Behind the scenes

Nikki Tibbles on creating a fully immersive outdoor experience…

English Country Garden with Nikki Tibbles

If you’ve visited Bicester Village recently you will have experienced the sheer beauty of our very own English Country Garden, created by London based florist Nikki Tibbles. Think mystical sprawling trees, quaint potting sheds, beautiful English orchids, fragrant herbs, wild flowers and vintage bicycles. Throughout 2017, the gardens will continue to evolve with the seasons, creating a fully immersive experience for all our guests…

We caught up with the brains behind the installation to talk creative vision, inspiration and bringing the concepts to life in your own garden.

What was the inspiration behind your transformation of Bicester Village?

The inspiration behind the transformation at Bicester Village was very much looking at the Oxfordshire countryside and bringing the countryside to the Village. We wanted to create a garden – a typically English country garden – within the Village. 

Nikki Tibbles

Did the surrounding Oxfordshire countryside influence your ‘English Country Garden’ designs?

The surrounding countryside has been very influential in what we are doing here, looking at how green the different types of trees and plants are and just really taking everything back to creating this wonderful journey through a garden, as if you are in a beautiful home in this gorgeous countryside.

Do you have any tips for keen gardeners looking to recreate a similar look at home?

You can find all these amazing containers and interesting pieces that we’ve purchased to plant everything from your local car boot sale or from local country fairs. Also, work in the season – plant something that will always be evergreen and last all year round and then just add additional plants for colour throughout the season.

The frequently photographed tree installation at the Village changes with the seasons. Which season of the year stimulates your creativity most and why?  

We change the beautiful tree that we build for Bicester Village every season and it’s a very interesting point when you think about what we are creating here. At Bicester Village, we work with the season, gardens are very seasonal and it’s important that we bring that message through into the Village. Everything changes for the season. 

The Bicester Village tree is our social media moment really and is very much inspired by the season. There’s been a blossom tree, a rose tree, we now have a tree full of autumn leaves and in the next couple of weeks we are building a tree that is made all from pine and larch, so this will be our Christmas tree moment. So we do look to the seasons for that, it’s really important.

How did you get into the world of horticulture? 

I have always wanted to do something creative but I can’t write, paint, draw or play music, so flowers and plants are a perfect medium for me because it is like drawing – it’s creative, it’s like painting with flowers and mud. I was working in advertising and I gave up my career and went to work in a flower shop for £2 an hour, and I loved it. What I love about what I do is that everything is different, every client is different, every event is different, every job that we work on, working at Bicester Village is different and everything changes for the seasons so it’s always fresh, there is always something new and every day is different.

Tell us how you go about implementing your initial creative vision in order to convert ideas into reality and bring your designs to life. 

I always know how I want something to look and that very rarely changes. I will do drawings and renders, but I can walk into a room and I can see how I want it to look for an event. It’s slightly trickier at Bicester Village because the space is enormous, but I did have a vision from the very first meeting I had here about how I wanted it to look and what you see is what I saw when I first started working on this amazing project.

How might people with limited outdoor space achieve an English country garden look? 

If you have limited space at home, working in all these plants and planters and tubs is a really easy way to create a garden, because you can plant amazing climbers and seasonal plants with lots of bulbs. You can constantly change your garden and evolve, and also you can move everything around – that’s another nice aspect of planting in containers and tubs and wheel barrows and using different things, it’s always interesting,

What do you predict will be the standout trends for floristry and horticulture in 2017? 

For me, the standard trends of forestry and horticulture is definitely keeping things more natural. I think we’re moving away from everything being so structured – I think our lives are so structured now, so it is really nice to have something in our lives that is more free, wild and more natural and has a sense of generosity.

What three words best describe your signature style?

I would say something that has a sense of generosity, abundance, which is very natural, and easy. 

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