This week’s blog is inspired by the beautiful exhibition of Dutch 17th and 18th century flower paintings currently on at the National Gallery. The exhibition ties in perfectly with the flower shows at Chelsea and Hampton Court in London as well as Holland’s current tulip season.
The 17th century was a prosperous time for the Netherlands. It became known as the Golden Age, with a wealth of trade as well as creative, industrial and scientific advancements flourishing. While exotic imports such as tea, spices and sugar were aplenty, the Dutch continued to love flowers.
They became somewhat obsessed over this time with tulips (for a period now termed ‘tulip mania’!), at one stage causing an economic bubble when tulip prices reached extraordinarily high levels. This was perhaps the first recorded economic bubble and continues to amaze us - a film on the subject is being released later this year.
Although many of the works are tiny and the exhibition itself is just one room, the delicacy of each work is remarkable. The details are exquisite and when you inspect each one closely you start seeing minute insects and details which amaze the eye.
Holland's Tulip Festival
If you've been inspired by these Dutch wonders, why not visit for yourself! The tulip season is currently in full swing in Holland and set to last until mid-May. Most of the tulip farms are in the Noordoostpolder, in the province of Flevoland, and in the Kop van Noord-Holland. If you're after a more manicured experience, the garden in Keukenhof park, seen below, has over 7 million flower bulbs. As well as tulips, you can expect to see hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and more! With such an explosion of colour and perfume, it is clear how and why these artists became so inspired by flowers.
Floral inspiration in London
If you're a Londoner and looking for some floral inspiration a little closer to home, that's just as well ... the Chelsea Flower Show is coming up at the end of May and is set to be packed with incredible designs. Some of the highlights to look out for include an acoustic garden inspired by world-leading percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie which will play musical notes to visitors as well as The RHS Garden for Health, Happiness and Horticulture designed by Ann-Marie Powell and the Modern Apothecary Garden designed by RHS Ambassador Jekka McVicar - both of which we are looking forward to!
Where to buy the best flowers in London
We've written before about incorporating floral decorations such as wallpapers or pillows into your home, but nothing is better than a beautiful bouquet to add colour and perfume to your room. London is packed with shops selling flowers, but nothing quite beats Columbia Road Flower Market. Every Sunday the street is lined with vibrant colours and varieties.
Top tips: Turn up early if you want the best of the bunch as many stalls sell out by 2 or 3 o'clock. Alternatively if you're after a bargain, haggle the best deals at the end of the day ... if there are any left!