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Yorkshire Stories



Shepherds Purse

We've had the pleasure of putting together some questions for Caroline Bell from award-winning, family business Shepherds Purse, who really are the forerunners for artisan cheese making here in Yorkshire. Find out about the Bell family journey to becoming one of the world's best cheese makers, their heritage, and Caroline's evergrowing (and much envied!) foodie travel experiences! Yes, outside of Yorkshire!! 

  • Your Yorkshire Story is well known to us, but can you share your journey to becoming one of the world’s best cheese makers! 

 It all began with our Mum, Judy Bell, who began with milking six sheep and experimenting with the milk on our family farm in the 1980s. She was inspired when she discovered more and more people were being diagnosed with cows milk allergy and those sufferers had very few tasty alternatives. Mum started experimenting with yoghurts and cheese. But when she was mentored by a local master cheesemaker called Les Lambert, her passion for cheesemaking was fuelled! One of her first cheeses, Olde York won a Gold medal at the 1989 International Cheese Awards which gave her a huge confidence boost. Since then, our company has grown, we became known for our speciality cheesemaking and so we added cows milk and water buffalo milk cheeses to our range. We've always been passionate about delivering consistently excellent cheese, so that you can have a good experience each time you buy, and we test ourselves with competitions. Our cheeses have won over 300 awards in total over the years, the most recent being two Super Golds at the World Cheese Awards in Oviedo, Spain, one for Harrogate Blue and one for Buffalo Blue. But as important as the awards is the consistency, and with artisan cheese, herein lies one of the biggest challenges.

  • The artisan British cheese industry has a rich history and is growing all the time, how important has heritage been for you in growing your brand.

Gosh, heritage is vital for speciality cheesemaking, in that we are custodians of an ancient craft which helped preserve calories over time in a delicious and enjoyable way! However, whilst it’s a very traditional process, we also like to put our own unique twist on things so we have tried to play with the rules and create our own unique products. Yorkshire Blue was the result of being inspired by french cheeses. In a broader sense, cheese making is an agricultural skill, tied closely to the land and the animals and heritage is so important in this. As much as new technology offers us insight and the opportunity to improve efficiency, we must ensure that we stay deeply connected to both the land and the animals and the food they produce in very real and honest way. 

  • We know there’s so many processes and hard work behind the 300 tonnes of cheese that you produce each year, but we’re fascinated by some of the names and love the Yorkshire connections! Where do you find the inspiration – is a team effort?

Yes, absolutely. It’s the hardest part to be honest! Although some come quickly and feel completely right. Some are much much harder! Northern Blue is a good example of us struggling for months to get a name that felt right, and then when one of our team, Amy, came up with this one, it was like a lightbulb being switched on and it was just perfect! 

  • Food heroes to many, who is yours?

Oooh we have many many local ones, but one slightly unusual one for the UK is Anthony Bordain. His approach to to food and travel was so rich and deep “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” – Anthony Bourdain

 And then just anyone who embarks on the journey of sharing their passion for food by making their own product - invariably really interesting and passionate people.

  • What do you think makes Yorkshire such an abundant larder and gives it its strong connections to food and drink?

Our land, landscape, coastline and agriculture, our people. We have such rich diverse agriculture across the region and access to incredible fish from the coastline. And we’re of pretty independent character, so diversity is expected and encouraged from within in a way. 

  • If not Yorkshire, where would you choose to live if based solely on its culinary offerings?

Ahh so many places I’m such a fan of travel and food and have fallen for a few places over time. I’ve become a huge fan of North West Spain and Northern Portugal, Lisbon, Porto, San Sebastian, and recently Oviedo in Asturias. Beautiful, local food. On place I haven’t been but want to go for the food scene is Cape Town in South Africa. And London has such a rich and diverse global food scene which makes it wonderful for culinary offerings! 

 And, I’m not sure that culinary offerings can be separated from everything else - the best food always exists in a context, in a community of some sorts, be that rural and closely connected to the land or urban and closely connected to culture, and always connected to the people. People who either produce it or take the produce and create dishes, and the other people who enjoy it with you.

  • Signature Yorkshire dish (yep, just one!)

Easy, classic Yorkshire Puddings, made by Mum. 

