My Perfect Winter Weekend With Florist Nikki Tibbles

Cosy knits, pub roasts, wellies and long walks: we love this time of the year, so we asked florist Nikki Tibbles of Wild at Heart what she’s most excited about this season. From walks across the South Downs with her six rescue dogs to trips to the Royal Opera House, she talks us through her perfect winter weekend.

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FRIDAY NIGHT

I always think January is going to be a quiet month, but I always end up using it for planning and strategising! I work on Fridays. We’re currently gearing up to open a new store in a townhouse in Mayfair, so that's quite exciting. And because I spend so much time down in West Sussex, we're going to be launching an arm of the business here, as there are some amazing wedding venues in the likes of Arundel and Amberley. We’re also working on a product range to get through what may be a difficult year. One needs to be realistic – when a financial crisis hits, flowers are often the first thing people stop ordering.

I really love West Sussex, partly because when I drive down the A3 from Notting Hill for the weekend, it feels like you're going on holiday as opposed to facing the drudge of the M4 and motorway traffic. It feels more like you're going on a lovely journey from the minute you leave west London. The South Downs is just the most extraordinary place. On a bank holiday, you can go for an incredible walk and not see anyone.

If I’m down in Sussex on a Friday night, I’ll usually meet up with friends at my fabulous local pub, The Horse Guards in Tillington, for dinner and a bottle of wine. The people who run it are fantastic, the food is amazing and you can take your dogs. And I’m a big fan of the bar’s negronis. I think you can eat better food at The Horse Guards than some of the nicer places in London! I’m vegan and they always try to adapt their dishes. Even if we don’t have time for a full meal, we’ll have a drink and a bowl of chips.

SATURDAY

Saturdays are all about walking with my dogs. I currently have six rescues, who I took on through my charity, The Wild At Heart Foundation. I have Lenny, a Spanish mastin who’s 65 kilos and 15 years old. He's the size of a small pony but is the most gentle giant. His back legs are not what they used to be, but he can still hear a crisp packet from 100 metres away. There’s my semi-deaf Romanian, Ronnie, who’s an Anatolian shepherd dog. He tends to keep himself to himself, but he’s wonderful all the same. Ruby is a ridgeback cross who was about to be euthanised in a shelter in Puerto Rico. She’s a beautiful dog and so affectionate. Rita was found at ten days old, dumped on a highway. When she was handed to me in San Juan, she could fit into my hands – now she's like a warthog without the tusks. Her tail never stops wagging. I have Zeta, who is a meat trade survivor from China. I was asked to foster her by an animal advocate friend. Zeta managed to get over here last March, and I had no idea what she was going to look like because I’d only seen photographs of her when she was rescued – she was on a 12-inch chain and had the worst case of infected sarcoptic mange I’ve seen in my life. She looked like a ragdoll that had been through the washing machine too many times, as she had barely any fur. These days, she’s got some scarring, but looks lovely and is one of the most extraordinary souls. I also have Leo at the moment, who was tortured and dumped in a car park in Lesbos. My friend rescued him and found a home for him in the UK, but the new owners didn't show up to collect him, so I got a phone call at 11pm one night asking if I could come and get him from a service station near Gatwick – so I jumped in the car.

Nearby Petworth is a great little town to visit on a Saturday. Petworth House is a great National Trust property, the Hungry Guest is a great local deli and there’s the Cowdray Estate nearby – in the summer, they have a van serving pizzas and it’s got a great farm store. The town of Climping is fabulous, then there’s the great Thomas Heatherwick-designed East Beach Café in Littlehampton, which is gorgeous. Of course, there’s Goodwood, too, which is a really nice place to go – and I can take the dogs.

