Supermarket daffs are an inexpensive treat to brighten winter lockdown

Supermarket daffodils and tulips brighten up Ruth's home during lockdown

Supermarket daffodils and tulips brighten up Ruth's home during lockdown - Credit: Ruth Pavey

These locked-down days, any chat at the supermarket check-out counts as a highlight, but doubly so when the cashier is enthusiastic about the daffodils and tulips in one’s basket. He was full of how cheering and beneficial flowers are.

Thinking it would be fun to interview him, I contacted the supermarket’s head office (there are formalities about these things). In the absence of a response, no interview, no bright photo of him in the plant aisle, but here at least are the flowers at home, doing their job of looking cheerful. The cashier said he had not taken much notice of plants until he had a garden and a family of his own, but is now smitten by them and loves rescuing the drooping, unsold ones from the store, bringing them back to life. Which was encouraging to hear, after lockdown walks past so many unloved, rubbish-filled front gardens. This last year we have heard much upbeat talk about people discovering the joys of gardening, but on dreary winter days, the evidence is somewhat lacking.

There are other remarkable things about the supermarket daffodils, for instance, what a bargain they are. Considering that people have had to plant, nurture, pick, pack and transport them from the South West of England, isn’t it a wonder that we can take bunches of daffodils home for so little? Well, let’s hope it is a wonder, or the result of economies of scale, not a reflection of how ill paid are the growers/pickers. Another surprise is how well the daffodil buds survive their journey. The store manager says they keep them dry because water encourages the buds to break. The pleasure of watching that happen, once the buds are given water and warmth, is all part of this inexpensive treat.

Acanthus Mollis

Acanthus Mollis in the snow

Acanthus Mollis in the snow - Credit: Ruth Pavey

In the cold, I look round the garden in some trepidation. Some plants are wrapped up in fleece, but maybe too few of them. Deborah Wolton, co-author of a beautiful illustrated book about Hampstead Heath, emails to enquire after my Acanthus. She had seen one, its many leaves flopped right over in the frost. The big, shapely leaves of Acanthus mollis are the inspiration for the carved capitals of Corinthian columns. So it is no surprise to read that it originated in the Mediterranean, where many plants have to put up with extremes, not only of heat but also of cold. In previous London cold snaps my acanthus has flopped right over but picked itself up again as soon as the temperature rose. Although I might like its assertive spread to be knocked back a bit, I am pretty sure it will be fine. Its common name is Bear’s Breeches, and why would a bear want anything other than robust breeches?

Things to Do

Keep feeding the birds. Start sowing seeds indoors, eg salads, peas, beans. When it’s warmer, divide matted perennials, eg day lilies, crocosmia.