Words by Jessica Peace
We grabbed our Nik and Jack at the Corner Room takeover at Town Hall Hotel to chat Chelsea, keeping calm and carrying on.
Chelsea… that blinding jewel in the flower show world, how long have you wanted this?
Nik: The last 25 years… let’s just say yeah, the last couple of decades! But I’ve been wanting to do it since I started really, which is what? 5 years ago? Every year people are like, ‘are you doing Chelsea Flower Show this year?’, and I went, ‘no they don’t want us’... then they actually emailed us and asked us if we wanted to put a proposal forward and I was like ‘what the f**k?!’
How long did you have get your proposal in?
Jack: Oh, about 2 days…
Nik: And then they literally got back to us within a week and said yeah, ‘we love it, we love it you’ve got it’ - and I did actually scream the shop down for about an hour.
(Original proposal sketch)
What did you call on for inspiration when designing the installation? What other people are doing?
Both: No, never.
Jack: Life… constantly referencing.
Nik: Places for me, I love Europe, I love Italy… and there is one plant that is prevalent every summer and that is the geranium. They do it so well in window boxes and terracotta pots, so for me it’s like a home from home thing - it’s quite comforting. My Nan used to have them, everyone’s Nan used to have them...
Jack: Yeah, my Grandparents had masses of geraniums...
Nik: It’s my main vivid memory of my Nan and rubbing the leaves of the citronella that she had in her kitchen all the time… So places and also I love to mish mash old and new… just buying loads of stuff and then seeing how it goes… I didn’t visualise this to look like this (looks about their installation at the Town Hall Hotel)...
Jack: No, me neither!
Nik: I had been to Tenerife and they had really overgrown, really beautiful Bougainvillea and when I came back two weeks later we were just talking about what we were gonna do and Jack was like, ‘why don’t we do just on mass Bougainvillea?’
Jack: But it didn’t have that ‘heritage’ thing.
Nik: We wanted explosion of colour, that’s what we’re about really so we thought what plant could we use?
Jack: And wanted a mix of flower and plant as well...
Nik: We’re known for our floristry and houseplants so we thought geraniums were the perfect fit. We wanted to show how easy the geranium is to tend to and how forgiving it is.
Jack: It doesn’t even like water!
Nik: And I really love gardening, so I’m like - this is what I wanna do now… I love it! It was quite difficult designing the install for Chelsea and still keeping the essence of the effect of the geraniums and pelargoniums. I went to Umbria for a research trip and all the streets are lined with these tumbling plants spilling out of everywhere. It’s mental, they’ve got real passion for it. At Chelsea, we were given these two truss towers - like you rig up cameras on for shows, really skinny tall towers - we were like f*ck!
Fave previous Chelsea gardens?
Both:The L’Occitane Gardens.
Jack: L’Occitane always do a good garden at Chelsea, they’re all herbal so they can be re-used and they feature their products which is interesting… and Jo Thompson did a really good garden last year.
Nik: I’m excited about Tom Massey this year, when I set up originally I was based in a studio on Kingsland road, there was a guy (Massey) who used to own it and he’s there doing a garden this year - we started out at the same time.
What are you doing/drinking to get you through the run-up? Although Jack, you said today you weren’t stressed?
Jack: Just referring to our diligent plans!
Nik: The thing is for me, there’s always a bloody solution, don’t panic… So, things do go wrong, inevitably, always…
(A fire alarm goes off as Nik says this)
Jack: She’s a witch!
Nik: I am a witch!... But you know, you gotta keep calm and carry on.
Jack: Garden design business?...
Nik: Well, I’d really like to see us growing into more ‘Garden Installations’.
Jack: Yeah - using plants as the flowers.
You can see Nik and Jack’s current floral installations at ‘The Bull Ring Gate’ of the Chelsea Flower Show and ‘The Garden Room’ at The Town Hall Hotel, see you there!