Something changes when you put fresh flowers in a room.
Here are nine ideas for flowers to bring inside (while you’re waiting for them to start blooming outdoors).
Photography by Marie Viljoen.
Above: One way to get through an endless winter it is to bring the pleasure of a premature spring into your home. Buy forced hyacinth bulbs in tight bud, to enjoy them for as long as possible. Tip them from their plastic pots, snip off the bulk of the white roots wrapped around the sides, and bury them in potting soil or peat moss in an attractive bowl. Water at once (they can survive without drainage for several weeks, but do not overwater). Later, you can transfer them to the garden.
Pick the Invaders
Above: We all make up our own rules. One of mine is that I am allowed to pick invasive wildflowers. I reason that I am helping, not hurting the local ecosystem. Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) is a terrible pest on both coasts, where it crowds out less tenacious native plants. The iridescent yellow flowers are beguiling. I bring home a bunch whenever I can, after an early spring ramble in local parks and woodlands.
Above: On the West Coast and in parts of the South the South African native Oxalis pes-caprae is an invasive headache. The tall sour stems are loved by children and the acid yellow flowers are very pretty, opening during the day and closing again in the gloom. Pick a bunch to bring home and add it to any dishes that need a lemony kick—they are delicious raw or cooked. Mediterranean three-cornered leek (Allium triquetrum) is a thug in many parts of the world. Its attractive flowers also tempted gardeners, before it Houdini’d into the wild. Pick them for prettiness and also to eat – use the oniony stems the way you would chives or cook them like leeks.
Above: Whenever possible I buy flowers that are grown locally, and in late winter in New York City that often means tulips (from New Jersey). It is fun choose a color that speaks to your palette. Here, red parrot tulips bounce off the spines of books and pick up the embroidery in Turkish slipcovers. Tulips give you sculptural bang for the buck, too, shape-shifting gracefully as they age. To prolong the pleasure, buy them when color barely shows in their tightly closed buds, and change their water every other day. When the tips of their leaves begin to dry up, strip the foliage from the stems altogether, snip the bottom of the stems off and change their water again. They should last a week, minimum.
To bring spring sunshine into the house I combine daffodils happily with their spring colleagues, like ranunculus. There is a vicious rumor about daffodils: they poison other flowers in a shared vase. I have never experienced this. But that is probably because the daffodils I buy have been sitting in buckets of water and have oozed out any bad juices. For store-bought daffs, do not recut the stems if you are combining them with other flowers, or they will release more noxious sap.
Above: If the daffodils are fresh-picked (no prior stem-soaking), you may prefer to err on the side of caution by segregating them. Placing flowers in a front window is an instant welcome home and also sends a happy message into the street. We need happy messages.
Above: Flowers can remind us who we are. Because our scent memory is so strong, childhood can come rushing back in a whiff of Provencal mimosa sold on a winter sidewalk in Brooklyn. My French husband grew up where the hillsides were covered with the fragrant puffballs. Ironically (don’t tell him!) the tree is Australian and invasive in France. But for him, it is happiness, and I abandon my buy-local rule on a whim. Add a lunch of bouillabaisse with rosé and you have breathed life into a memory for someone you love.
Above: Flowers in the house are as much about form and freshness, as they are about adding the dimension of scent to a room. Everyone has their favorite flower fragrance. For me it is sweetpea (my mother grew them when I was little) and these delicate flowers are a rare springtime treat.
Flowers for One
Above: Be kind to yourself and add a posy of flowers to your table for one, even if all you’re eating is a boiled egg with some snipped garden chives. Home-grown roses are one of the most rewarding cut flowers, re-blooming every three weeks or so. Pick them in the early morning or when it is cool, dunk the tips of their stems into very hot water for five minutes, and transfer them to their vase. They will last for about five days, and smell divine.