Sunday, 19 September 2010

Market forces

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Oncidiums  - direct to you from a fridge in Holland
Oh no, it's Sunday and that means a huge flower market in my street, row upon row of stalls selling temptation and lust! It's simply not possible to nip out for a pint of milk and the Sunday papers without returning with a Cyclamen or something under your arm, what with the minefield of perfect orchids, huge Dahlias, myriad cut flower sellers and everything from cacti to winter bedding, all accompanied by age-old cries of "THREE FOR A FIVER!!!!" and "COME ON LADIES, GET YOUR LILIES HERE, LOVELY WHITE LILIES THREE PAAAHND A BUNCH" and so on.

Winter bedding from a nice young man
It just goes on and on ....
Flourescent grafted cacti (how do they do get those colours?)
Exotics, in Britain?
(all images ©Chris Mackay)

But I kept my spending to a modest £15 by bulk buying 3 Rhododendron hybrids (well, one Rhody and two Azaleas but they're all technically Rhododendrons) for a tenner and 10 dry bulbs of Fritillaria uva-vulpis and 10 un-named Iris reticulata for a fiver.

I could easily have spent hundreds (if I had it) but a lot of these plants have been cosseted in industrial nurseries in Holland, transported to and from Dutch Dutch auctions (no, that's not a typo, look it up) in refrigerated vans, then exposed to whatever wind, sun, frost, or rain Columbia Road chooses. They might look perfect now but get them home to your centrally-heated houseor conservatory and you'll have yellowing fronds and dropping leaves all over the place. The outdoor stuff's much safer, having been been through fewer changes of environment.

If you want a bargain get down about 2pm as things are closing up but don't expect to pick up left-over cut flowers for free: the crafty stall-holders twist the heads off them before dumping them to fox such frugality.

And now I have to go and collect a tiny polythene greenhouse from Argos in the hope that it will keep the fuchsias etc over the winter. Or blow away. That latter is most likely but it will be the first time I've thrown something into the school next door, whereas they reciprocate on a recular basis, even smashing  a window pane. The tinkers!

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