Iwish I were the sort of person who always had flowers in the house, but sadly the more mundane distractions of everyday life get in the way of this superior level of housewifery. When I do have them, though, I wonder why I do not more often. Houses with flowers, however simple, always have a nice feel about them. In fact, I think the simpler they are, the better – looking as though a bunch has been picked up from a flower stand on the way home, rather than delivered once a week by a florist. Or, even better, as though one has just been out in the garden and picked what is in bloom. It is one of the strongest indicators that there is life in the house.
Generally speaking, I favour single-bloom bunches – such as those by or – over mixed bunches, partly because I absolutely hate foliage used as padding. I like it when it is the main event.
When I lived in New York, I helped my friend Carlos Mota write Flowers Chic & Cheap. When I say helped, I mean I took down his dictation over a few jolly afternoons. In it, he explains how easy it is to make quite ordinary bunches of flowers look good. As I was struggling to unite a bunch of tulips the other day, I remembered one of his fail-safe rules to avoid having a vase full of flowers with a flat, table-like top. He lays all the flowers out on the counter and then takes them into his hand one by one to make a bunch, turning it and keeping the first stem at the centre at the highest point. Then, when they go in the vase, they have more shape. The interior designer Charlotte Moss creates the most beautiful arrangements for tables and her new book is inspiring.
There is quite a fashion at the moment for the Constance Spry school of flower arranging – fans of blooms that look like a still-life painting. Pinterest is a good place to see her beautiful arrangements and contemporary takes on them. The vases are interesting, as they are often French ceramics that look like gravy boats. on Lillie Road, SW6 always has a collection and I like using cans from for those random summer bunches from the garden.
I also have a Bloomsbury-esque vase from the American ceramicist . Vases are, of course, as much a part of the arrangement as the flowers, and jugs make a great alternative. I have the aforementioned tulips in a Georgian step-cut glass jug, which looks terrific. And do not overlook those bud vases that take only one or two stems, which are lovely on side tables, by a bed or on a chimneypiece. They take no talent for arranging and cost hardly anything.
I pick up flowers all over the place – from supermarkets, flower markets, flower stands and fancy florists. I also enjoy shopping for plants. I love picking up hydrangeas, bringing them home and dumping them in one of my cachepots. It is the easiest thing to do and tremendous value for money – not something I find myself saying very often. But they flower for weeks for just £15.
Best of all at this time of year is lily of the valley. There is so little that is truly seasonal, but these flowers really are. When you start to see them and smell that incredible scent, they are hard to resist. Plant as many as you can in a large cachepot or bowl and then inhale deeply.