I’m spending a chilly Thursday afternoon rummaging through an Aladdin’s cave of fabulous floral creations and I’m struggling to work out when a trip to a florist went from a quick pit-stop for a Mother’s Day bouquet as a child, to somewhere I can quite easily while away the hours and get lost in the beauty of seasonal blooms.
I’m not quite sure where the lines were blurred and my fondness blossomed, but I’m loving every minute of it – even more so as burnt oranges, deep reds and glittering decorations take over the space.
There really is nothing more pleasing to the eye – and the nose, for that matter, as I pop in to see Jenni during the autumn/ winter transition.
As I enter the new Market Place shop in Guisborough, Jenni is swapping pumpkins and pampas grass for berries and stunning, silvery eucalyptus. A spicy, piney scent fills the room as she hangs festive wreaths and makes up seasonal bouquets.
For Jenni, winter is the perfect time to get creative, bundle up stunning, hand-tied bouquets and get everyone together for some Christmas crafts.
“Things will look a little different this year,” says Jenni.
“But we’ve come up with some creative new ways to deliver our festive crafts and workshops, and we’ve got some lovely winter stock in if people want to come and see us.”
Having set up shop on Guisborough high street last year, Jenni and her small but mighty Ruffled Flowers team have used the lockdown period as a time to pivot, adapt and grow.
“We opened the shop across the road last November, just in time for the Christmas rush. We had a wonderful winter and 2020 started well, but we all know what happened come spring.
“But, despite the pressures of the pandemic, we signed the lease on the new shop and it actually bought us some time to get everything together, work on the interiors, and come up with creative ways to continue trading throughout the uncertain times.
“The plan is to use the original space as a workshop for creative classes and a base for weddings and commissions, keeping the new space for our day-to-day floristry.”
A business plan Jenni was able to put in place throughout the lockdown period, and one that seems to be flourishing into life after an incredibly busy time.
“We were really busy with gift bouquets through the lockdown. I lost all of the weddings I had booked in spring, summer and beyond, but we were able to bump ourselves up with flower orders, which we started sending out nationally as well as locally.
“We feel so lucky to be able to continue doing what we love – all while getting our new space ready to welcome customers.”
And here we are, heading into the cooler months with no sign of slowing down and a beautiful new shop on the buzzy high street.
“It’s my favourite time of the year,” says Jenni.
“So it’s been a great time to design and decorate the new space. There’s nothing better than getting the festive decorations out, adding deep reds and berries to our bouquets and pulling wreaths together.
“We’ve decided to expand our offering, creating bespoke bouquets and hand-ties that people can take away and enjoy in their home for the full season.
“We’re also stocking some lovely gifts and interior products. Throws, cushions, candles – things that just scream winter cosiness.”
In its newfound home, Ruffled Flowers has grown into something of a lifestyle store – stocking everything from gifts and house plants, to cosy furnishings and on-trend home decor. As beautiful as it is, none of this takes away from Jenni’s true passion – flowers.
“Every morning we get fresh flowers coming through – but we’re just trying to do more with them to broaden our offering.
“When the Government gave us our grant, we invested in a flower chiller, which helps to keep our stock fresh.
“Our roses will stay crisper and closed. And that’s a win, win for everyone. When we make a bouquet and it goes out to somebody, the flowers will open up in their home, rather than slowly opening in the shop so they have a shorter vase life at the other end.”
Though she’s always been creative at heart, Jenni’s floristry career kickstarted as a welcome distraction and a sense of release to escape a corporate career.
“I was working as an events manager at Loughborough University. We lived there as that is where my husband is from.
“Work was busy, so in order to switch off and enjoy a bit of downtime, I was looking for something to help channel my creativity. Having previously trained in floristry, it felt like the next natural step. So that’s where it all started.
“Our little boy was born four years ago, and during maternity leave, my mind started to wander and I was thinking about my next move – and I was always drawn to my creative instincts.
“So, after about six months, we moved back to the North East. As soon as we got back, I had a chance meeting with a friend at a local food festival. We were chit-chatting about work and an opportunity came up to set up a small florist at the back of her shop in Saltburn.
“We literally started on a sideboard, just selling small hand-ties and plants. Then we grew into the back room and spent a couple of really fun years working together.
“I left to work within our family wedding venue in Brotton called The Arches. With my background in events, it made sense for me to step in and help out wherever I could, alongside doing flowers for weddings.
“I did that until last year when we opened up the first Ruffled Flowers shop in Guisborough.
“Gradually, I had the urge to expand, get a bit more creative and have my own space to focus on flowers. Last year, my husband spotted the little shop in Guisborough and the rest is history.”
This place isn’t about perfectly-formed, regimented bouquets – it’s more about rustling up something unique. It’s more wild and wonderful than neat and tidy.
And it works oh-so well with the whole look and feel of the place, which brings us onto the name…
“The name came about because I’m Jen and people would call me Jenni Wren. I’m a massive stress head and an overthinker, so my mum would always say ‘don’t let ‘em ruffle your feathers, Wren’ – and it just kind of stuck, so it led to Ruffled Wren, the name of the business when I started down in Loughborough.
“Over time, I dropped the ‘Wren’ and now we’re Ruffled Flowers. The name just fits with the style of floristry we do. It’s got it’s own personality – and of course, the branding is really pleasing to the eye.
“In terms of the style, the idea was to come up with something quite simple, so that the flowers do the talking.
“I’m quite a cluttered person. I like stuff. I like to fill spaces. So I had to rein myself in a little, but we thought, because the colour was quite heavy and luxurious, we didn’t need to go too far with the branding. We just added an elegant touch of gold – because who doesn’t love shiny stuff?”
The brand’s effortless style and simplicity is mirrored, not only in the beautiful blooms, but in the forward-thinking, sustainable packaging – something Jenni and her team are incredibly passionate about, particularly in the current climate.
“We are trying to rid the plastic completely,” says Jenni.
“Florists go through a hell of a lot of plastic. Aqua boxes are way over the top when it comes to packaging, but that’s how you’re trained to do it.
“We’re not trying to be eco-warriors, but we want to do our bit to help make a difference, and after taking client feedback on board, we’ve decided to do it our own, Ruffled way.
“We use recycled craft paper, compostable wrap and biodegradable bags. So with all of your flower cut-offs, you can just bundle it all up, stick it in a compost heap and it just breaks down naturally.
“Keeping the packaging to a minimum also allows the flowers to do the talking. Stripping things back a little just means that all of the money is going into flowers and not the exterior.”
As the Ruffled Flowers empire grows and flourishes in Guisborough, Jenni is using the old shop as a space to map out her ambitions of hosting regular workshops and housing products for her creative commissions – the side of the business that really makes her tick.
“The little shop will become my creative space for commissions and craft workshops,” explains Jenni.
“Things like home installations and wreaths are massive right now,” she adds.
“So we’re trying to tap into that market by giving people the chance to be creative, put in a bespoke order, or have a go at different aspects of floristry themselves.
“We can do everything from arches and window displays, to clouds suspended above a dining table, or floral arrangements for businesses.
“It’s where I get to really embrace my creative side. Year-round wreaths are really popular too, so this is something I want to offer on a regular basis.”