Having offered to help a freshly relocated friend to revamp his small garden, I had the perfect reason visit the Sunday morning Columbia Road flower market in East London and I could hardly wait. An old London tradition, every Sunday from 8.00 am to 3ish, Columbia Road morphs into a vibrant street market selling cut flowers, plants, herbs, shrubs and trees – it’s like an enormous garden centre in the street, each stall with it’s own specialisation.
More than Flowers: Apart from the flora, there is much to commend this charming market. The little side streets are packed with cafes and courtyards and even more outdoor markets. We headed straight for Ezra Street for coffees and bagels at Samoan Joes, which we enjoyed sitting in the charming little courtyard. Outside a jazz duo bedazzled the coffee drinkers in the square – little kids were dancing everywhere.
Just opposite is the famed Jones Dairy Café, now with a restaurant attached. Down to the left, we stumbled upon yet another court yard, full of independent stalls selling books, ceramics, copperware as well as food stalls selling delicious looking salamis and cheeses, breads, olives and oils, chutneys, sauces and jams.
With 60 plus independent shops dotted all around the flower market, there is something here for everyone. Columbia Pottery has beautiful plant containers, Milagros has stunning Mexican glassware and tiles in vibrant colours. L’Orangerie is great for fashion jewellery and accessories, Angela Flanders for perfume, futuristic maps of London from The Future Mapping Company, antiques from Ben Southgate and many other dealers, prints from Elphick’s and lots of vintage fashion and retro accessories.
Having purchased all we needed, we prepared to leave around midday as the crowds had begun to arrive in force, but not before meeting the Pearly King and Queen in buttons bright!
After midday, the market tends to get very busy. But that said, the later you leave it, the better the bargains! We obviously left too early as I found out when I tried my own hand at bargaining for my two herb plants.
‘What’s your best price’ I asked the stall holder.
‘Eleventy pence’, was the instant retort.
‘Haha very funny – no really what’s your best price?’
‘Ok you can give me a £7.50!’
Me, shocked – ‘What? But they only cost £2.50 each?
‘Ok – you can give me a fiver!’ It turns out he had been running a stall here on Columbia Road now for 55 years – there ain’t much he hasn’t heard.
Haven’t had so much fun in ages!
Now – anyone else in need of a garden make over?