Floral King Neill Strain shares his love of London, passion for property and romantic bouquets, that would melt any heart on February 14.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I knew I wanted to be a florist at a young age. It started with a love of gardening and fresh flowers in my grandmother’s garden in Ireland. I pursued floristry as a career and studied to a high level both in the UK and abroad. My floral studies and experiences in Belgium and Holland inspired me to bring back to the UK, a style of design that I had never seen before and I knew that the clientele to appreciate this would be in central London. At first I wanted to open a shop in Chelsea. By chance I fell on Ebury Street and I fell instantly in love with the Belgravia architecture and garden squares… and I have never regretted it since!
Q: Who has been your favourite celebrity client over the years?
A: Of my many celebrity clients, I would say Lady Gaga because she is so creative and free thinking. She loves flowers and she gives us wonderfully creative projects to work on.
Q: What do you like about London?
A: To an Irish boy with an artistic eye, London is seductive for the incredibly varied styles of architecture one sees from one neighbourhood to another. I like London’s diversity of cultures, particularly in my work as I provide flowers to international clients for occasions celebrated all over the world. Fashion is one of my personal interests and London is the fashion capital of the world, making this environment very inspiring for my work. Of course, I also enjoy the diverse lifestyle the capital offers, going to the theatre, cinema, restaurants and exhibitions.
Q: If you could arrange flowers for anyone, who would it be?
A: Arranging flowers for someone is not just about the person, but also the location and/or the occasion. I have created flowers for HM the Queen, but I am yet to provide her with our Floral Home Styling service at Buckingham Palace.
Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you take with you?
A: My sketch book (and pencil); a box of Rococo chocolates and my floristry scissors.
Q: What Valentine’s flowers should we look out for at Neill Strain this February?
A: I source the highest quality flowers possible throughout the year and for Valentine’s Day that means the most beautiful, freshest red Roses. “Red Naomi” roses are the finest red rose available today and ours are picked especially for us just a few days before, so that they are incredibly fresh. In recent years mixed floral bouquets are also becoming popular and hence we offer a variety of seasonal flowers and spectacular Orchids, to tailor each bouquet more personally for the person who will receive them. Our bouquets are renowned for their wild textures and dramatic colours and our ‘haute couture’ Valentine’s bouquets are no exception.
Q: What is the world’s most unusual flower?
A: There is actually no single world’s most unusual flower since flowers that grow abundantly in one country and climate will be most unusual in another. Nevertheless, what I find unusual in the UK flower industry is the very top quality of flowers and this is what we go to great pains to source in Holland… the extra stem length, the largest blooms, the most recent varieties, new colours.
Q: What new projects are you working on at the moment?
A: Following the demand from clients who travel and/or have homes outside London, we are developing an online business for nationwide deliveries to expand the NSFC brand beyond Belgravia.
Q:Who or what inspires you?
A: I am more inspired by my surrounding than by individuals. The architecture and gardens of Belgravia and nature in general are my primary source of inspiration. Nevertheless, my passion for fashion also brings me inspiration; from haute couture collections, current trends, the designers’ use of texture and colour. We will incorporate some of these design elements into our couture bouquets at the boutique.
Q: Have you had any flower arranging disasters over the years?
A: Just once. We had just completed the flowers for a Belgravia society wedding, and one of the guests knocked over an arrangement which we had to re-do at a moment’s notice just as the bride arrived!
Q: Describe your perfect home?
A: A white stucco fronted Belgravia town house filled with lots of natural light, overlooking one of the beautiful garden squares. It would be decorated in a contemporary style with classical features. Sophisticated and peaceful.
- Neill Strain Floral Couture: The Flower Lounge, 11 West Halkin Street, London SW1X (020 7235 6469; neillstrain.com). Also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest @neillstrain