15 September 2020

Beauty vs Vase Life

From day one at Petalon, our mission has always been to provide our customers with unusual, interesting and beautiful flowers that are different from your bunch of lilies or a formally arranged bouquet of roses, with poker straight stems of foliage sticking up in unnaturally, evenly-spaced intervals. We wanted our bouquets to look and feel natural, to change with the seasons and stand out from what else is available on the market, while always maintaining a reasonable price point.

But as a business sending perishable goods, it can’t all be about beauty (unfortunately). We also have to consider vase life. So when designing the bouquets, we do a weekly dance between, oh that’s so beautiful…but will it travel alright? How long will it last once it’s in a vase? Some of our favourite flowers, we just can’t use for our bouquets because – and we’ve tried and tested this – they just don’t go the distance. Every year we swoon over the most impressive dahlias, pastel coloured achillea and scented garden roses. And although these are perfect for weddings, when they have to look beautiful for just one day, we begrudgingly must set these aside from our bouquets, or risk disappointing our customers when they don’t last as long as they’d expect.

Supermarkets have created a false standard for how long all flowers should last. With the aim of making as big a profit margin as possible, the flowers they choose are the cheapest, most hardy varieties, treated with an array of chemicals to make them last longer and because of this, they are the most common. Spray carnations, lilies, sunflowers, alstromeria, solidago, certain chrysanthemums. All in solid, block colours – your pinks, yellows, whites, reds. These largely unseasonal, chemically treated flowers skew the average for how long flowers are expected to last. Flowers are natural, ephemeral things, placed on kitchen tables, inviting people to sniff them; if given the choice, people would probably rather have something in their home and under their nose that is as close to natural as possible. This isn’t us ganging up on these more common flowers, but with our new venture into growing our own flowers, it would be silly of us to put in the time, money and effort to just grow things you can buy anywhere.

Of course, we too have our go-to flowers that we know are reliable – carnations, lisianthus, chrysanthemums – but we try to choose unusual varieties: pinks that bleed in to browns, nude with flecks of deep red, apricot with tinges of burnt orange. We always try to achieve a tonal palette with our bouquets – we want the colours to blend together, as opposed to mixing bold, contrasting colours side by side. That’s just our personal preference. But by default, these varieties are harder to find and more expensive to buy. Sometimes they’re even experiments – a new variety that catches our eye, but then is never seen again as they weren’t popular enough, much to our dismay.

As florists, our personal relationship with flowers means we know it’s often a trade off – some of the most beautiful, seasonal flowers come with a price – a shorter vase life. This is a trade off we’re, personally, happy to take. Will we take something twice as beautiful that may last half as long? Yes. But it’s not about us, it’s about what customers want and expect, with the added curveball that the majority of our bouquets are gifts that customers are buying for someone else. We’re now in the incredibly privileged and exciting position to be growing our own flowers. This is not only an opportunity to remove more and more carbon from our product journey, it means we can introduce our customers to new and exciting varieties that we get to grow, offering a product that’s even more unique. But again, we must get the balance right – do we risk growing this unusual, beautiful variety, something you may never have seen before, if we don’t know if it’ll pass the longevity test?

We’re interested to hear from you on this, as we always are with any big decisions we’ve made about the business over the last 6 years. We are here because of you and your support. So what’s most important (bearing in mind that answering ‘both’ is cheating) – would you prioritise vase life or would you be happy to receive a bouquet that includes something gorgeous and entirely new to you, but maybe doesn’t last as long as the rest of the bouquet? Answers on a postcard please (or email is also fine).

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