Flower growers, importers, handlers, trade associations and exporters associated with the floristry, landscaping, garden retail and entertainment industry, and the world’s most forward-thinking city tourist promotion agencies joined together in a global effort to raise urgent aid for Ukraine. In an unprecedented, unified movement, giant, heart-shaped flower arrangements from Amsterdam to Bogotá, Paris to Reyjavik began popping up everywhere to help remind people that what matters most is love, not war.
Steering clear of sceptics and critics who view huge emotional demonstrations of feelings as simply industry-engineered PR actions is certainly not easy when you want to send out a heartfelt message to the world in support of the people suffering in Ukraine.
Still, in an unparalleled show of unity, putting aside any rivalry, the global floral community managed to pull together in the worldwide launch of a fundraising appeal for Ukraine in record time.
The floral industry’s #LoveNotWar movement gained traction on the evening of Saturday 12 March in Aalsmeer, the beating heart of the world flower trade. More than 800 industry peers – among which a crowd of 50 Ukrainian ex-pats – gathered in Studio’s Aalsmeer for ONE The Musical, which was hosting a benefit evening for Ukraine. A giant-heart shaped rose arrangement occupied pride of place in the venue’s foyer. Here, the Love Always rose was on sale at a minimum of €5.50 per stem.
The musical was free, but with 100 per cent of the sale of roses going to charities supporting the people of Ukraine. The proceeds total was much higher because many people in the concert hall decided to transfer money directly without using the purpose-built app.
The benefit evening in Aalsmeer is just one of the many benefit events organised by floral folks worldwide. It is also important to mention the countless individual initiatives. Packaging sheds turn into collection points for clothes, medicine, blankets and other essential items for Ukraine refugees. Truck drivers, financing and working off their own back driving aid over and returning with refugees. People are opening their homes to welcome refugees, and countless donations are made to ensure that emergency aid is on its way to those suffering.
Flowers are capable of expressing heartfelt emotions. Proof of this is the giant, heart-shaped flower arrangement seen in streets and squares, airports, and famous country landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Place de Brouckère in Brussels, and the Brandenburger Gate in Berlin.
The people behind the campaign were clever enough to work together with a company that yearly illuminates Christmas trees in the world’s biggest cities. This collaboration easily allowed the permits for placing flower hearts in city centres.
All these floral installations include the tagline #LoveNotWar, used by tens of thousands of people to share pictures and videos of dozens of other flower hearts in the Netherlands, Poland, Colombia, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United States, France, Belgium, Iceland, the UK, Hong Kong, Denmark, San Marino, Switzerland, Ecuador, Slovakia, and Japan. With many more flower hearts in many more countries.
#lovenotwar has sparked many positive reactions. Anna Zagórska of the floristry school Międzynarodowy Instytut Florystyczny from Poland told FCI magazine: “This initiative means a lot to people in distress about the situation in Ukraine. It has been with pleasure and pride that we prepare the flower heart. The arrangement left a big impression with an estimated 1,500 people who stopped by and took pictures of it during the day. These included people doing their early Sunday morning jogging, couples, and entire families strolling Warsaw’s city centre. Not one single person didn’t stop, and many of them congratulated us on the initiative. The flower hearts put smiles on people’s faces while also bringing tears to their eyes in empathy to the current situation.”
Koen Van Malderen, director of Belgium’s Royal Guild of Florists, says, “Once again, it is important to say out loud and clear that the world does not need war. The flower heart is to remind us what really matters in life. We do what we can to help the Ukrainian people, and we are sure that our support means a lot to them. These were the reactions I received in Brussels from people who stopped to see the flower heart in the city centre.”
Royal FloraHolland, the world’s largest floral trade hub, hosted a charity auction on 14 March to help those affected by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
Auction boss Stefan van Schiflgaarde, whose spouse is Ukrainian, has heard first-hand the many heart-wrenching stories of people forced to leave their families behind.
He says, “It is tough to put words to the suffering. But the Ukrainians are incredibly resilient, steadfast and proud people. Kyiv’s Mayor, Klitsjko, in a moving gesture, presented flowers to women on the street on International Women’s Day on 8 March. Even under the most difficult circumstances, Ukrainians took a minute to connect emotionally.”