  • Ultimate foodie experience – experienced yet or still on a wish list.

Gosh, so much still on the wish list, and it’s all about sharing the experiences. Travelling, exploring, learning, sharing and connecting with ourselves, each other, the food and where the food has come from. And then back to Anthony Bourdain - “I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.” – Anthony Bourdain

  • Being so inventive with flavour combinations (and cheese names!), is there anything new that you are working on that you’d like to share? Or tell us about your favourite product and how it came to be.

A cheese only makes it into our range if we all love it (or the majority of us love it) so we’re experimenting often, and we have plans to be able to do even more new cheese development - so watch this space! :) 


Cranberry and Yorkshire Fettle Christmas Wreath

Cranberry and Yorkshire Fettle Christmas Wreath

To get you all in the festive mood we have developed five new recipes in collaboration with Shepherds Purse. perfect to see you through the Christmas season. Head to our recipe pages to give them a try!



Wold top Brewery

Our job doesn’t get any better than visiting an award-winning brewery and chatting with a good friend. Add in a sweet treat of an Ale Brownie made with their very own beer along with a cuppa, and we’re sold! More about those delicious brownies later.

This September morning, we find ourselves at Wold Top Brewery on the fringes of the Yorkshire Wolds countryside. It’s the same chalky land that we farm on, and just a short trip away from our Wolds farm, but a little nearer to the stunning coastline where the chalk cliffs spectacularly plunge into the North Sea.

We’re here to meet Kate Balchin, who has for the last ten years taken over the day to day running and development of her family Brewery, along with her other half, Alex. Hunmanby Grange Farm is a beautiful and other-wordly spot where Kate and her family live and work, and we did take a moment or two out of our busy Monday to stop and capture the landscape.

It’s this landscape that really drove the Mellor family to find another way to sustain the family farm that they had farmed since 1945. The malting barley that they have been farming for over half a century gave them the ideas and the confidence to diversify and is crucial to what they do now. East Yorkshire has had a long and great history of supplying the Scottish whisky industry with their malting barley, and the quality has always dictated a great end product. In addition, the water for their beer is sourced from a bore hole on the farm, which provides pure, chalk filtered water which is perfect for brewing. And with it making up 90% of your pint, it certainly helps that it is! Just add yeast and hops!

Kate’s parents, Tom and Gill saw their first beer produced back in 2003 with just two beers on offer – Wold Top Bitter and Falling Stone. Fast forward to today and the family have been in the brewing business for 18 years – with the Brewery now reaching the legal drinking age! In the beginning they solely supplied casks to pubs who were keen to support a local Yorkshire business and the appetite was strong. They started small – beer is measured in barrels with around 164 litres / 36 gallons in each barrel - and they could back in the day produced10 barrels with the kit they had. Very soon this doubled, and then in 2015 they doubled this again, now having a 40 barrel capacity per day, but there’s always capacity to grow this further and very quickly. Soon after the brewery was set up, they introduced a hand bottling line, but found this very labour intensive and it wasn’t long before the family had to invest in a bottling line in 2007 as the bottle market grew, and continues to this day.

Timing in the early days was crucial to getting their beers on the bars of the Yorkshire pubs, and when they first started, independent breweries were few and far between with about 250 in the whole of the UK. Today there are around 300 independent breweries in Yorkshire alone. Yorkshire is now known as a county that prides itself on its offering of small, independent business like ours, breweries are no exception either.

In fact, it was the pull of Yorkshire that brought Kate and Alex back to her family farm. Kate had studied languages at Oxford Brookes University where she met Alex who was studying Biology there. Following graduation, they both went travelling and on return Kate’s parents asked if they would like to get involved with the hands on running of the business. With no pressure and knowing a citycentric life was not for them, they jumped on board. Both of them wholeheartedly rolled their sleeves up and worked across all areas of the business, which means today they can fully relate to the roles their passionate team take on today.

Wold Top Brewery

"Today they have 8 core beers, along with a good number of seasonal and limited editions that have appeared along the way. Their fans are loyal and really know their beer so there’s always the opportunity to be creative and inspire this enthusiastic following. At the beginning of this year they added 12 limited edition cask and bottled beers, all with Viking inspired flavours and names, each being released monthly across the year.

