In the Moment: with Florence Kennedy
I’m not sure if we’re different to other florists,” Florence Kennedy muses as she cradles a cup of tea, the morning light spilling through the vast windows of her East London studio home and workshop that she shares with her husband, James, and their Great Dane, Huxley. Dressed in a Breton T-shirt and slouchy jeans, the cuffs of her cashmere knit pushed up her tanned arms, her face is radiant with just a touch of mascara and bronzer. If she’s suffering from her daily 3am start at the flower market, she isn’t showing it. “I think our business concept is what makes us different,” she says.
Florence quit her office job two years ago to found Petalon, a bouquets-by-bicycle florist that delivers rustic, hand-tied arrangements across London. “Before that I did what a lot of Londoners do and jumped from job to job, with my heart not fully in it,” she explains. It was watching her husband build his bespoke bicycle company, Kennedy City Bicycles, that planted the seed for her own business. “When you live with someone who’s following their dream and you’re like, “Oh, see you at 7pm,” it’s really hard. Even though I liked my job I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever,” Florence says.
Petalon has solid eco credentials. Delivered exclusively by pedal power, for every bunch sold, Florence donates £1 to the Bee Collective, a social enterprise that works with London beekeepers to sustain city beekeeping. In return, they supply Florence with beeswax bullions,
which her husband uses to condition the leather saddles on his bikes.
Florence’s unique take on cut flowers is evident in the seasonal bunches she puts together every day. They also show her appreciation for keeping things natural. “I think that a flower should look like it’s come from a garden or a meadow,” she explains. “I’ll always follow the natural shape of that flower or pair it with something that comes from a garden or a hedgerow.”
And what about her personal style? There’s nothing ornate there either. “I dress so I can jump on a bike, so skirts are out. There’s a lot of water and stems everywhere, so it’s quite messy and I need stuff I can work in easily and that will survive wear and tear.”
If you thought the life of a florist was wafting around in floaty frocks with armfuls of freshly cut flowers, you can think again. “It’s hard graft,” Florence says, laughing. “You have to get up at 3am, drive vans through town at rush hour, condition buckets and buckets of flowers, change litres of water and sterilise everything so that bacteria doesn’t infect any of the flowers. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that you don’t see when you walk into a flower shop.”
So, is there any part of her that misses her old 9-5 life? Absolutely not. “It’s been a big lifestyle shift, I earn a lot less now, but I’m ten times happier. I also work ten times harder but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
STEP 1: THE BASICS “Start with the key players – roses or peonies – and then build in things like cow parsley from the hedgerow. I love flowers to look as natural as possible and not too manicured”
STEP 2: THE ADDED EXTRAS “I use a lot of herbs like rosemary – they add interest and scent. It’s all very well looking good, but you want a bouquet to smell good as well”
STEP 3: THE STYLE “I don’t like things to look uniform so we use a hodgepodge of different vessels – lots of old apothecary bottles and tin urns”
STEP 4: THE PRESENTATION “I put a ball of chicken wire in the vase and that helps to keep the stems stable so they don’t fall to the side”
STEP 5: THE ARRANGEMENT “You can do single stem arrangements with roses: use different vases and keep varying stem heights. I always work in odd numbers so it looks less uniform. If your roses come with any buds, add them to the vases too as it gives you lots of texture”
“I’d describe my personal style as very basic, easy and
nothing too fussy”
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