Being a florist, I obviously love gardening, but at this time of year there's not an awful lot to do. At the moment, I’m tidying up the garden and we’ve got lots of apples and pears to eat. We've got a landscaping arm to the business, and I’ve always loved being in the garden. The main thing for me is that I just love being outside, whatever the weather. I've got a short and a high pair of Hunter wellies I’ve had forever. I’ve also got a great pair of navy blue Stutterheim boots that I wear while out walking, as they’re so comfortable and have a great grip on them. Coatwise, I wear a Barbour I’ve had forever or a big old green cape I think I once bought in the middle of nowhere when I got caught in the rain. 

If I'm not working, I’ll go for a very long dog walk with friends – I love that I can be out on the Downs in five minutes. I love cooking, so I'll get everyone back to mine and make supper at home – my favourite weekends involve spending time with my dogs and my friends. One of my favourite books is called the Vegan Bible and I love all of Anna Jones’s cookbooks. I make a delicious cauliflower curry with potatoes roasted in turmeric and cumin, served with kale and chilli, which always goes down well.

INGRID RASMUSSEN

SUNDAY

Most weekends I'm in the country, but I still love a weekend in London. If I'm working at a wedding or an event, I'll be in Notting Hill – it's quite nice to have that balance of both. I’ll probably meet up with people and go to a nice restaurant for lunch. I love Holy Carrot, which is a great vegan restaurant, as are classics like Mildred’s. Some good restaurants have opened in Notting Hill recently – I really rate Dorian and Orasay, as they've always got great vegan dishes on the menu. Gold on Portobello Road is another lovely spot, Granger & Co is great for breakfast or an early dinner, Suzi Tros is a great Greek place, and there’s Belvedere restaurant in Holland Park that's just reopened and has really good food.

I love to go to galleries, museums and the ballet – that's what I love about London life. The best production I’ve seen recently was called Ruination. It was a really interesting take by the dance group Last Dog at the Royal Opera House. It took place at the Linbury Theatre below where The Nutcracker was being performed, and it was the polar opposite. It was about being in Hades – it was brilliantly done. I also love to go to exhibitions at the Barbican. Sometimes I’ll take a couple of the dogs up to London with me – though I can't take Lenny, as he can't travel anymore – and we’ll go up to Hampstead Heath, as it’s the closest you can get to being in the countryside.

Sundays in Sussex are usually very chilled out. Again, I’ll take the dogs for a long walk and cook lunch for friends. I grew a lot of vegetables in the summer, so I’ve been making a lot of soups. On a Sunday night, I’ll often make a big batch, which lasts me through the week.

The Foundation is such an important part of my life, so I do quite a lot of work for it at the weekends. Right now, we’re trying to focus closer to home. There’s been a huge increase in dogs being left at UK shelters, due to behavioural issues and lifestyle changes after the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. We've got a great project on at the moment where we're working with the Trussell Trust and other food banks, because a lot of people are handing dogs back because they can't afford to feed them. Over the weekend, I'm often out delivering pet food to food banks or collecting abandoned dogs from all over.

I’ve tried to stop reading the news late at night, as I’d start with The Times, then the Evening Standard, the Independent… and the next thing I knew, it was five hours later and I was getting my Harry Styles fix in the Washington Post. On a Sunday night, I like to pop something on Netflix or read a book – I’m currently reading Richard E. Grant’s A Pocket Full Of Happiness. I’ve been loving Slow Horses on Apple TV, as I’ve read all the books and I love Gary Oldman. I think they’re going to do a season for every book. It’s also such a joy to have Happy Valley back, it’s just genius. I also like a lot of the Korean series on Netflix – obviously Squid Game was genius, as was Money Heist, but I'm currently watching something called Glory, which I’m finding quite interesting. I also love classic old school detective dramas – even better if it’s Scandinavian.

You can follow Nikki on Instagram at @NikkiTibblesWildAtHeart, order flowers from Wild at Heart at WildAtHeart.com. If you’d like to support the Wild at Heart Foundation, you can add a donation to any online order of flowers, or order a bouquet dedicated to supporting the charity here.

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