Who / Sandy + Rob
What / Acre of Roses
Where / Trentham
Why / Roses + Botanic Styling + B&B
Instagram / @acreofroses
Some folks, like Sandy + Rob, restore our faith in people. Anyone lucky enough to have met today’s lovely feature story couple will have experienced their infectious generosity of spirit, passion and good will. Not to mention have delighted in their talents and admired their work ethic!
It was a scorching hot, windy day when I dropped by to share a cuppa with Sandy and Rob, owners of Acre of Roses in Trentham. Never the less, I was greeted with two welcoming smiles and invited to wander through their youthful aromatic rose garden.
Acre of Roses is a young business that is blooming into a great success. Sandy and Rob, keen proponents of the slow flower farming movement, supply roses, foliage and herbs to the floristry market as well as offering exceptional wedding planning and botanic styling for all manner of occasions including weddings and events. The duo also has plans afoot to offer boutique self-contained accommodation that will provide a “slow-stay” and “wellness”” experience where guests and brides can “come and smell the roses!” We can’t wait!
Sandy and Rob are proof of what can be achieved with a small parcel of land, two big hearts, loads of experience and skill, and an abundance of authentic loveliness.
Tell us a little bit about your background/s prior to where you are now?
Well, as they say, “a rose by any other name”; I was christened Sandra Rose, so I think my fate and path were sealed very early on in relation to my passion and ultimately my work with roses. Add to that, childhood holidays spent in New Zealand’s garden city Christchurch where, at my grandmother’s property, I picked summer roses and hydrangeas and practiced flower arranging. My greatest influence and mentor was my Dad (David McKinley nicknamed “Boeing”) who was chief designer for NAC, then Air Zealand, and as a result would divide his time between our home and Boeing’s then headquarters in Seattle, working on the livery and interior design of the respective airline’s fleet.
When he was home, I loved sitting with him at his drawing desk, learning the basics of design, perspective and corporate identity and ultimately his passion for aviation. His influence on me was that he made me believe that anything is possible as long as you are prepared to put in the hard yards and do it with passion and persistence. If you didn’t know something, then find out and do it. He was also very practical and ensured my first job out of school was in an industry that would provide a good grounding and that happened to be the legal fraternity, which kept me busy for near on 25 years.
Passion too abounds in my fiancé Rob’s background. He knew, as a small boy, that he would be a builder and with his love of wood and making beautiful things, he strove to achieve his dream. Like my Dad, Rob loves to create and has a skinful eye for detail. They both share a believe that salvaging, recycling and reclaiming wood adds soul to building and furniture-making projects. It was truly delightful that they got a chance to meet, exchange ideas and develop a friendship prior to my Dad’s passing.
You are the wonderful talent behind An Acre of Roses. Tell us about your roses and botanic styling business. How did you move from the corporate legal fraternity to flower farming/styling?
The tipping point for the transition was in the early 90’s, when I was working with Andrew Brown, a partner in NZ’s largest law firm. It was at a time when law firms were allowed to start formally marketing their professional services. I was invited by the CEO to be one of the founding members of the new marketing team. Andrew was most encouraging of the move. It enabled me to spread my wings and tapped into my passion for design, colour, perception and structure, that had started at my father’s drawing desk.
From there, I had a varied career in marketing, with numerous diverse clients and eventually decided to make a tree-change to the beautiful village of Trentham, in North-West Victoria. The property that we settled on had lots of space and it just seemed to be the right spot to start experimenting with growing some “old bloom” roses. What started as a hobby has grown faster than the plants and now the gorgeous flowers are in high demand. As I said to a friend recently, “this is suddenly a real business!”
Acre of Roses puts ethics, sustainability and efficacy at its forefront; our tag line, “embracing the perfect imperfections of nature” embodies this ethos. The roses are pesticide free, fragrant and blowsy blooms that contain perfect imperfections and grow within a natural ecology of weed and soil management. The rose colour-ways run the gambit of the colour wheel and the fragrances span from fruity hues to exquisite musk and myrrh notes with true old rose and tea rose aromatics. Wandering through the rows mid-morning is quite literally a truly sensory experience.
Our style is free-spirited and romantic using local foraged foliage, grasses, berries and herbs. Our consultation process focuses on the style and vision of our clients.
Rob, your fiancé and registered builder, plays a very important role in An Acre of Roses. Do you make a good team?
Rob and I have been friends first and foremost and are able to talk for hours. Our skill-sets and personalities are complementary and we have what the Irish call “fey” – an ability to identify what each other is thinking before we say it. That level of synchronicity means that our communication is usually spot on and we live pretty much in harmony. He’s a good problem-solver and as a craftsman he has an eye for design and detail. He’s the structure and installation part of the team and he quietly gets the job done. He’s always learning and provides a constructive eye when viewing flowers.
Many of the flowers and foliage that go into your botanic arrangements are locally grown, sourced and hand-harvested. Tell us about the sense of community you’ve created/found in country Victoria?
Trentham is all about community and collaboration – to say we are living the dream is an understatement! The friends and network we have here are our family, which for me is fabulous as all my family are in New Zealand. Acre of Roses would not have come to fruition without the community, not just the local town, but the whole area is connected. The opportunity to interact with a bunch of like-minded people is incredible – so many people here are passionate about home-grown, locally produced food, wine, produce, craft, etc. It’s an exciting area to operate in – and it’s growing all the time!
What does An Acre of Roses offer? How can we contact you?
We provide roses and foliage to florists, stylists, brides and directly to the public, as well as a full floral design and styling service through our collaboration with Belle Hemming of The Belle Bright Project. We are on Facebook and Instagram or call us on 0405 032 566 . The phone is always on!
What makes you so passionate about what you do?
