I’ve been after the girls at stylish London florists Scarlet and Violet to do a Day With for us for months now and finally they succumbed! I am so, so glad to have Clare at Scarlet and Violet share her busy day with us, beginning at the vibrant Covent Garden Flower Market at the break of dawn! Clare writes so lyrically that it seems to me beautiful words must come naturally to someone that deals with just as beautiful things all day.
[P.S I’ve included a screen grab of their website below because it’s just so pretty]
The alarm goes off at 4:15. It’s an early start today, made unnecessarily earlier by the fact that i couldn’t quite bring myself to wash my hair before I went to bed last night, and can’t quite face a long day ahead with hair that defies the laws of gravity.
By 4:45, I have fed Sid the cat, had my first cup of coffee, thrown on some clothes, and seen to my barnet. At 5am I wait for Vic outside the house, and realise that any efforts made to make me appear more human may have been in vain; it’s pitch black outside and the weather is like something from a Hardy novel, heavy unforgiving rain and rude wind. in less romantic terms, this is frizzy hair weather.
Vic arrives a short while later, and i hop into the warm van, and immediately find myself with a serious case of the verbals – almost as if the night has been some sort of word fast and I have to get as much said as possible in case I explode.
This morning the topic of conversation is sleepless nights, concerns about buying flowers for a wedding I’m doing at the weekend [will it all be there?], and the inevitable conversations about boy problems. Vic listens patiently, laughs often and gives the most wonderful advice; you have nothing to worry about, the wedding will be absolutely fine, and, you are a grown up not a child talk to the boy. Excellent.
We get to New Covent Garden Flower Market at about 6:00am, park outside GB Foliage, it’s our regular spot. We sit in the van for a few moments, gathering our thoughts, making a shopping list, and waiting for a break in the bleak weather before we head into the market.
Our first stop is with a stand that solely sells flowers grown in the UK, we say our hellos, and for the first time this morning Vic is asked if she only employs tall people [We are both over 6ft], we settle on some bright yellow narcissus and some pretty pheasant eye. Next stop is Allen’s, because Vic goes to the market so often [4-5 out of 6 days a week], the boys have set aside some of the things they think we’ll like. they’ve done well, and make our job really easy, all I really have to do is find the bits for the weekend wedding.
I pop over the way, looking rather conspicuous with my big camera, and as a result take some classic market banter on the chin before a host of porters and sellers are throwing some crazy poses and I’m snapping away. At Austins they have put aside about 8 wraps of icelandic poppies for me to choose from, I am using them in the wedding and go for one wrap that is mellow and peachy and another that is a much more vivid coral.
Vic and I then split briefly to cover as much ground as possible, I hunt out some essential ingredients for the wedding and Vic searches high and low to find suitable things to put in a private house this afternoon. Straight off the bat I realise that finding peonies might be tricky, I haven’t seen any so far and we have already covered two of the larger sellers. Instead I buy a selection of different garden roses, they have a similar feel to the peony, full, blousy, romantic and with the most delicious scent. It’s a no brainer really, they are beautiful, bride will love them.
I dash around [think ‘challenge anneka’ but much less glamorous] in search of lilac, sweet peas, guelder rose, chamomile daisy, stock and spray roses…Happy with all that I have gathered i head back to meet Vic, and much to my surprise and great relief come across some peonies that will be perfect. phew.
At about 7am we head back to the van, where we meet our Porter, knowing that I am writing a piece for the blog, he offers to strip down to his jeans to load the van, insisting it would be much more romantic and comparing himself to Heathcliff, or any other Hero from a romance novel. I politely decline his generous offer, sorry readers. Loading the van is a real art form, after a couple of minutes it is filled to the brim and looks like a strange 3-d tetris. Once we’re all done we head to the cafe in the market, a proper greasy spoon, that does the best egg and sausage sandwiches and an amazing milky coffee. Instant has never tasted this good.
At about 7:30 we get to Hyde Park and walk Nelly, Vic’s dog. Nelly is perhaps as synonymous with Scarlet & Violet as our flowers, at least to all the pre-schoolers in Kensal Rise and Queens Park. We give her a good run, throw the ball until our arms hurt, and fortunately manage to convince her rolling around in the big muddy puddle is not such a good idea when she is sharing the front seat with us.
