It’s possible I’ve become a little bit too obsessed with dying flowers.
My housework abilities are a little on the lax side (I say, with some element of understatement) so it is pretty much guaranteed that if I have flowers in my house at any point, I will spend a good fortnight with dying flowers in my house.
In other words, at most points in time there is a little collection of decaying flowers sitting around somewhere.
Luckily for me, I’m completely entranced by the process of watching a flower slowly decay and shrivel away to nothing. So much so that I couldn’t help get a few photos of this one, shedding petals and turning brown in my hallway.
If you share this slightly odd penchant, check out the hashtag #lovelydeadcrap on Instagram. There are some beauties there to steal your heart right away from fresh living plantlife.
Oh the joys of an English summer! July was gloriously sunny for the most part and my garden has been putting forth some of my favourite flowers as a result.
If last month was a little bare, this month has surely been making up for it, with snapdragons, pink roses, white cosmos, frothy nigellas and a profusion of sweet peas. Hurrah for cottage garden flowers!
I grew five cosmos flowers from seed this year but — as is frequently my wont — left them too long in the greenhouse and four of them went horribly leggy as a result. They bloomed on top of their spindly legs, stuck out a mere two or so flowers and then collapsed groundwards, never to recover.
The one stunted runt of the litter, however, has turned into a lovely bushy shape and has been putting out a profusion of blooms over the last few weeks. I absolutely love white cosmos, so I’ve been very happy to see this plant colonising its patch of the flowerbed. I also grew some annual sweet peas from seed, the cultivar ‘Matucana’ — said to be one of the best scented. I’m not actually that crazy on the purple and blue colours of the flowers, but they certainly do smell wonderful.
Luckily, unexpectedly, a gloriously attractive pink sweet pea stuck its head above ground in my front garden. I’d completely forgotten that last year I had planted a few annual varieties but also a perennial, so was most pleased to see this reappear. It has absolutely no scent at all, but it does look stunning. So a little jug full of the two varieties together gives me good looks and good smells, ha ha.
Another unexpected but warmly welcomed visitor was this white snapdragon, self-seeded in the front garden from a whole window box full that I grew last year. (They were meant to be used as wedding table flowers, in fact, but bloomed too soon for our September wedding.)
Also in the front garden, we pulled out our diseased box hedge earlier in the springtime and planted a new hedge of rosa rugosa instead. I wasn’t expecting it to flower this year, so was ecstatically happy to see a few flowers this past week. Again, one with a phenomenal smell, redolent of an English park in summertime.
The nigellas I sowed in the flower bed in front of our kitchen put on a brilliant display for about, oooh, two weeks tops. Has anyone else had better luck at getting them to stay around for longer? Yes, they looked beautiful when they were in flower, yes, I love their little blue heads appearing over all the feathery leaves, but it felt like an awful lot of time with nothing but bare soil, then tiny seedlings, then a little froth of green, only to have a fortnight of the lovely flowers.
I do like their seed heads as well (despite their fairly strong resemblance to green testicles) and have even harvested enough for a whole display on their own (see this pic on instagram) but I definitely would rather have a bit more usage of the flower itself. Any tips?
My coriander all bolted while we were on holiday a few weeks back in the hot weather. Useless for eating, but I guess I’ll try and harvest the seeds instead. The white frothy flowers are rather attractive as well.
And the hot weather seems to be bringing out plants far more quickly than in usual years. I pulled my first crop of blackberries the other week, not normally this plump and juicy til September.
In the greenhouse, I also spotted my first ready-to-eat cucamelon. I’ve been growing these for a few years now. They’re a cross between a watermelon and a cucumber (as if you couldn’t tell that from the name) and I really like them in salads because, well, they look super cute. You can see the beauty of them here:
But this gives you an idea of the size:
The Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ that I bought a few months back is the plant that just keeps on giving. When I first got it there was one little purple flower spike. Over the past few months, a steady succession have pushed on through, heading higher and higher for the sky and putting out more and more tiny purple flowers with every day. I cut some of the tallest spikes back as they were starting to look a little straggly at the bottom and plenty more have taken their place.
Finally, the last delight I’ve cut down in its prime purely to photograph is this lovely pink rose bud.
It’s the last to bloom on the rose bush in the neighbour’s garden that leans over our fence to get the best of the sunlight. We’ve had a succession of flowers for the past few months, but I love them the best when they’re still just in bud. Unscented, sadly, but beautiful to look at… Phewee, that was something of a bumper post, many congratulations if you’ve read the plant chat all the way down to here! It’s been a profusion of prettiness this month but, I fear, nothing is there waiting in the wings to take its place in September. So next month, you might have just a solitary photo of an apple or a plum. Watch this space!
