The Why - Silver Grey Foliage
There is a lot of information available about us, through our website, social media and newsletter. I am conscious that you may have read much of this already and for this reason, I thought I would focus in this brief introduction on why we grow flowers here in Leeds.
Our first investment was in Eucalyptus. The leaves are beautiful, the perfumes of each variety are unique and it is a crop that is in demand. Eucalyptus is also in many household products and used for firewood, though none of these are the reason that we chose this crop. In my research for the first wedding that I designed for, I learnt that Eucalyptus foliage is expensive for florists to buy and that, because relatively small amounts of it are grown in the UK (compared with the needs of the floral industry), a large part of foliage sold in the UK is imported. During early research, I heard time and again from florists that they were willing to waste significant proportions of the foliage that they did buy, owing to damage during transit and seasonal variations in quality. The percentage of waste in some seasons could be greater than 50%. I concluded that it had to be better to buy the foliage from a local source, to reduce the amount of waste and increase the quality of the foliage being used.
Eucalyptus was the beginning of my interest in sustainability in the floral industry. I started paying attention to the flowers that we could buy and those that florists had access to at wholesale. There are greater experts on the facts and figures in relation to the environmental impact of floristry and delving deep into this is not the purpose of my letter. In short, I wanted to try to grow flowers, here in Leeds, that had not travelled thousands of miles and had not been sprayed with chemicals that harmed the people that worked with them, that supported the soil and natural ecosystem of the growing space and ultimately would be wonderful to work with as a florist.
With this as our intention, I knew that there were only so many flowers that we needed for ourselves. People love flowers. I wanted to offer people in Leeds a locally grown, sustainable and better quality alternative to the flowers available from the supermarkets and florists. Thus we began the slow process of building a community of enthusiasts for our flowers. It is slow because this is not a hobby and it takes a mixture of education, opportunity and time to achieve. I am, in some ways, a patient person and teaching our customers about the variety of flowers that are available, the importance of looking after our soil in order to grow healthy flowers without fertilisers and pesticides and that every natural product has a different longevity is fundamental, as it supports their long term investment and association with us.
So far, I have said that Eucalyptus is where we started and that sustainable growing is our ethos and approach. Ultimately, this has all been more work than either of us ever expected or planned and we are busy enough with 2 children and 2 other jobs! It would be reasonable therefore to ask, why are we growing a business and not just enjoying an allotment? The answers are these:
1 - I want to grow a business that, through working outside and growing beautiful things, sustains our family and our lives.
2 - Flowers are beautiful. Despite the privileges that our roles and responsibilities historic and current have offered, the doors that flowers have opened for us to share the joy and sadness of others, directly and indirectly, is more powerful than any job that either of us have done.
3 - Gardening and floristry started as a hobby. As a grower, I am more ruthless about what I will and will not grow than I was as a gardener. As a florist, I am consistent about the need to work with what is in season to create beautiful work. The skills and knowledge that we have acquired and continue to learn in a variety of ways are skills that we share and want to teach and share in due course.