Inspired by a quest for garden-grown wedding flowers, sisters Becky and Sarah Kemlo left their successful careers to start up a flower farm in the New Forest and have never looked back

For centuries, humans have had a special connection to flowers. These delicate, beautiful organisms have long been a symbol of love and have inspired an abundance of artists, writers and poets. They help us express feelings and set the ambience of a room with their vibrant colours and stunning fragrances. Research shows that just their mere presence can activate positive emotions and have an effect of our mood.

No one can vouch for this more than Hampshire florists and sisters, Becky and Sarah Kemlo. They spend the majority of their time tending to their striking collection of flowers and plants on their farm and creating stunning seasonal arrangements for their clients.

Great British Life: Sister Becky and Sarah Kemlo started their businesses after creating blooms for Becky's weddingSister Becky and Sarah Kemlo started their businesses after creating blooms for Becky's wedding (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

Their business, appropriately named Kemlo and Kemlo, resulted in a happy accident. Sarah explains: ‘When Becky got married on a small budget, we had the questionable idea of doing the flowers ourselves. We had some brief tuition from a florist friend and gave it a go.

This cemented the idea that we would both like to go into floristry and gave us the vision to both work out how we could transition out of our careers at the time.’

They spent most of their childhood growing up in the picturesque coastal town of Lymington. Sarah remembers: ‘We were both born in London and raised there initially but spent loads of time on holiday in the New Forest, and eventually moved here mid-childhood. We were the cliché Londoners escaping to the countryside! We spent a lot of time having muddy walks in the Forest, exploring the sea wall on our bicycles or sailing on the Solent.’

Great British Life: Sarah gave up her career in Neuroscience and Becky quit her super yacht lifestyle to start their flower farmSarah gave up her career in Neuroscience and Becky quit her super yacht lifestyle to start their flower farm (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

Floristry and flower growing is a relatively new path for both sisters, who had careers in very different fields before the birth of Kemlo and Kemlo. In her twenties, Becky opted for warmer climates, working as a crew member and cook on super yachts. She shares: ‘Like a lot of people, I fled home never imagining I’d move back to the area.’ Especially after meeting her husband, Giles, while working abroad.

Meanwhile, Sarah went to Scotland to study Neurosciences at Edinburgh and afterwards, moved to London to start her career. She explains: ‘I took far too long to accept I wasn’t at all suited to my career in research. Neuroscience is fascinating but you’ve got to be a very cerebral person to enjoy lab research.’

After Becky’s wedding, the sisters spent the following few years embarking on floristry courses during any work leave and as Sarah explains: ‘Before we knew it, we had rented a plot of land from a farmer, Becky had return to the UK permanently and I’d slowly extracted myself from London.’

Great British Life: Running a business is easy when you've known the person your whole life, says SarahRunning a business is easy when you've known the person your whole life, says Sarah (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

Their flower farm and cutting garden is situated in the small village of Pilley in the New Forest and is a part of Warborne Farm. Strolling around their plot, you’ll find cherry trees, a polytunnel and fields of glorious flowers.

They use their homegrown flowers and forage from the hedgerows to add an untamed element to their arrangements, something that Becky says is ‘central to our style and sustainability.’

Since their first working year in 2021, their business has continued to thrive, with the pair enjoying a busy 2024 full of weddings and private events. Sarah shares: ‘Our first proper year in business was 2021, the year of wedding restrictions due to COVID, so perhaps being thrown in the deep end has had its benefits and prepared us for the worst.

Great British Life: Sweet peas are a popular choice for wedding flowersSweet peas are a popular choice for wedding flowers (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

‘Most of our clients seek us out because they love the garden-inspired aesthetic of our work, and because they are eager to make sure their wedding reflects their interest in being environmentally responsible. Because we offer DIY buckets as well as bespoke weddings flowers, we get a lovely mixture of clients from different backgrounds and with different budgets, but ultimately, they are equally passionate about where their flowers come from.’

Becky agrees: ‘We love how every client comes with a different obsession. For some it’s the roses, often it’s the sweet pea for their scent and nostalgia and for others it’s not one specific flower, rather the collective effect of meadow-style flowers like corn flowers, poppies, salvias, phacelia.’

As we embark on a new season, Sarah smiles: ‘Spring never fails to impress. It never gets boring to see the first signs of new beginnings after a bleak winter. It starts in the hedgerows and the trees. There is usually a solitary cherry tree blooming on the farm months before all the others get around to it. In our field, we don’t really see crops appearing until April when we get to enjoy the scent of narcissi drifting over the frosty field, followed by our tulips. We have lovely big frilly ones that look more like peonies.’

Great British Life: Frilly tulips and peonies are perfect for late spring weddingsFrilly tulips and peonies are perfect for late spring weddings (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

Remaining as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible is a significant part of their ethos and the sisters refrain for using pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, they are also dedicated to growing their own flowers rather than importing them.

Sarah confirms: ‘Around 90% of flowers bought in the UK are shipped in from Holland where they have been flown in from all over the globe. We’re fortunate that our flowers don’t have those air miles.’ Becky chips in: ‘We spend a lot of time and (human) energy shovelling horse manure, which does at least save spending money on a gym membership!’

When it comes to working together, the sisters get along brilliantly. ‘There are the usual challenges and frustrations of course,’ grins Sarah, ‘But it is so much easier to navigate when you’ve known the other person your whole life. We both love the dual aspects of the business. The farming and the floristry. The farming really connects us to the landscape around us and makes us appreciate how lucky we are to live here, and the floristry gives us the opportunity to tap into our more creative sides and connect with our amazing clients.’

Great British Life: Becky's two-year-old son Harry enjoys helping his mum out on the farmBecky's two-year-old son Harry enjoys helping his mum out on the farm (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

When she’s not busy with the business, Becky spends her time looking after her two-year old son Harry, who will soon have a baby cousin to play with - Sarah is expecting her first child with her partner Mike later this year.

‘Running the business with small children has got to be the biggest challenge, juggling childcare and sickness bugs’, shares Becky, ‘but it’s so rewarding to bring him up on the farm, seeing all the animals and his favourite - the tractor! He gets to see lots of his auntie, and I think it’s important for children to watch their parents doing a job that they love.’

Sarah continues: ‘We love that we are sandwiched between the New Forest and the sea and when we do get free-time, we like to go for an early morning swim off Hurst spit or mess around in the 60-year-old dingy which we share. Sometimes we take our bikes over to the Isle of Wight and we love the little wine bar on the cobbles in Lymington, which I am missing whilst pregnant at the moment.’

Great British Life: The sisters supply flowers for weddings and events, but also offer a flower bucket, for brides to takeaway and create something for themselvesThe sisters supply flowers for weddings and events, but also offer a flower bucket, for brides to takeaway and create something for themselves (Image: Mattea McKinnon)

For anyone looking to start their own little cut-flower garden, the sisters advise: ‘Start simple and don’t give up. All gardeners will kill plants accidentally. We seem to face a new challenge every year. Just as we feel like we’ve mastered something, we seem to fail with a crop we’d taken for granted. Every time it’s a learning experience!’

And remember: ‘One of the most important jobs at this time of year is to give your greenhouse or polytunnel a good clean, disinfecting your seed trays and tools. It’s such an easy job to put off but so important for healthy seedlings.’