Last Wednesday I spent a gorgeous sunny day wandering round Hampton Court flower show.
It was an English summer personified: the drowsy song of bees in the air, the sun beating down with occasional white clouds drifting across the blue skies, endless (endless!) stalls selling Pimms and rather a lot of people dressed in striped blazers and Panama hats.
I managed to spot a glimpse of Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Mary Berry, which added to the excitement of course, but I also got lots of inspiration from the gardens and stalls around the show.
I am planning to redesign and replant my own little patch of green this autumn and I came away with lots of ideas I’d love to translate back to my own space.
Here are five pieces of inspiration I took away from the show, in the hope they might also inspire you!
1. Use native planting to attract insects
As far as I’m concerned, this is preaching to the converted. Who wouldn’t want lots of colourful butterflies and buzzing bees in their garden, helping pollinate all the fruit and veg?
Lots and lots of gardens featured naturalistic planting and wildflowers, but the Macmillan legacy garden, above and below, was definitely my favourite.
The plants chosen were all native to Somerset (where Douglas Macmillan grew up) and included verbena, alchemilla, ammi majus, anemones, campanula, grasses, foxgloves, geraniums, hostas, sedum and thyme. In short, loads of my very favourite plants!
2. You can still pack a punch with small borders
It’s easy to walk around a show like Hampton Court and think, “sure, this all looks lovely, but I just don’t have space in my own garden to do anything like this…”
The Al Fresco summer garden, though, provided great inspiration for planting in small beds. The majority of the garden was hard landscaping, with a central dining table, covered by a pergola, and built in barbecue.
The area was surrounded by a number of raised beds, of fairly small dimensions, but full of gorgeous flowers, more than making their mark despite the small space they were confined in. Definitely one to provide encouragement to all those who, like me, only have a small space for planting…
3. Use your garden for what you love
Before I started my horticulture and design course last year, I had rather set ideas about what a garden should be.
Surely every garden needed a lawn, a patio, some borders and so on?
Of course, this is complete nonsense. Your garden should contain only the elements you want and will use.
No interest in a lawn but lots of time entertaining outside? Don’t bother including one, just create an amazing dining space like the Al Fresco garden above.
Obsessed with growing tender plants? Forget everything else and just have a greenhouse then! This one from Allitex is surely the greenhouse dream and I loved the way it had been surrounded by flower beds.
Not a show garden, of course, just a display by the company, but I lusted after it nonetheless.
(Perhaps one day I will be able to afford one to replace the beast…)
4. Simplicity is key
I am something of a magpie when it comes to my garden. I want to include every single lovely plant I have ever seen somewhere within its four fences…
But this display on an allium nursery’s stand reminded me of the importance of paring it back with plant choices and with colours. Less range of plants, but growing in profusion, is definitely more in design terms…
Sure, I don’t want to restrict myself to just alliums in my garden, but this was a great reminder of just how striking simplicity can be.
5. Plant up in everything you can…
…but don’t forget a cohesive style
I adored this stall which sold lots of zinc planters and buckets and milk urns and a million other wonderful things.
My garden currently has everything planted in the beds, with a few scattered pots here and there.
But planting up all sorts of unusual objects can have a wonderful effect. These zinc buckets, for example, would look fabulous planted as a herb garden.
Remember to match the planters to the style of your garden, however, to ensure you achieve cohesion of ideas. These would look great in a cottage style garden, as would terracotta pots.
A contemporary urban garden might suit aluminium or concrete pots better. Don’t be tempted to mix too many different materials together or the overall look can become a little bitty…
So, plenty of inspiration for me as I start to plan the next phase of my ever-evolving garden. And I’m booking myself a ticket to next year’s show as soon as I can!
Of course, but of course, I have Pinterest boards for these sorts of things too. If you love a beautiful garden as much as I do, follow my Dream garden plans board for lots of stunning designs. And my board Plants, plants, plants started as a place to save plants we were learning about in my horticulture course and has evolved into a place to save details of every plant I come across that I love. You can see a preview of both below, just click on the photos to go to the full board…
I know, I know, I’ve been a bit garden-tastic over the past few weeks, what with all my chat about greenhouses and sheds and so on. I am working on some more craft-related posts at the moment too, you may be relieved to hear, but I couldn’t resist joining in once more this week with Mammasaurus’s How does your garden grow?
The sporadically glorious weather of June, combined with some bloody awful rainy weather, has been good to my garden.
I’ve been pottering about in the greenhouse with my seedlings at any rare gardening opportunities I have, leaving everything else to pretty much get on with it. And get on with it, it has.