So where does the future lie for this forward-thinking family? They are still very much about brewing beer in a cask for their fans to enjoy, but the expansion looks very much to be based on bottles and retaining the loyalty of new and old customers who now enjoy buying directly from the Brewery and allowing them to try something new. Like our own business we’ve both seen a huge rise in returning customers who have stayed with us since finding us during lockdown and continuing to enjoy what we as small, independent producers provide. Offering cask subscriptions was suggested by one of their customers, and with each mail out featuring both seasonal and core beers, they are proving popular with beer lovers getting on board with this great gifting idea and trying something new.

Currently they are in the process of training new brewers and finding new ways of working that will allow both Kate and Alex to step slightly away from the day to day running of the business and allow them to focus on the bigger picture and grow. One of the ideas they would love to take forward would be to set up a tap room that would be more accessible than the rural location of the Brewery Bar they have on the farm which they currently use for their popular Brewery tours.

As we ended our chat we wanted to talk about the importance of local food and drink, the regionality and how it fits with their brand and their own Yorkshire story. Kate has always championed Yorkshire, her family and ancestors’ home of choice, and understands their customers appetite for what they have to offer. Provenance is now more than ever featured highly in customer wish lists and has been totally revived over the last years. Local customers can’t get away from the fact that food in their area is produced by farmers, and the sustainability and carbon neutral initiatives that the business is fully immersed in cannot be ignored.

Wold Top’s brand message is strong, and their vision simple. They want to make great tasting beer, using home grown and sustainably sourced ingredients for the rest of Yorkshire and the world to enjoy. And we very much look forward to seeing what this home loving country girl with the love of sea and her passionate team get up to in the future.


Ale Brownies with Ale & Marmalade Frosting

Ale Brownies

To celebrate British Food Fortnight from 18 September to 3 October, Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil have collaborated with Wold Top and produced four new comfort dishes perfect for Autumn, inspired by four of Wold Top’s most popular beers. One of them is an Ale Brownie with an Ale & Marmalade Frosting, using the Brewery’s Marmalade Porter.




Robert Fuller

Our Yorkshire Stories this time don’t take us very far, just a trip across a field or two to our neighbour, Robert E Fuller. Robert is a world-renowned wildlife artist who runs his acclaimed gallery at Fotherdale Farm. His gallery houses a stunning collection of his artwork and allows a rare view into the wildlife of the Yorkshire Wolds and far beyond. Each year, up to 12,000 people visit his gallery and as a recognised authority on wildlife, he often appears on television and has a regular feature column in the Yorkshire Post.

Both Adam here, and Robert have chosen to make Thixendale their home. A small, traditional and community driven village in the most stunning of settings with its dry, chalky valleys, Thixendale is much loved by walkers and nature lovers alike. It’s a bit of an undiscovered gem, but year on year its popularity grows, which is no surprise to all those that have already discovered it.

But that’s not just where their paths cross. Both Adam and Robert have grown up in the area and their shared passions for the natural world have been shaped by their lives on the farm.

Robert’s father was well known for his conservationist approach to farming on a commercially successful farm and that has always stuck with Robert and very much feeds through all he does. After a time leaving the area to study wildlife illustration in Carmarthen College of Art & Technology and exhibiting his paintings to an ever-widening audience in Europe and his beloved Yorkshire, once he met and married his wife, Victoria, he settled at Fotherdale Farm.

Like the farm here at North Breckenholme, Fotherdale Farm has changed considerably over the years. In 2001 Robert applied for a rural enterprise grant to convert the redundant farm buildings into the beautiful 60ft beamed gallery and adjoining workshops that you can see there today. And at North Breckenholme we’ve also made changes to house our production unit, and also to convert buildings into an area for our Farm Discovery Days where we invite school age children for free, bespoke outdoor adventures on our farm. All the projects have been sited to not obstruct the wonderful views of the area, and we always consider the natural surroundings we are lucky enough to live and work in.

