In her second blog post for The Simple Things, Rachel Bull of Live Urban Love Rural visits an East London institution of the open air variety, in order to bring an evocative wealth of scent and colour to the post-festive season...
"I don’t like opening the curtains to soggy January mornings, when the sky is low and hazy, and the whole world seems to have turned a damp brownish-grey. The lack of colour is especially poignant in cities at this time of year, where shrubbery can be scarce and fields notably absent. Our squat Christmas tree is no longer sparkling, but has been taken outside (in it’s pot, I hasten to add) and I find myself yearning to bring fresh hues into our London terrace.
"As a child in Yorkshire, we had a huge garden that led to fields as far as you could see. Back then, it didn’t seem to matter what the time of year, my Sister and I would be over the fence, wrapped up in red cagoules and bobble hats, exploring our natural neighbourhood. We’d be excavating for buried treasure and Roman remains, of course, but I remember even in mid-January seeing the first tentative buds appearing on our crab apple tree, and self-assured snowdrop shoots – unafraid of the February frost – peeking through the soil. Signs that spring hadn’t forgotten about us. I remember the sweet box shrub in particular, which grew by the side of the garage with its black clusters of berries and flimsy cream flowers. It emitted the most beautiful fresh scent, akin to a hyacinth but even softer.
"It was this powerful memory trigger which last weekend steered me towards one of the most colourful, perfumed places you can find in London at this time of year: the Columbia Road Flower Market. Just one step into the East End floral haven is enough to revive the senses out of their January slump.
"Once there I’m surrounded by lanky amaryllis, striking iris, velvety pussy willow branches and gangs of multi-coloured tulips. The scent of lilies morphs into lavender and then to freesias. Stallholders coax me from all angles to buy ten roses for a fiver, and later bargain orchids for £4 a pot.
"I’m after something more wild-looking, though, to recreate those freshly foraged posies we used to bring into our home as children – admittedly consisting of evergreen foliage and a few enduring berries at this time of year. I’m drawn to a spray of bushy violet wax flower; its spiky branches, spherical buds and tiny smooth petals could have come straight from a hedgerow. With that I put some sprigs of delicate white jasmine and a bunch of heartening mimosa. I can’t resist its fuzzy, yellow balls like clusters of miniature pompoms on sticks.
"At home the fun really begins and I can arrange to my heart’s content using a jug, vase, watering can and glass bottle to create four distinctive displays. The sweet, pale perfume coming from the jasmine floats around the living room coaxing our noses into being, while the little mimosa flowers jiggle childishly on their tall stems telling us it’s okay to have some fun. I separate, cut and arrange my flowers until the house looks alive once more, and smells like those countryside winter expeditions I so loved."
Look for more by Rachel on The Simple Things.com soon, and do explore LiveUrbanLoveRural.com, we love it!
Don’t forget, you can buy the print version of The Simple Things at good retailers around the globe, individually online or buy a subscription. For your iPad/iPhone, visit the Apple Newsstand. A digital version to read on a PC, Mac or Android device can be found on Zinio. And for Android phones and tablets, we’re also now on Google Play.
Subscribe now and get a free copy of the fabulous Decorate Workshop by Holly Becker, a book worth £25! You can subscribe online, or call call 0844 848 2852 (quote code TSTW13 – Mon-Fri 8am-9.30pm & Sat 8am-4pm). Offer ends 31/03/2013.
January sale: save up to 40% on a subscription to The Simple Things, or one of seven other brilliant Future magazines! It’s quick and easy to order online or by calling 0844 848 2852 (quote code ZC09 – Mon-Fri 8am-9.30pm & Sat 8am-4pm). Offer ends 31/01/2013.