Dutch Flowers at the National Gallery – Don’t try these at home!

Marvel at the skills of the Dutch flower painters – but don’t try these impossible arrangements at home!

The art of flowers reached a peak in 17th century Holland, as the glorious exhibition currently at the National Gallery shows. Guest writer Nigel Andrew marvels at the skills of the Dutch flower painters – but warns: don’t try these impossible arrangements at home…


Dutch flower fever

In 17th-century Holland they took their flowers very seriously – so seriously that they began to want paintings of them, paintings inhabited by nothing but flowers, with a nice vase and perhaps the odd butterfly or bee to show off the painter’s skill.

This fascination with flowers had its roots in the scientific revolution that was having a big impact on life in Holland at the time, with botany and horticulture becoming subjects of intense interest. At the same time the cultivation of exotic plants by well-off individuals and in the new botanical gardens drove a thriving trade and fuelled the kind of passions that sparked the infamous ‘tulip mania’, at the height of which a single bulb could change hands for the price of a town house.

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, 1573 - 1621 Flowers in a Glass Vase 1614 Oil on copper, 26 x 20.5 cm Bequeathed by Mrs Sally Speelman and Mr Anthony Speelman in memory of Mr Edward Speelman, 1994 NG6549 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6549
Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder – ‘Flowers in a Glass Vase’ (1614). Note the two tulips! Image credit: National Gallery


That bubble burst, of course, but flower paintings continued to be in high demand right through the 17th and 18th centuries – and a fine selection of them can currently be seen in Room 1 at the National Gallery (until 29th August).

It’s one of those compact exhibitions – just 22 paintings – that are such a joy because you can give proper attention to each picture and come out at the end refreshed rather than exhausted.

Their rich colours gleaming from the walls of the softly-lit gallery, the paintings are hung in chronological order, with usefully informative labels (no art-crit jargon), enabling you to follow the development of Dutch flower painting across the best part of two centuries, from its rise to its high point and on to what looks very much like its fall.


The invention of flower painting

A portrait of Jan Breughel the Elder and his family, c.1612, by Rubens. Image credit.
A portrait of Jan Breughel the Elder and his family, c.1612, by Rubens. Image credit.


The story begins with Jan Breughel the Elder, who virtually invented flower painting and gained huge fame from it.

He is represented in this exhibition by a vigorous, brushy depiction of an arrangement of tulips, chrysanthemums, narcissi, roses, irises and other flowers in a well-painted glass vase. Look a little closer and you will find a butterfly, a beetle and a delicate fly.

The style developed by Breughel – dark background, flat picture space, symmetrical arrangement, each flower shown (as it were) full-face – became standard in the first phase of Dutch flower painting. The virtuosity, however, increased rapidly, as can be seen in Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s exquisitely painted Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase, which comes complete with three pearly seashells, a Red Admiral butterfly, a dragonfly, a caterpillar and a bee.

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase
Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder – ‘A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase’ (1609-10) Image credit: National Gallery


By the time you reach this magnificent picture, you might be thinking, ‘Just a minute – tulips, lilies, peonies, irises, marigolds, narcissi, roses, columbines, fritillaries, pinks, all in perfect full bloom at the same time? Surely not!’ You might also be thinking that the arrangements themselves are often structurally impossible.

And you’d be right on both counts: these are not paintings of actual flower arrangements but of specimens – many of them too precious ever to be used as cut flowers – arranged by the artist on the canvas (actually not canvas – wood and copper were preferred, as showing off the colours more strongly). The aim was to display these flowers to best effect and with the maximum of botanical accuracy, not to provide ideas for home flower arrangers.

Osias Beert the Elder – Basket of Flowers (1600/1650). (Not from exhibition)


Some of these 17th-century pictures also carried a moral message. A painting by Osias Beert the Elder (no Youngers in this exhibition) emphasises the transience of natural beauty by showing fallen petals and leaves affected by insect damage. Another of Beert’s hammers the point home with an inscription: ‘What you see in these flowers, which appear so beautiful to you, will vanish. Beware. Only God’s world flourishes for ever.

Jan Davidsz de Heem ‘Vase of Flowers’ (c.1660) Image credit: NGA

Stillness and dynamism

Dutch flower painting reached its peak with Jan Davidsz de Heem, who introduced movement and dynamism into his arrangements, with flowers facing in different directions and stems and tendrils breaking out in all directions. His Vase of Flowers livens things up with honeysuckle, ears of wheat and a bunch of redcurrants, and the complex reflections on the glass vase are beautifully rendered. This is flower painting with real impact.

Star of the show for me, however, is Dirck de Bray, whose Flowers in a White Stone Vase is a simple and perfectly balanced composition. This simplicity and the relatively loose brushwork give it an almost modern feel, and it has a welcome quality of stillness that contrasts with the dynamism of De Heem and Rachel Ruysch, whose strong diagonal compositions are full of movement.

Rachel Ruysch, 1664 - 1750 Flowers in a Vase about 1685 Oil on canvas, 57 x 43.5 cm Bequeathed by Alan Evans, 1974 NG6425 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG6425
Rachel Ruysch ‘Flowers in a Vase’ (c.1685). Image credit: National Gallery


Ruysch, whose father was head of the Amsterdam botanical garden, became internationally famous in her lifetime, but her fame was as nothing to that of the ultimate superstar of Dutch flower painting – Jan van Huysum.

Van Huysum was a master of texture, lighting and detail. In his Hollyhocks and Other Flowers in a Vase, the precision of his rendering of the hollyhock leaves and the crepe-like petals, just beginning to curl at the edges, is quite astonishing.

Jan van Huysum, 1682 - 1749 Hollyhocks and Other Flowers in a Vase 1702-20 Oil on canvas, 62.1 x 52.3 cm Wynn Ellis Bequest, 1876 NG1001 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG1001
Jan van Huysum ‘Hollyhocks and Other Flowers in a Vase’ (1702-20). Image credit: National Gallery

Over the top?

However, Van Huysum also represents the point at which Dutch flower painting tipped into a kind of unreal decorative extravagance that, while hugely popular in its day, now looks like a sad falling-off from the best of what went before.

Van Huysum’s Flowers in a Terracotta Vase, a virtuoso piece on a grand scale, shows which way the wind was blowing. It’s full of brilliant painting – the grapes, the bird’s nest – but the arrangement and the setting are entirely artificial, the palette is brighter and lighter, the traditional dark background has been abandoned, and the whole effect is… well, way over the top; there’s just far too much going on here.

