Freddie’s Flower People: Judith Mackrell

Author and dance critic Judith Mackrell tells us about her latest book, the ‘spectacular possibilities of pinkness’ and an improbably named rose…

Freddie’s Flowers customers are all wonderful people… and here’s another one! Author and renowned dance critic Judith Mackrell tells us about her latest book, the ‘spectacular possibilities of pinkness’ and an improbably named rose…

It’s one of the great traditions of the world of dance that dancers are presented with bouquets of flowers to celebrate a performance. They might be more worried about whether Judith Mackrell, the longstanding dance critic of the Guardian, will be presenting them with a virtual bouquet or a brickbat in her reviews of their work.

She was persuaded to try Freddie’s Flowers and receive her own garlands. Judith says, ‘Fresh flowers in the house are a treat for me and I couldn’t resist the idea of having them delivered to the door. It’s like being sent a bouquet every week.’

‘Flappers’ – Judith’s acclaimed biography of six women in the 1920s


Judith is an author and biographer as well as a critic, and the year ahead is looking a busy one. She says, ‘I’ve got several features on the go for The Guardian, including one about Javier De Frutos’ new version of the Phillip Glass dance opera Les Enfants Terrible – based on Jean Cocteau’s cult novel.’

Judith is also in the last stages of seeing her latest book into print. ‘It’s called The Unfinished Palazzo and it’s a group biography of  three very different women who lived in the same Venetian palazzo at different moments in the 20th century,’ Judith tells us. ‘They are a hugely rich Italian Marchesa called Luisa Casati, who was like the Lady Gaga of the belle époque, a very wicked English socialite called Doris Castlerosse, and Peggy Guggenheim – whose astounding modern art collection is now housed in the building.’

Even if she isn’t occupying her own palazzo, Judith loves bringing flowers into her home and the atmosphere they help to create.

‘It’s always great to have something coming into the house from the outside, something that has its own life. I like being able to clock the changes of colour, texture and smell that happen to a bunch of flowers over a week — buds unfolding, petals expanding and slowly beginning to drop.’

She enjoys the unexpected mixture of flowers and foliage in her Freddie’s delivery and the fact that it’s different every time. And if Judith were to choose the flowers we’d shower her with?

peonies by Sarah Collicott via FB
‘Spectacular possibilities of pinkness’ – a Freddie’s peonies delivery arranged by customer Sarah Collicott.


She likes peonies for ‘their spectacular possibilities of pinkness’, hellebores and paper narcissus. ‘Climbing roses are very special and I’m easily seduced by their names. I like to wonder about the people who they’re named after, like the wonderful Parkdirektor Riggers.’*

But, Judith says, she’s undemanding and grasses, twigs or autumn leaves will do if there are no flowers around — but with Freddie’s on hand, there always are.


*To help Judith, we looked up a bit more about Parkdirektor Riggers. It’s a rose variety developed by Wilhelm Kordes Söhne, a German family firm that’s been around for five generations and is one of the world’s biggest rose producers. This variety was bred in 1957 at their farm in Schleswig-Holstein. We can only assume that Parkdirektor Riggers was a park keeper known to the Kordes family. But if you know more, do tell us.


The rose variety Parkdirektor Riggers. Image credit.


Are you one of Freddie’s Flower People? You don’t have to be famous – we just want to see your arrangements! Share your own Freddie’s Flower pics with on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or drop us an email at

Or if you haven’t already done so, sign up for lovely flower deliveries at £24 a pop here!

How Ladybird Books taught me to love flowers

A whole generation of children learned about flowers from one very special source: the beautifully-illustrated Ladybird Books…

A whole generation of children that grew up in towns and cities learned about flowers from one very special source: the beautifully-illustrated Ladybird Books. In this exclusive post, leading Ladybird expert Helen Day explains how some haunting picture-books helped spark a lifelong appreciation of flowers… 

Flowers didn’t feature much in my childhood.  Our garden was tiny, my parents both worked and money was rather tight. We lived in a street of terraced houses, surrounded by similar streets – a perfectly pleasant environment in many ways – but floral decoration was sparse.

But that’s not the whole story.  Both my parents were teachers and my house was filled with books: many of them Ladybird Books.   The imagery of my childhood is a strange collage of reality and book artwork.  Even before I could read, I was reading the pictures of the books that surrounded me and these pictures were beautiful.  I learnt about flowers from Ladybird Books.

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First there were garden flowers.  In my Ladybird Book of Garden Flowers, gardens were a remote and alien place –striking and colourful but as far away from my life as Never Never Land.  The vibrant colours of the plants contrasted with the grey splendour of the buildings in the background.

The sky was often dark and stormy: it was the flowers that brought the optimism to the picture.  Life was calm and stately and ordered.  Nature, with its stormy skies, might threaten change, but as long as the gardener was in charge all would be managed and all would be well.

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Three John Leigh-Pemberton illustrations from ‘Garden Flowers’. Image © Ladybird Books Ltd


Then there was the Ladybird Book of Wild Flowers and here the scenes were very different.  Human activity was barely visible or was shown in decay: a ruined monastery, a broken bridge.

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‘British Wild Flowers’, illus. Rowland and Edith Hilder. Images © Ladybird Books Ltd


The flowers were less bright and showy and had to battle harder on the page to gain my attention. The colours were more muted: lots of blues, palest pink with splashes of yellow.  I wasn’t sure what I thought of wild flowers.

Both books were produced by Ladybird with the idea that they would be simple field guides, to be used by the curious child for reference and to stimulate their curiosity.  On the left-hand side of every page was the name and description of the plants pictured.  I’m sure lots of children used them in this way, but I don’t think I ever did. For me, the attraction was pouring over the details in the background.  Who was in that carriage, coming up the drive.  What was through that arch?  Why was the bridge falling down?

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‘British Wild Flowers’, illus. Rowland and Edith Hilder. Images © Ladybird Books Ltd


Then there was Indoor Gardening – a whole book dedicated to telling children like me that I too could be a gardener – as long as I had a window sill and an odd collection of containers: glass bottles, chipped pottery or an old teapot.

