Postcode Pioneers: The Allotment Florist, North London
In Postcode Pioneers, we celebrate independent shop owners from across the world as they share their neighbourhood haunts. This week, we chat about sustainably grown flowers and hidden corners of Hampstead Heath with the green-fingered doyenne behind north London’s The Allotment Florist.
15 October, 2020
We're a sucker for a fresh bouquet, even more so if they're scented and sustainably grown. As part of our Postcode Pioneer series that shines a light on small businesses, we're calling upon Helena Willcocks of The Allotment Florist to share with us her must-visit places in north London.
After Helena realised that many of the flowers in the florists she worked in were being imported, she set about growing her own blooms on a north London allotment. Since opening in 2016, The Allotment Florist's wild-flower wreaths and dried-flower postcards have blossomed across town.
Here, the green-fingered guru shares her favourite place for dinner, other independents she loves and tips on snagging your own green patch.
Blooming marvellous: The Allotment Florist shares her North London hotspots
Where are you from and how has that shaped your business?
Originally from Leeds, I grew up surrounded by the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. This wild and dramatic landscape continues to have a huge influence on me and my work. My aim is for every arrangement to look, smell and feel as if it has been freshly picked the garden.
What was the inspiration behind starting The Allotment Florist?
After working for others in the floristry world, I was shocked by the huge quantities of flowers that are brought in from abroad. These blooms are cut, doused with chemicals and often flown thousands of miles before we actually see them - so much so that they often lose their scent. This just didn't make sense to me. So I started a business that had a more organic approach and starte to grow flowers in a more sustainable way.
You've got a studio and allotment in North London. What first drew you to this neighbourhood?
I've always lived in north London. Areas such as Stoke Newington, Crouch End and Muswell Hill are some of my favourites because they feel like small villages in the city. Maybe it's because I'm a northerner, I was drawn to the north.
Describe the vibe of the neighbourhood…
North London feels relaxed and friendly to me. I love being in nature and this area feels very green - you have so many lovely places on your doorstep such as Hampstead Heath, Ally Pally and Kenwood.
Where should we go in north London for coffee?
My favourites are Common Ground or Fink's Salt and Sweet, both in Finsbury Park
And hangover breakfast?
You can't beat a fry up at The Haberdashery in Crouch End.
What about somewhere for dinner with friends?
Bar Esteban in Crouch End is fun, though my absolute favourite is Max's Sandwich Shop in Crouch Hill.
What about on a date?
It may be a bit cliché but you can't beat a picnic on Primrose Hill.
Where shall we go in North London to go to buy a present?
I love Search and Rescue and Nook on Stoke Newington's Church Street.
Any other independents in the neighbourhood that you love to buy from?
Cheeses of Muswell Hill is a firm favourite.
Any secret spots only locals know about?
There are a few hidden spots in the Heath that make you feel as though you're the only one there. Keep searching and eventually you'll find them.
We want to start growing our own flowers. Can you share with us some green-fingered tips?
Start with something easy but very rewarding such as cosmos, ammi majus, dahlias, sweet peas or roses. Also, be patient. Some things will work, some won't, but I guarantee you will have fun. Plus, the best thing about gardening is that there's always next year.
Any suggestions on how we can secure our own allotment?
Just get yourself on the waiting list for all of your local allotments. There will be more than you think. Then it's just a waiting game.
Finally, what should we buy from your store?
Our autumnal dried wreaths, or our dried flower postcards to send to loved ones.