on-line bank and crowdfunding platform, and it was really cool because Forbes and Fast Company – all these incredible magazines were talking about this new way of having an alternative bank and how people to people can raise funds and invest in something that they own. And we created the pitch and it was great. But we raise…nothing.

And that was nothing to do with the platform itself, it was to do with the fact that I had founded and started to run and direct an organisation that is talking about something that is nature, and our online community were not engaged. We didn’t have people that would pay. We have people that want to be out, moving, doing things. And that was really what brought me here. I was like this is something that I have to change, I have to connect with the world, I have to connect with the fast pace of acceleration of the Information Age, I have to be involved in technology. And maybe running an organisation without that knowledge is going to put us at a disadvantage, rather than an advantage.

So later on I want to talk a little bit about social media, because I haven’t heard anything about that today, and I want to talk a little bit about my fears with that. But I wanted to just share with you a little bit more around how I see the world, and how I think that this might be able to connect in a technological way. Because the reason why I think Thinking Flowers? has had such success is a lot to do, I think, is a lot to do with my dyslexia. And I think because it sets me in a population that’s ten per cent of our population that it is a group of people that think completely differently to the way that the majority do. And for me that’s always allowed me to create systems that from the beginning have a differentiation strategy. They’re different, because they’re coming from a mind that works differently. And that’s always set us aside. I think that’s probably why we’re successful. And being able to build systems is something that really excites me. I mean, being able to build a product is really fun as well, but then being able to design the way in which that exists in the world and the way in which people interact with that is, I think, really powerful. And what most excites me about systems is the interconnection, is where places meet. Where different things meet, where different people meet, where different colours meet. And that’s something that flowers have allowed me to connect to, really, with them being a universal product, there’s no need to speak a language, there’s no need to be able to write, everyone can feel that.

But also, connectivity. And what I mean by connectivity is when you start something and all of a sudden you realise that it’s connected to a lot of other things, and that that can start something moving. So, I’ll give you an example, I have a commission at the moment, it’s about photography, which is to do with a previous organisation I started when I was nineteen and I engaged with a friend, just to say ‘We need someone to film, could you film?’ The work is about an artist called Joe Spence and it just so happens that this lady had written her thesis, twenty years ago, about Joe Spence. So being able to increase connectivity is another thing that excites me. Finding where people have been, mapping where people have been, mapping how people feel about flowers; do we feel the same about a rose? Do we feel the same about a lily? Why is it that a rose is our national flower? How is that linked to history? How is that linked to culture?

And also I feel interested about the future. What are our future thoughts about flowers? Why do we still buy them? What are they a £2.8 billion industry? Why, even with the pace of technological acceleration are we still buying them? Why, in a recession, are we still buying flowers if we’re struggling to buy food? I feel that there are opportunities for the internet to be of use for that massive positive change, and I’m now starting to learn about this [laughs]…now that I’m actually learning to use email! It’s starting to change the way I feel about information, and the way that it’s been used. But something that today has really made me feel quite shocked about also is about information and privacy. The talk that I heard earlier really made me think that when we start to connect we actually have to think quite carefully about what we want to share, what information we want to share and how we want to share it. But I’m glad I’m starting to think about these things now.

So, there’s a lot about the internet that now really makes me quite excited, and I think that is really something I’d like to build into the organisation. And work in an open way. I’d love to know more about code, I’d love to know more about processing, but actually something that Thinking Flowers? Has done is built a system whereby we work in a very open way, and we are a community, we have artists from all over the world that come and work with us, and we have volunteers come, as well as an internship. And that’s something I think I would like to translate online. By looking for ways that I can translate the way we work as a system, online. I want people to be able to experience. And I feel that way I’ve not connected to the internet so much is because I feel that there has to be a compromise.

How can you translate scent? How can you translate the emotions that flowers trigger? How can you translate that when you see or smell bluebells, it reminds you of being three years old? And this is something that I want to make happen. And I want to to be mobile, I want people to be able to access those emotions. And if there’s a way to do it online then I’d love to do that, I think. I don’t know if it’s possible to translate beauty and joy through the internet. I mean I don’t know how we’re going to be able to do that. But I know that I want to create an interface which is like an actual experience, as close as possible. And, for us to be able to reconnect with our feelings. I think there are some ways, like the community based element to what we do, where the online world could really support us in getting the message out there [nods] and campaigning, I think. I’d like for there to be an online space where people can communally share their thoughts. You don’t have to be an expert of flowers, you don’t have to know the Latin names, but for some reason you have a connection and that’s good enough. And I’d like people to be able to share that in a community way. And to be able to give and exchange thoughts and time is also something we’d like to look at.

