Growing chrysanthemums

The garden is beginning to flourish and colour is beginning to appear. I’ve recently been inspired by a lady called Beck Crowley who grows flowers for Chatsworth House, before Christmas she posted some stunning photos on instagram of ‘Avignon Pink‘ chrysanths that she was growing in the greenhouses there.

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My baby plants

I began to look for the avignon chrysanth but the closest option I got was ‘Allouise Pink’ as you’ll see above. I love when you order plants online and they arrive as teeny tiny green shoots like this. you’ll see the colour that they will be here, you can see they are a softer pink and less peach than the avignon pink but I think they are equally as stunning.

I’m determined to see if I can get single blooms from these plant’s as opposed to spray chrysanthemums, so I’ve decided to keep them at home and as I can pay a bit more attention to them.

I’m planting them out in our leek patch as I have a small garden and space is limited, the leeks are going to seed at the moment and I can’t resist leaving them in as they are going to flower (blame the florist in me). Before I plant out, I’ve nipped out the side shoots to encourage the plant to put all its energy into the top bloom.

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Next part of the process

Having planted them, I’ve realised I’ll have to put stakes in once they get bigger as I don’t want to get buffeted by wind. I’ll see how they get on in the meantime and look forward to fabulous blooms in the Summertime. I have to apologise as I need to be fairly liberal with slug pellets as they are vicious with new plants in my garden.

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All snug in the ground

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Expansion of the ‘Not So Secret Garden’

Well, much has been going on at Hartley Farm during February and March as we prepare for the new growing season for ‘Young Blooms’. The Poly tunnel is beginning to fill with seedlings and Spring is firmly on its way.

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Seedlings looking good

We very much wanted to encourage Becks to regularly contribute to the flowers we are growing this year but ended to consider some additional space for a raised bed areas that she could easily access for planting, weeding and picking flowers. The Hartley team have therefore extended the ‘Not-So-Secret Garden’ area by changing what was previously a grassy slope near the car park and turning it into a raised bed while creating easy wheelchair access.

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Our new raised bed

Now all we have to do is dig over the area and add lots of compost and well-rotted manure ready for some summer colour. We’ll also plant some herbs in this area which can readily be accused by Grace and her florists for adding to bouquets sold at ‘Young Blooms’.

In addition to the wheelchair raised bed area, we asked for a pathway to be made through the middle of what was an unmanageable, sloping flower bed which we used for perennials and shrubs. You can see a before and after shot, with the bed in question to the right of Becks and Grace.

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The before picture

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Our pathway down into the garden

We now have two pieces of garden on this area which will be much more workable, though there’s lots of digging and wedding and feeding of the soil before we plant in earnest on these patches.

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Polytunnel News..

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We have collected quite a few plant pots

We’ve spent the last few days tidying and cleaning the polytunnel in preparation for the new sowing season which begins from the end of January. We start with Sweet Peas, a hardy annual and have about five different varieties to sow, all in separate ‘long rooted planting tubes’.

We seem to have accumulated a vast range of plant pots and seed trays, but its surprising the quantities we use as the sowing and growing season progresses.

Its important to use clean plant pots and trays to ensure the growth of healthy young plants, so there;s a lot of washing up to be done in the coming weeks! We’ll also be using the pressure hose to give outside of the polytunnel a good clean which in turn will allow the maximum light in, to encourage plant growth, and then lighting an insect killer ‘block’ which releases smoke to kill off any unwanted parasites.

Wallflowers and Sweet Williams

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Our sweet-williams are looking promising…

Both the wallflowers and sweet-williams which we planted out last September/October (having first sown in seed trays last August) are looking well and have grown considerably since putting in the ground. We look forward to the scented flowers both plants will produce, with the wallflowers being picked around March, hopefully with some of the tulips we also planted as bulbs last November. They’ll make lovely Spring bouquets!

 

 

 

 

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Sweet-williams in the mix

 

 

The Sweet Williams should flower in May and make a perfect cut flower with a long ‘vase life’ in a variety of pink, red as well as white shades. They flower at a time when many summer garden flowers are yet to blooms, so are a good in between season flower to grow.

 

 

 

Flowering Sprouts!