It’s just after 8am and we get to the shop, I unload the van and vic goes and puts the kettle on. The girls filter in, all hands on deck, Gaby and Hannah put the flowers into water, and Kate and I help Vic get the orders out, wrapping, carding and bagging. Before we know it there are customers in the shop, phones are ringing, and someone has come in for a meeting with Vic to discuss their wedding.
I can’t be sure it’s even 9am. A few regulars come in, it’s always nice to see these friendly faces, it really makes me feel as though I’m part of the community, to know their names, their news and the kinds of things they are looking for before they do. it’s really special. We’re always personalising what we do, naming vases after the jobs we bought them for, for instance “the Becker” or “the National Portrait Gallery”, it’s confusing for new staff members but eventually they come to accept that a small thick glass cylinder is an “NHS” vase at Scarlet & Violet.
Before I know it, it’s 10am, and I take a short walk to the tube station, I have a meeting at 11am at a venue in Marylebone and can’t stand being late. I get to the tube station and am immediately glad I allowed myself some extra time, there seem to be delays. Eventually the train comes [still with plenty of time] and for the first time this morning I switch off to the gentle rocking of the train, occasionally smiling at the wittering of our driver, she has the chats. I get to the venue with 10 minutes to spare, enough time in to squeeze in another coffee. Pret a Manger is a beacon shining before me on this miserable day. After doing a circuit of the venue, I eventually figure out that today I am supposed to be using the front door, it’s a florist’s prerogative to look for the service entrance or a loading bay.
The meeting goes well, it’s nice to see the wedding planner again, although the venue has changed from it’s original, we both have similar ideas as to what might work. The bride is lovely and seems to have complete faith in us, her wedding planner is so well organised and considered it is hardly surprising she is so relaxed. The look we’re hoping to achieve is luxe vintage, think Marie Antoinette taken down a peg or two. The palette is to range from coffees, parchments, palest pinks and creams with a touch of soft mint green, with lots of full and blown roses, alongside pretty and frilly sweetpeas, with some gardeny elements. It’s going to be a very pretty one.
At 12:30 I walk to Baker street in the rain, good old april showers. When I get back to the shop it’s 1pm, everything seems to be in control, the shop is bursting with fresh stock, all the lovely spring flowers are so cheery it’s easy to forget about the grey outside. This is a wonderful time of year for flowers, it’s a real crossover between spring and early summer, there’s blossom, hyacinths, anemones, ranunculus, guelder rose, daffodils and narcissus going head to head with lilac, snap dragons, sweet peas and garden roses. The colours are vivid jewelly tones, or, soft, pretty and feminine, there is something for everyone. Oh, and the smell, you really have to take a little break and come back in to notice it, dizzying narcissus and delicate sweetpea.
I slip into the office and check the emails, the shop floor has been busy so there hasn’t been time to check, there are a couple of orders and queries that have come in so I reply, and transfer the relevant orders/messages to our ‘to do’ clip – the single most important thing in the shop.
It’s 2pm, and I have the beginnings of a coffee induced headache, and my eyes start to twitch from not being closed for much of last night. It’s time for lunch, and although i know i should reach for the water, I’m afraid I opt for the caffeine hit instead. I meet my friend kathy for a coffee on Portobello, after being given a rare afternoon off [I’m doing this wedding over Easter weekend whilst the shop is closed].
I wait patiently on the corner of Elgin Crescent for Kathy listening to tragic and beautiful songs on my ipod, when out of the corner of my eye I see Mary Poppins/Nanny McPhee/Emily Pankhurst, I’m not quite sure which. Here is a lady wearing a full skirt, full dress coat, neckerchief, broad rimmed straw hat loaded with flowers, small round rimmed spectacles perched on her nose, carrying a wicker basket and an umbrella [black of course], almost floating down the road on stepped lace up ankle boots. She is both strange and wonderful and without even a hint of irony, I think I love her because she snaps me back to reality before I get lost in the silly things going round in my head and kathy arrives.
Author: Rohini Wahi
Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.
She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org