Increasingly, Robert’s animal portraits feature creatures that live in his garden and the surrounding area of his home, and there is always a story behind the wildlife paintings that Robert creates. He spends so much time watching and photographing the animals in their natural habitats, before applying his distinctive and precise painting style to create the life-like portraits that hang on the walls of the people who are lucky to own a painting or two, including ourselves! This area is a haven for wildlife and Robert films the stories of many of these animal families via surveillance cameras. If you pop over to his website you can even watch these stories unfold on over 100 live footage cameras.

Adam and the farm team work closely on the farm to maintain some of the wildlife habitats that Robert films and captures through wildflower planting and hedgerow planting. Part of this is to ensure we have 2 metre margins along the hedgerows on our arable land to encourage the insects, birds and small mammals that nest, feed and lay in the hedges and low ground. Many of which may be the stars of Robert’s filming! Whether that’s the resident barn owls, tawny owls, kestrels, stoats and weasels.

There’s a lot that links Adam and Robert and whether that’s wildlife conservation, regeneration or education, the one thing that truly runs through as a common thread is their passion for what they do and making home the place to make it all happen.

If this has intrigued you to want to find out more about Robert’s work, why not visit the Gallery to find a full range of artwork and giftware, or visit the website to link up with the live cameras and find out more about the Yorkshire Stories behind his wildlife adventures.

Robert Fuller

Watch Robert's live camera from Fotherdale here: LIVE FROM FOTHERDALE
Watch Robert's live camera from Ash Wood here: LIVE FROM ASH WOOD



Mike and Kate Stringer

One sunny afternoon (armed with cake!) we made the short trip across the fields to go and meet up with Mike & Kate Stringer, husband and wife team of J. Stringer & Sons. You may know of the Stringer’s as a farming family – they are the third generation to farm on the Wolds, and some may know Mike from our joint links with Uncleby Education Centre, but most of you will know them as producers of Organic flours and oats, with the flours being milled on their farm.

We wanted to start at the beginning to find out how Mike got involved in organic farming. We found out that half way through his degree in Mechanical Engineering (he graduated with a BSc(Hons) in 1996), Mike realised that farming was in his blood, and after spending a short time in an office placement whilst at university he realised the great outdoors was too strong a pull!

Mike came home to the family farm where his Dad and Uncle where in partnership and found it wasn’t that easy to fit in with an already established business, and after already seeing a growing demand for organic farming, he decided to research this new farming route. Mike was fully supported with this new idea as it fitted in well with the family interests in conservation and the environment, and with his idea fully backed by the family they decided to give it a go! All of the livestock and around 50% of the arable land was set aside to become organic, but this wasn’t an overnight process. It takes two years to become certified and fully organic so patience is key! Also, at the time of going organic, they didn’t grow the raw wheat crop for the flour and oats they now produce so this was all a steep learning curve for this band of traditional farmers.

The J. Stringer & Sons brand didn’t start with flours and oats, they were seed potato growers who sold their surplus crop of larger, surplus potatoes to local customers and so that was where the brand was born! It was actually Mike’s parents who decided to go down the route of milling, when looking for a part-time role to fill as they were not quite ready to retire! They researched the equipment they would need and travelled to Austria to buy the flour mill and brought it back to the farm. It did take some time for them to pluck up the courage to get started but they did and the range they produced from home grew.

Mike and Kate Stringer

The farm was already growing a heritage brand called Maris Wigeon which was good for milling, but over the years their expertise grew and they didn’t just mill what the trade saw as good for the job, but listened to their customer base, including the millers and bakers, and also their feedback from the farmers’ markets they attended, and new varieties were discovered. This love of conservation, coupled with forward thinking continues today, as Mike is a founder member of the Yorkshire Grain Alliance trialling the growing of diverse grains for the group. Bakers and millers (and Mike and Kate!) are keenly awaiting harvest and their aim is to inspire more farmers in the area to grow these grains for them. Watch this space!

Currently the brand produces a core range of flours and oats and nearly all their produce goes into retail, bakeries, with some direct customers who buy in bulk. Lockdown saw a huge increase in demand for their flour (no it wasn’t just the supermarkets who struggled with demand!), and a great deal of those customers have remained loyal. Some looking for a local product, some looking for an organic product, and of course some crossover. But one thing they all found was a quality product, and their contribution to home baking is ever popular. At the time we met, one customer had just collected a 36kg load of flour for their own breadmaking use! Though they are not alone. Kate has also been swept up by the popularity of bread making, with a daily bake of sourdough and is now considered quite the expert! This has helped with the close conversations they have with bakeries and raised confidence in what they offer.

