Lift your spirits and your home with flowers

"Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul" an American botanist once remarked.

Most of us would agree with that sentiment. Yet we tend to think of flowers as gifts for special occasions - weddings, dates and anniversaries. An expensive luxury that only celebrities like Elton John - who once spent £293,000 on flowers over 20 months - can afford.

But that doesn't have to be the case. You can experience floral heaven and all its benefits on any budget and in a myriad of ways.

Flowers can transform any home - they're an instant talking point when visitors arrive and a feast for the eyes when you return to a home enlivened with the colours, scents and beauty of a floral arrangement.

London has some of the very best flower markets, and in addition to purchasing the most perfect and freshest blooms you will ever have, a visit makes a great, and not too costly day out too.

One of the most famous of these markets is in Columbia Road on the Hackney borders in E2. Every Sunday, from 8am to 3pm, the narrow street bursts into bloom, overflowing with bucketfuls of beautiful flowers, houseplants, herbs, bulbs and shrubs. 

You may have to jostle your way through the crowds but it's a great atmosphere and a good way to learn the difference between a petunia and a peony. On top of that, it's okay to barter with the traders, especially towards the end of the day!

If you're in west London and E2 is a bit far, check out Chiswick Flower Market at the beginning of each month. It's just as energetic and colourful and organisers want it to become the Columbia Road of west London.

Berwick Street Market in Soho, a stone's throw from Oxford Street and Chinatown, is London's oldest market dating back to 1778 and it is there that you will find Ronnie's famous flower stall, which supplies to local shops and restaurants. Other stalls feature on different days, so it's worth checking the schedule online.

New Covent Garden Market is actually situated in south west London between Vauxhall and Battersea. It's a wholesale trade market serving London's busy florists and businesses, selling in bulk so not really suited to the individual. However, you can go and have a look around, soak up the atmosphere or go with a group of friends to bulk buy and share!

The capital has plenty more delights for flower fanatics. Check out Queen Mary\'s Rose Garden in Regents Park where you will find London's largest collection of roses. Petersham Nurseries and the world famous botanical Gardens at Kew are both within easy reach of Richmond.

So although freshly cut flowers are a great addition to any room, and buying them is an interesting outing in itself, the downside is they don't last long especially for homeowners away a lot and unable to tend them. But fear not, there is an alternative and that is fake flowers - and we're not talking the plastic-looking daffodils your gran used to have!

There is now a wealth of shops selling luxury artificial flowers that are tastefully and meticulously crafted, often in silk, for a truly natural and organic look. Flowers to look out for are dahlias, peonies, hydrangeas and cherry blossoms. 

Pay a bit more and they'll last for years. It's also a great option for the winter months when cut flowers are at a premium. Flower lovers may also have noticed the recent trend for shops, cafes and the like to adorn their doorways with garlands of flowers. The fact they are artificial is outweighed by the cheery welcome they provide and transform a plain old entranceway into a riot of colour, enough to make even the most reluctant consumer smile.

Let's sign off with another pertinent quote: "A flower doesn't think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms."

So the simple message today for homeowners is: don't underestimate the power of the flower!

Check out our blog on Why Brits Love Afternoon Tea.

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