How long have you been a florist?
28 years. That’s shocking; even for me seeing it written down.
How did you get into the business?
I left university with a degree in fine art. After graduating, I was crashing on my mum’s floor with no clue of what I wanted to do next. Wild at Heart, a florist in Westbourne Grove, had just opened around the corner from the antiques shop my mother worked in. Decked out in my dungarees, hippy beads and DMs, I went in and asked the owner, Nikki Tibbles, for a job. She threw me over a money pouch; I ended up staying 14 years.
Where does the love of flowers stem from?
I grew up in Cumbria, so I already had a love of nature – not just flowers, specifically. After all this time, I’ve grown up into the job, and it has become who I am.
Your shop is called Scarlet; Violet. Where does the name come from?
We opened the shop in 2006. A lot of flower shops are named after the owner, but I didn’t want to do that. After working for Nikki for so long, I didn’t want to stick my name above the door. I wanted something anonymous. Violet is my amazing daughter’s middle name. And the daughter of a close friend has the middle name, Scarlet. When I put them together, it just clicked for me.
What makes a good florist?
It requires a variety of skills, so it’s vital to have a good team around you. And they all need to bring something different to the table. One might be creative, so then you need someone good at management. One needs to be a fantasist, but you also need a realist. You really need to get that balance right. Every florist I know, including myself, is crap at something. I feel like every time we install a job for a customer, I spend the journey back saying what we should have done differently. So you are constantly learning from your experience. I don’t think that ever stops. But it also makes it interesting.
What is your most popular order?
We make everything bespoke and to order, so no two bunches are the same.
What makes your business unique?
We only take personal orders or work for individuals. We don’t design for hotels or corporate clients. I want to create bouquets and arrangements that I can connect with; which have meaning; I need a brief I can respond to creatively.
Christmas must be a busy time of year for you.
Ha. Yes; it’s total dedication, this job. Every year, around mid-November, I get the fear, but I’m a classic rhino. You have to just power through and get the work done.
What’s your working day like?
Well, the shop is open seven days a week, and we go to the flower market very early, six days a week. Before I opened the shop, I didn’t have an email address or even own a computer. Of course, that’s different now. Like anyone else who is creative, I’m happiest when I’m making arrangements. The admin. is my responsibility; one I undertake through necessity rather than passion. But that’s the reality of owning a business, so there’s no point in shying away from it.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to work in the business?
As I just said, it’s essential to understand that you will be balancing the creative side of the job with the admin. And of course, it’s physical. Sometimes you’ll be working in the cold. And sometimes it can feel, frankly, weird. But, I guess after 28 years, there’s something special I just love about it.