Published on May 23rd, 2013 | by Tara Gould
Lettuce Flowers – Living, Eating, Breathing Flowers
When Sushma Windsor used growing flower displays and edible petals on her wedding day, it was the delighted reaction of her guests that prompted a brilliant idea for a business.
Sushma Windsor is the founder and director of Lettuce Flowers, an ethically centred flower company with a difference.
Lettuce Flowers provides fresh, seasonal living floral displays for weddings and events, and because many of the flowers and plants are edible guests can literally live, breath and eat the colourful arrangements.
Offering a unique and enchanting multi-sensory experience, Sushmi’s flower displays are proving popular at high profile events: she recently created the displays for the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards.
As well as growing arrangements, Lettuce Flowers provides salads and dishes using edible flowers and delicious herb and flower canapés.
At Ethical Business, what we love about Lettuce Flowers is their principled yet imaginative approach. They only use seasonal plants grown in the UK and therefore displace the need for the air miles that the traditional carbon heavy cut flower industry clocks up with flowers flown in from far away places.
At the end of an event, the flowers aren’t thrown away, or left to slowly wilt and go brown, guests can take them home and either replant them or put them on their windowsills.
As Sushma says:
“Our displays say that you care about sustainability and symbolise perpetual growth as they make perfect keepsakes.”
Sushma’s background is in ethical fashion, and it was on her wedding day that the seed for Lettuce Flowers was sown. Sushma knew from the offset that using cut flowers to decorate her wedding venue was a no no, and so as part of their simple ceremony in Sussex they made their own displays with living, growing wild flowers. Guests were given dishes and salads containing the same edible leaves and petals from the flowers in front of them:
“All the food arrived with edible flowers in various colours and the guests were thrilled to see the bees and butterflies flying on the wild flowering plants.”
Sushma described to us how guests took many of the plants home and asked for advice about planting and care, and that the manager of the conservation estate where they celebrated was delighted when Sushma donated the growing wild flowering plants that adorned the picnic tables and the grounds.
But that was just the beginning. The following spring, Sushma was inundated with calls and messages from friends and family telling her how their plants were now coming up and flowering again, and how this brought back memories of the wedding day, and the experience of eating the edible flowers on the food. Sushma and her husband had what can only be described as a lightbulb moment:
“This sparked an idea for both of us, what if we could combine the plants with edible living flowers and keep them seasonal?”
And so began the start of an exciting and lengthy journey. After months of research and relentless negotiations, they found a number of nursery suppliers who specialised in herbs, salads and edible flowers.
Their inaugural event was the launch of an Italian restaurant in the Isle of Dogs:
“The reaction of the guests was one of intrigue and we saw how people wanted to touch, feel, rub, smell and taste the arrangements. This kind of multisensory reaction was not what we expected, but we were thrilled to learn from it. We started to offer recipe inspiration and care instructions with every arrangement and the feedback has been very positive.”
To date, they have adorned dinner tables at gala nights, award ceremonies, birthday celebrations and weddings. The demand from people for an online delivery service has been huge, and this was what prompted the online shop:
“We thought: Imagine how wonderful it would be to use Lettuce Flower arrangements for an event or send them to your friends, when they can use the plants in their cooking and garnishes.”
Sushma is keen to ensure ethical principles run through all elements of the supply chain and processes involved in her business. The UK cut flower industry is worth over £2billion, and 90% of those flowers are imported from Kenya and Columbia, where the land water could be used for food production. Sushma felt it was the right time to offer UK customers a seasonal and distinctive alternative to intensively farmed cut flowers, she says:
“Longevity through living plants makes complete sense. Cut flowers have to be thrown away into landfill: most local councils do not consider them as part of garden waste. Unfortunately this will add to methane gas production as the flowers decompose in the landfill.”
Lettuce Flowers recently joined Positive Impact to challenge themselves even more so that everything they do is environmentally conscious.