The Flower Market Year – Book Review and Prize Draw

12 MONTHS AT NEW COVENT GARDEN FLOWER MARKET

By SIMON LYCETT

Published by Simon J Lycett Ltd

Hardback 192 pages, £21 approx

ISBN 978-1-9160912-0-7

Book photography by Michelle Garrett

Blog photos: bramblegarden

Florist Simon Lycett thinks nothing of working with 20,000 stems of roses for a wedding. I am trying to picture the scene, and finding it hard to imagine 20,000 flowers. Then Simon tells me this isn’t a one off. It’s something he gets to do on a very regular basis. I’m lucky enough to have a window on his extraordinary life, for just one day. I am visiting the New Covent Garden Flower Market, and Simon is my guide.

It’s still dark outside as I set off at 6am to meet Simon at the Flower Market in Nine Elms, London. We are standing amongst more flowers than I’ve ever seen, and we are inspecting the roses. Simon who has written a book about the market, explains that his customers have “magical weddings, the world over.” He loves the buzz of creating “magical settings in a world where everything is possible and the words ‘can’t do’ are never uttered.” It’s a revealing conversation, as he explains his customers expect total perfection. “They must have the best of everything. They’ll notice a little mark on the petal, and that’s no good. Utter perfection is what counts. The client is king.”

Simon, who regularly appears on television and radio, explains that everything starts with the selection of flowers at the market. And it’s clear that his relationship with the flower sellers is key. They seem almost like family, and it’s not surprising as Simon has been buying from the same people for 30 years.

We are introduced to Dennis Edwards who has been getting up at 2am to sell flowers for 54 years. His family are porters and sellers of fruit and vegetables. He’s the only one in his family to go into the flower market business. He describes it as a passion, rather than job. A life’s work to supply the creme de la creme.

In his book, The Flower Market Year, Simon says Dennis always has a few “specials” – buckets and trays of unusual items which he sets aside and keeps for Simon. “Dennis was the first person to ever serve me when, as a timid 20 year old, I ventured into the Flower Market for the first time. Dennis was then, and still is now, a Flower Market institution, always going above and beyond to find the very finest flowers and foliage, and ever in search of the unusual and the innovative, wanting to offer the largest, the biggest and the best blooms in the building.

“Born in Drury Lane, Dennis has worked in all three of the Flower Markets, firstly in the original Covent Garden Market, then, when it moved in 1974 to Vauxhall, in the New Covent Garden Flower Market, and now in the current (interim) market site a little further along Nine Elms Lane. In 2022, when all development is complete and he moves into the ‘New’ Covent Garden Market, he will be a record breaker!”

It’s fascinating to watch them talking. It’s as if each one knows already what the other is thinking. It’s clear Dennis instinctively knows which flowers Simon will need for his projects, and as I look around, perfection is key. I can’t fault anything. I’ve never seen flowers of such superb quality. It’s a scene that stays in the memory like a photograph because it’s so out of the ordinary.

Simon set out to record the workings of the flower market to “capture a real sense of the place,” with its salesmen and women, customers, porters, buyers and suppliers.

His book captures month by month what he’s seen and bought, and what’s inspired him to create floral decorations for his clients, for weddings, parties and corporate events. Simon doesn’t mention it, but on his website there are ‘thank you’ letters relating to HRH Princess Eugenie’s wedding (state entrance, grand staircase and reception room “absolutely stunning”) and also the marriage of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall (reception flowers, “magnificent”). Simon simply says “From humble beginnings we have grown into one of the most sought-after and well known names in the industry.”

Although Simon wrote the book to highlight the flower market year, his own fascinating life story is woven into the pages. Talking about buckets of blackberries, for example, he writes: ” When I worked at Pulbrook and Gould, stems of blackberries sold for the same price as spray roses and I will never forget the posies and arrangements created by the workroom there, featuring jewel-like bright berries glistening amongst stems of Oceana and Doris Ryker roses.

“Having left Pulbrook and Gould to become a freelance florist, I started to travel about the country, as much of my work was outside the city. For several summers when visiting my family in Warwickshire, or staying as I often did with friends in Northamptonshire, I used to fill the boot with anything I could gather from friends and family and sell it to one or more of the foliage suppliers in New Covent Garden Flower Market. The stems of blackberries that I cut and bunched used to pay for my petrol each week, and the car tax was funded by the branches of rosehips, damsons and wild apples that I crammed into the car before heading up the A40. ”

Selecting flowers from the market, Simon provides 30 ideas for flower arrangements, with step-by-step photographs and instructions. My favourites are the rose heart, the sweet peas in tins, and the artichoke bowl.

Having seen photos of his wedding and party flowers, it’s interesting to see the preferred choice for his own flowers- for his Scottish Highlands holiday home- is simple bottles filled with tiny sprigs of flowers and a few pebbles from the beach. Truly, he can make anything look special.