Paulus Theodorus van Brussel, 1754 - 1795 Fruit and Flowers 1789 Oil on mahogany, 78.4 x 61 cm Presented by Frederick John Nettlefold, 1947 NG5800 http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG5800
Paulus Theodorus van Brussel ‘Fruit and Flowers’ (1789) Image credit: National Gallery


And it only got worse, as the arrangements became ever grander and ever more impossible, each picture a riot of flora and fauna, with exotic fruits – pineapples, melons – joining in the fun. By the time we reach the three works by Paulus Theodorus van Brussel that end the exhibition, the decline into mere decorative prettiness and virtuosity for its own sake is complete.

However, the actual painting of individual flowers retains its superb quality to the end, and this exhibition – the first of its kind in London in 20-odd years – contains plenty for any flower-lover to enjoy, marvel at and take inspiration from.

Just don’t try these impossible, towering arrangements at home.



Dutch Flowers continues to 29th August 2016. More information is on the National Gallery website, with a useful look at the exhibition in detail here

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


A note on images – we have illustrated this post with images in the public domain and available to use under the Creative Commons license. Not all the pictures in the exhibition are so available, so we’ve used alternatives and provided links to the images on the National Gallery website in those cases. We have also made a donation to the National Gallery via Justgiving to help them continue their magnificent work!


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 here.

Sunflowers, Swanky Parties and the Great British Summer

A garden party with the new Prime Minister, the Worst Sports Day ever, and of course, lots of flowers, in Misti’s latest diary…

So what’s it really like having lovely flowers delivered by Freddie every week? Writer, mother, former LA actress and now London-dweller Misti Traya tells all in her exclusive monthly Flower Diary…


My daughter, Helena, might be a dual citizen but her heart is all British. On the 4th of July, a day I usually commemorate by throwing Yorkshire tea into the Thames, I explained America’s Independence to her.  “But why wouldn’t they want a king?” was her reply.

She then refused to wear the sparkly star-spangled tiara I bought for her.  Which shocked me as she has never turned down anything glittery in her life.  I guess fealty to King George III trumped the magic of Mommy’s Colonial Fairy Dust that day.


Skies were clear the night of The Spectator Summer Party. Guests milled about the garden sipping Pol Roger. At one point, Henry, my husband, thought he felt a spot of rain. I told him it was probably just plutocrat spittle and indeed, the good weather held. Theresa May was there – not quite yet with the title of Prime Minister but everyone wanted to chat with her and take her photo.

Which is why I decided to leave her be and talk to a louche priest and a gin salesman instead, the latter of whom gifted me with her cocktail when she had to dash, leaving me with two drinks to nurse at the same time. But as my mama always says, “You can’t fly with one wing.”


When Serena Williams and Muzza won Wimbledon, there was a huge celebration in our home. Even the arrangement from Freddie’s Flowers seemed to revel in their glory – green fluffy flowers that looked like tennis balls with white and purple snapdragons and stocks. It was incredibly cheery and the flat was filled with the sweetest perfume.

Wimbledon flowers

In the evenings, I made sure to open every window and the balcony doors so we’d get a cross breeze to swirl around that heavenly scent.


Helena’s sports day was the worst ever and not just because it started with tears. After breakfast I asked her what she wanted to wear, leggings or shorts. Her response was “my princess dress.”  Well that didn’t happen, but a summer storm sure did.

Right after the egg and spoon race, rain that would have intimidated Noah began to pour from the sky. We raced home as fast as we could without slipping and brewed a pot of tea.  Thankfully, I hadn’t thrown out all the Yorkshire Gold.


At the weekend, I tried to recreate the sensorial magic of a Freddie’s arrangement with flowers from my in-laws’ garden. Here is what I used: Sweet peas and roses for fragrance. Foxgloves for a bit of fun. Astrantia for textural variation. Feverfew for cute quotient.  Geraniums because they make me smile. And Russian vines for softness.

bucks bouquet


I also baked an orange almond rhubarb crumble cake with rhubarb from my in-laws’ garden (recipe here).  Or as I like to call it, The Garden of Eatin’.


That week, even my wardrobe was inspired by Freddie’s arrangement – green and purple florals, but on black. Ageing is funny. Because even though I dress rather like June Cleaver from Leave It To Beaver these days, that doesn’t mean I still don’t have Dr. Dre and Snoop on a loop in my head. Especially whilst grocery shopping in wedge sandals.

June Cleaver


Have you ever wondered where all those parents are that you haven’t seen throughout the school year? The ones you met at orientation in September but never saw again? Well I recently ran into them 15 minutes before school let out last Thursday. It was the end of year school picnic and every last one of us were buying up all the cold booze available in the village.  Snacks for the children too, obviously.

That afternoon, the heath became a sea of tartan rugs and sausage rolls and the children ran riot in fancy dress, fuelled by cheese, chocolate, and friends. It was a wonderful time and we all saw the world through rosé-colored glasses. That is, until Helena was at the bottom of a dogpile with her friends unknowingly rolling in poo.

Oh, the tears! You would have thought it was the death scene in Camille.


Upon returning home and having a long bath, Helena checked on her sunflower seeds we planted. They had grown! A minute later, the doorbell rang. It was Freddie’s with a box of sunflowers.

misti sunflowers

Goodbye grey skies, hello blue! British summer is here, I feel it on my skin and I see it with the flowers delivered to our flat.


at Coworth Park

Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009.  After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.


‘Say it with tussie-mussies’ – The Victorian Language of Flowers

Did you know the Victorians spoke an incredibly complicated (and confusing) Language of Flowers? Welcome to the curious world of floriography…

A red rose means ‘I love you’ and lilies mean sympathy – those are just about the only ‘flower meanings’ most of us remember these days. But the Victorians spoke an incredibly complicated (and confusing) Language of Flowers – welcome to the curious world of floriography…

The most important thing about flowers, of course, is that they make your home naturally lovely and beautiful – and frankly we can’t see why they really need to have much ‘meaning’ beyond that.

Even so, since long before red roses meant ‘I love you’ and a petrol station bouquet meant ‘sorry for forgetting your birthday’, people have invested flowers with symbolic meaning.

The ancient Greeks had a floral mythology, medieval healers saw magical qualities in flowers, and Henry VII’s Tudor rose emblem cleverly symbolised a united England by combining the white and red roses of the warring York and Lancaster houses.

But it was in Victorian times that floral symbolism really took off, leading to the birth of a language in its own right: the language of flowers – or floriography

flower language
Image credit.