So I just wanted to talk a little bit about the fear of social media, I think, because it’s something that’s essential in business. Right now, the way that people communicate, the way that people build communities, the way that people brand and leverage their brand is with social media strategies. And for a long time, I was so scared of tweeting. Of making a mistake, or spelling something wrong. For a dyslexic, it is fearful. [laughs]. I was so fearful, I was thinking ‘Oh gosh, I need to tweet, I’ve got an organisation, I need to tell people what I’m growing and what I’m designing.’ It was really really stressful. And it feels like there’s a lot of pressure to be somebody online, to have this many followers. And it really scared me! Though we recently started, we finally started, to write a little blog. But I don’t write it. I voice record it and someone else types it. And that someone is an amazing volunteer, Tina, who’s with us for two hours a week.

But the speed at which you need to keep up and update is just totally beyond me and I’m finding it that maybe there is a way we could compromise and that we could slow down the way that we communicate on the internet, and that that could be more natural and more like how flowers grow. But, who knows? [smiles]

So I really just wanted to share those thoughts with you, and to say that if anyone wants to help me be a geek then I’d much rather be a geek than a wannabe. Thank you.


Please do take the time to follow us on twitter, and share this post with your friends and family!

Inspiring Change in Communities

So I’ve decided to take the plunge and start speaking up about some of the things I’m deeply passionate about, though I actually honestly find public speaking very challenging for many reasons. I’m taking the opportunity to speak at one event organised by Geek Girls on a subject that I know nothing about – being a geek. Despite my knowledge of the technological advancement of society, I’m still something of a late bloomer in this regard. I’m stepping into the unknown and sharing my experience of developing and designing organic systems that work for people and plants and how this can be translated into an online interface. So I’m already in awe of these women who are writing codes and processing, empowering themselves and building the capacity of their communities through knowledge of the Internet. I know, I know – I’m late! 

I’m also really excited about receiving an invitation to speak at TEDx Croydon around the subject of Inspiring Change in Communities. Part of me feels almost unworthy as there’s still so much untouched and undone in the plans I have for Thinking Flowers? and Field, but I think this will be an amazing opportunity to thank those in the very varied communities I’ve worked with. I’m really interested in hearing the other speakers, especially Simon Boyle.

Hats off to the School for Social Entrepreneurs graduates!

It’s always a lovely surprise to be commissioned by old friends. I graduated from the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) at the beginning of 2008, and it was there that I was inspired to create deep connections with people who are truly committed to making their environments and this world a better place for all. I think the things I took away from the SSE were the encouragement to become an action-learning facilitator and a business mentor because both of these methods help me to develop my strength to be able to continue to challenge the status quo.

This year’s graduation was held at the PwC headquarters, which I feel creates a real platform for social entrepreneurs entering the social innovation landscape. As always, the presentations given by the students were moving and uplifting and highlighted the power people have to identify the issues they have faced and the ill-health of society and create solutions and design services. I was especially impressed by the speech delivered by Matthew Barrett, founder of The Breakout Media Academy, who described social enterprise as an example of the dignity of current humanity. I was also moved by Louise, who has started a photography social enterprise called Stop, Fix, Develop, which touched my heart as it relates to the first social enterprise I started – Petal Tank – and one of my photographs is being exhibited as part of X Marks the Spot.

The inspiration for the installation that we created for the event started from a series of sketches of fascinator hats that I started drawing one afternoon at a friend’s house. I didn’t know where they were going to go or when I was going to get a chance to make them, but I knew that they would come into existence at some point. So when I got the call for the SSE graduation, I knew that these alternative hats would suit these alternative students. I started with the concentric circles of the SSE logo in the colours of magenta, cyan and blue, and a recycled wire abstract interpretation became a decorative element of the fascinators. The body of the fascinator was made from recycled plastic mesh and the flowers were from Rainforest Alliance-certified tropical bouquets from Costa Rica to meet the SSE’s requirements of a carnival-like celebration. We were joined by the photographer Mystique Holloway, who assisted with the installation, documented the event and supported us on the floral donation where the flowers were up-cycled to the Karibu Centre in Brixton, whose director Elaine is also an SSE Fellow. Upon arrival at the Centre, we found a wake in process and the flowers served as an emotional lift for the bereaved.

Can’t wait for next year’s graduation  … and always pack my tissues. We are also looking forward to attending the SSE and Lloyd’s Banking Group event at the House of Lords, which I feel is celebrating the growth and progression of the SSE’s ability to continue the holistic development of social entrepreneurs. There are very few organisations that work closely with social entrepreneurs and are able to finance their ventures.