The plants I bought a few weeks ago are all now planted into their final positions. I couldn’t find a good spot for the wallflower, so I have it in a pot on the table on the patio, where it just keeps growing taller and taller and producing more and more flowers. I’ve been really pleased with this plant (it’s the cultivar ‘Bowles Mauve’) and I definitely want to try and get some cuttings next spring to make a little thicket of them in a bed somewhere.
In the bed closest to the house, I sowed lots of hardy annuals earlier in the year. I think it was cornflowers, nigella and poppies. I then, rather foolishly, paid them little attention and let some weeds outcompete them, so I have a tiny little patch of seedlings coming up and lots of other bare patches of soil where I only pulled the weeds out once they had got really big. Luckily, the other side of the bed is also awash with a rather nice heuchera, a honeysuckle and lashings of campanula. So I shall just focus my attention on the right hand side.
In my main bed, the pin cushion flower has settled in happily. In bud I think it’s just as impressive when in flower.
Next to it, the erigeron is also attractive flowering and just beforehand.
And a little further down some nicotiana, bought from the same garden shop trip a few weeks back, are stunning. The flowers are really gorgeous, but they’re on spindly stems, so I think in future I need to grow them through some ground cover to make them look a bit more attractive.
Next to them, this alstroemeria is another legacy from the previous residents. It’s very happy here and grows well every year but, though I like it as a cut flower, I have to confess I find it a little garish in the beds. I’m undecided about what to do — try and move it elsewhere, perhaps a spot on its own somewhere where it can be the star of the show, rather than competing with lots of my (predominantly blue, purple and white) flowers? Get rid of it altogether, which seems a shame? Or perhaps I should just cut every single stem as soon as the flowers appear and bring them all inside for vases?! Okay, last option a little foolish, but, hmmm, I really need to think about it a little more…
On the other side, by the pond, I have no idea what this lovely white plant is, but I love it. (Of course I love it. It’s white!)
And opposite, an old and very woody lavender looks pretty leggy most of the year but, oh, it’s worth it for this glorious sight (and smell) in the summer months…
Past this point, back towards the greenhouse, it all starts to go downhill rapidly into a vast jungle of weeds. Some are brambles, so at least we’ll have blackberries later in the year, but lots just need to be hacked back and dug up. Something I never quite find time for. I decided earlier this year to leave some unidentified plants that looked a bit like geraniums. They’ve taken over in a massive way and I think they are a sort of geranium weed. The plants are nearly as tall as me, the flowers quite tiny in proportion, but, at least, very pretty.
The hubby is off work for four weeks in July, so I’m hoping to use the opportunity to spend lots and lots of time in the garden then, sorting it all out. And after that, I promise, I’ll show you some photos of the whole thing. (Disclaimer: photos only appearing if I can actually make the overall garden look nice.)
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know have a bit of a penchant for photographing flowers. (For which read, my feed is stuffed full of floral photos, mostly taken on my daily wanderings round Peckham Rye Park.*)
But there was another reason that my feed was 90% flowers: my crappy iPhone 3 which objected strongly to photographing anything indoors in focus and most other big things outside too. Flowers, for some reason, it was fairly happy with.
Since I’ve just upgraded to a phone with a much better camera, though, I thought it was time to branch out (geddit?) and move past the individual flower to whole trees as well.
I’ve developed a bit of a love of trees since starting my horticulture course last year. I mean, it’s not that I ever didn’t like them, but now I’ve started to really notice their individual characteristics.
The way a birch tree’s branches sway and flitter in the wind; the amazing unique leaf shape of a Gingko biloba; the fabulous bark on a mature horse chestnut…
But, I have to confess, I’m still able to identify only a very few trees, so my aim over this summer is to photograph lots and find out what they are.
If this sounds vaguely interesting to you too, follow me over on Instagram to see some more. (All photos in this post are from my feed.)
And if you’re a good tree recogniser, I will be calling on you for help over the coming months!
Have I mentioned that I’m getting married in a few weeks? Oh yes, I have. About six gazillion times.
In a classic “how hard can it really be?” moment, I decided that it would be a good idea to arrange all my own wedding flowers. Actually, I had originally planned to grow them, transport them and arrange them myself, but the 60 white snap dragon plants that I’d been nurturing since spring all flowered six weeks ago, so that was the end of the grow-it-myself plan. Enter new plan: buy wholesale, drive to Shropshire and then arrange. Simple!