Victorian emoticons

‘O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June’

Rorbert Burns

The spellings may have changed slightly, but a red, red rose remains the Valentine’s Day symbol of romantic love. But go back 150 years or so and the individual varieties and colours of flowers carried all sorts of very distinctive meanings.

A yellow rose signified friendship, while a pink rose meant gratitude … and a budding young lover would be careful to avoid gifting a yellow carnation, which signified rejection.

In the 19th century, expressing deep or passionate feelings was generally frowned upon and proper etiquette was everything. They didn’t like gushing. So to our ardent but emotionally-repressed Victorian, the flower became an essential tool in the lovemaking kit – a sort of floral emoticon – allowing the would-be lover to pass on feelings of devotion without being discovered.

A whole ‘secret language’ of flowers developed.



Say it with tussie-mussies

The ultimate Victorian love bomb was the tussie-mussie (also known as the nose-gay): small, fragrant bouquets often consisting of a central flower, such as a rose, surrounded by an assortment of secondary flowers and herbs, clustered tightly together and decorated with ribbons and other embellishments.

Each flower was laden with significance, as was the size and the arrangement of the flowers, the way the ribbon was tied, and how the bouquet was actually presented and received (upright or upside down, held close to the heart, or presented using the left or right hand).

Indeed, every stage of this exhausting flower-giving process was imbued with meaning, and decoding these floral flirtations became a favourite pastime (or at least, it did for people who had nothing better to do).

victorian bouquet

But these flower missives weren’t just the preserve of eager lovers – they were used to communicate a variety of other emotions. For example, the use of garlic could insinuate that an evil force was at large, while the orange lily signified hatred.

By combining certain flowers within a bouquet, the sender could even transmit an ironic message to the recipient. Imagine excitedly receiving your tussie-mussie, only to find you were on the wrong end of some full-on Victorian floral sacrcasm!


Tulips mean war!


As the Victorian fad for floriography developed it became ridiculously complex, leading to the creation of a series of helpful flower dictionaries – including John Ingram’s Flora Symbolica, which sets out the significance of 100 different flowers.

The floral lexicographers took their meanings from classical mythology, religious and ancient traditions – plus some that were simply made up by the authors themselves.

As you can imagine, all this meant there was something of a minefield of meaning, especially as the competing dictionaries were by no means all in agreement with each other. One can only hope that any two individuals were working from the same dictionary, or one dreads to think of the scope for misunderstandings…


Some common Victorian flower meanings

Red rose                     romantic love

Narcissus                   unrequited love

Pansy                          you occupy my thoughts

Periwinkle                   fond memories

Ranunculus                 you are rich in attractions

Violet                           faithfulness

Lily                               purity

Thrift                            sympathy

Daisy                           innocence

Tulips                          I declare war against you!

If you’re interested in Victorian floriography, the author Victoria Diffenbaugh wrote a bestselling novel a few years ago called The Language of Flowers and even compiled her own ‘dictionary of dictionaries’, which you can see on the Random House website here.

A few examples: geranium = ‘steadfast piety’; meadow saffron = ‘my best days are past’; and orange blossom = ‘your purity equals your loveliness’.


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 here.

Victorian postcard image, top, via OldTymeNotions.


Freddie’s Complete Guide to Sunflowers

They’re spectacular, summery, and yellower than yellow. They’ve inspired artists, musicians and even chefs. Here’s everything you need to know about sunflowers…

Sunflowers. They’re spectacular, summery, and yellower than yellow. They’ve inspired artists, musicians and even chefs. Here’s everything you need to know about sunflowers…

Sunflower, a Good Mornin’! You sure do make it like a sunny day!’ sang Glen Campbell in his 1977 hit song Sunflower.

And how right he was.

The sunflower is one of the great smiley, summery joys that nature has granted us. All hail the helianthus!


A brief history of sunflowers

Helianthus is the name of the plant’s genus. It translates perfectly literally from the Greek (helios means ‘sun’ and Anthos means ‘flower’) and is so called either because the glorious yellow heads resemble the sun (true), or because of the widespread belief that the blooming heads turn to follow the sun as it tracks across the sky (false, sadly – they face east).

There are in fact over 70 species of helianthus in the family Asteraceae, all native to America. The common sunflower (helianthus annus) was first brought to Europe in the 16th century, and the seeds and oil have been popular cooking ingredients ever since.

More importantly, of course, sunflowers are beautiful and for hundreds of years have generally made our greyish, rainy island a sunnier place.

Sir Anthony van Dyck, Self Portrait with Sunflower (1633)



Growing your own sunflowers

Sunflowers are mainly sown from mid-April to the end of May and mostly flower in August. They’re pretty easy to grow – so much so that they’re often a good plant for children to have a go at: the RHS has a simple step-by-step guide here.

The real fun of growing your own sunflowers is of course making them ridiculously tall. The American Giant variety can get up to 4 metres, although the Guinness World Record belongs to one Hans-Peter Schiffer of Germany, who managed to get his to over 9m (30ft). Here he is admiring it from a crane.

world record tallest
The world’s tallest sunflower – Image credit.

Van Gogh’s sunflowers

Sunflowers (1888) – National Gallery, London


Even those with no interest in art know about Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings, largely because in 1987 Japanese businessman Yasuo Goto paid a gobsmacking $40m for one of them, four times the previous world record for an artwork.

What fewer people know is that van Gogh actually painted two series of sunflower pictures. As well as the more famous ‘Arles’ set – seven depictions of sunflowers in vases painted in 1888 – a year earlier he painted four ‘Paris’ sunflowers, showing the flowers lying on a table.

Sunflowers (1887) – Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Freddie’s Sunflower Facts!

1. Jerusalem artichokes are sunflowers

The sunflower species Helianthus tuberosus is also called the sunroot or earth apple, but is best known as the Jerusalem artichoke. It’s particularly delicious when pan-fried with leeks and black pudding, as demonstrated by the wonderful Nigel Slater (who just happens to be a Freddie’s Flowers customer.)


2. They’re big in Kansas

The Kansas sea of sunflowers. Image credit


Kansas is known as the ‘Sunflower State’, and one particular farmer near the town of Lawrence called Ted Grinter grows a million of them every year. For a few weeks every year they bloom into a spectacular yellow sea, which thousands of visitors flock to see.


3. They were the Beach Boys’ biggest flop

The LP Sunflower received rave reviews when the Beach Boys released it in 1970 and is ranked as one of the best albums of all time. Alas, it flopped dismally, reaching only number 151 on the US record charts.


