My lifelong habit of buying flowers

From the first time I had my own place, I have always bought cut flowers. Aged 18, living in a squat near London’s Portobello, I would shop near the end of a Friday or Saturday market to stock up on fresh fruit and veg. But the trip wasn’t complete without a few bunches from the flower stall outside Westbourne Park station.

At 19 I worked at a posh plant nursery, but it was cut flowers sold from stalls where I was happiest

I’d stop off for violets, lily of the valley, or chrysanthemums in early autumn. I was (and still am) obsessed with dahlias, or an occasional sheath of gladioli. And spring flowers from the Scilly Isles across the sea from south Devon.

At 19, I worked at a posh plant nursery. They made my wedding bouquet. But it was cut flowers sold from stalls where I was happiest, with cheap, cheerful blooms in season.

The loss of Donna’s stand in Queen’s Crescent, Kentish Town, was a signal the old street’s days were numbered. Now, I queue early at the Parliament Hill farmer’s market in an invisible race against other shoppers. First buys are best when the choice is limited by season.

I still swing by favourite fruit and veg shops who have a good eye for good blooms. There is a favourite street stall I find hard to resist. I have been known to be there extra early on the day that the weekly van delivers.

We grow bee-friendly wild flowers in a Danish meadow, perhaps pick a few for the table when eating outside. The primrose, lily of the valley, spring bulbs, we leave alone. My favourite flower shop there has just changed hands, and I am finding it hard to adjust.

In London, I have noticed more blooms creeping in on the plot than the nasturtiums and marigolds that echo my early years.

I suspect we will always grow sunflowers there now: multi-headed rusted reds, plus classic single stem yellows in echoes of Ukraine. But there is a simple joy in buying a bunch of flowers. Bringing the outside in.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from