Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, the The Real Flower Company’s Founding Director, Rosebie Morton, had a revelation. She noticed that the world of cut flowers had changed, and not necessarily for the better.
Demand for out-of-season flowers was on the rise and there was a focus on selective breeding to increase flower durability and longevity. This may have made flowers easier to grow; easier to transport; better able to withstand being stored in chillers for long periods of time; and increase their vase life. But it came at a cost.
“Cut flowers had become uniform, scentless and charmless,” says Rosebie.
Indeed, in many cases, the scent gene had been supressed to the point where there was no distinguishable scent at all: a problem that persists today. Frustrated by this, Rosebie was spurred into action.
Roses and herbs
In 1995, Rosebie started growing garden roses and herbs in the walled garden of her family’s manor farm in Hampshire – flowers with natural charm, character and heady scent. Some within the industry thought Rosebie was mad, but her wonderful flowers with their natural blemishes, colours and wayward stems were a breath of fresh air in the architectural, minimalist décor of the period.
Her business became such a success in the British growing season that Rosebie was faced with one of the very problems that she identified at the start: what to do about out-of-season demand.
Looking further afield
In order to supply flowers all year round, she would need to look further afield.
Luckily, Rosebie had the timely fortune to meet Tim and Maggie Hobbs – Kenyan farmers keen to diversify crops on their sustainable farm on the foothills of Mount Kenya. Rosebie flew out with some of her own rose bushes to share her wealth of knowledge with the Kenyan farm. The rose bushes (and the farm) went from strength to strength and their flowers are now used once the British growing season is over.
“This does not contradict our commitment to sustainability,” assures Rosebie, whose on-farm environmental credentials are impressive to say the least.
“Research published by Cranfield University has shown that carbon emissions from Kenyan flowers, including air freight, are nearly six times lower than for Dutch flowers due to the optimal growing conditions in Kenya and a ready supply of natural heat and light, while Dutch growers rely on significant input of gas and electricity.”
“Also, our flowers are transported utilising empty space on scheduled passenger jets rather than cargo-only flights,” she adds.
And so, in 1998, with a year-round supply of her signature scented flowers secured, The Real Flower Company was born.
Hidden in the heart of Hampshire, at the original farm at Hinton Ampner where it all began, they grow their trademark garden roses, wildflowers, herbs and foliage. Each day flower paddock manager Rob Marsden and his team walk the miles of rose and herb beds, painstakingly removing dead heads from each bush and plant. Stems are hand-harvested daily and everything is done by hand.
During spring and early summer, farm manager Gerry Strydom and his team at their farm near Chichester, West Sussex, add their wonderful sweet peas to the mix.
A passion for flowers
The Real Flower Company's teams start early to ensure that their flowers are as fresh as possible when they are sent on to their affiliates or to their own nearby workshop, where they are made into beautiful bouquets for UK delivery.
Since January 2015, they have also been the exclusive official creator and distributor of David Austin bouquets across the UK.
“We are a team with passion for flowers as flowers should be,” says Rosebie. “Full of scent, vibrant with colour and unique in their natural imperfections and textures.”
“Our aim is to ensure that the experience of opening our signature green delivery box is a sensory delight, combining exquisite scent with beautiful, natural looking flowers.
The Real Flower Company | www.realflowers.co.uk