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Our flowering sprouts have finally arrived

 

Yes you really can get ‘flowering sprouts’ – so much nicer than the edible variety! These were grown from seed around May last year and on initially planning our, were pecked by the local pigeon population! They consequently had to be dug up and given some TLC back in the polytunnel before planting out again and tying lots of CDs on string around the planting area to scare off the pigeons this time. We had hoped that the plants would produce little florets in time for Grace’s Christmas Wreath making workshops, held last December, but whilst the plants looked healthy enough sadly , only very tiny florets were appearing on the stems and of no use whatsoever in the Christmas Wreaths!

Still, we haven’t completely given up on them – maybe they will have grown sufficiently to use for one of Grace’s Easter floral projects instead!

Welcome to our new Blog-writers

At the start of a new week, I thought it would be good to introduce Helen and Christine who are going to be taking over the blog once a month, I’ll allow them to tell you a bit about themselves….

Hi, we are the gardeners who work in the ‘Not So Secret Garden’. We sow the seeds, plant out, weed and ultimately hope to pick blooming lovely flowers for Grace’s florist business. Hopefully, we aim to give you an insight into the ‘ups and downs’ of flower farming at Hartley.

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Helen & Christine looking fabulous

We thought for your amusement, that we would share a photo of the chickens being confused by a pomegranate. Most Mondays when we come to work, feeding the chickens is the first job of the day (don’t tell Grace) Being in the garden and surrounded by nature makes Mondays a lot easier.

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Breakfast time

We are keeping it short and simple this week as it’s been our first attempt at blog writing, think we will have to have a rest in a darkened room….

Helen & Christine. xx

Fabulous foliage

Although the garden is a riot of flowers at this time of year – zinnias and dahlias taking centre stage – it’s good to celebrate the less showy stalwarts of the cutting patch – the stars of foliage row.

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Rosemary and lavender have been fabulous for us this year

If you want to reflect the seasons in your arrangements, to add texture and movement, and use materials that will create impact and last, then using foliage is the way to do it and growing a range of suitable varieties couldn’t be easier. Greenery is never just green, of course. It can be silver-grey, yellow, deep red or browns.

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Lemon balm is a brilliant scented foliage to use, just make sure to condition it well!

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Sage is another helpful scented foliage to use

We use a huge range of foliage in our arrangements. Herbs are popular – lemon balm, mint, lavender, dill, oregano and rosemary are favourites along with eucalyptus, euphorbia, gypsophila, ammi majus, orlaya and ladies mantle. It’s a real boon to be able to pick a few stems or sprigs to add that special something to one of our homegrown bouquets.

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Fun to try different styles of arrangements using just foliage

Healthy gardens

It seems we all can’t believe the summer is nearly over, it’s quite a topic of conversation in the Young Blooms Shop. I was out walking the hound this afternoon and noticing the leaves turning in the park and thinking about the different seasons that we see in the garden and how I feel more importantly about how the relationships of the team have developed and grown through the three years  that the garden has been going.

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The team has grown…

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Becks and myself

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Becks working hard in the garden….

 

If you know the story of the first year of the garden then you’ll know we have experienced huge loss, but also huge rebirth for want of a better word. If you see the picture of myself and becks standing together above you will know how incredibly far she has come in 3 years.

Recently another member of our garden family has experienced a very sad loss and yet through it I was struck by how much the garden has come to mean to them, becks and myself.

The garden and gardening in itself is a very healing thing, I was cutting sunflowers early on Saturday morning for the shop and loving what a peaceful place it is. You are constantly seeing death and life running its natural cycle in the garden. The sweet-peas have nearly all come out and yet we are putting in sweet-william and cornflowers for next year which are already being ear-marked for weddings in early 2017.

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Our new work-space…

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I think sometimes until a big experience stops you and makes you think, then you can take places and people for granted. But being in a reflective mood this evening, I realise I am hugely thankful for what the garden is. Even if it gives my gang refuge for a couple of hours a week then I will be thankful….

xx

Summer in the garden

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There’s the picture of the summer in the garden – lovely Becs pulling up the weeds and generally making everything shipshape in one of the flowerbeds with Bev Pace from charity ‘Back on Track’ providing moral and practical support in the background. gracegarden-009

Our sign got a facelift too. We’ve come a long way in three seasons. The garden is fuler, with a greater variety of flowers and is abuzz with bees and people. The team has increased in size; Young Blooms has a new shopfront, closer to the garden and we’re featuring regularly in the press, spreading the word about the benefits of growing British flowers.

And late summer is dahlia and zinnia time. Even the wind and rain of the last few days can’t dampen our spirits. Gardens have a habit of lifting the spirits, don’t they?