So on Wednesday this week, I set my alarm for 3.30am and cajoled my Mum into driving me to the new Covent Garden flower market in Vauxhall, to do a trial run of the wedding flower plans. My dining room currently resembles a florists shop, as you can see from the photo above…
Some of the stalls at the market will actually deliver if you’re based in London, so I won’t have to brave such a ridiculously early start two days before the wedding which is excellent news. (Huge bags to my cheekbones isn’t quite the fresh faced wedding look I’m after.)
But of course, I need to try out some plans for my bouquets, table flowers and buttonholes in advance. Firstly to make sure they work and secondly to figure out how many of each flower I’m going to need.
I’m a fan of British flowers, or at least flowers which have been grown in this country, so I really wanted to go for some seasonal blooms that look (almost) as if I might have grown them in my own garden.
I thought I’d share my finds with you, in case anyone else is looking for inspiration for flowers from late Summer too…
Poppy seed heads
First up, these absolutely stunning poppy seed heads. Big, bold, architectural and interesting, I think I’m going to put a few in my bouquet and save some for table flowers as well. I’m also going to make sure I hold onto them afterwards and let the seeds ripen so I can hopefully collect them and sow them in my own garden.
What more can you say about flowering mint? It’s mint, it smells beautiful. And the flowers are really delicate and cottage gardeny, which is my favourite sort of look…
I love the spikiness and wildness of the thistles. Along with the gorgeous blue colour too. You may notice, there’s mostly a blue and white theme going on here.
I have to admit, I know little about lisianthus, but I’m hoping that they’ll be able to stay out of water long enough to take a good central place in my bouquet. The colour on these is so vibrant it lifts the more muted blues and whites of the other flowers. But the thing I love even more is the spiralled purple and white of the closed buds. Gorgeous.
Well, I had to have some white snapdragons. I adore these plants. When we were little, we always picked the flowers off and made them “talk”… I’m going to have some of these spiralling out of the bouquet as well as quite a few in the table arrangements as well.
These are not only beautiful, but the piney stems smell heavenly and they last for ages out of water. I’m using some sprays of these as buttonholes (along with lavender from my garden), quite a few will go into the bouquet and they will also go into the table jars. And even then, I’ll probably have armfuls of the stuff left over from the bunch I’m buying as you get a lot for your money!
They’re cabbages. I love that.
A really bright blue colour, these also seem slow to open their buds, which makes them perfect for keeping for a few days before they need to show off.
Best flower name ever? Known as the star of the Bethlehem, this is white and green with dark black centres. I’d never come across it before, but it might be making it onto my list of top flowers ever… I’ll just be using one in the bouquet and probably will dedicate a few to the table arrangements as well.
I spent yesterday afternoon trying out different table arrangements, planning the buttonholes and practicing the bouquet. But this post is already super long, so I’ll save that for tomorrow…
Once again, I’m counting this post as one of my photos of the day, too, since, hey, it does have some photos in. See more of my August break photos.
I’m half way through a big detailed post about all my wedding flowers, which I was planning on publishing today. But sitting down just now to finish it off, I discover I’ve got a fuzzy Friday evening head on, so the words don’t feel like coming out.
Instead, here is a little sneak peek of what’s to come. I apologise in advance for two days of flowers in a row…
I’m six days late with my garden moodboard for August, though looking at the photo you could be forgiven for thinking I was month late and this was the bounty for September.
What’s happened to all my flowers? These are literally the only few I could find. (And the rose was one of only two blooming, so I suspect I might regret cutting that off…)
July was a veritable florist’s shop out the back there, but now almost everything seems to have died away and I’m left with bare patches in the beds and lots and lots and lots of green.
Definitely something I need to sort out next year; I think all these pink flowers would look even nicer if they were against a backdrop of swathes of white and blue flowers. (Of course I would think that, though, I think white and blue flowers are the very nicest things that can ever be grown…)
Of the flowers that are there, I’m not sure what this one is. It’s in a little thicket of foliage that looks a bit like thyme and it’s very small and delicate:
And I feel as if this one might be a scabious, but I also could just be making that up:
The flowers may have gone, but the fruit and veg are doing very well. The three apples trees are heaving with apples. There are also plums on the plum tree, but not as many so I didn’t want to sacrifice one for a photo.
The borlotti beans have been growing away in pots right at the back of the garden and are beautiful and thoroughly cheering every time I look at them.
Of course, nobody should confess to having blackberries in their back garden, but my neighbour’s garden is something of a haven for brambles and I let a fair few survive the fence clambering into mine for these delicious blackberries.
Joining in with Asa’s monthly moodboards. (And, I have to say, some of those other photos are really putting mine to shame. Think I need to step it up next month and try something new…)