Summer is a-coming in; loud sing cuckoo. The passing of the equinox usually means I switch to knee-length long-johns; but the weather has been so mild lately, at least in London, that signs of spring are everywhere. There’s hanky-panky in the hedgerows…
So I’m starting with foliage: Barry at Porter's loves this time of year, when dry brown twigs suddenly burst into fresh green leaf.
"A machine-gun fire of opening leaves", he (poetically) describes it as – and once it’s done, it’s done for the year. "If you see it in leaf in the garden, it’s too late for the wholesale market".
So make the most of the short sweet season – blossoms, flowering camellias, dogwoods, magnolia, chestnut, hazel, pussy willow – while you can. Fill up a big vase.
As poet Rita Dove says:
"There is a parrot imitating spring
in the palace, its feathers parsley green."
Just as we can eat strawberries in November (though who would want to?) we can get many flowers out of their natural months.
"We’re losing our sense of the seasons", says our man at Bloomfield, waxing nostalgic. He remembers the days when growers would race to be the first to send a box of tulips to market, just like the Beaujolais wine races. Now tulips are available all year round, if you have lots of money and no imagination.
Instead, he’s enjoying the last of the winter lilacs, in soft pastel shades; and looking forward to early-summer cut herbs arriving from Italy and the south of France, to add a little je ne sais quois to your bouquets.
Daffodils are still going strong; I spotted 9 varieties on Pratley's stand alone, all English grown from Scillies to Spalding. Kicking out quite a scent, Guernsey-grown freesia; shorter than the Dutch, but more fragrant, and packed in mixed-colour bunches.
Also fragrant: Quality Plants’ gardenia, with large creamy flowers; and winter jasmine, both perfect for Mothers’ Day.
Evergreen has jumbo pots of lavender and rosemary, and smartly-clipped bay trees. Monty Don would approve. They also have this little beauty, Scilla peruviana. Think of Cilla Black, only this one’s Scilla Blue.
Look out for lily-of-the-valley; in my old job it was one flower I was constantly asked about.
Also on the public’s lust list, sweet peas; nice strong colours, packed on water to maintain freshness.
Callas are always popular; why not try these English-grown large-flowered arums for a change?
Lovely for weddings; I understand there’s at least one this month... (Best keep an eye on it; her engagement dress sold out in minutes, so you’re bound to be asked for a lookalike bouquet of whatever Kate chooses.)
Spotted on SR Allen’s stand, this striking long-stem hydrangea "Harlekijn" (that’s harlequin to non-Dutch speakers).
Hardcastle have spotlessly-white mophead hydrangeas; and quirky anthuriums, including a particularly striking jet-black miniature, "Attractive Love". Proper black, not deep purple or chocolate. And they’re on water, so you don’t have to buy a whole boxful.
Hardcastles expect French peonies in 2-3 weeks; good Israeli/Dutch peonies are in the market now, but French ones are worth waiting for if you are a peony connoisseur.
I once saw Jenny Agutter buying coral-coloured peonies in the market, which perfectly matched the cardigan she had on. Classy. I’m a Walkabout fan myself, but you might prefer her in The Railway Children; or Spooks, if you’re a younger viewer.
I hope you have a profitable Mothers’ Day. This year has been unpredictable, sales-wise, with quiet days turning busy and peak days proving unrewarding. I heard a florist saying, "people in Mayfair don’t have mothers"...
And if your customers are thinking about spring cleaning, then may I suggest this peace lily – proudly advertising its health benefits. It won’t do the dusting, but it will clean the air of nasties, making it easier to breathe. We could all do with that.
Have your say
What are you looking forward to this month? Leave your thoughts and comments below.