The florist to the stars on all things bright and beautiful, her dislike of red and white colour schemes and her love of Christmas
If an A-list wedding is on the horizon, there’s a good chance that the bride will be walking down the aisle with one of Nikki Tibbles’s fabulous bouquets. There’s no doubt that her business Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart, founded in 1993, has become the go-to brand for many celebrities, with everyone from Tom Ford to Poppy Delevingne coveting her arrangements. And just like her flowers, her home is an explosion of colour, filled with bags of personality and charm. Nikki isn’t afraid to go for the unexpected and her no-rules-apply ethos makes everything she does that little bit special. Even though she claims she’s not naturally the creative type, we beg to differ…
HOW DID YOU GET INTO FLORISTRY?
I always quite liked flowers, but I didn’t have an overriding passion for them. It was only when I was asked to help some friends with their wedding that I got into it – I didn’t even know then that you had to cut the stems to make them last longer! I was interested in art and design for a long time, but I couldn’t paint or draw, so I suppose this is my medium. I actually worked in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi before that – when I left university it was the most creative thing I could do.
WHAT’S YOUR SIGNATURE STYLE?
I don’t like anything that’s too ordered – I like my flowers to look natural, with a sense of generosity and fullness about them. The types of flowers we do are unstructured and quirky, but with a touch of luxury. I like using colours together that you wouldn’t necessarily think of, like lemon and lilac, or a lovely burnt orange with a black dahlia.
WHICH ARE YOUR FAVOURITE FLOWERS TO WORK WITH?
I love really blousy types, whether it’s roses, wild clematis, garden hydrangeas or peonies, all these really quintessentially English flowers. Freesias have the most wonderful scent, but they’re always considered quite old fashioned, the sort of thing that you’d put in a mother-in-law’s corsage! Anything fragrant like sweet peas or tree lilac, which is probably one of my favourite smells, is good. When we send out a bouquet, it should be a complete assault on your senses.
ANY TIPS FOR BEGINNERS?
Every florist would say things like use odd numbers and don’t use long stems with short stems, but I think anything can work. It’s like when people used to say that you can’t put black and navy blue together – actually, I love that combination – but there shouldn’t really be any rules. My only big no-no is putting red and white together, which can be tempting at Christmas. It’s also meant to be unlucky as it symbolises blood and bandages, but that’s an old-fashioned thing – I’ve just never thought those colours looked great together. On a more practical note, you should change the water daily and cut the stems as often as you can. We always put a Milton sterilising pill in the water because it keeps the bacteria at bay.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO DISPLAY FLOWERS?
You can use anything from jam jars and teacups to buckets and tin cans. You don’t necessarily need to put them in anything at all. However, the container is just as important as the flowers themselves. If you have peonies or roses for example, they look best in rounder, shorter vases. Also don’t try to put too many shapes of flower into a vase – you wouldn’t put a tall delphinium with a short, fat peony.
WHEN IT COMES TO CHRISTMAS ARRANGEMENTS, WHAT DO YOU WORK WITH?
Christmas is my favourite time of year to use foliage, as there are so many beautiful textures and shades. I love using pine, holly, eucalyptus, olive branches, mistletoe and also herbs, like rosemary. That’s something I adore about Christmas – the scent.
ANY TIPS FOR FESTIVE DECORATIONS?
For centrepieces, it depends on the size and shape of your table. If it’s long, use lots of individual arrangements running down the centre or, if you have a big round table, go for a lovely big candelabra, with smaller vases running around it. I do like a big wreath in the centre with masses of candles. You can take the wreath from your front door and put it on the table later, which is a great way to reuse decorations. I tend to wrap my presents in plain-coloured paper and then I’ll decorate them with dried flowers, or sometimes I’ll use newspaper and lots of colourful ribbon.
HOW DO YOU DECORATE YOUR OWN HOME FOR CHRISTMAS?
In my country home, I’ll collect lichen branches, pick up fir cones and I’ll make my own door wreath and use dried orange slices that I’ve cooked in the Aga. In my London property, I love the tree to have plenty of colour, although I’ll do something different this year as I’ve redecorated the living room. It’s covered in an amazing green floral wallpaper by Ellie Cashman that’s based on the still-life paintings of the Dutch Golden Age – it’s my favourite thing in my house. So I’ll probably decorate the tree in different shades of green and drape it in asparagus fern. I shouldn’t admit it, but I also love to cover my house in those big flashing Santas – they make me smile!
YOU’RE CLEARLY NOT AFRAID OF COLOUR. HOW DO YOU USE IT IN INTERIORS?
The lower-ground floor, where we’ve got the dining area and sitting room, is packed with colour. I’ve got bright yellow shelves, neon-coloured benches, a lovely new dining table from Lamberty and then a real mix of yellow and grey fabrics, stripy cushions and pale floral prints. So it’s all a bit random, really.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TREASURED POSSESSIONS?
I do collect vases, particularly Constance Spry’s Fulham pottery. I love going to antiques fairs and all the little shops in Petworth to find vintage pieces.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON RECENTLY?
We did a huge floral window display for Kate Spade’s shop, which won a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. Actually, we’ve been doing a lot of flower walls for people – we also did one for Massimo Dutti and a wedding at Blenheim Palace. Poppy Delevingne’s wedding was a highlight. She wanted everything to look like it had been picked fresh from the garden, but also a little bit quirky. We built a beautiful arch of flowers made up of lilac and lemon colours for something a little unexpected.
WHAT WILL WILD AT HEART BE DOING FOR CHRISTMAS?
We always create a range of festive bouquets and door wreaths, but we decorate entire houses too. We once did a Christmas tree inspired by the owner’s Anish Kapoor painting that it was placed next to. We did another where we pinned fresh white roses to the branches, which was quite beautiful. We don’t just sell flowers, but also books that we love and have our own range of scented candles, plus a gorgeous selection from Christian Tortu.
Find out more about Nikki’s work at wildatheart.com