Over the past few weeks, growers, traders, and media have asked Van Schilfgaarde how the Ukraine-Russia war would impact the global flower industry economically.
But he says it feels awkward to talk shop when so many Ukrainians need urgent help. He would instead praise the many efforts of the auction’s grower members and wholesalers who undertook various activities for Ukraine relief.
Naturally, Royal FloraHolland would not leave Ukrainians empty-handed and staged a charity flower and plant auction on Monday morning, 14 March, raising €165,000 for Ukraine relief. A total of 697 batches across 361 auction trolleys were auctioned off.
Royal FloraHolland is happy to announce that adding to this sum is an amount of €55,000 raised through individual actions by growers and traders and auction levies being donated to Ukrainian charities.
The auction decided to add to the total and bring it to €250,000 for the crisis charity Giro 555, the Netherlands national fundraising campaign entitled Together for Ukraine.
Since Russia attacked Ukraine, almost two million Ukrainians have passed the border with Poland, and the nation’s flower and nursery stock industry are lending refugees a meaningful hand.
There are stories of immense compassion. One Polish bulb flower farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous, volunteered his time after receiving a desperate cry for help from one of his former Ukrainian workers.
He travelled from his home town Chrzypsko, the western part of the country, to the border with Ukraine to pick up 30 people – including women and their children.
He brought them to safety and provided the women with jobs, and the local authority arranged childcare and schooling for the children. His initiative came to the attention of a Dutch bulb supplier, who, in turn, also travelled to the Polish-Ukrainian border to provide aid and pick up a dozen more refugees. Another one sent a truck to Chrzypsko filled with essential goods for the Ukrainian refugees.
Those who frequently visit horticultural trade shows in Europe will remember Poland’s prominent presence at IPM Essen or FlowersExpo Moscow, with exhibitors grouped in a country pavilion. More recently, the Polish Nurserymen Association has decided to cancel their participation in FlowersExpo Moscow this September. Instead, they have transferred the money (approximately €5,300) to humanitarian relief charities in Ukraine.
At the same time, flower and food wholesale markets are also working to do their part. Tenants and customers of the Bronisze wholesale market near Warsaw (Warszawski Rolno-Spożywczy Rynek Hurtowy SA Bronisze) teamed up with the market’s board members to send three trucks with humanitarian aid to their eastern neighbours in Lviv. Moreover, the Board allocated €10,600 to purchase articles that the Semper Fidelis Foundation of the Archdiocese of Lviv indicated essential.
The wholesale market in Poznań – Wielkopolska Gildia Rolno-Ogrodnicza SA (WGRO SA) is also provinding significant aid for Ukraine. The market directly sends goods to the war-struck areas of Ukraine and has said it will continue to do so until the war is over.
It is worth noting that a sizeable number of seasonal workers at Polish farms and nurseries are from Ukraine. The irony is that Poland’s nationalist and Euroskeptic government showed itself rather unsupportive to the influx of migrant workers from Ukraine over the past few years. However, recently, Poland improved its seasonal agricultural working scheme, but the shortage of (male) workers in Polish horticulture continues to be profound. The pandemic provoked an exodus of seasonal workers from Ukraine. The situation was gradually turning toward normalcy until Russia invaded Ukraine. As a result, many male migrant workers from Ukraine returned home to fight in the war. On the other hand, more female horticultural workers come from Ukraine’s growing refugee population.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has drawn global condemnation. Within Germany’s horticulture industry, individual growers, garden centres, flower markets, DIY stores, landscapers, florists and even truck manufacturers have taken action. Their responses range from charity donations, fundraising Peace bouquets, offering alternate housing and jobs, aid transport, and picking up refugees at the border. Germany’s leading horticultural media outlet TASPO provides a roundup of everything that’s happened so far.
Wallerstein-based garden centre Ritter Blumen und Pflanzen decided to donate five euros from each flower arrangement sold in blue and yellow – the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
Dinger’s garden centre in Cologne kicked off a similar campaign, donating part of the day’s takings from five days of sales to various aid organisations. The company raised a total of €12,000 and donated equally to three aid organisations.