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‘Indoor Gardening’, illus. BH Robinson. Images © Ladybird Books Ltd


But this looked too much like a school project to me – as did the helpful diagrams in Plants and How they Grow.  I did have a go at making the ‘Minature Garden’ in The Ladybird Book of Things to Make – but like all the projects in that book, when I’d finished it didn’t look anything like the picture.

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‘Things to Make’, illus. G Robinson. Image © Ladybird Books Ltd


Finally there was the magic of picking wild flowers.  Yes, I know – and you must remember this, children – that we don’t pick wild flowers today.  But in 1960s Ladybird Land it was fine to pick wild flowers.  Goldilocks was filling her basket with bluebells when she discovered the Three Bears’ House. Little Red Riding Hood gathered an amazingly varied woodland bouquet to take to her grandmother.

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‘Little Red Riding Hood’, illus. Robert Lumley and ‘Goldilocks’, illus. Harry Wingfield. Images © Ladybird Books Ltd


Picking wildflowers was almost an emblem of childhood and freedom – a prelude to adventure and enjoyed equally by boys and girls.  The sky was blue, there were no adults in sight, clothes never got dirty: and we never saw the miserable picked flowers in their vases and jam jars, wilting and withering only hours later.  That just didn’t happen in Ladybird Land.

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(l) ‘Prayers through the Year’, illus. Clive Uptton; (r) ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, illus. Harry Wingfield.  Images © Ladybird Books Ltd


I grew up and Ladybird Books grew up – and, for a time, I fared better than they did.  I had a house with a garden and started to enjoy walks in the country and visits to garden-centres.  Ladybird struggled with ever-increasing competition in the book market and, in the 1980s, swapped expertly-crafted artwork for much cheaper photography.

Looking back, I realise I did everything backwards.  The books I grew up with were intended to help children identify the plants they saw around them.  I don’t remember seeing plants around me when I was growing up, but later found myself identifying well-remembered Ladybird imagery in the landscapes of my adult life.  Perhaps on a walk in the country I’ll turn a corner and be confronted with a scene that transports me straight back to a page in What to Look for in Spring or Wild Flowers.

The pictures came first, and the plants came second.  But one way or another the books of my childhood taught me to enjoy and to appreciate flowers, and in the end I don’t suppose it matters which way round it happens.


Love flowers? So do we! Sign up for a delivery box of amazing flowers for just £24 a pop here. 


Helen Day is a Languages Teacher and avid collector of, and expert on, Ladybird Books. She curates the definitive Ladybird Book website at .


Images © Ladybird Books Ltd. Reproduced by kind permission of Ladybird Books Ltd.


Floral mindfulness? How flowers saved my inner wellbeing and made me a better person

Forget all the fads – what better way to achieve inner wellbeing than filling your home and your life with lots and lots of lovely flowers?

Forget all the fads – what better way to achieve inner wellbeing than filling your home and your life with lots and lots of lovely flowers? Freddie’s customer Louise Simpson explains how she accidentally found true contentment…

If you’re anything like me, you’re attracted to the concept of mindfulness. Being calm. Being thankful for the small pleasures of life. Appreciating the present moment and letting the worries of the modern world drift away.

Yes, a place of true inner tranquility is definitely worth aiming for. It’s getting there that’s the problem. There seem to be so many routes, from meditation to Pilates to ‘clean eating’, which seems to involve consuming vast quantities of kale. I’ve tried plenty, and no doubt they all work for someone, just not me. (For a start, I really like consuming ‘non-clean’ things, like chocolate. And gin.)

So although I have good intentions for finding physical and mental wellbeing and Zen-like calm in the present, nothing ever quite seems to stick. It’s frustrating. In fact, chasing mindfulness turns out to be really quite stressful.


How weekly flower deliveries saved my soul

But then, not long ago, I noticed a change. I realised that something rather wonderful seemed to be happening to me, and it was all to do with the sudden flow of flowers into my life.

My Freddie’s Flowers day is a Friday, and that’s become a special day in our house. When the box comes, my two young daughters and I gather excitedly around it in the family room. Then we open it up, read the rather fab instruction/information leaflet, and spend an extremely enjoyable ten minutes carefully arranging the flowers. Wonderful, unexpected, unusual flowers – often ones I’ve never heard of.

And then we have another enjoyable ten minutes of playing with last week’s flowers – and even the ones from the week before that if they’re still going strong: mixing and matching, trimming and rearranging, moving the vases around the house.

That’s twenty solid minutes of just thinking about flowers and nothing else – a good dose of mindfulness if ever there was one. But the effects last much longer than that. All through the week I find myself taking lovely moments to stop and just gaze contentedly at my various floral displays. I think it’s partly because the flowers are so splendid, but also partly because I’m secretly proud of my new-found arranging skills.

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Anna Ancher: Interior with the painter’s daughter Helga sewing, Anna Ancher


But whatever the reason, a weekly supply of flowers has made my home more attractive, greatly improved my appreciation of natural beauty and generally helped make me a calmer and more sane person.

In other words, I bought a flower subscription and I accidentally found inner wellbeing. Thank you, Guru Freddie…



Six Not Particularly Sensible Alternative Wellness Treatments

If arranging flowers seems too sensible a way to achieve inner peace and harmony, you could always try one of these wellness treatments from around the world…

Image credit.
Image credit.

1) Whole Body Cryotheraphy
Yes, at the Renew Juicery in Los Angeles you can freeze your entire body in liquid nitogren for a mere $70 a session.

2) Trip out on iboga
Apparently an increasing number of westerners are travelling to the central African country of Gabon to take part in an ancestral religious rite which involves facepainting, dancing and ingesting a root called iboga. Iboga is said to have healing powers, but French health officials have called it a ‘hallucinogenic and highly toxic drug’ and warned tourists to stay well clear.

3) Dream Reality Cinema
Another LA craze this, the Dream Reality Cinema is like a normal cinema except it serves up lucid dreams instead of films via something called ‘biocybernetics’. According to the website, this is ‘the ultimate brain hack, teaching individuals the key method for manifesting ones dreams in waking life.’

4) Moisturising with snail slime
Yes, really. Snail slime.

