‘Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
There were flowers: delphiniums, sweet peas, bunches of lilac; and carnations, masses of carnations. There were roses; there were irises. Ah yes – so she breathed in the earthy garden sweet smell […] the delicious scent, the exquisite coolness. And then, opening her eyes, how fresh like frilled linen clean from a laundry laid in wicker trays the roses looked; and dark and prim the red carnations, holding their heads up; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls, tinged violet, snow white, pale – as if it were the evening and girls in muslin frocks came out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer’s day, with its almost blue-black sky, its delphiniums, its carnations, its arum lilies was over…’ from Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
I’m just a little bit (read – ALOT) excited about this month’s Urban Jungle Bloggers theme, it’s plants and flowers! While I love to have succulents and cactuses dotted around the house, and try but fail to keep my balcony alive and green, my heart really does belong to flowers. There’s just something special about giving and receiving flowers; their subtle scent, their range of colours, their changing with the seasons. I’ve quoted a couple of lines from one of my favourite books, Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, because that first sentence of the book – ‘Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself’ – is so simple yet beautifully evocative and I always think of it when I go out to buy flowers myself. It somehow captures that feeling of joy, when you’ve picked out the perfect blooms, they’ve been wrapped up in crisp brown paper and you walk home, a little pride and childish excitement in your step, waiting to get back and arrange them in your best vase.
Oh how I would love to live in the country and have a garden full of wild flowers to pick and arrange to my heart’s content. But, for now, while living in the city, the Urban Jungle Bloggers’ theme was the perfect excuse (not that I need an excuse!) to head to Columbia Road Flower Market in east London. It’s one of my favourite places to go on a Sunday, not only for the rows and rows of foliage and flowers, everything from lemon trees to dried lavender, but for the atmosphere: the sellers’ chants of ‘everythin’ a fiver’, the bands that play folk music on street corners and the mix of young and old who head there come rain or shine. You’ll find coffee stalls tightly sandwiched between shops and the best cakes at Lili Vanilli. My top tip: if you want the best bunches get there when it opens at 8am, but if you want the best bargains get there as it starts to wind down around 2pm.
When I visited on Sunday there were rows and rows of these beautiful hydrangeas the size of my head, from the palest pinks to the deepest, darkest burgundies. I had to have some of these for my blog post!
I love how you can tell the season from the market, in the summer you can get the fattest peonies, but this time there were all sorts of autumnal colours and bristly branches.
To add to my hydrangeas I also bought some fragrant eucalyptus and some extraordinary white blooms called Ornithogalum, more commonly known sometimes as Star of Bethlehem. Growing from a bulb, they have extremely long stems and tight clusters of green buds that open up into the most wonderful little flowers with black tips. They’re apparently quite easy to grow, they like lots of sun and can last a few weeks once cut and put in water. My flat now smells amazing!
Inspired by a wonderful floral display from a recent trip to the Idle Rocks hotel in St Mawes (see the blog post here), I decided to style the flowers in lots of different sized vessels on my dining table. At the hotel, they had grouped together dozens of vintage glass bottles with only white flowers, and purple flowers in old French enamel jugs – it just looked so effective as a centrepiece of greenery on a table.
Urban Jungle Bloggers is a monthly series started by two bloggers: Igor (Happy Interior Blog) and Judith (JOELIX.com). Every month they share ideas on how to create an urban jungle through styling ideas, DIYs and green tips & tricks.
You can find additional inspiration on their Urban Jungle Bloggers Pinterest board and keep up-to-date on their website and Facebook page. If you want to join in just use #urbanjunglebloggers on Twitter and Instagram.