“He loves me, he loves me not …” Who among us hasn’t plucked the petals of a daisy, wildly optimistic, or the petals of a star-flower, as in Goethe’s Faust, in which lovelorn Gretchen discovers, to her eternal damnation, that Faust does indeed love her. Apart from a shift in personal pronouns (“They love me, they love me not” anyone?), not much has changed in the arc of relationships.
Life may not be a bed of roses, but we can stop and smell them and even eat them, an act bound to improve the quality of anyone’s life. What a thrill it was, the first time I nibbled nasturtiums stolen from a neighbour’s window box cascade, the hot orange and yellow blooms peppery on my tongue. The culinary use of flowers dates back to the Romans. Think creamy squash blossoms dredged in flour and lightly fried, fiori di zucca fritti, best eaten hot and crispy with a glass of chilled Prosecco, preferably outdoors (in season) at just about any low-key trattoria lining the cobbled streets of Italy’s villages and cities. Or throw together your own, googling the Pizza Pilgrims’ recipe featured in a 2013 edition of The Irish Times. Close your eyes and you may swear you’re in Rome, which will have to do until you actually are.
There are so many flowers we can eat, in salads, on cake, candied, brewed as tea, or as floral cocktails almost too pretty to drink, from Sweet William to Johnny jump-ups, violets to verbena, mint, lavender, rose, pansy, dandelion … open a paper bag filled with dusty chamomile buds and the heady scent might make you drowsy, even before you steep the tiny flowers in boiled water for a sleepinducing cuppa at bedtime. Before you go garden centre grazing, check out the organically grown and hand-harvested selection at West Cork’s Bumblebee Flower Farm, Ireland’s first dedicated edible flower growers, because not all flowers are safe to eat; commercially grown plants are often treated with pesticides, a Happy Hour buzz kill.
While artisan florists like Appassionata Flowers and Les Fleurs fill orders, marking big occasions with ravishing seasonal bunches, conjuring love tokens in the form of demure posies of hand-tied spring flowers, Kerry-based Ann Marie O’Leary of The Flower Press Company encourages us to tell the stories of our days by foraging hedgerows, each pressed leaf and bloom and handwritten scrap of paper preserving a memory. We may be real-world strangers but, following each other on Instagram, Ann Marie and I discovered we love a dress in common, Oscar de la Renta’s romantic Fall 2021 floral tulle mini dress composed of 3D embroidered flowers, a swoony frock created by @oscardelarenta and Tricia Paoluccio of @modernpressedflower. Sold out, this to-die-for wearable museum piece is worth every cent of the $8,990 the lucky few forked out for it. Sigh. If you don’t bring me flowers anymore, then hand over the chocolate. @susanzelouf
This month’s moodboard:
1. I’M COMING UP roses in prizewinning blooms from Dolce & Gabbana’s SS21 collection.
2. SIPPING Adare Manor Garden Gin inspired by Adare’s walled garden and made at Midleton’s micro-distillery from figs and 17 super-fragrant botanicals including lavender. €95; www.shop.adaremanor.com.
3. I’M HOSTING parties for the birds and bees after an introductory course in Pollinator Friendly Gardening with www.bumblebeeflowerfarm.ie.
4. I?M FEELING in the pink in a playful pair of cat-eye Honeysuckle Flowers sunglasses. To order at www.luluguinness.com.
5. I?M ORDERING a buttercream-iced layer cake decorated with wild and cultivated edible flowers and leaves from www.theedibleflower.com, a farm-to-fork venture based in Saintfield, Co Down.
6. I?M MARKING the days rambling within 2km of home by pressing the hedgerow’s wondrous array of flora in a handcrafted press from The Flower Press Company, engraved with their wild hare logo. For big and little children; www.theflowerpresscompany.ie.
7. I?M HONOURING the passing of a beloved pup with a framed relief plasterwork by botanical artist Erica Devine. Shown here, her gilded ode to Knockrose in June; @devine.erica.
8. I?M SPRITZING Gucci Flora Limited Edition Gorgeous Gardenia, €79, www.gucci.com.
9. I?M SPARKLING In fuchsia drop earrings in white gold with rubies and golden South Sea pearls, the hinged clasp set with upside-down diamonds for extra lobe bling; www.nigeloreilly.com.
10. I?M COMMISSIONING a pair of rose-petal table lamps by Sasha Sykes from www.oliversearsgallery.com.
11. I?M BLOOMING in a billowy maxi dress by Oscar de la Renta.