5) Japanese crying therapy
Originating in the Kansai region of Japan, the practice of ruikatsu involves spending hours listening to sad stories and being reminded of the dead pets of your childhood. The resultant weeping is said to be good for you.

6) Bathe in wine
Staying in Japan, the Yunessun Spa Resort allows visitors to immerse themselves in giant communal baths of coffee, ramen or red wine. Actually that last one sounds rather good.


 Eucalyptus, pussywillow, alstroemeria
A eucalyptus, pussywillow, alstroemeria from Freddie’s Flowers

Want to find inner peace by bringing a constant flow of natural loveliness into your life? Sign up for weekly flower deliveries for £24 a pop here.

How do you drink your flowers? A guide to floral teas and tisanes

There’s more than one way to drink a cuppa. Jassy Davis explains how to make your own flower teas, known as tisanes…

There’s more than one way to drink a cuppa – and in the depths of winter a sweet-scented flower tea can bring back the sunshine. Food writer Jassy Davis explains how to make your own floral tisanes…

Forget potpourri. The best thing to do with dried flowers is drink them.  Tisanes – herbal infusions – have been warming cockles for thousands of years.

The idea isn’t that strange to us: a pot of mint tea after dinner, chamomile tea before bed. These infusions have stayed with us, while we ditched other more outlandish tisanes in favour of cups of good, strong black tea. But at this time of year, when the weather is grey and the days are dark, floral tisanes can breathe a bit of summer warmth back into our lives. And with flower beds being a bit sparse, a stock of dried edible flowers are perfect for brewing up with.

Dried Flowers Overhead


How to make a Tisane

The general rule is to use one heaped tablespoon of dried flowers for every 250ml water. Don’t use boiling water. The ideal temperature is around 80°C, so stop your kettle before it boils. Steep teas for three to five minutes before straining into a cup.

Important health and safety note: before you start brewing up, remember to only make teas with edible grade dried flowers, preferably organic. As tisanes have historically been used as herbal remedies, it’s best to check they won’t interfere with any medicines you’re taking or have an impact on any conditions you may have.



Jasmine 2

Jasmine tea normally means green, white or black tea scented with jasmine flowers, which has been prepared in China for thousands of years. A tisane of dried jasmine flowers is mellow and aromatic, less scented than an infusion made with the fresh flowers would be. Try combining jasmine with rose petals or a strip of fresh lemon or orange zest for extra fragrance.



Rose 1

Everyone who has had a piece of Turkish delight knows what rose tea tastes like. Fresh, dried or distilled into rosewater, rose always delivers that full, summer garden in bloom flavour.

Traditionally rose tea is drunk to help relieve menstrual cramps, and it’s also thought to be good for sore throats, digestion and stress. Rose is brilliant for scenting black tea. Try steeping a combination of dried rose petals, black tea and lightly crushed cardamom pods and serving it with a slice of lemon.



Lavender 2

A love-it-or-loathe-it tisane. Lavender is a flavour that doesn’t give up. Dried or fresh, that heady, bee-and-butterfly-luring scent is just as strong. For some people, it’s too much like soap. But for lavender lovers, a cup of pale blue lavender tea is perfume heaven.

Lavender is always associated with sleep, which makes lavender the perfect night-time tisane. Combine it with chamomile blooms for extra snooziness. It’s also said to be good for digestion, so try it after a meal instead of mint tea (or mix a spoonful of dried lavender in with the mint sprigs).



Elderflowers 2

The powdery smell of lacey elderflowers is the scent of spring. Elderflower tisanes capture that delicate, fruity fragrance. It’s naturally sweet and won’t become bitter if it’s left to stand, so you can confidently make a pot knowing the last cup will taste as good as the first (although be warned, it’s thought to be a diuretic, so perhaps don’t drink gallons of it).

Elderflower teas have historically been used to treat coughs and cold. Add a slice of lemon, a chunk of ginger and a dash of honey for a soothing drink when you need a little relief from a scratchy throat and runny nose.



Hops flowers 2

Hop flower tisanes have a green note to them, redolent of thick stems of field rhubarb or orange skin. A rich, juicy bitterness that increases the longer you brew the tea for. Hops have long been used as a sedative and this tea is best kept for bedtimes. Try adding a strip of orange zest to round out the flavour, and honey to take the edge off the bitterness.



Marigolds 1jpg

More commonly known as marigold, calendula petals have a peppery, tangy flavour that translates into a savoury tisane with a hint of spice and sourness. Thought to be good for digestion, cramps and menstrual pain, this sunshine yellow tea makes a great afternoon pick-me-up.


Freddie’s Flowers sends you delicious arrangements every week – though we recommend that you mostly just sit and look at our flowers rather than drink them.  Sign up for a delivery box of amazing flowers for just £24 a pop here. 

Flowers in a cup 1


Jassy Davis is a writer and food blogger. Check out her wonderful Gin and Crumpets website here.


Walking in a Winter Flowerland – 5 top Christmas outings for flowerheads

If you’re after festive activities while still getting your flower fix this Christmas, here are our top picks…

Your days between now and Christmas are probably rammed with all sorts of fun stuff – but if you have a window to fill and you’re after festive activities while still getting your flower fix, here are our top picks…


1. The RHS London Christmas Show

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The RHS are the dons of the horticultural show and their Christmas event this weekend (17 and 18 December) at RHS Lawrence Hall is full of festive foliage fun. Go for last minute Christmas shopping as well as food and crafts. More information and tickets here.


2. Christmas at Kew

kew gardens christmas
Image credit.

Who doesn’t love Kew, eh? Magical at any time of the year, at Christmas they open in the evenings for a wondrous walk through their illuminated, enchanting gardens. Includes a scented fire garden – which sounds better than mulled wine with an added slug of brandy.

Expect to leave feeling wowed and rosy cheeked! Tickets and info here.


3. Flowerful breakfast with Father Christmas at Clifton Nurseries

father xmas clifton
Image credit.

If your little angel has been really very good this year, a regular Santa’s Grotto might not cut the proverbial. So let them break their fast (or their fast since 5am when they woke you up demanding ice cream for breakfast – you made them toast while regretting that ‘cocktail for the road’ last night) with the man himself at the wonderful Clifton Nurseries (London W9).

