Hi Florence! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your environment friendly flower company Petalon. Could you tell a little bit about Petalon and how it got started?
Petalon was born in East London shortly after my husband James began his bicycle manufacturing business. When James needed to send a bunch of flowers one day, we both realised there wasn’t much choice if you wanted to send something beautiful and original for a reasonable price. Surrounded by James’s bicycles, we had an idea for a better kind of flower delivery. Petalon was born, with the aim of offering beautiful yet affordable flowers, in a more conscious way.

Every week, we design two fresh bouquets. Our focus for these is seasonality, variety and a wild, garden-grown style. We deliver these across Britain for 7 days, before designing another two bouquets for the following week and starting again. This means we have a constantly changing offering, keeping things seasonal, while making sure our wastage stays low. The cut flower industry isn’t too kind on the environment, so we wanted to not only reduce waste in this wasteful industry but also give something back. That’s why our bouquets are packaged in biodegradable or recyclable materials, we donate 5% of profits to bee conservation charities and we plant a tree in Britain for every 100 bouquets we send.

In the early days, it was just me and my bike, heading to the market at 4am to select flowers, then heading home to arrange the bouquets, write out people’s messages and then hand deliver across East London. As word of mouth grew, so did our delivery area and our team. We started doing weddings and workshops and I was invited to write a floristry book, Flowers Every Day, published with Pavilion. With a book and a baby on the way, a more formal business structure was needed and Becki joined the team in 2016 as Head of Operations (and general captain of the ship “Petalon”), James took over the commercial stuff and we hired dedicated florists and cyclists.

In 2018 we extended our service from 5 days a week to 7 days a week and launched our nationwide service, offering the same Petalon bouquets on a next-day service to the rest of the country using a carbon-neutral courier. We were delighted to see our bouquets popping up all over Britain and we continued to deliver to 50 postcodes across London by bicycle, as well as to the rest of the country, all from our studio in East London.

In 2020, we made the decision to move the family out of London to Cornwall. This was partly a personal decision, to be closer to family, but also with business plans to start growing our own flowers. Petalon has always been a family-run business, so it made sense to run the business from Cornwall after the move, which meant leaving the London bicycle delivery behind. However, in turn, we gained the space and the resources to be able to grow our own flowers. Not only does this mean we are able to remove more and more carbon from our product journey, we think it makes our bouquets really special to have flowers in them straight from our own field. We now have two commercial size polytunnels, rows upon rows of flower beds and a budding flower farm of our own.

Did you plan from the beginning to be growing your own flowers?
Not at all. We stumbled across our forever home in early 2019 and knew that with the lease running out on our home in London that it was the right time. There is a 2 acre field that we rent at the back of our property. Covid bought all our not-very-well-thought-through plans forward by a good couple of years so we dove straight into growing - building polytunnels, lots of beds and infrastructure and hoping for lots of flowers this year! 
How does your company differ from most flower companies?
To be honest I don't really focus much attention on what other companies are doing. Everyone has their niche and that's great, we are just focussing on trying to do the best we can by offering our customers great flowers, trying to reduce our impact on the planet and hopefully this year being able to send varieties that don't usually make it into flower shops, trying to showcase what amazing, British flowers we can grow in this country. I'm really excited to make British flowers more accessible to people that live in cities or don't come across them so easily. 

How different your life is now in Cornwall after London? 
Very. But everyone's lives have been different this past year. I've only lived in Cornwall during a pandemic so it's hard to know what our new normal will look like. We've been so busy with the farm I haven't really explored so much. Waking up with the sunrises over all the surrounding fields is so magical, I have craved countryside since forever and it feels incredible to be in the thick of it. It's been incredibly rewarding seeing all our hard work around the farm, James has worked so hard on building the place up, making sure we have places to work, places to grow. It's never ending but to step back and see how much we've got done this year feels great.  

I hope people are still buying flowers and that Covid hasn't affected your business too much? 
The floristry industry has been hit really bad. From high street florists having to shut, to wedding and event florists having all their jobs cancelled. It's been really tough for them. We are in a unique position whereby we got busier - lots of people who couldn't be with family members sent them flowers instead so we've used that boost in sales to fund the flower farm set up. 

What inspires you to design your flower creations? Or what inspires you in general?
I am limited to what's available on auction each week but I always have a colour palette in mind that I'd like to try. I save pictures on Instagram for colour pairings I like, sometimes flowers end up in the 'spares' bucket and you think "wow, I'd have never put those 2 colours together" but it looks great! I'm honestly just trying to change it up each week so that it never feels too similar. Luckily the seasons mean that the bouquets change in varieties throughout the year too. 
Thank you Florence! 
Photos by India Hobson