Tangstedt-based plant nursery and garden centre Jenkel filled more than six Euro pallets, in five days, with goods to help refugees fleeing the Russian invasion. Business owner Nina Schmidt says, “Our customers brought in well-sorted quality goods which a freight forwarder sent to Warsaw to be distributed onwards from there.”
Shortly after the start of the Ukraine- Russia war, florists across Germany joined forces in several fundraising campaigns. Tina Attenberger from Recklinghausen, for example, and her Blüh-Auf! team raised a sum of €2,500 in one weekend. A staff member of the company suggested fundraising by selling 500 cut roses. It was broadcast via Instagram 20 hours before the campaign started, and there was an overwhelming response. “The customers were so willing to give something. Some even donated without buying anything. Many gave more than two euros per rose,” Attenberger says.
“A customer walked into my shop and asked for a ‘Peace bouquet’, in blue and yellow, “says Birgit Cöhsmeier, owner of the florist shop Blattwerk from Lippstadt. This special request inspired her to start selling a range of yellow and blue Peace bouquets, with 100 per cent of the bouquet sale proceeds going to charities. “Customers simply loved the idea,” says Cöhsmeier. “More than 170 bouquets have already crossed the counter.”
Online plant delivery service Lubera started a “ten per cent campaign for the people in Ukraine” and donated one-tenth of the turnover achieved in its online shop from 7 to 14 March. According to the Lubera website, they raised 14,051.27 Swiss francs plus €17,854. Their sister company Lubera Edibles in Strullendorf near Bamberg, has also decided to donate €5,000. According to the company, the money should preferably go to specifically selected donation targets and smaller campaigns that have secure contacts in Ukraine.
Germany’s gardening and landscaping sector also show solidarity with the people in Ukraine. Fulda-based gardening company Hartmann and two Scottish landscape gardeners drove directly to Ukraine to help people who were fleeing.
The Bundesverband Garten-, Landschafts- und Sportplatzbau (BGL) condemns the Russian attack on Ukraine “in the strongest possible terms” and therefore wants to support all peacemaking measures of the German government and the European Union. Concrete help for people who have fled to Germany is offered by the network of ‘welcome guides’ established in 2015, which helps refugees to find a professional perspective in the gardening and landscaping sector and supports them and their families in making a social and economic (new) start in Germany.
Several landscaping companies in Bavaria are currently providing accommodation and work opportunities for refugees from Ukraine, as reported by the Bavarian Garden, Landscape and Sports Ground Construction Association (VGL). The company Siegfried Kahl Garten-, Landschafts- und Sportplatzbau in Schmidgaden near Amberg, for example, has shown solidarity by taking in two Ukrainian refugees and also providing them with jobs. According to the VGL Bayern, they can start work after completing the registration procedure with the government of Upper Palatinate. Ivanka M. and Gena B. receive help with integration from the Welcome Helper Susann Liebe, who has been placing refugees in training and working in gardening and landscaping for six years.
The Hamburg flower market set up an area for collecting goods for refugees from Ukraine on its premises and has asked its tenants to participate in the aid campaign. According to the appeal, foodstuffs such as tinned fruit and vegetables, sanitary items, bandages, clothing, blankets and sleeping bags are particularly needed. The Hamburg wholesale market says it will organise the onward transport and distribution of the relief supplies.
A first-aid centre with emergency accommodation for refugees from Ukraine has been set up on the Frankfurt Messe exhibition grounds. Hall 1 serves as temporary housing for refugees. The accommodation is operated by the German Red Cross (DRK) and the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB), while Messe Frankfurt is responsible for the construction and other services within the accommodation. In addition, the subsidiary Fairconstruction is helping to equip two sports halls in Frankfurt for refugees.
Together with the shareholder family Semer, the Hellweg DIY group is donating and erecting a container village worth over one million euros in Berlin Tempelhof-Schöneberg, which is intended to provide refugees from Ukraine with a temporary home.
“It is our social responsibility as a family business and our civic duty to promptly and concretely alleviate the suffering of innocent refugee families,” says shareholder Reinhold Semer. According to the group of companies, the container village will be available for at least two years. It will offer its residents accommodation and sanitary and kitchen containers.