Grab a few plants for yourself while you’re there. Buying flowers does wonders for a hangover. Tickets and info here.


4. Magic Lantern Festival, Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Image credits – above and top.

Ok, so this isn’t strictly to do with horticulture, but who can say no to a lantern festival at a Botanical Gardens? With floating Christmas fairies, glowing flowers and a parade of penguin lanterns, this will make even the Scroogiest of hearts lift a little. As long as they like Christmas themed lights, that is. Information here.


5. Amaryllis admiring

red amaryllis

And lastly, if actually what you really need is an hour or two of down time between shopping, present wrapping and parties, do just that. Sink into the sofa, admire your beautifully decorated Christmas tree, and perhaps the gorgeous Amaryllis that arrived from Freddie’s Flowers this week, and wonder what on earth you’re going to get your brother-in-law this year. (Any ideas?!)


Fancy a delivery of eye-poppingly gorgeous festive flowers to enhance your Christmas decs? Why not give weekly flower deliveries a go at £24 a pop?

Freddie’s Complete Guide to Buying the Perfect Christmas Tree

Want a lovely, real tree that looks suitably fabulous on Christmas Day and doesn’t cover your whole house in needles? Just follow Freddie’s eight easy tips…

How to pick a real Christmas tree that looks suitably fabulous on Christmas Day and doesn’t cover your whole house in needles? Just follow Freddie’s eight easy tips…


1. Don’t jump the gun – how to pick a real Christmas tree

A well looked-after Christmas tree should last for about six weeks, so if you are Christmas mad and like your gaff decked out by the beginning of November, know that your tree might not be looking totally fabulous on Christmas day.


2. Measure a tree-plus-bucket

When measuring your ceiling, remember to take into account the height of a stand or bucket. We don’t want your angel to get a stiff neck.


3. Find your shape

Decide what shape tree will look good this year. Most people prefer fuller, rounder trees and shops know this, so they’ll have a chunkier price tag. Freddie’s favourite is a Nordmann Fir (below) as they’re full of energy, reliable and easy on the eye. Just like Freddie himself.


nordmann firs


4. Snap a needle

Check the freshness of the tree by snapping a needle in half. If it snaps satisfyingly, it’s a fresh ‘un. If it’s more pliable and only breaks after a sad, sorrowful bend, the tree is old and won’t last as long or look as good in your home. Sap on the tree is also a sign of freshness.


5. Trim and water it asap

Once home, cut about an inch off the base of the trunk (essential so the tree can absorb water and live longer) and get it into water pronto. If you’re buying a tree with roots so you can replant it, be sure to keep topping up the water.


6. Use bleach

Flower food won’t work here, neither will sugar or vinegar. However, a drop or two of bleach in the Christmas tree water will keep the water clean and help the needles stay on.


7. Position it wisely

Like your regular Freddie’s Flowers, keep your tree out of direct sunlight and away from radiators and draughts.


8. Beware rogue climbers

Weigh down the tree if you have cats or small children, in case they mistake the tree for a mountaineering opportunity.


Finally, it’s always good to buy from a  local farm that grows the trees themselves, if you have one. But if you don’t, we recommend Pines and Needles and The Christmas Forest.

Love all things naturally lovely? Sign up for weekly flower deliveries, including some spectacularly festive ones, for £24 a pop here.

How I learnt to stop worrying and love flowers

Like many men, Henry Jeffreys just couldn’t get the hang of buying flowers. But then he finally saw the light…

Like many men, Henry Jeffreys just couldn’t get the hang of buying flowers. He even thought florists might be involved in a shady conspiracy to fool us all. But then he finally saw the light…

By Henry Jeffreys

About 20 years ago, I was living in Barcelona trying unsuccessfully to learn Spanish. So unsuccessful was I that I lost my job working in bar called The Golden Rock Café (a straight rip off of the Hard Rock Café) because I could not understand a word anyone was saying to me.

The manager would say ‘Henry, tenedor! mesa cuatro!” and I would start mopping the floor or give him a cigarette rather than delivering the missing fork to table four. I was the Manuel character in an unfunny Spanish remake of Fawlty Towers.

I did, however, meet a young Danish lady who I attempted to woo. When we were out drinking Cava, I’d be approached by street vendors attempting to sell me red roses for la rubia (the blonde.). I’d shoo them away gracelessly and resume my clumsy attempts at romance.

The only time I bought her flowers was on Sant Jordi’s Day, the patron saint of Catalonia. On this day the tradition is for novios (lovers) to exchange gifts, flowers for her and books for him. It seems terribly old-fashioned but it’s actually very charming. My novia loved her flowers and I was pretty pleased with my copy of A Farewell to Arms because I’d run out of English language books and had been reduced to reading and rereading a book of Will Self short stories.

The thing is, I never learned the lesson. I don’t think I ever bought flowers for her again. Nor did I buy flowers for any subsequent girlfriend. I ignored the evidence of my own eyes and thought that women couldn’t possibly actually like flowers. It was all a conspiracy made up by the card companies or some shadowy conglomeration of florists.

On Valentine’s Day I would look pityingly at the men on the tube with their flowers or at the girls in the office with big bouquets pretending to like them. I knew better, I’d bought a good bottle of claret for my special lady and then wondered why she looked so cross.

It was only when I met my future wife, who after moving into my flat in Bethnal Green, spent Sundays at Columbia Road market. She’d fill this place with flowers and overnight it went from a crash pad to a home. Very slowly it dawned on me that there is no conspiracy: women really do like flowers.

Flower_man crop


After this epiphany, I began to brave flower shops, which I found totally overwhelming. “What sort of flowers do you want?” the florist would ask me.

“I have no idea, Pretty ones I suppose,” I’d reply. “Nothing too gaudy.”

“How much do you want to spend?”

Again I had no idea, how much is a lot? When you don’t get flowers, any amount seems baffling. The staff would look at me with pity, thinking, “he’s probably done something terrible and he’s trying to make up for it with flowers.” Honestly I hadn’t. I just wanted to be romantic and spontaneous and ended up all confused.

