The United Kingdom is a major market for cut flowers in Europe, with consumption exceeding €2.5 billion per year, according to the CBI. But floristry is not an innately sustainable business. While receiving flowers may seem wholesome and eco-friendly on the surface, the reality is, they have often been shipped half way across the world to get to where you are. What’s more, when catering for large scale events like weddings and funerals, installations are teeming with single use plastic, like cable ties, and floral foam.
Floral foam has become infamous in floristry, gaining a bad reputation due to its non-biodegradable nature. In practice, the foam is a dense, lightweight material that can be cut into virtually any shape to hold flowers in place, but the downside is that it harms the environment. Not only is the foam not compostable, the material is synthetic, meaning chemicals can make their way into the water, cutting short the life of the flowers.
That said, it is possible to buy flowers for Valentine's Day sustainably, you just have to look out for companies who are committed to protecting the planet.
We visited five of the best eco-friendly florists, all with the most beautiful bouquets you’ll find in London. All told us they were inspired by the work of royal florist Shane Connolly, a force for change in the industry, who advocates for ethically sourced, seasonal flowers and environmentally responsible cultivation.
When it comes to eco-friendly flowers, we reckon founder Jason Boon is one of the most reputable in London. His company Pleroma Flowers may only be sprouting at the roots compared with other corporate florists, but Jason really practices what he preaches. I meet him in a Gail’s coffee shop in leafy Queen’s Park to discuss his passion for British flowers and green ethos. Jason buys his stock from around the UK, from counties like Hampshire, and opts for mainly Narcissi, Cornflower and English Lavender in the spring and summer months.
Buying from within the UK is already something that makes him stand out, as most florists source all their produce from Holland. But as well as that, he doesn’t use single-use plastic, recycles all his green waste and opts for chicken wire to keep floral arrangements in place – with a zero tolerance policy on flower foam. Perhaps the most sustainable element to Jason’s floristry is the fact that all his flowers are delivered using Urb-it, a company who only deliver via public transport or on foot.
You'll find Pleroma Flowers next to Queens Park Station, in West London.
Quite clearly East London’s most flamboyant florist, Rebel Rebel make bold flower arrangements for both individual delivery and large-scale events. Founders Mairead and Athena have been in the business for 20 years and buy mostly seasonal flowers from New Covent Garden flower market every morning.
The team are fully committed to improving their green credentials, having spent months convincing the borough of Hackney to provide them with a green waste bin, to make sure they could recycle efficiently. They use chicken wire in as many floral arrangements as they can and when they have to use plastic, it will be re-used multiple times, rather than remaining single-use. This year, their Valentine’s bouquets are made from beautiful dried flowers, meaning they last a long time.
Rebel Rebel also offer something very unique, they run flower workshops in Tuscany, often popular with mothers and daughters. With their own cutting garden in a rustic farmhouse, the team conduct workshops on how to make flower crowns, construct table settings and forage for foliage in the woods.
Look out for Rebel Rebel's beautiful shop inside Mare Street Market in Hackney.
Nestled in the heart of Bloomsbury, just next to The British Museum, is Orchidya. As you might have guessed, their speciality is orchids, orchids, orchids. While it isn’t always possible to buy within the UK during winter months, the company grow their own orchids over summer in a 13-acre greenhouse in Lincolnshire. They have been awarded three gold medals and two silver medals at the Chelsea Flower Show and are committed to sustainable flower cultivation wherever possible.
Orchidya’s fresh flower arrangements are imaginative and colourful, using only high quality blooms that will last. This year, their Valentine’s bouquets contain both fiery yellows, oranges and reds and softer pinks and nudes too.
The Orchidya flower shop is at 42 Store Street, Bloomsbury.
Petalon has never paid for any marketing, since its inception in 2014. Its success is entirely due to word of mouth, which is testament to the brand's eco-friendly, ethical character. Founded by husband and wife Florence and James Kennedy, it is now one of London's most niche, sought-after florists.
Every week, the founders offer just two bouquets to choose from, thus vastly reducing any wastage. Flowers are fresh, with an English feel to them, and come wrapped in natural hessian with a biodegradeable water source. The flower arrangements are delivered exclusively by bicycle throughout London, and if you're just outside, they will be posted in a recycled cardboard box.
5% of all of flower delivery profits also go to environmental charity Bee Collective and the company plant one tree for every 100 bouquets sold.
Petalon don't have a physical shop, but online orders can be made easily on their website.
The Real Flower Company
The Real Flower Company is the go-to choice if you're after real luxury. The Chelsea based florist make bouquets from roses, wild flowers, herbs and foliage grown on their own English Fairtrade sustainable farms. It all started when founder Rosebie Morton began cultivating her own rose gardens at her family farm in Hampshire. Nowadays, the flower farms are based in South Downs National Park, where great care is taken to contain soil structure and use minimal tillage to improve and maintain good nature, fertility and worm populations. They also grow sweet peas on a farm near Chichester.
Out of season, the company harvest their flowers from a Fairtrade farm in Kenya, employing a local community workforce of around 500 men and women who hand-pick the roses and herbs. Founder Rosebie tells us she is proud to lead a business with a sustainable story and is committied to "nurturing the flowers from seed to vase."
The Real Flower Company has two shops in South London. One at 66 New Kings Road and the other at 13 Cale Street.