4. Sophia Loren went to Russia for one

sunflower poster
Image credit
Also in 1970 was the Italian movie Sunflower (I Girasoli), starring Sophia Loren, which was the first western film to be shot in the USSR. Henry Mancini’s score won an Oscar.



In 2014 these smiling sunflowers appeared in Toyko, after workers decided to cheer visitors up/unnerve them by artfully removing some of the pistils on their surface.


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 here.

Six splendid, unusual vases for showing off your flower arrangements

We’ve hunted around for receptacles worthy of your arranging skills! Here are six stylish, unusual and very affordable flower vases…

Great artists need canvases, composers need orchestras, and champion flower arrangers like you need vases! (Or urns, or oversized milk jugs… or anyway something nice in which to plonk your latest Freddie’s Flowers delivery.)

We’ve hunted around for some suitable receptacles worthy of your skills, so without further ado, here are six stylish, unusual and very affordable flower vases that can be ordered online now…


1. Silver-finished Florence glass vases by Lime Lace

florence glass vase

If you like to split your arrangements over a few vases then these petite, shabby chic beauties from indie boutique Lime Lace would be perfect. The glass has a distressed silver finish for a naturally lovely antiquey sort of feel. Absurdly affordable, too.

£6.95 each from Lime Lace here.



2. Stockholm aquatic vase by Stelton

stockholm aquatic vase

How’s this for a bit of timeless Scandi design quality? It’s an aluminium and enamel vase by Swedish duo Bernadotte & Kylberg. We love the ocean blues on simple white, and reckon it would be ideal for showing off your flowers without competing with them.

£114.50 from Made in Design here



3. Lily vase by Bristol Blue Glass

Bristol Blue lily vase

Speaking of blue, the legendary glass-blowers of Bristol have all sorts of fab flower receptacles in their armoury, but we especially like this classic lily vase. All Bristol Blue Glass pieces are handmade and therefore totally unique. (Incidentally, Brizzle is one of areas that we deliver Freddie’s Flowers free!)

From £108.00 direct from Bristol Blue here.



4. Retro German ceramic vase by Carstens

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Carstens was a West German ceramic company operating between 1945 and 1984, and there are plenty of cool retro pieces to be had online, like this textured sand-coloured vase. It’s one of several Carstens vases available from the very stylish family-run Homeplace store.

£36 from Homeplace here.


5. Ceramic Flower Jug from Papa Stour


papa stour

Designed by Lara for the Scottish craft and design boutique Papa Stour, these lovely, quirky flower jugs are made from soft slabs of clay, with delicate rims and edges. There are three versions, two stripy ones and a leafy one.

£48 from Papa Stour here.



6. Silver Milk Churn from Wedding of My Dreams

milk churn

Or if not a milk jug, how about a milk churn? Ridiculously affordable at a tenner each, these are officially wedding table centerpieces, but so what? They’d be great for anyone who wants a bit of country rustic to go with their artfully plonked flower arrangement. Why should brides always have all the nice stuff, anyway?

£10 from Wedding of My Dreams here.



There are of course zillions of lovely vases out there, so we’ll definitely be featuring more receptacles in future posts.

Have you spotted some beauties? Do you even make them? They don’t have to be vases – Freddie’s flowers can look splendid in anything from champagne bottles to wellie boots!

Please do share your suggestions with us on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages.


Or if you have the vases but need the flowers to go in them, sign up for Freddie’s naturally lovely flower deliveries at £24 a pop here.

Freddie’s Flower People: Zoë Wanamaker

Freddie’s Flowers customers are all naturally lovely people. Take, for example, the one and only Zoë Wanamaker…

Freddie’s Flowers customers are all naturally lovely people. Take, for example, the one and only Zoë Wanamaker…

It’s the early days of Freddie’s Flowers (i.e last year). Picture our Freddie speeding through the streets of West London behind the steering wheel of his flowermobile (a milk float bought on eBay), stopping and starting to make deliveries, and only very occasionally hitting top speed of 8mph. It’s raining and, as ever, he’s being followed by queues of angry, hooting motorists and is laughed at by crowds of schoolchildren who stop and point on their way to school.

The infamous flowermobile


You have to ask yourself: How on earth did Freddie keep his morale up? How did he maintain a cheery demeanour on the doorstep? How did he just keep going?

A love of flowers and a mission to make everyone’s home more naturally lovely helps, of course. But it might not have been enough. So thank the Lord for chance encounters with inspiring people.

Imagine on such a day knocking on a front door and finding yourself looking at Madam Hooch (from the Harry Potter films). This is how Freddie found himself one otherwise trying morning. Madam Hooch (aka Zoë Wanamaker) was nice to him, even offering him a (possibly magical) cup of tea. She went on to become a loyal customer and we thought we’d check back with her – not least to thank her for her support back in those early, venturesome days.

Zoë loves flowers so was actually pretty sure to look kindly on our offer. She considered Freddie’s Flowers a “charming and inspired idea” that’s “uncomplicated and affordable”. A year later and we’re very happy to hear that “flowers light up my day and a home”. It doesn’t matter too much which ones either: ‘‘90% of flowers are my favourites”.

Having a naturally lovely home to come back to is important to her: she’s a busy lady. She’s just finished a run starring in Elegy at the Donmar Warehouse, has narrated a couple of TV documentaries (Handmade: By Royal Appointment and Mr v Mrs: Call the Mediator) and has been doing work for charities, Breast Cancer Care and Child Rescue Nepal.

With hardly a pause, she’s now working on a new series for television, the intriguingly-titled Britannia. We only know the title so are guessing it’s about one of: (a) the personification of Britain (the lady with the helmet, shield and trident) (b) a lady who happens to be called Britannia, (c) the Roman province comprising modern-day Great Britain or (d) the hybrid tea rose of that name.

Whilst we’d quite like to see Zoë dressed as Britannia we’re really hoping it’s (d).

Can’t wait.

tea rose britannia
The Britannia tea rose – probably not the subject of Zoë’s latest TV show


Are you one of Freddie’s Flower People? We want to see your arrangements! Share your own Freddie’s Flower pics with on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or drop us an email at freddie@freddiesflowers.com

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

Hyacinths for the Soul, or Why everyone deserves a naturally lovely home

Yes, we all know flowers are beautiful, colourful, fragrant… but why are they so IMPORTANT? Allow us to explain…

Yes, we all know flowers are beautiful, colourful, interesting, fragrant… but why are they so important? Allow us to explain…

How’s this for a true, wise and very learn-by-heartable little poem? It’s by the 13th century writer Saadi of Shiraz:

If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves
alone to thee are left,
Sell one & from the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul.

