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‘No Enemy But Winter & Rough Weather’

January 4, 2019
by the gentle author

‘No enemy but winter and rough weather…’ As You Like It

Every year at this low ebb of the season, I go to Columbia Rd Market to buy potted bulbs and winter-flowering plants which I replant into my collection of old pots from the market and arrange upon the oak dresser, to observe their growth at close quarters and thereby gain solace and inspiration until my garden shows convincing signs of new life.

Each morning, I drag myself from bed – coughing and wheezing from winter chills – and stumble to the dresser in my pyjamas like one in a holy order paying due reverence to an altar. When the grey gloom of morning feels unremitting, the musky scent of hyacinth or the delicate fragrance of the cyclamen is a tonic to my system, tangible evidence that the season of green leaves and abundant flowers will return. When plant life is scarce, my flowers in pots that I bought for just a few pounds each at Columbia Rd acquire a magical allure for me, an enchanted quality confirmed by the speed of their growth in the warmth of the house, and I delight to have this collection of diverse varieties in dishes to wonder at, as if each one were a unique specimen from an exotic land.

And once they have flowered, I place these plants in a cold corner of the house until I can replant them in the garden. As a consequence, my clumps of Hellebores and Snowdrops are expanding every year and thus I get to enjoy my plants at least twice over – at first on the dresser and in subsequent years growing in my garden.

Staffordshire figure of Orlando from As You Like It

28 Responses leave one →
  1. Kristine permalink
    January 4, 2019

    There must be some universal need this time of year that causes many of us to remind ourselves that warmer and brighter days are ahead. I think of the indoor garden shows I used to attend in late March, I live in the midwest in the States and often times cold winter weather is known to linger far too long, even when the date on the calendar indicates it should have packed its bags and left. Perhaps these garden shows were a form of encouragement to myself, a reminder that if I held on just a bit longer, the glorious days of spring were just around the corner.

    I enjoyed seeing the Gentle Author’s photos both for the glorious plants and for the lovely antique bowls in which they were displayed.

  2. Sheppard permalink
    January 4, 2019

    Beautiful. Reassuring that spring will come.

  3. Hamish Davidson permalink
    January 4, 2019

    What a glorious and cheery article for a dark morning. Thank you. H

  4. Greg Tingey permalink
    January 4, 2019

    So far, it’s been a very mild winter – a couple of v light frosts, which have not penetrated . There’s still roses flowering in the sheltered corner of my garden, the “normal” snowdrops have their heads up, but not open & the “Elwes” ( Galanthus elwesii ) ones are well into flower

  5. January 4, 2019

    Could not agree more. The first snowdrop has appeared in my small patio garden. Like magic.

  6. Nicola J permalink
    January 4, 2019

    I couldn’t agree more. Plants are such friends.

  7. January 4, 2019

    Oh, Gentle A., I don’t remember when I’ve seen any flowers as pretty as these bulbs in the lovely Chinoiserie pots. What a perfect pairing, the pink cyclamen with its pot. This post made my eyes happy, here in California where English flowers seem ill at ease. Thank you.

  8. Jill Wilson permalink
    January 4, 2019

    What a lovely idea and great to have the smell as well as the sight of your harbingers of spring.

    I’ve always had a particular soft spot for the snowdrops which are the first signs of returning life in our garden. I also try and fit in a trip to Cornwall in January where the fields of daffodils are a very welcome and encouraging sight. Not long now…

    PS I suspect that Schrodinger would encourage you to have the fire going all day to combat the winter chills!

  9. Kate permalink
    January 4, 2019

    I am looking at my little collection of bulbs in tatty old Spode bowls picked up for pennies at car boot sales because they are chipped -in these long dark days they cheer me up with the promise of spring and summer.

  10. Matilda permalink
    January 4, 2019

    So lovely. I do the same. Happy New Year, New Flowers, New Growth!

  11. Juliet Wrightson permalink
    January 4, 2019

    What an uplifting entry today and what a variety you have. I will copy your clever idea. Thank you and A Happy New Year.

  12. Jane permalink
    January 4, 2019

    Beautiful flowers and what utterly gorgeous, colourful bowls

  13. Jeremy Gibbs permalink
    January 4, 2019

    Thank you Gentle Author for the lovely display of both your flowers and your pots too. So welcome on these dark mornings and, yes, a gentle reminder that Spring will follow soon. A grateful thanks for your articles so well researched and always inspiring as these provide a permanent social history of both ordinary men and women, as well as the various parts of London which also appear in your pictures. Your books too make rewarding reading – I do hope your readers provide their support to assist with your continued daily circulation by email.

    J Gibbs

  14. Bethea Jenner permalink
    January 4, 2019

    So inspiring on this chilly winters morning. Thank you and Happy New Year to you!

  15. Richard permalink
    January 4, 2019

    I planted a shallow pot of crocuses this year inspired by what I saw last year at Whichford pottery in Oxfordshire. I bought a few in their sale, all handmade. Crocuses should be flowering soon.

  16. Lyn in Yorkshire permalink
    January 4, 2019

    Once again I am touched by your poignant, stirring words.
    I look forward to further inspiration in 2019 as you see the world through beautiful yet wise eyes.

  17. January 4, 2019

    Beautiful photos this morning, a cheering sight.

    Thank you very much for all your messages, they are always interesting.

  18. Kathy metcalfe permalink
    January 4, 2019

    Thank you for putting the lovely photos of plants on the website. They have
    Cheered me up and its brought back happy memories of when my husband
    Would drive me from Tunbridge Wells to Columbia market. Happy days.

  19. Clare permalink
    January 4, 2019

    Lovely post, thank you

  20. Catherineap permalink
    January 4, 2019

    You have chosen each pot to go perfectly with its flowers. This post has really brightened my morning.

  21. Sue permalink
    January 4, 2019

    Such lovely pots and flowers.
    Living by the sea we already have daffs in the village and camellias in the garden but is good to see them indoors to cheer the soul.

  22. Delia Folkard permalink
    January 4, 2019

    After dreading the thought of taking down the Christmas decorations this weekend you have inspired me to buy some cheery plants to fill the void. Finding such beautiful colourful pots may be a more difficult challenge but I will enjoy searching. Happy new year to all.

  23. January 4, 2019

    A cheerful, colourful and inspiring post today GA…thank you.
    I can almost smell the fragrance of those hyacinths.
    Visits to Columbia Road flower market were an integral part of my childhood on summer Sunday mornings, so glad it has survived given so many changes to the area.
    My mum still lives nearby and watches all the folk going past her flat with armfuls of lovely flowers and plants.

  24. gkbowood permalink
    January 4, 2019

    I always look forward to the pictures of your annual forced bulb collection. But how is it that your cat doesn’t dig at them? I have never been able to keep any plants because of my cats. Sigh.

  25. January 4, 2019

    Lovely. Each photograph has the lighting and quality of a Dutch still life painting.

    Appropriate for bulbs, perhaps.

  26. Susan Martin permalink
    January 5, 2019

    I love your posts you are a brilliant writer and the photos of your plants are gorgeous

  27. Allison permalink
    January 5, 2019

    What a lovely idea. My favourites are the auriculas.

  28. Shirley prendergast permalink
    January 8, 2019

    Dear Gentle Author
    How lovely, the combination of pots and flowers and colours.
    I do the same, gathering plants and bulbs
    and pots from our Friday market in Totnes.
    As always Your inspiration is of what is all around us
    That all of us can see and find and explore.
    Generous and democratic. Thank you

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