We recently caught up with Sarah Horne to find out what makes the award winning florist tick. Read on to find out where Sarah finds creative inspiration, how she supports her wellbeing and she even revels some of her favourite blooms...
Your illustrations are beautiful, have you always been artistic and has drawing always been something you've used to express yourself?
Thank you. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be able to draw and paint but at every attempt I was disappointed. At school I failed my art O’level and was absolutely devastated.
However I have always been creative so I was thrilled to find at that time that fresh flowers were my medium.
"My heart always sings when I see orchids, there are so many wild and wonderful varieties."
Over the years I have dipped into drawing to no avail then suddenly about five or 6 years ago I was inspired to try drawing with fineline pens and to my surprise and delight my first drawing was something that I was proud of…… The Phalaenopsis Orchid which now features on our teapot, large and small vase, gift boxes and cards! I was thrilled. From that day the drawings have poured out of me. Somehow I just knew how to work with the pen!
For me creative endeavours feed the soul, I spend all of my spare time drawing, and experimenting with sculpting and painting. I can draw when I’m happy and settled and and I find I draw or paint well if I’m sad or stressed… it calms and balances me .
It's clear that your work is inspired by the natural world, so we'd love to know, do you have any favourite natural places that you spend time in that are guaranteed to spark your creativity?
Botanicals are certainly my inspiration. They now come naturally to me. I have tried hard to focus on drawing the human form but that is always a very hit and miss exercise even after attending lots of classes with a great teacher.
I am very lucky that I live above my flower shop Sarah Horne Flowers as I have infinite subjects to draw on tap.
I love that we now carry iPhones too as I am always photographing botanicals ready for drawing later.
I see inspiration everywhere... Kew Gardens is a very exciting place to visit for me to fill up on inspiration. A lifetime treat came a couple of years ago I was lucky to visit St Lucia that totally blew my mind to see tropical plants that we sell in the shop as giant trees growing wild! I have so may ideas from there to paint.
An everyday inspiration boost for me is to walk Bandit in Jephson Gardens right here in Royal Leamington Spa it is beautifully stocked with glorious variety of outdoor plants as well as having a temperate house for tropicals in the middle.
We've all heard about how important spending time outdoors is for our wellbeing, what are some of the ways you nurture your own wellbeing?
Looking after our own wellbeing is essential, especially in these difficult times.Walking in nature with Bandit is my daily mindful activity.
Spending time happily within my own space has always been important to me, to do this well Its important to love the space I live in, filling it with things that I love. Choosing carefully and buying well and once. The floral decadence English china range is inspired by this philosophy.I use it every day ,I love to cook my food and add to the enjoyment of eating it by serving it on my fine bone china. It somehow adds importance to the food.
"Drawing and watercolour painting is my go to for what I call productive mindfulness."
I have to confess that it still blows my mind that my drawings are the decoration on a collection made in the potteries that will be around for hundreds of years.
One of my favourite things that really lifts my soul is a beautiful hanging seat which was created for me by a wonderful friend Clive Sanderson who is a very talented metal artist. We met working on a project to take Royal Leamington Spa to the Chelsea Flower Show. I love to curl up in it in the evening maybe with a little gin…. With candle fragrance filling the room…a favourite fragrance definitely helps me to relax and enhance my mood. I cant really tell you which is my favourite as it depends what mood I’m in!
Then of course drawing and watercolour painting is my go to for what I call productive mindfulness.
If push came to shove and you absolutely had to choose, what's your favourite flower or plant?
The answer to this generally depends when you ask me as every flower delivery that we have brings a new favourite. Every walk in the gardens another favourite.
Personally my heart always sings when I see orchids, there are so many wild and wonderful varieties. I am captivated by the wild trailing roots as well as the stunningly beautiful flowers. They grow as epiphytes hanging from trees in tropical climes. They fascinate me.
I am a person of extremes so on the flip side of the coin to the exotic orchids I love roses, garden roses, single bloom roses and spray roses. I love them all.
"I can never wait for the Peony season to start, they get everyone excited with their stunning blousy blooms."
Where roses are concerned its the colour and shape that interests me , I love red hearts the Colombian full bloom rose, the cerise Ecuador rose called pink Floyd its so vibrant, the soft pink variety such as the glorious garden rose white O’hara and my favourite spray rose right now is the soft lilac Silver Shadow, it looks like porcelain and is loaded with buds.
As a floral designer it depends so much on what I’m working on as to which blooms I love. Ornithogalum Arabicum are a favourite as they are unusual and understated and last for weeks.
I love flowers which are strong in their natural season I can never wait for the Peony season to start, they get everyone excited with their stunning blousy blooms.
Hellebores make winter bouquets look beautiful and of course the spring flowers are always soul food.
As an artist I love apple and cherry blossom and I’m a sucker for anything elegant and trailing such as Passiflora, Wisteria, Himalayan Honeysuckle and even french tulips trailing and growing and doing their own thing.
One of my favourite plants to draw are the glorious Medinilla Magnifica which feature on our one pint jug.