At Freddie’s Flowers, we couldn’t agree more!

There are lots of good things about flowers, of course. But the really important thing about them is that they feed the soul.

And they do that by transforming your home into a more beautiful, colourful, sweet-smelling place. Or as we like to say, they make your home more naturally lovely.


As Freddie’s Flower People (aka our customers) keep telling us, the joy of weekly deliveries is that when you have a steady stream of gorgeous flowers coming into your house, life just seems better. Your vases are continually being filled by splendid new arrangements, and then you can mix and match and use flowers in different rooms until your whole house becomes – as Freddie himself puts it – ‘like a big evolving artwork’.

Not bad for £20 a pop, eh?

Certainly there are worse ways to spend your spondoolicks. For example…


Eight common things that don’t make your life more naturally lovely at all…

1. Spending money on not really getting fit

Three visits to the gym, all of them in January, for the frankly eye-watering cost of an Annual Membership…. A cross-trainer in the spare room (aka the world’s most expensive clothes drier)… Sometimes we forget that walking in the park is free (and you can stop to smell the flowers, too.)


2. Stocking your cupboard with spices you’ve never heard of and will use possibly once ever

Don’t we love those exciting recipes from the Levant and Middle East, especially from that lovely Ottolenghi? Look amazing in the colour supplements, use lots of healthy ingredients. Just one problem: you need  spices with names like baharat, za’atar and ras el hanout. They sound wonderful, smell divine…It’s just that after your night of experimentation, they will sit in your cupboard unused for the next decade or two.


3. Dressing up clothes for men

Sadly, it turns out that constantly upgrading your clubs, bags, trolleys, shoes, gloves, balls, tees, polo shirts, binoculars, visors, sunglasses, trousers, umbrellas and ball cleaning devices doesn’t actually make you play golf like a pro. And for those MAMILs*, dressing in skin-tight, fluorescent lycra doesn’t mean you’ll be able to enter the Tour de France next year, either. [*Middle Aged Man In Lycra]


4. Surreal coffees

That Gingerbread Banana Caramel Mochaccino seems pretty conservative choice now that somebody has invented the Deconstructed Flat White, consisting of espresso coffee, milk and hot water served separately in three beakers on a wooden plank:

decontructed flat white

5. Obscure kitchen gadgets

The kind with a function so incredibly specialised that nobody can remember what it is, and when you pull it out of the back of the cupboard you’ll just stand around looking at it and trying to guess. Is it some sort of egg poacher, or do you use it for peeling kumquats?


6. Fashion fads

Shoulder pads, crocs, ‘clear’ bra straps that are still perfectly visible, platform sneakers… they all must have seemed like a good idea to somebody at some time. Surely?


7. Diet fads

Research shows that literally millions of pounds are disappearing from British wallets on diet books and weird foods – from macrobiotics to caveman grub – and yet hardly any pounds are disappearing from British waistlines.


8. Fad clothes that will fit after you’ve been on the fad diet

From the peg to the wardrobe to the charity shop, without once gracing your person. Sigh.


Thankfully, Freddie’s Flowers customers don’t have to fret about any of that sort of thing, because they’ve discovered that the secret of domestic bliss is to be constantly surprised and delighted with fresh flower deliveries.

When you think about it, it’s positively criminal that some people haven’t cottoned on to it yet.

So if you have a friend who could do with some ‘hyacinths for the soul’, why not share this post with them on Facebook and help make the world a slightly more naturally lovely place?


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 here.

Thunder and Frightening and Peonies – A Week of Flowers

So what’s it really like having lovely flowers delivered by Freddie every week? Writer, mother, former LA actress and now London-dweller Misti Traya tells all in her exclusive new monthly Flower Diary…

So what’s it really like having lovely flowers delivered by Freddie every week? Writer, mother, former LA actress and now London-dweller Misti Traya tells all in her exclusive new monthly Flower Diary…



When faced with spending Father’s Day with his family, my father-in-law opted to go on a 52-mile hike alone instead. His nickname is Grumpy.

To be fair, his overnight Ridge Walk was for charity and was probably more peaceful than staying in Amersham with our four year old.

Red kites swooped across the sky as my husband and I waited with cups of tea for Grumpy to cross the finish line. An enthusiastic dog zipped through the gates with her owner and everyone cheered as the little animal did a victory lap for cuddles. They gave her a medal. When Grumpy arrived, a little less zippy, he too was rewarded with a medal and a cold beer, before we packed him up in the car where he snored all the way home. That evening we fêted our hero with roast beef and baked Alaska, though it was more like baked Alaska in Hawaii as the ice cream had melted.



On Monday morning we drove from Buckinghamshire back to Southeast London through a summer storm. From the backseat, Helena piped up. ‘Mommy, I don’t like thunder and frightening. It scares me.’

The clock on the dashboard said it was 10 a.m. but it felt more like ‘Round Midnight as Thelonious Monk played and heavy water drops pelted the windshield. I was soggy and sad as we carried our bags up the stairs to our flat.

Then I saw it: a long brown box from Freddie’s Flowers propped up against the wall.

Like Santa, they had come when I wasn’t looking. And like a small child, I couldn’t wait to tear the wrapping open. Lo, what did I find? Pink peonies!

Perhaps you could say it’s because I’m American but I like too much. For me, too much is usually the perfect amount. This is why I went with the more is more mentality when choosing how to display them and crammed all the stems in one vase, even though there were more than enough to fill several. Suddenly the dark skies outside seemed less so and, with peonies and a cup of tea, life felt sunny again.




In the evening the full strawberry moon lit up the sky and that night the storm of all storms swept through the island with felt like a great foreshadowing of doom.



The peonies were still lovely!



Helena’s nursery was being used as a polling place so her class went on a field trip to a local farm. Of course, this was the excursion I had signed up to chaperone. As an ex-pat from Los Angeles, I can tell you nothing has made me feel more British than guiding a bunch of little children through a torrential downpour to look at wet angry animals and a flooded muddy pond.

In summer, no less.



You know how when you’re an adult most things you have to do are boring and commonplace? Yeah, well not immediately after a Brexit referendum. Nothing is boring and commonplace immediately after a Brexit referendum.