I’d return home sheepishly carrying a bunch more suitable for leaving on someone’s grave. Or worse, the kind of thing that might look good in the lobby of a German bank but hardly screamsI love you’.

But over time I gradually began to appreciate flowers. They don’t necessarily have to say anything. They just need to exist and make your home more beautiful.

And I learnt, very slowly, that not all florists are created equal. Some have taste (or at any rate, some have taste that chimes with my wife’s), and others don’t.

It’s not easy to find the right florist but now I don’t have to because we have a weekly delivery from Freddie’s Flowers. I’m not entirely sure, however, who is more excited about the delivery, me or my wife, because whisper it… I now love having flowers in the house.


funzen pun main


Henry Jeffreys writes about drink, books and popular culture in The Spectator, The Guardian, The Oldie, The Lady and many other publications.  He is the author of ‘Empire of Booze’  – a history of Britain told through alcoholic drinks. 

Want to transform your home with naturally lovely flowers? Sign up to try our amazing flower deliveries at £24 a pop.

Edible Flowers: a guide for the budding chef

Flowers are colourful, fragrant – but tasty? Here’s a guide to munching your way through edible flowers…

Flowers have been used for culinary purposes since ancient times. And their use in cooking is enjoying something of a revival today. Here’s our guide to munching your way through the flower garden…

When contemplating just what it is that makes flowers so naturally lovely, you might perhaps be inclined to say it’s their colours… or perhaps their delicate fragrance.

Tasty doesn’t necessarily spring straight to mind.

And yet throughout history, humans have chomped their way through a veritable floral smorgasbord. Using flowers for everything from from adding extra vibrancy to salads to spicing up soups, to producing delectable sweets and desserts…


Saffron and marigolds


Afghan saffron – Image credit.


You’ll be familiar with the idea of using flowers such as jasmine, rose or hibiscus to make fragrant teas. You might even have sampled stuffed courgette flower, or enjoyed a glass or two of elderflower wine. But perhaps you haven’t quite considered tucking into your pot marigold.

In fact, flowers have served an important medicinal and culinary role over the centuries, with one of the earliest known references to edible flower petals occurring in 140BC, when they were apparently used as a garnish.

 The ancient Greeks are known to have used saffron, taken from the inside of the crocus flower, to spice up their medicinal soups, and over time the use of saffron to add flavour to dishes became popular throughout Europe.

However, saffron was (and still is) notoriously expensive. Enter the calendula, or marigold, which became known as ‘poor man’s saffron’,Whose orange petals offer a suitable – and much cheaper –  substitute for saffron. While both the flowers and leaves can be used in a variety of dishes, including salads, seafoods and even desserts.


From medieval salads to the Boston Bea Balm Party


In the Middle Ages, the salad was quite a different state of affairs to today. With ingredients commonly including the primrose and sweet violet, as well as herbs such as mint and parsley.

Medieval monks enjoyed steaming flower petals to produce oils, which were then used to create flower waters. They would also use violet flowers to make sweet syrups.

Some edible flowers have even played a key role in our political history.

Take monarda didyma, or bee balm, which was traditionally used by native Americans for its medicinal properties. Following the events of the Boston Tea Party in 1773, English tea was in short supply. Most of it having been thrown into Boston harbour as part of a protest against taxes.

Bee balm was used in its place by the colonial settlers (which is probably why you still can’t get a decent cuppa in the States).


Victorian rose puddings

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Victorians tuck into their dinner of popular flowers


As well as being obsessed with the language of flowers, the Victorians loved to chomp on a good bloom.

Roses and violets were among their flowers of choice, with frosted rose petals and candied violets being used to create beautiful cakes and desserts. (Though apparently their recipes used butter rather than Flora – sorry).

But the Victorians weren’t alone in that. Roses are, of course, famous for their delicate scent, and rosewater is used in many cuisines across the world, including sweets like baklava and Turkish delight.

Rose hips can also be used for jams, jellies and syrups, and have a high vitamin C content.


Fancy yourself as a flower chef?

nasturtium salad
Nasturtium salad. Image credit.


Today, flowers are regaining popularity in the kitchen. With the pansy in particular making regular appearances on Masterchef. Its vibrant petals now adorn many a fine salad in Michelin-starred restaurants around the UK.

Many modern recipe books also now include well-known flowers among their list of ingredients, from baby daffodils, to heather flowers and even fuchsias.

Here are three more flowers you might not have thought of eating:

Nasturtiums – the nasturtium, coming from southern and central America, is fully edible. With its bright flowers not only offering a cheery accompaniment to your salad, but also adding a notable peppery taste. The flowers are also high in vitamin C and lutein, and the seeds can be used as a condiment.

Pinks – the dianthus, or carnation (also known as ‘pinks’). With its characteristic serrated-edged petals, became a particularly popular culinary tool among the French. Having a spicy, clove-like taste – although today it is perhaps appreciated more for its aesthetic than its edible qualities, and is more likely to been seen in a vase than on your dinner plate.

Chrysanthemums – the chrysanthemum is a particularly popular ingredient in Asian cuisine. Where the flowers are used for various purposes, including making sweet drinks and flavouring rice wine. While in China the leaves are steamed or boiled and eaten as greens –  offering an interesting alternative for your five a day.

Green Tea with Chrysanthemum. Image credit.



Important! Don’t necessarily try this at home…

It’s worth remembering that some plants and flowers are inedible or even poisonous. And that even edible flowers should be approached with a degree of caution, with some having rather less desirable effects if consumed in sufficient quantities. Including those containing cyanide precursors, and others acting as diuretics (including daylily and borage).

Any flowers that are intended for consumption should also be fresh and organically grown.


At Freddie’s Flowers, we do make delicious arrangements. Though we recommend that you mostly just sit and look at them, perhaps with a nice drop of rosé. Sign up for a delivery box of amazing flowers for just £24 a pop here. 


