CARPINTERIA, Calif. - California flowers are getting a prominent place at high profile White House events, including one in the last few weeks.
A Carpinteria grower, Eric Van Wingerden from Myriad flowers, says the blue, purple and yellow Iris like the ones he grows was featured in early February when President and Mrs. Obama hosted France's President, Francois Hollande for a State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House.
The California Cut Flower Commission has been encouraging the White House staff to make sure U.S. flowers were on the tables at their events, and not in a shared bouquet with imported flowers.
State Dinners are a way to celebrate U.S. relations with international friends and allies.
In many ways, these events demonstrate the cultural and culinary heritages of the country.
The recent State Dinner celebrated the "best of American cuisine" and featured dry-aged rib eye beef from Colorado, trout from Maine, cheese from Vermont, chocolate from Hawaii, and potatoes from New York, Idaho, and California. The wines served at the dinner included excellent selections featuring California, Washington State, and Virginia offerings. However, beyond the menu itself an equally impressive feature was the visible presence of American cut flowers that decorated and added a stunning visual touch for guests at the White House. The floral arrangements displayed at the dinner included:
Flowering quince branch – Mississippi
Weeping willow – South New Jersey
Scotch Broom – Virginia
Iris (blue and purple) – California
Alocasia – Apopka, FL and Zellwood, FL
Equisetum – East coast Florida, De Leon Springs
Nandina – East coast Florida, De Leon Springs
Green Liriope – East coast Florida, De Leon Springs
At the featured dinners there's "always a focus on getting American foods and wine," said Van Wingerden. "And what we wanted to do is to have a natural progression to flowers and get flowers on the table at the White House."
Casey Kronquist with the Cut Flower Commission had a conversation about the flowers with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein during a Chamber of Commerce event back in May of 2012 in Santa Barbara. Some flowers had made it to the White House, at that time, and Feinstein, a flower lover, said she too wanted to see more California flowers there.
"Good, good. Well I should probably call Mrs. Obama and say 'thank you'", said Feinstein.
"It just enhances the locally grown movement and reinforces that in people's minds. We stand by our assertion that we are the freshest flowers you can get, especially in California, what can be fresher than the ones grown right in your back yard," said Van Wingerden.