For about a year, we’ve been flirting with the idea of moving to Kent. But when did our estate agent decide to get back to me about a viewing? Friday morning. Even he had to admit his timing was bad as we nervously giggled our way through a discussion about estimated value while wondering whether the entire country was about to implode.

As we spoke, I changed the water for the peonies. Smelling their perfume was like breathing in a bit of calm. And now I had pink on my mind and a yen to make strawberry shortbread sundaes.

strawberry shortbread sundae



I spent most of the day scrubbing the balcony outside, like a Cockney charwoman of yore, except I was wearing a blue silk dress. In the evening an old friend of my husband’s came over for dinner. My husband is a wine writer and we have a lot of terrific drinks in the house.

We sipped aperol cocktails and watched Helena showing off until she eventually dismissed herself and ran up to bed in a strop. She was pretending to be a hungry dinosaur by eating the flowers on the windowsill when I had to repeat several times, ‘Please don’t eat the lilies!’

As the words left my lips, I was suddenly reminded of Jean Kerr, who penned a humorous collection of essays about suburban life in 1957 called Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.

Doris Day played her in the film version. I’d hope Anna Kendrick would play me, but Olivia Colman is probably a more realistic casting choice.



Having consumed a very good bottle of rioja and lots of Armagnac the night before, we awoke on Sunday to the ‘roar of the butterflies’, as Bertie Wooster would have put it. And the school’s summer fair. As much as I was dreading the occasion, it proved to be the best of all possible worlds. Helena bought a Snow White costume for £1 and ran riot with her friends while we nursed hangovers in the shade.

snow white

The covers band was comprised of 10 year olds who were surprisingly good. They started off with Blur then moved on to The White Stripes. Nothing quite like Seven Nation Army as performed by a bunch of primary school children to make you smile on a Sunday afternoon.

Peony petals were finally on the floor when we came home so I had a cull and placed the still happy ones in a smaller vase.

millions of stars and delphiniums

The next morning a new Freddie’s floral arrangement was delivered by 8:30 a.m. Now the flat is filled with a “billion stars” and snapdragons. It’s an arrangement of green and white that even when I’m alone makes me feel like I have a friend in the room. They are so cheerful and sunny I can’t help but think the summer weather will stay…



at Coworth Park

Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009.  After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.


Freddie’s Complete Guide to Peonies

With their fancy frills and gorgeous colours, peonies are really just show-offs. Here’s everything you need to know about them…

Peonies are really just shameless show-offs, with their fancy frills and gorgeous colours. Here’s everything you need to know about these seasonal sensations…

Try creeping up to a flower person and suddenly whispering ‘Peony!’ at them. You’ll see their ears prick up, their eyes go all misty and there’s a decent chance they’ll say in a dreamy voice: ‘That’s my favourite flower, how did you know?’

Because peonies are, let’s face it, sensations: great explosions of frilly petals, bursting out in the most outrageous manner from tiny tight buds.

They’re show-offs, really. Perhaps that’s why one of the most popular contemporary varieties is named after that legendary diva, the French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who looked like this:

Sarah Bernhardt
The flowerful Sarah Bernhardt in around 1878


Whenever we’ve included Sarah Bernhardts in our Freddie’s Flowers boxes we’ve had rave reviews from our customers. Well, just look at them…

In terms of arranging peonies, you don’t have to do much really as they’re perfectly fine on their own. Pop them in a vase and they just keep opening and opening, filling your room with scent and colour.


A brief history of peonies

Peonies as popular garden and cut flowers actually date back much further than La Bernhardt. The genus Paeonia (the only genus in the family Paeoniaceae) is native to Asia, Europe and North America, with around thirty or forty varieties worldwide.

They’re named after Paean, a physician in Greek mythology who was turned into a flower by the god Zeus. But historically, they’re most associated with the Far East.

Portrait of a peony by Chinese artist Yun Shouping, 17th century


In China they’ve been cultivated since at least the sixth century, initially for medicine and then increasingly as ornamental flowers. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the Japanese began cultivating them in earnest, creating cross-breeds between herbaceous and tree peonies called ‘Itoh’ (or ‘intersectional’) peonies.

And European peony-mania really began in 19th century France when the great floriculturalist Victor Lemoine began creating the glorious ancestors of the varieties we see today.


Growing your own peonies

In general, you plant peonies in the autumn and they flower between mid-spring and early summer. They have a reputation for being quite tricky to grow: you need to plant them in full sun and they often require staking as the stems may not be strong enough to keep the large flowers upright by themselves. They’re also vulnerable to a ghastly fungal infection called peony wilt.

But if you fancy having a go, the RHS has a good guide to growing peonies here.

freddie with peony farmer mr scobie
Freddie talking all things peony with specialist grower Mr Scobie


Freddie’s Peony Facts!

1. Confucius used to eat them

In Ancient China peonies were used for flavoring food, and Confucius liked them so much that he once said: “I eat nothing without its sauce. I enjoy it very much, because of its flavour.”


2. You’ve got to hide from woodpeckers when picking them

…otherwise, according to an ancient superstition, if one sees you it might peck out your eyes.


3. Renoir loved them

The great Impressionist painter Auguste Renoir painted lots of peony pictures. This is just one of them:

renoir peonies
 August Renoir – Peonies (1880)


4. They’re bashful, or possibly angry

In various varieties of floriography (‘the language of flowers’) peonies represent ‘bashfulness’ or ‘shame’ because their petals apparently conceal mischievous nymphs. On the other hand, in Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s terrific flower dictionary they mean ‘anger’.


5. They’re very popular in Japanese tattoos

The 18th Century painter Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s illustrations of Sumarai warrior myths feature a lot of peonies, which in Japanese culture have a masculine, devil-may-care symbolism. His designs are still very trendy for tattoos.

peony samurai
Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s peony-covered Samurais

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 here.

Meet Freddie!

You’ve seen his lovely flowers, but just who is Freddie? And how did this whole flower delivery thing come about anyway? Here’s a Q&A with our own Freddie Garland…

You’ve seen his lovely flowers, but just who is Freddie? And how did this whole flower delivery thing come about anyway? Here’s a Q&A with our own Freddie Garland…


Are you really called ‘Freddie Garland’ or did you change it by deed poll for marketing reasons?

I really am called Garland. And my parents really are florists. So I suppose I had no choice but to do something with flowers for a living. Luckily, I really, really love flowers.


So did you and your family permanently wear garlands in your hair, strew flowers in the street as you walked along and that sort of thing?