I’ve had a wonderful time with Simon, seeing the flower market in all its glory. What I’ve learned is that Simon relishes the magical weddings and corporate events with the ‘wow factor’ flowers. But he also sees the beauty in the simple things -a bunch of narcissi- the first of the season from the Scilly Isles. The scent of the flowers will always remind me of a lovely day spent at the market with a truly inspirational florist.

There’s one copy of the book to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment below to be included in the draw. Names will be randomly pulled out of a hat. International entries are welcome, as well as the UK. The publisher’s decision is final. There’s no cash alternative. Usual rules apply.

Links : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Market-Year-2019-Months/dp/1916091202

https://www.simonlycett.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Florist/Simon-Lycett-Ltd-1503980453205762/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Local-Business/bramblegarden/posts/

Garden Media Guild events https://www.gardenmediaguild.co.uk/

@kgimson on twitter.

Karengimson1 on instagram.

Thank you to my amazingly loyal and growing band of readers. I appreciate your taking the time to read my blog, and for leaving comments.

In a Vase on Thursday 10th October 2019

Rich Venetian shades. Just the joy we need for October days. Temperatures are dipping and nights drawing in, but the cut flower patch is blazing with colour.

Dahlia Nuit d’Ete is flowering well, standing up to the wind and the rain. We had the wettest September for 20 years. And October doesn’t look like it’s getting any drier. We’ve had 134mm of rain in ten days. That amount usually falls in two and a half months! With swamp-like conditions it’s impossible to work on the borders. Luckily my cut flower patch is divided by little slabbed paths, so I never need to step on the soil.

Alstroemeria Laguna and Serenade

In amongst the dahlias there’s pink and red alstroemerias grown in pots. If you pull the flower stems out of the compost when you pick them, more blooms will follow. Pull instead of cut is the message. It seems destructive, but promotes further flowering. These are tall varieties suitable for cutting. I accidentally bought some dwarf types once, which looked pretty in the borders, but were hopeless for flower arranging. So take care when choosing plants.

Dahlia Arabian Night

An old favourite I’ve grown for years. Very reliable and doesn’t seem troubled by rain and wind. Earwigs don’t seem to go for the darker shades, preferring the whites and pale-flowered dahlias. If your plants are being nibbled by earwigs, place upturned pots of straw or corrugated cardboard on canes near the flowers. In the morning you can tip the earwigs and their bedding into a wildlife corner, or amongst fruit trees. Earwigs are voracious predators of aphids and vine weevils. Worth relocating away from your dahlias.

Amaranthus cordatus

Love lies bleeding. An easy to grow annual. Produces pendant tassel-like flowers. It’s also known as velvet flower, foxtail and prince’s feather. Sow seeds in half seed trays in March/April. Prick out seedlings into 9cm pots or full seed trays and plant out after frosts. Flowers all summer until the end of October and sometimes into November, depending on temperatures.

Penstemon Plum Jerkum.

A short-lived perennial. This came as a cutting from a friend. It’s a good idea to take insurance-policy cuttings in late summer. These plants are not totally hardy. It’s the winter wet that defeats them, so plant in well drained soil in full sun and protect from the worst of the weather with fleece. Take cuttings in July and August from non-flowering shoots. Cut below a pair of leaves, where there’s a concentration of hormones to promote rooting. Remove all but the top two leaves. Place the cuttings around the edges of a 9cm pot filled with 50/ 50 horticultural grit and compost. The edges of the pot provide the most free draining position for the cuttings, which helps roots to form.

Verbena Bonariensis

Another short-lived perennial requiring a sunny spot in well-drained soil. I lost all my plants in the Beast for the East big freeze last year. Luckily, it grows really well from seed and cuttings. Sow seed in the spring in half trays and prick out, as above. Or take cuttings in late summer. There are tiny side shoots just above a pair of leaves. Gently pull these down and you will have a short cutting.

Aeonium Zwartkop

Aeoniums are evergreen succulents with a shrubby growth habit. My plants collapsed in the wind and some of the stems broke off. They make a lovely, unusual addition to flower arrangements. It’s all about using what you’ve got in the garden. When I take the posy apart, I’ll cut the bottom few inches from the stems and stick them in a pot of very gritty compost. Kept frost free, the cuttings will readily root and I’ll have new plants to stand out on the patio next summer.

Trifolium pratense red clover

The lovely pink rounded flower on the left is just common clover. This year I grew a patch of wild flower meadow in a raised windowbox on legs. I’m always saying you don’t need acres of land to grow food, flowers, and veg. So I put it to the test. It worked a treat. I filled the containers with Dalefoot seed compost and sowed seeds direct in spring. Red clover flowered all summer, alongside blue harebells, yellow birds foot trefoil, scabious, corncockle, and vipers bugloss. It’s been a joy to watch bees, hoverflies and butterflies visiting my little patch of “meadow.”

Nicotiana mutabilis.

