Sarah Renton turns flowers and foliage into breathtaking beauty
An occasional series of portraits of Creative Coquetdale Folk by Katie Scott – this week, Sarah Renton: Foliage and Flowers.
I am often attracted into Sarah’s beautiful shop, with its fresh smells, pretty flowers and gifts. I wanted to get to know a little bit more about her.
Sarah’s grandparents on both sides were from farming families. Sarah and her sister, Fiona, grew up near Fontburn, where their father farmed. But nowadays their lives are quite different. Sarah’s mother owns the Elm Tree Coffee Shop in Rothbury, and her father sells fresh fruit and vegetables in Sarah’s shop; Foliage and Flowers, Rothbury. Fiona is a part-qualified accountant but still helps her mother run The Elm Tree.
She said: “I originally wanted to do something with cooking’ Sarah tells me. So, after leaving school, she went to help her mum who had the café at Heighley Gate. But then an excellent opportunity arose: she got to spend a year at finishing school at Eggleston Hall, near Barnard Castle. This was a fantastic opportunity to learn Cordon Bleu cooking, and also the art of floristry. ‘I really enjoyed my year there. It was so interesting and I met a lot of people I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered.”
Before opening her own shop, 21 years ago in March, Sarah was employed as a florist at Christine’s House of Flowers, which used to be at Townfoot, Rothbury. “I was there for about 10 years; leaving to set up and run the Elm Tree café. However, I started to dream of opening my own florist shop,” she says.
The type of floristry which Sarah had been taught at Eggleston Hall was deeply influenced by the famous, ground-breaking educator, florist and author, Constance Spry. The combination of teaching cooking and flower arranging was not so unusual, as Constance Spry also collaborated with Rosemary Hume to invent the famous dish ‘Coronation Chicken’. (Spry and Hume were in charge of the flowers and food for the Queen’s coronation in 1953). Spry’s influence, in terms of her flower design philosophy, can be seen in Sarah’s own creations.
Sarah makes the most wonderful bouquets, wreathes, wedding flowers. Even the name Sarah chose for her shop recognises the beauty of different types of leaves and herbs, all sorts of unusual combinations of flowers and foliage to create works of breath-taking beauty. It is a type of floristry which appeals to a luxury market, and Sarah has adapted it very well to suit her own clientele.
I ask Sarah what has been her most unusual design: “Well, for funeral tributes I have made: peacocks, ducks, tractors, sheep – but the most unusual of all was Captain Pugwash.”
She made the floral tribute for the funeral of Tommy Edmondson. He was another Coquetdale Creative, from Harbottle; he played his version of a tune learned from Sir Jimmy Shand, which became the theme tune to the famous animated pirate series.
A quick look at some of the reviews left by happy customers show just how valued Sarah’s business is, for example: “Sarah is hugely talented and full of amazing ideas.” And: “Fantastic florist with the most incredible flower selections.”Flowers and Foliage have both a web-page www.flowersandfoliage.co.uk and are on Facebook at www.facebook.com/www.flowersandfoliage.co.uk/