Only at weekends.


How did you come up with the idea of Freddie’s Flowers?

I got the idea when I was working for Abel & Cole, who of course deliver organic fruit and veg boxes to people’s doors. I saw the joy that brought people and one day I just thought, imagine if this was flowers?!

Sending flowers to a friend is a lovely thing, but having a regular flower delivery for yourself is really when the fun begins.

I thought, why can’t we deliver flowers in the same way, so that as well as great food in our kitchens, we can have beautiful lilies and roses – and colours and smells – in our sitting rooms?

I wanted to carry that same idea of carefully grown and chosen produce, plus a lovely element of surprise, so you never know quite what’s going to be in the box. Plus also a bit of art…

Art, you say?

Well, some people assume flowers have to be gifts, but they tend to get the idea of Freddie’s Flowers once they realise how lovely it is to have a steady supply of gorgeous flowers coming into your home.

There’s definitely a creative, arty element to it. When you have a weekly flower delivery of fresh flowers that last ages like ours do, you can make your own arrangements and mix and match and use flowers in different vases and rooms in their own way, like a big evolving artwork. If that doesn’t sound too pretentious…

Anyway, it transforms your house and just generally makes life better… I know I would say that, but it is what customers tell me, too.


Did you personally deliver all the flowers then?

These days we have a fantastic team delivering flowers, but that’s how it started – with just me and my brother. A typical day would be: wake up at 3am, go to Covent Garden to choose the day’s flowers, and drive them back to our tent – which we had set up in our mum’s back garden in Wandsworth. We’d stick on the radio and spend a few hours strimming, cutting and pruning the flowers, and by then Mum would wake up and come down to help load up the boxes.

Packing flowers in a box
Mum about to help me pack boxes in the early days



Flower boxes, ready for delivery
Flower boxes, ready for delivery


Fresh flowers
Me in the early days, in the early morning!


By about 11am I was ready to load them onto the flowermobile and do make all my deliveries. After that I’d head out onto the streets of London to do some door-knocking and spread the word.  Then it would be back home again to make the leaflets for the following day’s boxes. And then I’d do it all over again the next day.


Ah yes, the infamous flowermobile! How did you come by that?

I bought the milk float on a whim because I thought, ‘what a fun way to deliver flowers – and what could possibly go wrong?’ So I spent a few days hunting on eBay and found what seemed the perfect one in Leeds. I rented a pick-up truck, drove up the M1, had a quick look, straight away said I loved it and brought it back to London.

Flower delivery float
What could go wrong?

It was only when I got the milk float home that it dawned on me that I should have done a bit more test-driving. As soon as I boarded it properly I knew something was very wrong… it had a top speed of 8mph. And this was highly embarrassing. For my first delivery round I put a sign on the back saying ‘Please don’t hoot, I can’t go any faster’, and trundled off down the Trinity Road in Wandsworth. A queue of about 70 cars built up behind.

I did use it for very local deliveries, but unfortunately for anything further afield I realised I needed something a bit less likely to annoy all my neighbours… and get my daily deliveries done within the same month!


So you learned your lesson about buying things on eBay then?

Sort of. It’s certainly easier to buy flowers online than it is tents… I’ve had no less than three cheap eBay tents blow to pieces in the garden and had to get up in the middle of the night armed with duct tape to fix them back together again, so I could do the next day’s boxes.

But you learn all sorts of things as you go along that seem obvious in hindsight. Like checking the flowers you’ve bought aren’t dead before you carry them all the way back from Covent Garden on a bicycle. I did that a few times actually – but your brain doesn’t function in the usual way at 4am.

Freddie and Ed Garland
The garland boys

What’s the best thing about delivering flowers to people’s homes?

Our lovely customers, of course! We’ve got some amazing ones – sometimes you’d knock on the door and a random celebrity would answer.

In fact, in one of my very first flower box deliveries I nervously tapped on the front door and there stood Madame Hooch from Harry Potter, aka Zoe Wanamaker! She was really nice though and she even invited me into her fantastic home to discuss her love for flowers.  (Read more about Zoe and her Freddie’s Flowers here.)


Okay, last few questions. We understand your dog, Claude, is the most controversial character in the office – is she as ugly as people say?

Here’s a photo – I think you and our readers should judge. For some unknown reason she has become known as bat-dog (sadface).



Have you ever rolled over in the clover?

No comment.


And one blatantly obvious last question: favourite flower and why?

Well…I like peonies because they look so modest initially, before opening into whopping flower heads – and also their bizarre variety names, like ‘Dr Alexander Fleming’. I like dahlias because of their deep colours and funky shapes. And I actually like twigs in Autumn to add some structure and lend a bit of whackiness.

(One of the good things about us delivering our boxes rather than sending flowers by post, is that we can include interesting foliage and other cool flowers in our boxes.)

But really I think flowers look better together, and that’s why I like an arrangement.


Fancy getting some more natural loveliness into your life? Sign up for Freddie’s weekly flower arrangement deliveries to your door for £24 a pop.


Freddie’s Flower People: Rosie Millard

Freddie’s Flowers customers are all naturally lovely people. Here’s one of them – broadcaster, author and North London resident Rosie Millard…

Freddie’s Flowers customers are all naturally lovely people. Here’s one of them – broadcaster, author and North London resident Rosie Millard…

Have you heard of ‘nominative determinism’? It basically means your destiny follows your name. So our own dear Freddie Garland was bound to get into flowers wasn’t he?

How about journalist, broadcaster, author, marathon runner and mother of four, Rosie Millard? With a name like that of course she loves flowers. But are roses her favourite?

“I do love roses of course and we have a wonderful Rambling Rector currently going mad in our garden, but my absolute favourite flower is the glamorous and luxuriant peony, inspiration for artists and lovers alike.”

We got to know Rosie as an appreciative customer: “I think it is a brilliant and inspired service and it gives me joy every day.” And we wanted to know more about her as she seems to be, well, flower-powered.


‘Naughty bits’

She was the BBC’s Arts Correspondent for a decade and continues to contribute to TV and radio as a freelancer. She writes columns and features for a variety of publications. Her first novel, The Square, an entertaining romp through one of London’s leafy (and, secretly, quite licentious) squares, was published last year (available here). Rosie lives on a square herself but insists she made all the naughty bits up.

She also supports some interesting and very worthwhile projects. Most recently she was appointed Chair of Hull City of Culture 2017. Is Hull a flowerful city?