Dahlia Love

We are great fans of those queens of the late summer cutting patch – dahlias. Available in rich, jewel hues or elegant pastel shades they are reliable and prolific plants which keep on giving for minimal input.

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Staking is important – to ensure that they are not battered by the August and September breezes, which have been quite strong this year. Other than that, deadhead regularly and pop a few upturned flowerpots stuffed with straw onto canes in amongst them to catch the earwigs and they’ll provide you with bucketfuls of lovely blooms right through the late summer, into the autumn and up to the first frosts.

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We chopped down and lifted last year’s tubers after they had been blackened by the frosts, packed them in newspaper and stored them in a cool, frost-free environment. Then we planted them straight into the ground at the end of April. They are just coming into their own now.

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We’re particularly fond of cafe au lat and any of the deep burgundy varieties but any dahlia is a lovely dahlia.

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Grower’s tip – Cut the stems of the first flowers short and you’ll ensure that subsequent blooms grow on longer stems and don’t forget to shake off any earwigs before bringing them indoors.

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Our dahlias will be finding their way into bouquets and arrangements over the next few weeks but there will be some for sale in our new shop at Hartley Farm. 

Why not pop in and say hello?

 

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Becks gets ‘Back on Track’

The sun is shining; we’re picking bucketfuls of blooms every day and Becks is back where she belongs, working in the garden with the help of a motorised wheelchair, adapted garden tools, bags of determination on her part and the support of Bev Pace and her charity Back on Track SLS (Stroke Rehabilitation Service) which provides hands-on support, advice, advocacy and practical help for stroke survivors of working age.

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Summer blooms from the garden

Bev is a force of nature – positive, practical and resourceful so it’s no surprise that she has single-handedly set up a charity which does so  much good work. An Occupational Therapist who has worked for the Stroke Association, four years ago she saw the need for practical hands-on help for working age stroke survivors and set about doing something to plug the gap. Whilst there was plenty of written advice for stroke victims and their carers there was little in the way of day-to-day help working alongside people in their rehabilitation as they adapt to a new way of life. Watching Bev working alongside Becks in the garden, it is easy to see why this is so important. Her can-do attitude and practical advice is empowering. Currently she works with up to 35 clients and their carers throughout Wiltshire at any one time. Referrals come from stroke units in hospitals as well as family members of stroke survivors.

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In addition to working alongside stroke survivors, the charity advocates on behalf of its clients with employers and the Benefits department, facilitates a weekly social in Melksham where clients and carers can support each other and share ideas and runs short courses on computing, photography and even one-handed cookery. Meeting every client at their point of need is the key to getting them back on track, whether it’s accompanying a former rugby player to the gym, teaching a mother who has lost the use of one hand to cook again or getting a gardener back to work in the environment they love most.

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Not the best photo but at least you get an idea of Becks grovey new scooter!

The charity operates mostly on the generosity of individuals and small businesses who organise sponsored events or make small donations in addition to any successful grant applications. Bev’s daughter recently completed a sponsored hike to Machu Pichu and accountants from Mander Duffill have been skydiving to raise funds. The firm also provide free accountancy services to the charity enabling them to keep their costs down. Bev is conscious that using the skills of the clients themselves is  beneficial for everyone and so they sit on the committee, making decisions about the direction the charity takes and compile the newsletter and publicity materials amongst other things.

Bev’s dream is to be able to develop the charity to allow for the employment of a full-time counsellor and a speech therapist in addition to the occupational therapy specialism that she herself provides. She is also actively developing relationships with local businesses which will allow for more volunteering opportunities in the world of  work for stroke survivors, enabling them to learn new skills and equip themselves to be able to return to paid work in the future. We think we might be seeing more of Bev and some of her clients in the garden in the future. The garden is a great place to learn new skills, make new friends and start to feel positive again but for now we couldn’t be happier to see Becks getting back on track.

Details of the charity can be found here. If you feel you can support them with a donation, a sponsored event or volunteering opportunity, do get in touch.

Celebrating our upcycled greenhouse

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Our green-house in all it’s glory!

We love a bit of recycling and upcycling in the Not so Secret Garden and this year we have excelled ourselves with an entire upcycled greenhouse making use of old windows and doors.

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Gradually, despite the bonkers weather the building took shape, thanks to some precision woodworking from Craig.

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A thing of beauty and a joy forever, we’ve already made good use of it for workshops in the garden. Why not pop up and see it? Maybe it will provide you with some inspiration for your own garden upcycling project.