Though confidence must be high for this family as they were the original trailblazers to successfully farm organically in such a traditional farming area as the Wolds. Today their milling business may be a part time venture, but for them it’s all about balance. It was refreshing to hear them chat about the potential that they have, but know that they will only expand when the time is right for them. They are certainly not about creating a mass market product, and that includes their Organic Rapeseed Oil. Now this is a product that we get a lot of demand for, but generally this exclusive oil is sold before it’s bottled! We press and bottle this for the Stringers, so when we can get our hands on it, we’ll be sure to shout out loud!

We wanted to find out where this hardworking couple eat when they get some time away and will dive back to when things go back to normal, and they have two favourite places. If staying local they can’t think of a better place to go than The New Malton, (yes, it’s in Malton) and can’t fault the food (especially the veggie options – Kate used to be vegetarian), the wine list and the atmosphere. If venturing out further afield for a special occasion, Skosh in York it has to be. Their contemporary British cooking has an international influence, food is locally sourced, and their concept kitchen delivers dishes that stretch your mind! Kate’s exact words.

So what’s next for the Stringers? Their work with heritage crops and new varieties will continue, as will Mike’s work with our Farm Discovery Days at Uncleby Education Centre. When our Adam & Mike get to both run free of charge, outdoor education days for school children of all ages. They are so keen to get back to sharing the countryside around us to educate the next generation, and hopefully it won’t be too long before they are sharing their love of farming again.

Their own next generation are also very involved in the farm. Mike’s son, Sam lives and works on the farm and daughter Charlotte’s schoolwork is currently very driven by what happens on the farm. She has another year at school and has plans to go to vet school.

Today the farm certainly keeps Mike and the small team busy with around 1100 acres including cattle, sheep and both organic and conventional crops. And Kate not only manages the flour mill, but also runs her very in demand veterinary physiotherapy business.

What did we learn in our short time with Mike and Kate? Well, we feel like we’ve been on a journey with this farming family who stepped up, broke the mould and have been forerunners ever since. But this couple don’t let it go to their heads, both Mike & Kate are very modest and relaxed about what they do, though their passion for whatever they put their hand to is evident and we look forward to what they get up to next!




One of our favourite recipes made using both our Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil and Stringers Organic Oats.




Masons of Yorkshire

Talk about perks of the job! One morning armed with cake (always!) we took a road trip to Bedale to visit Cathy & Karl Mason, good friends and founders of Masons of Yorkshire.

Cathy & Karl may have told their story time and time again, but we know how much they like to share, so we started at the beginning. Karl explained that twelve years ago he had never ordered a glass of gin, but as a couple they had gone along to a friend’s house and offered a G&T and they both really liked it! Karl having a self-confessed obsessive nature, decided to start buying gin and looking into the spirit further. He set up a ‘G&T Friday’ community Facebook page for fellow gin fans to share the love – what they were drinking, where and how, and over a very short time the page grew to 10,000 followers which made him realise there was a gap in the market for a gin made in the heart of Yorkshire. They decided they had had enough of Karl sitting on his laptop for hours on a Friday night with fellow obsessives (despite the free gin!), and after drinking a very dull glass of gin one day, Karl commented he could do better, so Cathy set the challenge, and knowing he’d need a companion on what could be a ‘silly’ journey, she decided to get involved too.

At this stage, nobody in Yorkshire had a pot still (used to hold and vaporise the botanicals when distilling) so they went to work with a small distiller in Cambridgeshire who had one of the smallest pot stills and they helped nail the distilling process and get them off the ground. They first put the pot still in premises, not far from home, but very quickly had to move and find a larger site, all the time with no distiller, it really was an upward learning curve for them both. It’s widely known about their disastrous fire back at the distillery in April 2019, but 2020 saw new beginnings with them in the new customer-built distillery and with a beauty of a new copper still, called Tony!