I’m passionate about most things in life – you only get one chance at it, so you may as well give it a damn good go. I love working with flowers, meeting people and creating abundance – my mantra for 2016. Weddings and most events are buzzing with celebration and happiness. The flowers are the icing on the cake – you can’t beat a bride’s smile and delight in receiving her flowers. You can’t help but get pulled into that! The charm and wonder of nature, too, provides a beautiful basis to do something you really love.
What are your top floral picks to say: 1. Thank you 2. Sorry and 3. I love you?
When emotion is involved, it’s all about knowing what the receiver of the flower likes. . . My personal favourites are seasonal; in summer, it’s blowsy roses; in spring, peonies and sweet peas; autumn, dahlias and hydrangeas and winter is hellebores. If you are a traditionalist, then the Victorian era “language of flowers” decrees that “Sorry” is – Purple Hyacinth, White Poppy or Scarlet Geranium; “Thank You” is Hydrangeas or Pink Roses and “I Love You” is Red Roses, Red Chrysantheum or even Forget-Me-Nots. The key is that the flowers should feel right to the giver, then the recipient will “get” the message!
Where or who or what do you draw your inspiration from?
Both near and far. There is an abundance of local talent in our area with whom I am currently collaborating – I have to occasionally catch myself with the caliber of talent we have. I was extremely fortunate to have begun my introduction to floral arranging under the local tutorage of Helen Lindsay (Frost) who imparted wisdom that balance both the structural, creative and business side of floristry. Afar, is LA-based Kate Holt with whom I was very lucky to attend an initial floral workshop in Santa Barbara and work with the incredible Joel Serrato, Jose Villa and Rebecca Stone.
Do you consider yourself to be a ‘Countryphile’? Do you love country life? Why?
Living in the country has been a childhood dream, so yes I’m a country-phile. I grew up in a small village on the Kapiti Coast, north of Wellington in NZ, so whilst the crashing of the waves was my childhood meditation, the songs of birds now provide my background harmonies and the pureness of the country air is unbeatable. It is very calming and to be able to “live the dream” is something I never take for granted. I read a wonderful quote on a farm gate the other day by ancient philosopher Epicurus: “Here you will do well to tarry.” Basically, Epicurus believed the closer you live to nature the more you understand and enjoy life.
What challenges / opportunities have come from setting up a small business in country Victoria?
The biggest challenges for most small businesses in the area are distance or logistics. We’re only an hour and a bit from Melbourne and Bendigo and Ballarat, but road transport is expensive and there are limits to what you can easily and cheaply access in a small rural town. Delivering product is also tricky and time/money consuming.
Tea or coffee? Do you have a favourite country café? Where and why?
I am a coffeeaholic! We are spoiled for choice in our region – each village has a number of fantastic cafes serving locally sourced and roasted coffee beans. For me, Trentham is the place, of course, and we are spoiled for choices even in our small village as each one has its own unique points. It’s also about the quality of the baristas, so Rhys and the team at The Trentham Collective and Mel and her team at Chaplins are my favourites. I finally worked out the other day that with my corporate background congregating around the water cooler is ingrained into my daily habits. When you work alone, it’s sometimes hard to find a way to have a coffee and a catch up. So, the café becomes like a community water cooler. And there is no such thing in Trentham as a quick coffee!
Where was the last great meal you enjoyed/shared in the country?
Again, too many choices, though the last two were at Belvedere Social in Daylesford for Valentines Day, complete with a specially designed rose-based cocktail– that was pretty special – and New Years Eve at one of our “locals” – the fabulous Du Fermier, owned by Annie Smithers – the quality of her food is beyond belief and her staff do an amazing job of making you feel right at home.
What are the Top 5 Tips you’d give those dreaming of making a TREE CHANGE?
1. Get to know some locals living in the area first – a good support system makes the change a lot easier.
2. Be aware of what living in a Bushfire Zone means and being bushfire ready for the summer season.
3. Rent first before committing to moving.
4. Be prepared, if you still work in the city, to discover the Calder outbound shrug – that feeling of bliss knowing that the stresses and strains of city life are falling behind you 🙂
5. There is no such thing as a quick trip to the village – getting a carton of milk can take hours (as you catch up with the locals).
What can we expect NEXT from you/An Acre of Roses in the future?
This winter is about more planting. We’ve tested the crop and demand is currently outstripping supply, so another 800-1000 bushes will be planted and a moveable floral studio built (more on that later). 2017 will see the building renovations finished and our boutique self-contained accommodation open providing a similar “slow-stay” and “wellness”” experience for guests and brides to “come and smell the roses”!
What would be your DREAM project or collaboration?
A number of years ago, when learning the craft of floristry, I stumbled upon an inspiring and informative book by investigative journalist Amy Stewart called Flower Confidential. It described the global floral industry today and the perils to both humanity and the land of the commercial flower industry. It was a little like what the film “Food Inc” was to the food industry. I discovered how far the flower industry had gone to manipulate nature and the extreme carbon footprint to transport the flowers around the globe. This was reinforced by discussions with many florists about the toxic nature of the flowers, the declining ranges and types available and the increasing use of chemicals used to preserve the blooms. So, the seed was sown; a vision to establish “slow” flowers – local, seasonal, heritage varieties, grown collaboratively by local land-owners with a similar philosophy using sustainable practices. A flower farm consortium – that would be the ultimate dream!
Can you list for us 5 specific things you turn to/do when you need of a ‘dose’ of city life?
1. Window shopping at the Paris end of Collins St – I do love to DREAM!
2. A boho café stop for coffee in Brunswick
3. Shopping at South Melbourne or Victoria Markets
4. An evening at the theatre
5. A night in a lovely hotel, where someone else does all the housework & even the flower-arranging! 😉