Columbia Road Market 26
Today, it was the busiest I have seen it early in the morning at the market this year and there was an equal increase in the variety of plants available too, which set my imagination racing. I was particularly attracted by the wide of perennials now available as seedlings and I deliberated over trays of Poppies, Erygium and Aquilegia, although there is still a keen edge to the wind, which instinctively caused me to withhold my enthusiasm for commencing Spring planting this weekend, in spite of the dazzling sunlight.
Meanwhile, for the past month, I have cast my eye each Sunday over the stalls selling all the varieties of Tulips and today, for the first time this year, I saw what I have been seeking, these Parrot Tulips. Only available for a few weeks of the year, these are one of my all-time favourite cut flowers, especially for an old house – evoking all those seventeenth century Dutch still-life paintings that dramatise the ephemeral nature of our existence with such grace. I love the lush extravagance of these Tulips’ rich silken colours and feathery pleated edges, getting even better as the languorous flowers open wide and the petals fall.
Remarkably, when I placed them on my sideboard, the morning sunlight collaborated with my painterly notion, delivering this phenomenal moving chiaroscuro, which caused the Tulips to open before my eyes, even as I was photographing them. And it led to me to wonder if many of those still-lifes were painted at this time of year when the Tulips come, and that maybe the distinctive quality of European sunlight in early Spring is itself part of the subject of these paintings?