The commercial vehicle manufacturer MAN provides aid in various ways. The company provides trucks, buses and vans to support aid organisations. MAN employees have been collecting aid supplies, donating money or offering direct help to the refugees since the outbreak of the war. “The willingness of our colleagues to help is enormous,” reports Fabian Heidinger from MAN, who coordinates the aid campaigns throughout the company. “And the will to support is unbroken.”
In France, Val’Hor, the umbrella organisation for ornamental horticulture in France (regrouping all trade unions from the ornamental sector, from growers to retailers, landscapers, and florists), reiterates “unwavering support to Ukraine in the face of the dramatic situation currently unfolding in the country.
In a show of solidarity, florists at the Salon International d’Agriculture (SIA) in Paris created a bouquet in blue and yellow.
On 5 March, Val’Hor president Catherine Muller presented French agriculture minister Julien Denormandie with the peace bouquet. Muller said, “Through this symbol, we express our strong support to the Ukrainian citizens and send a special thought to our colleagues in this country who are fighting for their freedom.”
Greg Hill of Hills Plants (one of the biggest Poinsettia and orchid growers in the UK) said: “We’ve tried to do what we can to help. One of our colleagues is Ukrainian and was out there when the invasion started. She managed to get back and is working with a Ukrainian charity in London where we’ve helped by supplying pallets and transport to help them collect and collate supplies to send to Ukraine.”
“We’ve also had a fundraising day here where we matched any donations, and these were used to buy specific equipment for people in Kyiv.”
Hill added: “We’ve also been donating money from every sale on our own direct-to-consumer website, The Little Botanical. The funds raised have gone to a local charity called Children on the Edge, which run refugee camps in Romania.”
Frank P Matthews, one of the largest tree nurseries in the UK, has transformed its onsite tree shop into a drop-off site for donations of essential items– such as thermal blankets, medicines, and nappies – that are being sent to Ukraine.
Director Steph Dunn James said: “We were humbled by the generosity of the people in the local area and within the first few days had amassed six pallet boxes of supplies. The company also donated a huge amount of camping equipment, medical supplies, and things like nappies. It is a small effort to help the terrible situation, but we are glad we have been of help, even in a minor way. We are working together with Oakland International, a logistics firm in Redditch, to mobilise these goods to where they are needed.”
In his Acres Online newsletter, Chris Beytes, editor of GrowerTalks, shares a report from his friend Jill Brooke of www.FlowerPowerDaily.com Brooke tells how she and the work of New York florist Lewis Miller inspired a “Flower Flash” in the city of Lviv, Ukraine.’
She says, “We’ve been reporting on how floral artists worldwide are supporting peace in Ukraine by creating floral arrangements—especially the national flower of the sunflower—in blue and yellow arrangements that also symbolise the Ukrainian flag.
With immense pride and tears in our eyes, we’ve showcased these arrangements for several weeks.
We were serendipitously contacted by Anastasia Zhmurenko, a florist in Lviv, Ukraine, whose floral shop had to be abandoned while she and her two young sons sought shelter.
She thanked us for this flower power support and also mentioned how she was distraught at having to leave so many flowers in her shop that now would wither and die.
My colleague, friend and fellow flower lover Tonnelli Gruetter suggested a Lewis Miller-inspired flower flash for Ukraine. “What is that?” Anastasia asked. We sent her images of what the famed florist Lewis Miller had done with “Flower Flashes” to cheer up New York City residents during the pandemic and at other times as his way of giving back to the public.
Within days, Anastasia gathered some of her friends. She used the wilting flowers to create an inspiring installation at the train station in Lviv where emotionally drained Ukrainians arrived to seek refuge in nearby Poland.”
Lewis Miller Designs (LMD) has been making prints of some of Lewis’ more than 100 flower flash installations. The one depicted, titled “Trash Can,” featuring sunflowers against a blue and yellow graffiti background that evokes the Ukrainian flag, will be sold to raise funds for Flower Flash Limited Edition Print – Lewis Miller Design for Ukraine relief.