One thing they did know from the start was that the branding had to be strong. They worked with a designer with their original concept, but the Masons brand sang out loud and clear! The ‘Mason’ family crest was adapted with a Yorkshire Rose and the identity of Masons of Yorkshire Gin was born. Today the Yorkshire Rose is on the bottom of their new shape bottle. That nod to their heritage won’t ever be lost. Did you know that it was originally going to be called Drystone!

We wondered how they formed their signature recipe and their own combination of botanicals and found out this was purely based on their own favourite choices. They wanted to have a strongly identifiable flavour, and not just a different label. This had to be a different gin. They blind tested different recipes on friends but most sessions ended up with well imbibed  friends who claimed they liked them all!

So Cathy & Karl sensibly went with what they preferred. As we all know, you can’t please everyone! Cathy tended to be drawn towards a sweeter taste with the Original being her favourite, with Karl preferring their Tea flavour (made with Yorkshire Tea, of course!) and all in all a drier blend. They also felt the recipe had to come from them, as if you are fully 100% behind it, your passion will show and that will speak volumes.

The two Lavender and Tea flavours were developed to show the true backing of Yorkshire, and they also use pure Yorkshire water to make all their gin. The connections are strong. This year has seen three Special editions to keep their followers excited! With new label styles that are striking but complement the main range. We’re in!

Talking Yorkshire, we always ask at our interviews what they think makes Yorkshire such an abundant larder and gives it its strong connections to food and drink, and Cathy was quick to share that it’s the people, the farming community, the need for no frills, but quality all the same. We all heartedly agreed that we are blessed with the area where we all live – with the county covering coastline, cities and countryside. We were keen to find out if the Yorkshire branding had been a big selling point for their brand. Like us, we are so proud of our links to the county, it just had to feature. Cathy thought the popular Mason surname helped, and the Yorkshire Rose opened conversations, particularly local ones, in the early days but now it is the gin that did the talking.

So since launching on National Gin Day back in 2013, it’s been a pretty epic journey with the business moving to even larger premises and now having a team of over 30 people, many locally based. We wanted to find out what had been the biggest change led by growth – was it industry led, or something else? Cathy & Karl had started off with no knowledge of how to sell gin, work with stockists, bars and restaurants, or the major retailers, so they learnt on the job. Their first large event was the Country Living Show on home ground at Harrogate. This got them off to such a great start and they were able to communicate their passion, brand and great gin to a large audience and get valuable feedback too! So, they made the decision to concentrate their efforts into attending shows across the length and breadth of the country to grow the brand, and back in 2019 attended 120 shows per year, supplying over 150,000 samples annually! As with our own brand when people meet you face to face it’s a physical connection to the brand – they get a little bit of you, we find out a little bit about them and it’s powerful! We so need to get back out there!

There’s been lots of talk about the boom in gin and the loosely held perceptions of only being drunk before dinner by expats and older women, and we chatted about how that journey has been for them, but what we really wanted to get to know was an insider opinion on the ‘next big thing’ in the drinks industry. Cathy shared rum was still being discussed, along with tequila too. Though no boom will be as big as gin as it’s such a versatile spirit and perfect for so many cocktails. With the cocktail making trend showing no signs of going anywhere, we’re certain it will be here for some time!

Each had different highs on their journey. For Karl it was showing off the gin at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Paris, and for Cathy it was a rather personal moment, remembering the escalator ride with her daughter in Harvey Nichols, going to see their bottles sitting proudly on their shelves. There’s nothing like seeing your results of your hard work on the shelves anywhere. We know how she feels.

After such a wonderful day talking all things gin with this warm and hospitable pair, and our favourite people in the world of gin, we realised that everything they do has their loving and caring touch. It’s just the Masons Way.



Cathy's Yorkshire Meadow

Designed by Mrs Mason herself, this cocktail is the epitomy of summer. Using Masons of Yorkshire English Lavender Gin, this cocktail is reminiscent of our very own Limited Edition Lemon & Lavender Gin Dressing made with their award-winning gin!


  • 50ml Masons of Yorkshire English Lavender Gin
  • 20ml Lemon Juice
  • 10ml Jasmine Syrup
  • 40ml Cloudy Apple Juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake until mixed. Next, add ice to the cocktail shaker and shake again until chilled. Fine strain into your glass and garnish with rose petals.