My lifelong habit of buying flowers | Life and style

From the first time I had my own place, I have always bought cut flowers. Aged 18, living in a squat near London’s Portobello, I would shop near the end of a Friday or Saturday market to stock up on fresh fruit and veg. But the trip wasn’t complete without a few bunches from the flower stall outside Westbourne Park station.

At 19 I worked at a posh plant nursery, but it was cut flowers sold from stalls where I was happiest

I’d stop off for violets, lily of the valley, or chrysanthemums in early autumn. I was (and still am) obsessed with dahlias, or an occasional sheath of gladioli. And spring flowers from the Scilly Isles across the sea from southwest Cornwall.

At 19, I worked at a posh plant nursery. They made my wedding bouquet. But it was cut flowers sold from stalls where I was happiest, with cheap, cheerful blooms in season.

The loss of Donna’s stand in Queen’s Crescent, Kentish Town, was a signal the old street’s days were numbered. Now, I queue early at the Parliament Hill farmer’s market in an invisible race against other shoppers. First buys are best when the choice is limited by season.

I still swing by favourite fruit and veg shops who have a good eye for good blooms. There is a favourite street stall I find hard to resist. I have been known to be there extra early on the day that the weekly van delivers.

We grow bee-friendly wild flowers in a Danish meadow, perhaps pick a few for the table when eating outside. The primrose, lily of the valley, spring bulbs, we leave alone. My favourite flower shop there has just changed hands, and I am finding it hard to adjust.

In London, I have noticed more blooms creeping in on the plot than the nasturtiums and marigolds that echo my early years.

I suspect we will always grow sunflowers there now: multi-headed rusted reds, plus classic single stem yellows in echoes of Ukraine. But there is a simple joy in buying a bunch of flowers. Bringing the outside in.

This article was amended on 29 January 2023. An earlier version referred to “the Scilly Isles across the sea from south Devon”. That has been changed to “across the sea from southwest Cornwall”.

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