The pretty tubular flowers are colour-changing tobacco plants. These were sown and planted last year. They self-sowed over the winter, and have come up stronger and more beautiful this summer. I’m hoping they will do the same for next year, but I’ve saved seed and sown some more, just in case. Stems grow to 1.5m and produce clouds of trumpet-like flowers. They change colour as they age through various shades of white, pink and lilac. Glorious, and highly recommended. I’ll never be without it now I’ve seen it flower all summer long.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Venetian shades bouquet, photographed on a windswept day in the garden. Golden beech tree leaves were swirling past my head as I was tying up the flowers. It seems autumn is on a fast forward setting. What is it like in your garden right now?

Links: I love to join in with Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme. But Mondays are my busiest working day. So I’m just going to post photos when I can. I’ll be reading all your posts when I get home from work.

IAVOM : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

Dahlias : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/search-results?s=Dahlias+

Alstroemerias: http://www.postalplants.co.uk/catalogue.asp

Amaranthus :https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Amaranthus-Love-Lies-Bleeding-Seeds.html

Penstemon : https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/162416/Penstemon-Pensham-Plum-Jerkum-(Pensham-Series)/Details

Verbena Bonariensis; https://higgledygarden.com/2011/11/21/verbena-bonariensis/

Aeonium: https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/details%3Fplantid%3D64

I’m @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram. Please feel free to share this post, linking back to bramblegarden.com

The Light in the Dark- book review and prize draw

The Light in the Dark- A Winter Journal

Horatio Clare

Published by Elliott&Thompson

£9.99 ISBN: 978-1-78396-462-8

There have been times when I’ve stood and stared in despair at the depths of human cruelty. One winter, in a muddy field on the boundaries of our village, I came upon a heartbreaking sight. Four ponies lay, dumped, one on top of the other, their necks broken, legs tangled. Filthy, caked in mud, flea ridden, they had literally been tipped out of a truck and left in a pile. Such sickening callousness. It’s a sight that will never leave me. Sadly, the perpetrators were never found. I raged for a long time. Such a senseless act. Why couldn’t they just have handed them over to someone who’d care. It made me unhappy for a very long time. Then one day on twitter, I saw an appeal for a pony called Eggsy. He’d been abandoned, left to starve, and was in a very poor state. But this time, the story has a happy ending. Carol Caton rescued him and set up a Go Fundme page for support. Since then, I’ve been regularly sending funds their way. I couldn’t help the ponies dumped as if they were unwanted trash. But I can help Carol. There’s a link at the bottom of the blog if you’d like to learn more.

What has prompted me to tell you this story? Well, in Horatio Clare’s new book, The Light in the Dark, he writes about his own sad discovery. I won’t spoil the book by revealing the details. Suffice to say he describes the discovery as “a nauseous thump in the gut, and a sudden hard drum of the heart as the world narrows, my vision tunnelling.” Travelling to his mother’s farm to face the crisis he says “Somewhere between Newtown and Llandrindod a rage bursts in the pit of me, a howling, violent thing exploding, and the furies come screaming out, and I roar in the car.”

But, the book is not all about grief and tragedy. It is a story of hope. It’s about overcoming the pain and sadness in life, and finding a way through the dark.

“Let grief be a fallen leaf, at the dawning of the day. Let grief be a fallen leaf, I think. There is much to do. And indeed, the days that followed the winds blew, the leaves fell and winter’s occupation began. ”

The Light in the Dark is a journal written from October to March. It’s a deeply moving account of surviving depression. Seasonal sadness, the winter blues, depression are widespread in the cold, dark months. Horatio Clare struggles to eat, to sleep, to work. But by “looking outwards, by being in and observing nature,” we can all learn to celebrate winter. It is magical to witness how the natural world becomes his salvation.

It’s impossible to put the book down. We are travelling on Clare’s journey, sharing moments of despair and joy. Beautiful words carry us along.

The book more than shines a light in winter, it beams! A brilliant, radiant, glowing light. For many, it will be a beacon of hope, leading the way to spring.

Please feel free to share this post. Leave a comment if you’d like to be included in the prize draw. The publishers have one copy to give away. Names will be randomly selected.

Links : https://eandtbooks.com/book/light-dark-winter-journal

Eggsy : https://www.gofundme.com/f/z8gpxg

Eggsy on twitter https://twitter.com/eggsypony

Winners….

Many thanks for reading my book and product reviews. Here are the names of recent winners:

An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade : won by 30 Days of Wild Parenting, Joshua Johnson.

Clip garden gloves: won by Wilma Wilson

Dancing with Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard won by Debi Holland.

Incognito insect sprays and sun cream collection won by Suella.

The Good Bee Book, won by Florasforum.

Links: Orchard Odyssey review: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/27/an-orchard-odyssey-book-review-and-prize-draw/

Clip Gloves: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/15/clip-glove-on-trial/

Dancing with Bees https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/04/dancing-with-bees-a-journey-back-to-nature/

Incognito https://bramblegarden.com/?s=Incognito+

Good Bee Book https://bramblegarden.com/?s=Good+bee+book

Thanks again for reading and taking part. New Books to Follow: Wilding by Stephen Rutt. We Made a Meadow, Yvette Verner. The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare. There’s also new watering hosepipes from Hozelock and a biomix plant feed maker. Are there any new products/ books you would recommend?