Image credits: Flower salad, top;  Boston Tea Party cartoon; Grun – The End of Dinner (1913)

Beyond the Sunflowers: Van Gogh’s Other Great Flower Paintings

His sunflowers are the most famous floral pictures in art. But Vincent van Gogh painted many, many other flowers. Here’s a guide to the greatest…

His sunflowers are the most famous floral pictures in art. But Vincent van Gogh painted many, many other flowers – more than enough to prove his genius. Here’s a guide to the greatest…

by Nigel Andrew

Vincent van Gogh’s sunflower paintings are among the most famous and instantly recognisable in western art – and among the most expensive. When Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers sold at auction in 1987, it fetched just short of US $40 million, more than tripling the record price for any work of art.

But van Gogh’s flower painting was by no means all about sunflowers – and indeed, it was his late painting of Irises that broke the auction record again in the same year as the Fifteen Sunflowers, selling for US $53.9 million.

fourteen sunflowers
Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers (1888) one of the series of instantly-recognisable sunflower paintings. This one is at the National Gallery, London.


Van Gogh had been a flower painter throughout his career – partly because he couldn’t afford to pay models. As he wrote to his brother Theo, ‘I have lacked money for paying models, else I had given myself to figure painting, but I have made a series of colour studies in painting simply flowers, red poppies, blue cornflowers and myositis. White and pink roses, yellow chrysanthemums…’

He could hardly have been better employed: it is hard to imagine that he would have got very far as a figure painter, but his studies of flowers liberated him to explore the world of colours from which he would create his greatest work.


Brighter, freer and looser

Self-portrait – Paris, Summer 1887 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)


First Vincent had to free himself from the muddy palette that had characterised his earliest works, such as the famous Potato Eaters. When he moved to Paris in the mid-1880s, Theo urged him to paint in brighter, stronger colours, and flower painting enabled him to do this.

Vincent took the enterprise seriously, studying Dutch and Flemish flower painters of the golden age, and initially adopting their habit of depicting flowers against a dark background. In early van Gogh flower paintings, such as Glass with Roses (below) and Vase with Carnations, all the colour is in the flowers, while the background is conventionally gloomy.

Glass with Roses, 1886 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)


However, there are some bright and exuberant arrangements among these early efforts, such as the Vase with Gladioli and Lilac, and van Gogh’s handling of paint was becoming freer and looser. Vincent was about to break free and find himself as an artist.

Vase with Gladioli and Lilac, 1886 (Private Collection)


The Blue Vase period

The turning point came in 1887, by which time Vincent was totally immersed in flower painting, getting used to ‘colours other than grey [as he wrote to his sister] – pink, soft or bright green, light blue, violet, yellow, glorious red’.

He was also exploring colour theory and the rich possibilities of setting one colour against another – and, of course, he was coming into contact with Impressionism, Pointillism and Divisionism, with Japanese woodcuts and all the ferment of artistic ideas that were being aired in Paris at the time. Meanwhile, his friends encouraged Vincent by buying him bouquets to paint, and he also found flower paintings a useful way to pay restaurant bills.

Vase with Lilacs, Daisies and Anemones, 1887 (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva)


A high point of his work at this time was a series of paintings of flowers in a blue vase, set against variously coloured backgrounds. Pictures such as Vase with Lilacs, Daisies and Anemones (above), Flowers in a Blue Vase and Vase with Daisies and Anemones show how far van Gogh’s immersion in flower painting had taken his art.

Vase with Daisies and Anemones, 1887 (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo)


These Blue Vase paintings are bursting with life and energy, with vibrant colour and swift, exploratory brushwork. In them we see the greatness of the mature artist emerging.

As for the flowers, Vincent painted everything from Asters (Vase with Autumn Asters) to Zinnias (Bowl with Zinnias and Other Flowers), by way of Carnations, Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemums and Wild Flowers in a Vase), Gladioli, Peonies (Bowl with Peonies and Roses) – and, oh yes, Sunflowers.

Chrysanthemums and Wild Flowers in a Vase, 1887 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)


Bowl with Peonies and Roses, 1886 (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo)


Maturity and madness

The famous Sunflower paintings were among the products of the great, er, flowering of van Gogh’s art that followed his arrival in Provence in 1888, where the bright, sun-baked landscapes awakened him to the full expressive possibilities of colour and paint.

‘Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers’ by Paul Gaughin, 1888 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)


It was a period of intense creative endeavour and mental ferment that came to a traumatic crisis with the famous incident involving Gauguin and the severed ear. Vincent ended up in an asylum in Saint-Remy – and, while there, he again began painting flowers. It was in the asylum gardens there that he painted the famous Irises, a picture that so impressed his brother Theo that he entered it in the Salon des Independants of 1889.

Irises, 1889 (J. Paul Getty Museum, LA)


Irises and roses – the last great paintings

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise) Irises, 1890 Oil on canvas; 29 x 36 1/4 in. (73.7 x 92.1 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Adele R. Levy, 1958 (58.187)
Irises, 1890 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)


Towards the end of his stay in the asylum, van Gogh was feeling calm and confident that his mental crisis was behind him. His final flower paintings are suffused with this new feeling of serenity, showing flowers in full bloom, freely arranged and zestfully rendered.

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Vase with Irises Against a Yellow Background, 1890 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)


Vincent painted violet Irises against a yellow background and against a pink background (1890, Metropolitan Museum of Art) and several delightful studies of roses (Still Life: Pink Roses, also Roses and Vase with Pink Roses) as well as a lovely rendering of almond blossom against a blue sky. These paintings of 1890 are among his most beautiful late works, though inevitably they tend to get overshadowed by those blazing Sunflowers.

Still Life: Vase with Pink Roses, 1890 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)


Sadly, just a few months after the hopeful period in which he painted these last great flower paintings, Vincent van Gogh had died by his own hand. He died an obscure painter who had scarcely sold a picture, but in the years that followed he achieved a towering reputation as a giant of modern art.

I’d like to think that, if nothing of his work had survived but his flower paintings, he would still be regarded as one of the greats.

Nigel Andrew is a writer and host of the Nigeness culture blog


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‘I’ll paint flowers big’ – Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern

The artist Georgia O’Keeffe wanted to surprise people into looking properly at flowers, and the blockbuster exhibition at Tate Modern shows how she did it….