“It certainly is. When we won the title City of Culture 2017 the name of the city was spelt out in flowers at the Marina. It is a surprising city too; independent, distinctive and very warm, with its own train service, its own phone exchange and now a Premiership football team!”



And did we mention she’s a mother of four who runs marathons? She once ran a marathon on the Great Wall of China. Her next challenge is the slightly shorter Humber Bridge Half Marathon at the end of June, then the Vitality British 10k, which follows a fabulous route in central London on 10th July and then the Chicago Marathon on October 7.

“My training has just been boosted by news that I’m doing a training run with Olympic athlete Perri Shakes Drayton along the Thames. Followed by eating RAW FOOD at Rawligion, a restaurant which saves on cooking costs by not doing any. Plus the news that my friend Colin Hancock is coming over from Africa to do the 10K with me. All of which is very exciting except when a mate of mine ran with marathon legend Haile Gebrselassie and he was so brilliant that he (the mate) felt like giving up. NEVER.”


We guess if nominative determinism was really a thing she would probably have been named something like Rosie Superwoman.

Anyhow. We like to think our flowerful stuff helps keep her on top of things. Here’s a lovely photo she’s taken of a recent arrangement (lilies, alstroemeria and ruscus – these are just a third of them, she divided her most recent super-abundant Freddies Flowers delivery across three vases):


Rosie’s lilies, alstroemeria and ruscus arrangement
If you’d like to try to keep up with Rosie, she blogs here and tweets from here. She’d love to hear from you.

Are you one of Freddie’s Flower People? We want to see how you’ve done your arrangements! Share your own Freddie’s Flower pics with on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or drop us an email at freddie@freddiesflowers.com

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


Freddie’s Complete Guide to Snapdragons

They’re bold, they fill your home with lovely colour and the Romans used them to ward off witchcraft. Here’s everything you need to know about snapdragons, including how they got that weird name…

Snapdragons. They’re bold, they fill your home with lovely colour and the Romans used them to ward off witchcraft. Here’s everything you need to know about snapdragons, including how they got that weird name…


As flowers go, the snapdragon is a bit of an animal. The genus name (Antirrhinum) is Latin for ‘like a snout’, but we all call it a snapdragon because once upon a time somebody reckoned that if you squeezed the flower’s head it looked like a dragon opening its jaws and then snapping them shut.

That slightly beast-like quality may be why snapdragons have featured in so many myths and legends: the Ancient Romans and Greeks thought they warded off witchcraft (the Greek physician Descorides recommended wearing them around the neck for magical protection) and in medieval Europe they were planted around castles as an extra line of supernatural defence, just in case the walls didn’t work.

But snapdragons are not really beastly at all, of course: they’re beautiful.

‘Snapdragons’ (1921) by Australian artist Elioth Gruner. Image credit


Displaying snapdragons in your home

Snapdragon flowers are cultivated in lots of different colours, from a showy white to a brilliant yellow to a slightly risqué crimson – and they also range in height classes from ‘midget’ (6-8 inches) right up to ‘tall’ (a whopping 30-48 inches).

When we use them in our Freddie’s Flowers weekly flower deliveries,  we like to combine them with something scented and some vivid complementary colours. In this delivery from April we used some phlox (to fill your home with glorious smells), along with greeny-gold solidago and a purple trachelium for a bit of soft, fluffy texture.

Our snapdragon arrangement from April 2016


In Britain snapdragons have been popular since Victorian times (long before you could buy flowers online – though I’m pretty sure you could have flowers delivered to your door, by horse, of course). In fact, if a young lady received a bunch from a chap it meant a proposal wouldn’t be far behind – which is possibly why in Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers, a snapdragon means ‘presumption’). So if you’ve got a lovely vintage vase or an Arts & Crafts-y ceramic pot to put them, they’ll look splendid.

vintage seed packet

On the other hand, there was a particular craze for breeding snapdragons in 1950s America, so if you’re going for a bit of a retro Americana look in your home, a bouquet of snapdragons will be a suitably authentic choice.

Important tip – snapdragon flowers open from the bottom to the top, so as the lower flowers at the bottom die, snip them off and this will encourage the upper flowers to grow.


Growing your own snapdragons

If you’re thinking of growing snapdragons in Britain, you can sow snapdragon seeds between January and March for a spring/summer flowering. They’re not too hard to grow if you have the space. They’re fine in any kind of garden soil and you can grow them on indoors until they reach 8 to 10 cm in height. The height of a fully grown snapdragon is pretty impressive. Snapdragons grow up to 50 inches high so you may want to grow them outdoors, lest your home starts drifting into some kind of strange flowery Game of Thrones parody.

You can plant them out once all risk of frost had passed, into large pots or straight into the ground 30cm apart. (For more detailed growing instructions, the RHS has a nice succinct step-by-step summary here.)

But if you don’t have the space (or the time) for gardening, you can always let us surprise you with a lovely bunch in one of our delivery boxes. That way you’re certain to get your snapdragons at just the right time to make your home naturally lovely… and quite free of all forms of witchcraft.


Four unlikely appearances of snapdragons in culture…


1) Van Gogh’s oddly realistic bouquet

Van Gogh Bouquet of Flowers c1886
Crimson snapdragons feature in this still life (‘Bouquet of Flowers, c1886) by none other than Vincent van Gogh. They’re jolly nice, of course, but just two years later he unleashed his expressionistic, hyperreal sunflowers  and changed the history of art.


2) A dodgy movie starring Pamela Anderson

film snap
Baywatch bombshell made this Basic Instinct-style erotic thriller in 1993, but if you haven’t seen Snapdragon (1993), don’t worry, neither has anyone else. On review site Rotten Tomatoes it has a rating of 0%, based on zero reviews.


3) A trippy psychedelic song from obscure 1960s band

The almost entirely forgotten British psychedelic band Kaleidoscope included a song called Snapdragon on their trippy 1969 album Faintly Blowing. The funny thing is, it’s actually quite good…


4) A bizarrely dangerous parlour game

From about the 16th to 19th centuries, snapdragon was a parlour game – deemed suitable for children, note – which involved getting a big bowl of brandy, setting it alight and then attempting to fish out flaming raisins, which you were required to extinguish in your mouth.


…and one very lovely painting

Finally, if you love snapdragons so much you want something permanent in your home, we found this gorgeous painting by Emma Carasimo over at Artfinder (those fine purveyors of affordable original artworks). You can buy it here.

af snapdragons
‘Snapdragons’ by Emma Carasino. Image credit


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 here.