It’s a whirlwind of carnival colour this month, so strap on your dancing shoes and sashay down to Vauxhall for a fiesta of fabulous flowers. Let’s celebrate summer!
I know of one award-winning designer that refuses to use yellow flowers. "Too cheerful", he says. If you enjoy being happy, sunflowers are ideal. Plus they don’t have to be sunshine yellow. "Sunrich Lemon" is a clear pale, er…lemon, with dark chocolate centre; "Sonja" is germini-size, and warm gold like free-range eggs.
Spotted at Hardcastle's – centaurea. Also known as knapweed or hardheads; it’s a joyous tufty yellow. Vibrant orange safflower also positively glowed. As did the asclepias; "Beatrix" is my variety preference, as it has such large starry flowers; but the ordinary kind is lovely too.
Also cheerfully yellow and orange (and red, pink…) are gerberas. People love them, even if they know nothing about flowers. Their simple daisy shape appeals to the child in all of us. Market boxes are often mixed, so you get a good choice of colours; if you’re doing an event and want just one variety, you can get those too. Or buy a wrap if you only need a few stems.
There’s something for everyone in the dahlia family. If you’re a flamboyant extrovert, big cactus flowers will suit you; if you’re more introverted, you might prefer the shorter pompoms, a perfect golfball of tiny petals. Hot pink, baby pink, yellow, scarlet, lilac, orange – dahlias are a colour riot.
Zinnias, like dahlias, look cutest when arranged casually. In bright tins, plastic tubs, junkshop pottery, they remind us of their Mexican roots. The faded candy colours – what fashion folk call "sunwashed brights" - reminds me of Tutti Frutti sweets. (Are they still around, or have they gone the way of Spangles?)
Brains, caterpillars, cockscombs – call it what you will, there’s nothing else like the weird and very wonderful celosia. You know customers will want to touch it, so put a spare stem by your till, just for fondling.
Equally tactile, and possibly the heaviest flowerhead available on a wholesale market – the mighty artichoke. It looks like the lovechild of an allium and an agave. Not just a delicious delicatessen vegetable but a knockout florist flower too. Mix it with trachelium for a royal purple fluff-fest.
On the spiky front, silvery eryngium with achillea at Deano’s stand – a space-age combo!
Roses are solid sellers right through August, particularly for summer weddings. The unique "Illusion" is in season; if you haven’t come across this rose before, it’s grown to be sold full-open. It reminds me of camellia, with its perfect petal whirls.
Hydrangeas are in full swing, right on through to autumn when bronze-shaded "antique" ones appear. Blue, pink, white, green; tall, short; little heads or giant ones – whatever you want. (DG Wholesale recommends "Annabel" – looks like guelder rose but with a much longer season, usefully.)
Hardcastle has some intriguing items – plum-toned astrantia and ammi, oregano and bramble.
Joe at Hardcastle tells me they’ve been busy tripping to Holland to seek out new varieties. He’s eagerly expecting new rose "Apres Ski" - a rival for "Avalanche".
Meanwhile there’s this jaunty limonium – "gorgeous", whispers Stephen Wicks at Bloomsbury Flowers.
Also seen shopping in the market, Paul Thomas and Simon Lycett. You’d think celeb florists would have people to do their buying for them, but no – they love browsing and bargaining themselves! See who you can spot, on your next visit to Vauxhall.