The artist Georgia O’Keeffe wanted to surprise people into looking properly at flowers, and the blockbuster exhibition at Tate Modern shows how she did it. Guest writer Terry Stiastny goes along to stare…


Georgia O’Keeffe believed that in the modern world, too few people had the time to look at flowers. She was living in New York in the 1920s, where speed and novelty were everything, where skyscrapers were shooting up around her.

Fantin-Latour roses-1871
Henri Fantin-Latour – ‘Roses’ (1871)


In 1924, she saw a small flower in a still-life by the nineteenth-century French artist, Henri Fantin-Latour. Small and delicate, O’Keeffe thought, wasn’t going to work in her busy times. She could go big or go home. So she went big. ‘Big like the huge buildings going up,’ she wrote.

Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portrait; Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864 - 1946); United States; 1918; Palladium print; 24.8 x 20.3 cm (9 3/4 x 8 in.); 91.XM.63.13
Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait; Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864 – 1946); United States; 1918; Palladium print


In a letter, the artist wrote, ‘So I said to myself — I’ll paint what I see — what the flower is to me, but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it — I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers…’

At Tate Modern, you can see some of the startling results: a single dark purple petunia that makes a striking contrast with the green glass bottle that holds it; two huge oriental poppies with their dark centres and the vibrant oranges, pinks and reds of their petals; her favourite calla lilies, one in a tall glass, another against dark green foliage and a red background.

louisiana 014
Georgia O’Keeffe – ‘Oriental Poppies’ (1927); Oil paint on canvas; 762 x 1016 mm; Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; © 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London


O’Keeffe was influenced by photography — she was married to a photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, and Ansel Adams was a friend — and she used some of their techniques to help us look in detail at her flowers. She cropped the blooms close, she blew them up to many times their natural size. As time went on, she made her flowers less abstract and more realistic, in part because she kept having to insist to critics that no, they really weren’t supposed to look rude.

Obj. No. 85.1534 Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) White Iris, 1930 Oil on canvas 40”H x 30”W 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm Image must be credited with the following collection and photo credit lines: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce C. Gottwald. Photo: Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Georgia O’Keeffe – ‘White Iris’ (1930); Oil on canvas; 101.6 cm x 76.2 cm; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce C. Gottwald. Photo: Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts


Her painting of the Jimson Weed (below), with its cool white petals and curving green leaves, evoked, she said, ‘the coolness and sweetness of the evening.’ It also became one of her greatest successes — at its time, it was the most expensive painting by a woman sold at auction.

2014.35 Georgia O'Keeffe Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, 1932 Oil on canvas 48 × 40 in. (121.9 × 101.6 cm) Framed: 53 in. × 44 3/4 in. × 2 1/2 in.
Georgia O’Keeffe – ‘Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1’ (1932); Oil paint on canvas; 48 x 40 inches; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas, USA. Photography by Edward C. Robison III © 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/DACS, London


Over fourteen years, O’Keeffe produced over two hundred flower paintings. Catch some of them — not to mention her landscapes — at Tate Modern while you can, because they’re rarely seen in this country.

Black Mesa Landscape
Georgia O’Keeffe – ‘Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II’ (1930); Oil on canvas mounted on board; Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation. © 2016 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London.


Take some time, now the seasons are turning, to look at O’Keeffe’s maple leaves in red and green and gold, painted in upstate New York, her russet apples.

And why not take a leaf out of O’Keeffe’s book in other ways? We could all take a bit more time, perhaps, to really see flowers, no matter how frantic the modern world makes us feel. We might notice something new.


The Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition runs until 30 October 2016. View details at the Tate Modern site here.

Terry Stiastny is a former BBC journalist. Her debut novel, Acts of Omission, won the Paddy Power Political Fiction Book of the Year award 2015.

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The Seven Best Garden Centres in London

London has plenty of lovely, unusual and interesting garden centres tucked away amidst the urban sprawl. Here’s our guide to some of the best…

London has plenty of lovely, unusual and interesting garden centres tucked away amidst the urban sprawl. Here’s our guide to some of the best…

What better way to idle away a weekend than mooching around looking at flowers and greenery and, when that gets too exhausting, dropping into a really top notch café? Yes, you can’t beat a good garden centre – and London has loads of them.

We’ve selected seven of our favourites around the capital and listed them here in no particular order. But these aren’t your usual garden centres, mind. They’re all totally unique, quirky and, of course, naturally lovely…


1. Petersham Nurseries, Richmond

Credit to photographer Ming Tang Evans (110)
Image credit: Ming Tang Evans

Let’s face it, the term ‘garden centre’ doesn’t really do justice to Petersham Nurseries, that remarkable, rather bohemian collection of greenhouses and gardens in Richmond.  It was carved out of the grounds of the grand Petersham House in the 1970s and later transformed into a world-class plant nursery by Gael & Francesco Boglione, who also added the café. We say ‘café’, but how many garden centres can boast an eatery that twice won a Michelin star, as Petersham’s did in 2011 and 2012?

Image credit: Ming Tang Evans

Now under the management of the Bogliones’ daughter Lara, Petersham Nurseries is not just one of the best garden centres in London, but one of the loveliest places full stop. There are events all year round, from fungi-collecting walks to wine-tasting, and the garden shop stocks very swish stuff. Meanwhile, the new head chef at the café Damian Clisby (previously of HIX Soho and Cotswold House) has put an emphasis on slow food, and last year won the Best Slow Food Restaurant in the SF London Awards.

Visit the Petersham Nurseries website here.


2. The Chelsea Gardener, SW3

chelsea gardener 2
Image credit.


A gorgeous oasis of calm and green, just off the King’s Road (on Sydney Street to be precise, in what was once The Brompton Hospital), The Chelsea Gardener is a firm favourite of garden-loving locals. It’s the place to go for plants, products and expert advice on making the most of outdoor spaces in an urban setting – and they also offer a complete landscaping service.

But as well as all that, it’s just a lovely, relaxing place to go when you’re in Chelsea and need a fix of flowers. There’s even an Orangery, and who doesn’t love one of those?

chelsea gardener 1
Image credit.


Visit The Chelsea Gardener website here.



3. Clifton Nurseries, W9

clifton 1
Image credit.

