Monday 22 March 2010

A Sunday morning in spring

Columbia Road Daffodils

Finally, our fruit trees arrived - two espaliered apples, a Bramley Seedling and a James Grieve, and a fan-trained Morello cherry.

Our garden is quite small, about 20 feet by 50, standard issue for a London terrace. It slopes upward slightly at the back, as many London gardens do. During the great housing rush at the end of the Nineteenth Century, builders seldom took away their rubble. They just slung it all into a heap at the far end of the garden and covered it with a bit of soil, before racing onto the next house, the next street, the next parcel of profit. When I’m digging, I often turn up an odd fragment of blue and white china or chunks of thick, greenish bottle glass among the broken bricks and shattered slates. Once we even found a stoneware flask from a local wine and spirit merchant.

Columbia Road - Pot

We built a deep, raised bed along the back fence of the garden, open to the ground, for the apple trees. Séan hauled 40 litre sacks of topsoil, 34 of them, through the house to fill it. We planted the trees. I thought they looked majestic, like sails. Our neighbour Paul thinks they look crucified. He has a point. With their two, parallel rows of horizontal branches they do resemble a pair of Orthodox crosses on an altar. In a few weeks, frothy blossom will soften their austerity.

We spent most of the weekend in the garden, tidying, weeding, encouraging the roses’ new shoots over the pergola. We joined the masses at, well, the closest lots of Londoners get to Mass: Columbia Road Flower Market. In that narrow street, for a few hours on Sunday morning, spring is in riot.

Columbia Road - Window A house at the entrance to the market.

I always start my floral pilgrimage in the little courtyard off Ezra Street, where they sell the best coffee in the world, and that’s official.

Columbia Road - Gwilyn's coffee

I can’t decide whether these oysters are the breakfast of champions…Columbia Road - Oysters

Or this chorizo sandwich?Columbia Road - Chorizo sarni

Barney Barney, meanwhile, holds out for a sausage.

Séan's Chair A chair on Sean’s stall (no, not my Séan).

Baguettes from the French cheese stall

Not an ordinary bin!

Columbia Road - Olives

Columbia Road - Bits and bobs I can’t believe I resisted the temptations of this
book by M.E Gagg…

Columbia Road - pots Or these pots.

Suitably fortified, we edge our way into the market.

Columbia Road

Every week, I buy my flowers from Carl. He has the most interesting selection and they’re the best in the market. They always last for at least 10 days; I tell him this must be bad for business.

Columbia Road - Carl Grover Carl’s stall

 Columbia Road - Tulips Tulips

Columbia Road - Roses Roses

Columbia Road - Cherry Blossom Cherry blossom

Columbia Road - Mimosa Mimosa

My garden, kitchen and cooking owe much to the wonderful herbs, fruit and vegetables bought from Carl’s lovely mum and dad, Mr and Mrs Grover, who have had a stall in the market for more than 35 years.

Columbia Road - Grover's herbs Mr and Mrs Grover’s herb stall.

Columbia Road - Grover's Mint Mint

Columbia Road - Grover's Thyme Thyme – how could you resist running your fingers through it?

Columbia Road - Rhubarb Tiny rhubarb plants, pies in waiting.

And onwards into the rest of the market…

Columbia Road stall Hyacinths, cyclamen and primroses.

Hyacinths Before…

Hyacinths … and after.

Cyclamen Tiny cyclamen petals, like butterfly’s wings.

Daisy Cheerful little daisies.

Perennials Perennials in their clods of earth
‘What will I be when I grow up?’


  1. What a wonderful market, wonderful photos, a wonderful sunday and wonderful coffee! I would have had to snap up that book though.

  2. Absolutely gorgeous post, D, with a super photothon. Columbia Road sparkles like a bucket of gems even on a dark Sunday morning. But this week you got the weather...

  3. Wow, there is just too much goodness in this post! The chorizo sandwich looks so good, the funny little bin, Carl's beautiful stand, and all of your great documentation. Fun!

  4. if you look at it in a certain light, London's almost up there with Honiton. Please can I move back up to London every Sunday. All those people who work there all week and go to the coutrny at weekends have got it the wrong way round, silly duffers.

  5. Kath, I know. I'll be crestfallen, crestfallen I tell you, if it's not still there next week.
    Mummy, Thanks. I think you're due a visit, non?
    Denise - I LOVED the bin. It's at the French cheese stall and I think it's the one they use to bring their baguettes in, so it's strictly not for tossing dirty coffee cups, ends of bacon rolls and odd bits of rubbish in.
    Mark - Oh Honiton, the Paris of South West... PLEASE come and visit one Sunday. Flowers and plants then Vietnamese caffs for lunch after an' all sorts.

  6. This market is a wonderfully inspirational vision. Thank you for sharing it.

  7. Lovely post and excellent snaps. It's a crime I've not been to the flower market before!

  8. Lovely post. Since we are expecting 10 inches of snow tomorrow, I needed a little reminder that spring does indeed exist somewhere.

  9. I love your pictures - and I love Columbia Road on a Sunday...

  10. Gosh those baguettes look good. It's morning here and I would give my right arm for one of those! And a good hunk of cheese.
    I must say the flask really struck a chord with me. Simply priceless. It reminds me of Aboriginal artefacts that we rarely stumble across at the farm. It really makes me stop and think of a time long ago. How life was back then and how these "implements" were used. Your post was a vibrant splash of colour that has really woken me up and I can almost smell the flowers Debora. Lovely pictures. My breakfast is beckoning and I want some of that baguette!!!!!!

  11. Fi - You're welcome. Hope all's well with you.
    Helena - You must go, you'd love it.
    Karen - 10 inches of snow. Eeek.
    Alex - Isn't it just the best reason to get up early on a Sunday morning?
    Mariana - The baguettes are delicious. Proper, crisp crust and a chewy centre, perfection. How fascinating to find aboriginal artefacts, rather more exciting than my bashed up old flask!

  12. Oh snap! I have an espaliered James Grieve in my garden. It was a gift to myself and has repaid me tenfold with lots of lovely apples.

    Thanks for sharing your lovely photos. I hope your harvest is bountiful.


Comments are now closed.
This site has migrated to

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...