Scarlet & Violet in Kensal Rise is beloved by fashion tastemakers and the design world’s most discerning. Vic Brotherson’s North West London florist is a destination in its own right; its shelves of charming vases are bursting with English garden flowers and it feels a privilege to stand in this scented shop and watch the team create their unmistakable natural, stylish arrangements…
Did you always want to be a florist?
Not at all; I was lucky. I needed to find a job after graduating from Oxford in Fine Art and I just fell into it and really loved it. Maybe I was drawn to it; I was never going to be able to be a painter, so flowers were probably a good second!
The very thing that lots of people hate – I like the anonymity and the fact you can disappear into the big pot if you want to and value the acceptance of varied cultures, and I am proud that we can all just get on with it.
Favourite art spaces?
When we install flowers in private houses it is also a brilliant chance to see some incredible art collections – it’s like a private view every time we go. I always love all the big galleries – both Tates, the National Gallery Portrait Gallery, The Royal Academy.
Best places for antiques?
Portobello Road and Golborne Road – I crave a wander down Portobello if I’ve not had a chance for a while.
Dog walks are a great opportunity for me to catch up with my daughter Betsy, away from screens. We go to Hampstead and lose ourselves; I love a bit of people-watching in Hyde Park, it always reminds me of Where’s Wally? You know, in the way that the man surfing on the grass in full beach gear is hilarious, the lady dressed head to toe in purple with the ‘I am beautiful’ mantra on her headphones is intriguing, the handbag dogs and jogging grannies, rowing couples or gossiping speed walkers – a unique insight into London life.
Where do you find inspiring?
Shamefully I haven’t travelled a great deal, but I would say my home county of Cumbria. I love it; the Lakes make me breathe, stop and remember the sheer space, sky the green, the air, the lack of anything other than nature – I sound like a plonker but it’s important to remember how very little we are and what tiny thing we can do to make it better.
Restaurants and bars you’d recommend?
I relish a Sunday when we can just have two meals: a massive breakfast and then a delicious dinner. My favourites are local – the Electric Diner, The Chamberlayne, The Parlour. My tastebuds are always after a pickle or a sauce – I’m a savoury not a sweet person and a sucker for a sharing platter and a cheeseboard!
Hidden London gems?
Sotheby’s when they have a view for one of the big sales, its like a secret peek behind the scenes – or the café hidden in the Royal Academy: I fell in love with the arches and the paint colours.
Can you whisper any floristry tips to us?
Keep water levels topped – flowers drink fast and I think that’s the main reason that flowers don’t last as along as they should. If you buy a bunch of flowers, such as tulips or daffodils, chop them all to slightly different heights and they will sit much better in the vase. Use a spot of sterilisation liquid to keep the water clean, and have a good selection of vases so you can mix up what you buy – tall blossom, short hyacinth. Or blow your whole budget on a gorgeous single stem sometimes rather than trying to get a big mixed bunch.
Scarlet & Violet, 76 Chamberlayne Road, London NW10 3JJ (020 8969 9446; scarletandviolet.com)