Most of us will be familiar with the concept of Hygge and wanting to ensure our homes feel like cosy sanctuaries, particularly during winter. What do you regard as 3 essential components for a cosy, welcoming home?
For me the essential components for a cosy welcoming home are all about them being a sanctuary for the person living there , by that I mean that the space is a reflection of the personality of the person living there.
Not only does that make the space very mindful for the inhabitant it is also a pleasure for friends and family to spend time there. Three ways that this really translates are...
- With favourite flowers, I always think that flowers turn a house into a home.
- Fragrance in the home. Gorgeous candles are a wonderful go to, not only does the scent set the mood but I love candles to look beautiful, the floral decadence candles feature my botanical drawings in frosted votives which then means that there is a stunning play on light as the candles burn down in the evening.
- A long term win here is well chosen art. I think you can really get a sense of a person and their depths from the art that they chose.
These things combine to to make a house a home and really personalise the space.
What has been your proudest professional achievement to date?
I have so many pinch me moments throughout my career so far. I feel very blessed.
In no particular order…
- My first competition win The Metz and Earthworks Competition in 2003.
- The achievements around Chelsea Flower Show - The first time I was invited to exhibit at Chelsea Flowers Show, my first, (second and third) gold medal(s) at Chelsea Flower Show, Winning best in Show and taking Royal Leamington Spa to Chelsea Flower Show.
- Presenting in Chicago for The American Institute of Floral Designers.
- Selling my first piece of art.
- Launching Sarah Horne Botanicals a collection of stylish gifts and homewares featuring my art.
- Reaching the finals of the Retail Florist of the Year Competition every year we entered.
- Giving a Tedx talk on "The Power of the Flower"
- Reaching 40 years in business
- The team and I bringing the business safely through the first and second lockdowns.
As a Chelsea gold winner, do you have a vast garden at home that allows you to experiment with growing and landscaping?
I’m often asked this question and it always makes me smile as I don’t have a garden, simply a tiny patio which I share with the flower gallery.
My interest and area of speciality is designing with cut flowers not garden design, so more floral sculpture than gardening. That said I love to spend time around nature and in beautiful gardens. I always talk of Jephson Gardens as being my garden… the joy there is that I don’t have to do any of the work and its an absolutely glorious space to spend time. I also think of the flower gallery as my garden…especially when we have had an orchid delivery!
What’s the one bouquet you’d want a new customer to look at first when they visit the website and why? OR If you had to choose just one, which bouquet would you show to a new customer first?
Crystal Palace (below) is a stunning luxury white and green handtied bouquet, it always totally delights the recipient and makes such a stylish statement.
Kew Gardens (below) is an absolutely fabulous bespoke handtied bouquet of pure opulence. Each one is individually designed by one of our talented floral designers using the most stunning flowers in the flower gallery.
Perfect for a special occasion or grand gesture. We all love to see the customers face when they collect this one and the recipients face when they are delivered.
Our bouquets are all wrapped in our signature brown paper which features my pen and ink drawings.
It has always been important to me to offer our customers floral gifts that are unmistakeable ours and at the other end of the scale we have a Kiss in a Vase or a Hug in a Vase, both delightful little gifts that really convey our customers emotions.
Not a bouquet, but I always love to show new customers our beautiful Sarah Horne Botanicals fine bone china jugs full of flowers, they are the gift that keeps on giving as the jug remains long after the flowers have finished blooming.
The jugs feature my fine art pen and ink drawings and make a statement on their own but also offer art with function as they are perfect for milk, cream or sauces as well as being the perfect flower vase.
Do you have any plans to extend your botanical homewares range?
Oh I am so excited about the homewares range. I have been working on some botanical water colour paintings which have opened up lots of ideas for using colour within our homewares range. The designs are in the early stages but watch this space!
We have also been looking at designs and fragrances for some gorgeous new Sarah Horne candles.
Finally, we know that your Leamington Spa floristry workshops are extremely popular and always sell out quickly, when do you hope to bring them back and is there anything more you can tell us about your plans?
We were sad to stop our classes through Covid 19, but it was the right thing to do and every cloud has a silver lining. What that has lead to is some very exciting long term plans for the Sarah Horne Flower School.
Planning permission has just been granted for us to re develop the space at the rear of the building to create a custom made flower school.
The classes will be fun recreational classes covering lots of different aspects of flower design for beginners through to more experienced arrangers.
There will also be the opportunity to attend taster sessions of what it is like to work as a florist.
This space will give us a small exclusive school with beautiful natural light where we can run our workshops for our scheduled classes and for private groups of around 6 people.
I am also considering using the space for other flower related learning such as small drawing and painting classes.
Outside workshop times this space will also double as our very own art gallery and consultation area for wedding flowers and other life events. We think that this area will be particularly good as a private place to sit with families when they are ordering floral tributes too.
With Covid 19 still very much a part of our lives the flower schools won’t be back just yet! But this will give us time to get our new safe space built and our courses all designed…. How exciting!!