This Maida Vale institution can trace its roots all the way back to 1851, and under the stewardship of a series of legendary London horticultural entrepreneurs including Johannes Krupp and Sydney Cohen, (plus the backing of Lord Jacob Rothschild) it became established as one of the most important suppliers of garden goods in the capital.

And it still is to this day, as well as offering world-class garden design services. The Design Director is Matthew Wilson of TV fame and Clifton Nurseries has won no fewer than five gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, so it really is the gardener’s garden centre (and The Quince tree café is lovely too).

clifton 2
Image credit.


Visit the Clifton Nurseries website here.


4. Camden Garden Centre, NW1

camden 1
Image credit.


This lovely garden centre in Camden is inspiring in every sense of the word: it offers superb supplies, inspiration and helpful advice for North London gardeners, and it is also a charitable organisation designed to offer employment, training and educational opportunities to local young people.

Since it was established in its current venue in the early 1990s the Camden Garden Centre has won tons of awards, including UK Garden Centre of the Year; Urban Garden Centre of the Year and Outstanding Contribution to Education and Training in UK Horticulture. It remains a key part of Camden community life, and the Pritchard and Ure Café offers fresh local produce (and free wifi).

Visit the Camden Garden Centre website here.


5. N1 Garden Centre, N1

Image: Heloise Bergman, North One Garden Centre

Founded by urban gardening visionary Beryl Henderson in 1998, on the site of a derelict button factory, N1 is a special garden centre with a mission to help city dwellers bring plants into their life, whatever amount of outdoor or even indoor space they have.

If you’re into any kind of urban gardening, N1’s knowledgeable staff are just the people to go and prod for advice, tips and top quality plants.

Visit the N1 Garden Centre website here.


6. Alleyn Park, SE21

alleyn park
Image credit.

This is a small but perfectly formed and quite charming ‘boutique’ garden centre in West Dulwich. As well as offering really interesting plants, mostly sourced from small UK growers, Alleyn Park is a really fun place to shop for all sorts of things.

It has a specialism in reclaimed and vintage objects from around the UK and across Europe, including statuary, ceramics, furniture and antiques.

Visit the Alleyn Park website here.


7. RHS Wisley Plant Centre, Woking

wisley plant centre
Image credit.
This, arguably, is the big one. At the opposite end of the scale to boutique garden centres like Alleyn Park or N1 is the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Plant Centre . It stocks more than 12,000 different plants, including 3,000 species and cultivars of herbaceous perennials, 50 cultivars of apples and 50 cultivars of potatoes, plus lots of roses, shrubs, trees and much more.

You can get pretty much anything in the shop, including a staggering array of gardening books.

Visit the Wisley Plant Centre website here.


Did we miss your favourite garden centre in London and surrounds? How about fabulous, unusual garden centres further afield? Let us know!


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Six ways to use flowers to make your home lovelier

What are flowers for? They’re for making your home naturally lovely, of course! Top interiors blogger Rebecca Sterling gives us her tips for displaying flowers in the home…

What are fresh flowers for? They’re for making your home naturally lovely, of course! We’ve invited top interiors blogger Rebecca Sterling of Roses & Rolltops to give us her tips for displaying flowers in the home…

Hello! I’m Rebecca and quite frankly I’m obsessed with having flowers in the house at all times. Whether they’re a home grown bunch I’ve snipped from the garden to display in little jam jars or if I’m treating myself to something a larger bouquet (or a Freddie’s box!) I’d love to share with you some of the ways that flowers brighten up the home:


1. Use flowers for colour-splashes


I’m boring with décor and my style, choosing neutral, timeless colours and plain patterns to play it safe. But this means that I can then accessorise with a constant stream of fresh flowers for colour that I can change easily, depending on my mood and the season, and won’t get sick of. Flowers are the easiest and quickest way to update your interiors and will instantly give a fresh new look to a space.

You can either choose colours to tone and coordinate with your existing décor, choosing a shade that matches in with a painting on the wall or cushions. Or to contrast and compliment, a yellow pop of sunflowers against grey for example.


2. Be seasonal

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I choose flowers based on the seasons. In the spring I want bright scented daffodils and pastel tulips to brighten the grey cold days but then as summer comes it’s allll about pink peonies, stocks and roses. The end of summer will always mean sunflowers to me and as we move into autumn I want more dusky warmer tones with hydrangeas and autumn pickings like blackberries, autumn leaves and pumpkins.


3. Respect the receptacles!


I love how different types of blooms encourage me to think of new, fun ways to display them each week. From old fashioned marmalade pots to washed up Bonne Maman jam jars, upcycled candle jars or the more traditional glass vases or vintage jugs, you can create some pretty displays of fresh flowers around the home by mixing it up and being creative with what you display them in as well as how you arrange them.


4. Split your fresh flowers

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While big displays can look instantly impressive, so can splitting bouquets into smaller displays of fresh flowers. Cut flowers down to different sizes and group either individually or make lots of mini bouquets to scatter around the home.


5. Put fresh flowers in unexpected places

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Think outside the box on where you display flowers. Of course the kitchen island, a lounge mantle piece or coffee table tend to be the places that you associate with creating displays. But smaller bunches on a bedside table or even on a shelf in the hallway, as part of a bookcase display or in a bathroom by the sink will make you smile when you wake up or walk past them.


6. Follow your nose


Think about scented varieties to bring another element into your décor instead of relying on candles or diffusers to make your rooms smell nice. You can’t beat the heady scent of narcissi in the spring or summery sweet peas.

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But remember, whatever your choice of flower and however you choose to display them, you really can’t go wrong. It’s not like a paint colour that you may land up regretting, it’s not vastly expensive, and when you think about flowers in the wild – any colour goes. Nature never gets it wrong. All flowers are so pretty so enjoy enjoy enjoy! And when they’re finished, go get the next bunch…




Rebecca Sterling runs the Roses & Rolltops blog, chock-full of fabulous interiors, flowers, travel and more. She is also one of our favourite Instagrammers – see @rvk_loves 


Love flowers? So do we! Make your home naturally lovely all year round by signing up for a delivery box for just £24 a pop.