It often comes as a surprise to learn something so beautiful can also be so toxic.

Almost all the roses you see artfully styled in gorgeous arrangements have been heavily sprayed with toxic pesticides and fertilizers. This poisonous cocktail not only stays on the flowers, but also leaks into waterways at the farm, affecting the natural biodiversity of the surrounding habitats. Workers on these farms have also been harmed by the high levels of chemicals, and they often get sick from working with flowers. Even the neighbourhood florist is prone to sickness; there has been alarming occurrences among florists who handle nonorganic flowers developing dermatitis on their hands. Why do these farmers grow flowers in such toxic conditions? The answer is simple: to achieve perfect flowers, for perfect arrangements, that arrive perfectly to you. Flowers are a commodity, and flower farmers want to make sure their investments are fully protected. But is the trade-off worth it to achieve the perfect rose?

To understand, start by thinking about the last time you smelled a rose growing in a garden, its delicately beautiful fragrance emanating form the petals. Then when you visit the supermarket, smell a bouquet of roses; they will not smell. It’s no mistake. Today, many commercial roses are bred (read: genetically modified) for their stem strength and longevity; the scent of the rose is sacrificed to make the flowers more durable. They are gorgeous to look at, but lack scent altogether. It has gotten so bad that many florists are now spraying roses with artificial fragrance.

The solution to this madness is organic roses. Surprisingly, it’s not environmentalists who have started the trend, but it’s pastry chefs and gourmet chefs. In recent years, cooking with fresh roses has become a growing trend. But to safely cook with roses — whether it’s a rose-scented sorbet or crystallized rose petals on cupcakes — they must be organic. As more food lovers are willing to pay a premium for organic roses to be included in their culinary masterpieces, more farmers are willing to grow them. It’s simple: If farmers can make more money from fragrant, organic roses, they’ll plant them. The growth of organic roses is also starting to trickle into the consumer marketplace. You can find bouquets of organic roses online a
or at better-known health-food stores like Whole Foods and Wild Oats.

For a list of organic and fair-trade Canadian florists, visit

Excerpted from Simply Green Parties by Danny Seo. Copyright 2006 by Danny Seo. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.