Can you share more behind the mission of why you do what you do and how it all began?
Our mission has grown and developed over the years. When we started it was just me (Florence) and my bike in London. I wanted to deliver bouquets that were affordable but had the beautiful flowers i’d seen in luxury bouquets rather than just cheaper blooms you tend to get with a more affordable bouquet. I wanted to be able to offer same day delivery and the best way to deliver in London is by bicycle (i also didn’t have a car so that solved that). I wanted the packaging to be as sustainable as possible and knowing that the cut flower industry uses a lot of pesticides and insecticides I wanted to give a portion of our profit to bee conservation to try and compensate (in what little way we could) for this part of our supply chain.
We are now based in Cornwall and our new location has shaped our mission dramatically over the short 18 months that we’ve been here. The pandemic also had a huge part to play in the development of the business. We can no longer deliver by bicycle so all our deliveries are by overnight courier. Lots of people sent lots of flowers to friends and family they couldn’t be with over the various lockdowns and this increase in sales gave us the opportunity to invest in the infrastructure needed to grow our own flowers which has been the most rewarding, eye opening and wonderful part of the journey so far. With the main focus on growing varieties I struggle to source elsewhere we pride ourselves with unusual, interesting crops.
With growing our own flowers we have to look closely at our soil, and from there we have been on a journey into soil health, not just for the field we grow in, but a broader idea of how we can improve the land of our surrounding area, how can we sequester as much carbon as possible? How can we encourage more wildlife to the area? How can we take more carbon than we release in our business model? These are all big questions and it’s the start of an incredible journey for us into land restoration and what’s possible on our scale.
What has been the biggest business success and challenge you’ve had to overcome that you are most proud of?
The biggest success for me has been the Field Flowers. This was our first year growing our own flowers and the feedback, number of sales and just general buzz was more than i could’ve ever hoped for. To see a picture of our striped ranunculus on someone’s dinner table in a tiny village in Scotland was a surreal and wonderful moment for me.
The biggest challenge was moving the business down to Cornwall, all the risks and unknowns were incredibly daunting. Most of our customers were Londoners so I was very worried we wouldn’t be their first choice any longer. But it turns out our customers are incredibly loyal and believe in what we do.
We have loved following your journey of your move to the country. How has your relationship with nature/what the natural world means to you changed?
One of my personal driving forces for moving to the country was that i wanted to wake up in beauty. I have always lived in cities and in London I never saw the sun actually set or rise from wherever we lived and I have no idea why but it became a real fixation for me, I wanted to be able to see the sunrise. We have a large open protected field right in front of our house. What’s wonderful is that as it’s protected no farmer can work the land and it means we see way more wildlife here. The Barn Owls are the biggest joy for me. I just can’t quite believe it. My relationship with nature is constantly evolving. When i lived in London nature felt like a luxury that I only tasted properly when I was on holiday, but now that we have a sliver of it I feel fiercely protective over it and want to better it as much as possible. We are taking our first steps into land restoration of our surrounding area and i hope we can make some positive changes for our corner of the natural world.
Has there been any surprisingly significant shifts for the business as a result?
Definitely. The business has become bigger and with that comes more security and the capacity to invest in infrastructure here on the farm. We have a solid team of wonderful employees and a clearer understanding of who we are and what we want to achieve. The flower delivery process is streamlined and the florists and studio staff know how to make a petalon bouquet, how it should be wrapped and packed, and the couriers are reliable (i know, who’d have thought it). The area in which we are all growing and learning is the flower farm and the surrounding land restoration, how we present ourselves and what our products will look like in the future. It feels like a very exciting time on our business journey.
Ideally, what does the next 5 years look like for Petalon?
I hope we see the biodiversity of our area increase from our efforts and see a tangible change in our landscape. We are now carbon neutral which has been a huge milestone for us but we hope to build on that further. The ‘mixed herd’ is gradually taking shape and I can’t wait to see the animals we begin to welcome to the farm. We are taking animals on for their poo (and their cuteness).
If you had to create your ‘Desert Island’ bouquet as it were, what would it consist of?
Nothing makes me quite as breathless as flowering dogwood.
Are there any people/business you’d like to give a shout out too? Who else (doing amazing things with botanics) inspires you most? The lost gardens of Heligan are a huge inspiration. Their seed saving efforts for perennial wildflowers is going to be an incredible boost to the environment.
What is the one luxury that money can’t buy? Cup of tea on the backstep with sunrise on your face. Slippers and dressing gown for extra luxury.
Name one everyday pleasure..
Watching the birds of prey that live here.
What are some of your daily rituals that you rely on to make you happy? A morning walk across the fields.
What does home mean to you? Sanctuary.
When you are looking for a new home, what is the one thing that is a must-have? Character.
What is your favourite scent and why? Fig leave. Reminds me of my childhood home.
Which classically ‘bad’ smell do you love? I quite like the smell of a river.
What’s your 2021 sustainable pledge you’ve made? We’ve become a carbon neutral company, we have carbon neutral products and we aim to be carbon net zero by 2030.
What actions have you done recently to help your carbon footprint?
We are now certified Carbon Neutral. The installation of solar panels on our roofs powers our business. We have just reseeded an 11 acre field which has been farmed heavily for decades with a 26 species herbal mix. This enriched grassland (with 10 types of clover, fennel and all sorts in there) is growing rapidly, ready for the arrival of a small mixed herd to feed from, poo on and help capture as much carbon as we can.
Favourite shop/place in your neighbourhood? And why?
The harbour in Newquay for food (in the months it’s open) is great. Kids playing on the beach while we eat from street food trucks is hard to beat.
A must go holiday spot..