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My mother is flower & garden obsessed. She always has lovely ideas about planting: her gardens have always felt like the nicest kind of English outdoor room, filled with drifts of alchemilla, hellebore beds, old fashioned roses twined all about, peony bushes, hydrangeas, whiskery clematis, lavender hedges…

One of the things I’ve always loved is how she uses her collection of vintage china to plant bulbs. So I’ve stolen her idea for this beautiful basin she gave me from the old house last summer. I’m afraid I cheated tho: I didn’t grow the flowers from bulbs, I planted it with already flowering Paperwhites from Ikea a few weeks ago, and this week the tiny yellow daffodils were a bargain from M&S at £1 a pot – I used seven.

Of course I love cut flowers, but there’s a certain pleasure to be got from the long lasting nature of plants in pots – or in my case, a beautiful antique bowl. I didn’t need any extra compost: I just tipped out the bulbs from their plastic pots, splitting a couple so they would fit in, and made sure they had a good drink.

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This daffs-filled basin is resting on top of my Heal’s 1950s cocktail cabinet in the kitchen – all mirror-lined and filled with my collection of vintage glassware and lots of cocktail making supplies. It’s flanked by a menu from a 1960s London restaurant inherited from my parents – it used to hang in the dining room of my childhood home, and a framed 19thC fashion plate.

There’s a little Lalique Mossi nightlight holder filled with buddleia (the very last remains of Wild at Heart flowers sent to me by Katie B after LFW), a candle in a silver box,  a Jo Malone Rose candle and a 1920s silver cocktail shaker that my aunt gave me for my 21st, I think. Oh and my Red award, because I am proud of it, and a blue glass Nicole Farhi ashtray for odds and ends.

You can pick up vintage basins on eBay from time to time, but they are quite rare to find and often are sold with their matching ewers, whereas I know they are easier to pick up in second hand shops – I seem to remember darling KatyBoo picking one up recently on one of her foraging trips.

I am feeling inspired to try different containers. I think a glass vase would be great (I have some very old bottles from granny), so you can see the roots, or any of my china serving dishes. Maybe a Willow Pattern tureen for some white narcissi?

Update: My mama read the post & emailed to tell me the history of the basin.

“I bought it at auction in 1976, when we first moved to Smarden.   It is supposed to be a factory piece, on which apprentice decorators practiced their painting.   It is Masons Ironstone.   If you look at it, you can see that it is less than brilliantly painted, lots of smudges.   I have no idea whether that is true or not.”

And here’s a photo I found of the bowl planted up with Paperwhite narcissi. They were bolting rather at this point, so after I took the picture,  I cut the flowers off and donated the bulbs to my sister for her garden.

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13 comments

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Love them so beautiful a sign of spring

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Oh, this reminds me of my mother too – every time we we go vintage/antique hunting she says ‘this would look lovely with flowers in’ – and needless to say, the house is filled with similar bowls, basins, jugs, with plants or flowers in. A lovely way to re-use old pieces.

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This is a great idea! If all that’s required is tipping the bulbs into the pot with existing compost, then I’m all for trying it out (so speaks the girl who managed to kill a couple of orchids, cactus, rosemary…..)

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I did, I did. I got it in a charity shop a few weeks ago.

I love the colours of your bowl. It looks beautiful, and turning them into planters is a lovely idea. xx

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In Hong Kong (where I live) they use wide, shallow china bowls and just pack the bulbs (best with narcissi / paper whites I think) in with a bit of water (no compost). It makes a gorgeous display, especially using old cracked traditional pattern dishes…

Love your blog – first time commenting but flowers really speak to me!

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Aw that was a lovely post , gonna try planting bulbs that way. When I was little my Gran always had hyacinth bulbs in a variety of coloured glass jars with their roots showing through. Now the scent reminds me of her.

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Spring has sprung at chez Liberty London Girl and I have sideboard envy x

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What a lovely idea! Thanks for sharing.

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The pattern on that basin is gorgeous! I desperately want to do this now, will have to go on a charity shop hunt.

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This post has made me incredibly jealous because the daffs look gorgeous and I adore the idea on planting bulbs in vintage basins but alas- I share my home with a cat who seems to think that flowers and plants are very tasty and makes a bee line for them whenever they enter the house!
You display is beautiful, I will look forward to seeing what other containers you discover! x

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