Petalon are a British flower company, rooted in sustainability. Where possible, they use their own Cornish grown flowers for their bouquets, as well as opting for plastic-free packaging and carbon neutral shipping across the UK. Florence Kennedy founded Petalon in London but has since moved the whole business and her family to Cornwall where they are able grow their own ‘Field Flowers’ which are available from March through to November.
For our latest ‘At work with’, we chatted with Florence and her husband, James about how Petalon was born, their commitment to sustainability, growing tips and what their plans are for the future.
Can you tell us how you came up with the brand together in the early days?
When we were in our early 20s we both quite quickly realised that conventional employment wasn’t going to suit us well. James started down the road of launching his bicycle business, Kennedy City Bicycles, and when that idea and the bicycle lifestyle we were living collided with his sending Florence a particularly underwhelming bunch of flowers the idea for Petalon was born. We’d deliver flowers without all of the bad bits. Environmentally friendly packaging, low overheads, quick delivery and a pair of bouquets that change each week with the seasons rather than a massive menu of the same flowers all year round.
What inspired your move to Cornwall back in 2020?
We’d just had our second child, Ossian, and were coming to the end of a lease on an amazing building we’d happened upon in Hackney. We knew we couldn’t get the space we wanted by staying where we were so we started to look further afield. When this farm came up on auction we knew it was special but we couldn’t afford it. We got a call from the auction house a few weeks later saying it had failed to sell and asking if we were still interested – we came to see it the same day and realised we had to find a way to move here. And we did! It quickly became obvious that we could supply the business with our own flowers and when covid hit and we became much more hands on in the day to day running of the business we decided to bring the whole thing down with us. It was a good decision.
You donate 100% of all profits to UK conservation projects – can you tell us a little more about these?
We are lucky enough to have grown the business organically and so are still in control of how the money gets spent. We lead a pretty modest lifestyle and the salaries the business pays us are enough to support us so we came to the conclusion that rather than chasing dividends we’d be more motivated if we knew the business’s success would be tied into good things for the planet. That’s when we made the call to start donating all of our end of year profits to conservation in the UK. This year we’re working on cleaning plastic from Cornish beaches. We’ll have more details on how we’re doing this in the coming weeks via our newsletter (it’s at the foot of our homepage).
You practice sustainability extremely well as a business but do you have any tips for sustainable home living too?
We’d be wary of framing ourselves as the experts in this but one thing we do a lot more of down here is composting. It seemed very distant when we were putting food waste in little caddies in London but being down here and seeing how easily anything organic can be reused makes it so much more tangible. We’d also point people in the direction of “no dig” growing for their waste cardboard. Basically you lay it on any soil/grassy area, pile compost or green waste on top then plant directly in to it. The card will break down over time and even feed the soil and your plants will root down through it in to the soil but without the grass and weeds coming up.
You’ve been growing flowers for almost two years – can you tell us about the highs and the lows?
Our big tip for people who want to grow their own stuff is sweetpeas. They are really resilient, well suited to our climate and when they mature are massive and smell unbelievable! They’ve been a winner for us since the start, as have our ranunculus. We struggled a lot with zinnia last year, despite their reputation for being easy to grow! We basically discovered we have a corner of our land which is full of slugs and they were annihilating the plants as soon as they came out of the ground. We’ve since housed a team of Indian Runner ducks down there who think the slugs are delicious and we’re hoping that makes a big difference this year! We’ve also pulled up several beds of Clarkia. The mild winter was a bit too mild for them and they essentially got very clammy. Not conducive to a healthy plant!
Is there anything you hope to achieve in coming years that has not yet been possible?
We’re in the process of a B Corp application at the moment. That isn’t really improving our sustainability but it does offer some sort of recognition for what we’re trying to do. Our big plan is to take on another 4 fields at the end of the year and begin a new way of growing on them that is something of a cross between conventional field-scale agriculture and a “forest garden”. If it comes off we hope it will marry a bigger scale with a really healthy local ecosystem. We probably shouldn’t say much more than that as we haven’t nailed it all down yet!
Out of all the flowers you grow, which is your favourite scent?
Geranium and Sweet Pea. Geranium is a classic and we use the leaves as foliage in our bouquets. It’s the smell of posh restaurant hand soap for a reason, it’s totally delicious. Sweet pea flowers are so…. sweet! In some ways they suit flower delivery perfectly because the box they are in contains that scent until opened and the recipient gets a lovely hit all at once.
Visit Petalon’s website: petalon.co.uk