Words: Joanne Corrigan
Meeting her in the Courtyard she carefully cultivates at Floral Court, her enthusiasm is evident and it’s clear how proud she is that Petersham Nurseries have bought flowers back to Covent Garden.
In 1974 the world famous fruit, vegetable and flower market relocated south of the river to Nine Elms and the flower warehouses were left empty. Various enterprises filled the space until the owners of Petersham Nurseries, from alongside the River Thames at Richmond, hatched an audacious plan to recreate their success in the heart of the city and since July 2017 they have been occupying the sprawling 16,000 sq ft site just minutes from the tube station.
With access from both Floral Street and King Street, Floral Court is a welcome oasis from the hustle and bustle of the rest of Covent Garden. The Courtyard display changes with the seasons and as Christmas memories fade; Amanda is already planning a spring spectacular.
“I love having the space to create a display for people to enjoy. They can come and sit and relax and get inspiration for their own homes,” she explained. In addition to the Courtyard Amanda holds a variety of talks and workshops in the florist shop.
“It’s great to be able to share my love of plants.”
“Our classes include creating floral vases, bulb planting, summer and winter wreath making, a terrarium masterclass and from February there’ll be a Houseplant 101 on the first Saturday of the month. Come and stand round the potting bench and bring your house plant questions!”
“It’s restorative, joyful and much easier than you think!”
So what are the advantages of “bringing the outside in”?
Even in a small flat there’s lots that can be done to enable you to enjoy plants and flowers all year round that won’t break your budget.
“With a lot of people now renting rooms and flats, especially in London, rather than decorate, container gardening and doorstop planting allows you to personalise your living space and then take it with you when you move,” said Amanda.
Keen to know more about how to choose the best plants for a home, Amanda showed me around the florists and gave me a rundown of what to look for and I came away with loads of ideas inspired by my new-found knowledge.
Many plants need plenty of sunlight to flourish so rooms with south and west-facing windows are the best places for light hungry plants, but there are plenty of plants adapted to thrive under jungle and forest canopies so will be ideal for darker rooms with east and north-facing windows and basement flats.
Bathrooms are also an ideal space for plants that will not only brighten your life but can help you become healthier. Aloe Vera, known as the ‘plant of immortality’ because it’s so difficult to kill, is incredibly useful. The gel can be used as a topical treatment for minor cuts and burns, insect bites and dry skin. Place close to the window and because it needs little watering the humidity alone may be enough to meet its needs.
“Did you know that Ivy, particularly English Ivy, is one of NASA’s top air purifying plants?”
Ivy has the ability to remove a wide range of toxic substances found in our homes so can help keep your bathroom clean and hygienic – it can even remove airborne faecal matter and mould! Ivy needs only moderate exposure to sunlight and enjoys high humidity levels so ideal for a bathroom shelf.
Another of these natural cleaners is the Snake plant also known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. One of the hardiest houseplants, the Snake plant can survive low light levels and is flexible in terms of heat and water. Like Ivy, it filters some nasty household toxins from the air, including formaldehyde which can be found in cleaning products, tile grout, adhesives and even some cosmetics!
Amanda also recommended Ferns as a great addition to any home. They’re one of Petersham’s biggest sellers.
“Orchids which can give your bathroom a luxury spa-feel.”
Place out of direct sunlight and, as already mentioned, the high humidity mirrors the flower’s natural environment. It’s a relatively compact flower making it perfect for smaller rooms and can be perched on the corner of the bathtub or next to the sink.
Lucky bamboo needs very little light and doesn’t even need any soil – simply pop the stalk into a container filled with pebbles and water, but don’t forget to top up and change once a month; and then there are Tillandsia commonly known as ‘air’ plants that need little more than a spray of water on the leaves.
Living areas and kitchens can also benefit from any of the plants already mentioned but if you’ve limited space the only way is up!
A vertical garden is a simple way of surrounding yourself with flowering plants without taking up floor space. Attach wooden slats or a wire frame to a wall or balcony, affix some metal hangers and hey presto you’re ready to hang your pots. Don’t forget to consider the weight of the plants and avoid large, heavy greenery. Trailing vines that hang out of their pots work well and are visually interesting or why not plant herbs so you can reach out and add to your cooking all year round.
Talking of cooking there’s so much more on offer at Petersham. On one side of the courtyard is “The Petersham” a fine dining restaurant. Attached to the shop featuring homeware, furniture and gifts as well as plants and flowers, is “La Goccia” open from breakfast time until late night serving Italian aperitivo and small plates known as ‘cicchetti’ as well as dishes from the wood-fired grill.
Dramatic, wild and colourful displays fill the Grade II listed space with three beautiful Victorian atria. Bespoke bouquets, flowers and posies are available to buy and they can also create arrangements for dinner parties and special occasions in beautiful hand-blown vases. There is an emphasis on seasonal, British grown flowers and responsible sourcing.