Crazy mixed up seasons

Remember when seasons used to be very distinct? Winter cold snaps kept the slug population under control; April showers came right on cue to water in your newly planted seedlings and the midsummer heat wave was there to help your crops put on a spurt.

Bath, british flowers.

Our seedlings starting up

Bath, British flowers

Both 2015 and 2016 have been bonkers with warm dry springs and wet, cooler summers. The perennials have done well in these circumstances and our spring-sown sweet peas have romped away; but it’s true to say that the late sown half-hardy annuals have struggled a little to get going because of the lack of heat.

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Our early sweet-peas

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We’ve mitigated some of the effects by using the greenhouse and polytunnel and waited to plant out until the temperatures are better. Big temperature differences put plants under stress and there are certainly more pests and diseases after a mild winter. There’s never a dull moment in flower farming. You have to keep vigilant and flexible to weather conditions and its effects on your plants. We’re learning every day.

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Sunflowers we started in the polytunnel

We’d be interested to know how your flower gardens are growing season by season.

Workshop heaven

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Five lovely ladies who joined us for our workshop.

We’ve been making the most of our glorious harvest of beautiful blooms working in partnership with Young Blooms running a series of workshops at Hartley Farm shop and in Newton St Loe. The ladies who joined us made some awesome hand-tied bouquets.

Sharing hints and tips for growing and arranging traditional British blooms was a great way to celebrate British Flowers Week. The British cut flower industry has been in decline for years in the face of cheap imported blooms which can be picked up in the supermarkets, but there is nothing in the world which shouts British summer more than a jar of home-grown sweet peas on the kitchen table.

Why stop there when you can gather nigella, cornflowers in several hues, sweet williams…..the list goes on.

If you fancy growing some flowers of your own, why not sign up to our newsletter? We send out a monthly email full of advice for what to do and grow in your own cutting patch.

And if you don’t have time then there are always plenty of fragrant home-grown blooms for sale over the summer in the farmshop.

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Sumptuous flowers from the garden

Both workshops were so successful that we’ve decided to run more. The next will be a Floral Heart workshop on 7 August at Hartley. Keep your eyes peeled on the Young Blooms website and in the shop for booking details.

Celebrating British Flowers

We couldn’t be more pleased with the development of the garden. This week we’ve been cutting our first proper harvest of the ‘summer’ and bunches of cornflowers have been on sale at Hartley Farm shop. It’s great to be able to offer home-grown blooms with no air miles to customers – whether they are locals looking for a fragrant posy for a bedside table or a bride wanting a truly home-grown wedding day.

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All grown in our garden

June 11th saw the start of what is now an annual event British Flowers Week, organised by Covent Garden Flower Market to promote the British flower industry.  “British cut flowers are back in fashion, fuelled by the rise of artisan flower growers and the trend for vintage, seasonality, fragrance and more naturalistic design. Nonetheless, British-grown flowers are still thought to represent less than 15% of the £2bn worth of flowers sold in the UK every year.”

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Sumptuous flowers from the garde


We celebrated too by holding a British flowers workshop on June 11th which included  a tour of the garden and talk from us, picking some blooms to create a hand-tie, learning some tips and tricks and enjoying a scrumptious cream tea.

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Five lovely ladies who joined us for our workshop.



May in the garden


Every day brings new flowers and changes to the garden in May. We have a well-stocked plot beginning to burst forth and, as you see, our upcycled greenhouse is taking shape thanks to Craig.  We hope to have it fully completed in time for our British Flower Workshop on June 11th, celebrating British Flowers Week. Starting at 11.30am. It’s £35 per person and includes a short talk from us, a guide to creating a hand-tie of our flowers which you will be able to take home and a scrumptious cream tea! If you would like to book then call Hartley Farm shop to secure your place on 01225 864948. Book soon as there are only 5 tickets left.img_7333

The succulents continue to do well and we’re already selling our cornflowers in the farm shop and the love in the mist are ready to be picked too. This year we hope to use our garden flowers in the Hartley Farm cafe all through the summer.

Look out for them when you visit and while you’re here, take a wander around the garden and see what else is new.01043f1235298f1510fead9be260fdbd38f04a221b

Sweet peas for summer

Bath, British flowers

Having kept a beady eye on the weather for a week or two, this week we finally decided the time was right to plant out the sweet peas. One of the stalwarts of the traditional cottage garden, to cut flower growers they truly are the gift that keeps on giving, producing numerous fragrant and beautiful blooms over a long season – provided that you keep on top of picking them. Any blooms left unpicked will quickly develop seed pods and then you can wave goodbye to your blooms. Of course, towards the end of the season, this is a positive boon as you can save the seeds to sow next year’s crop.British flowers, bradford on avon

We have experimented with growing up sweet peas up wigwams and trellis as well as in the traditional criss cross of poles, as we are doing this year and varied the numbers of plants scrambling up each pole. This year we are sticking to one healthy plant only per pole to see if this, along with a rigorous system of tying the plants in regularly will give us longer and straighter stems. Bath, british flowers

On the whole, sweet peas are easy to grow, provided that you put in a little bit of time to maintaining them once they are growing, tying the plants in and untying and sliding the plants down the poles once they have reached the top to encourage fresh top growth and stronger healthier blooms. The ‘spent’  growth at the bottom of the pole provides ground cover to suppress the weeds. You can also pinch out side shoots to promote more flowers – although this may result in poorer quality blooms.

They are hungry feeders so feed them regularly throughout their growing and blooming season with a well-balanced fertilizer and try to keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Besides mildew, sweet peas are susceptible to aphids when they’re blooming. but t a strong spray of water usually deals with the aphids.


Young Blooms will be using them in summer bouquets and in wedding displays but you’ll also find bunches for sale at Hartley Farm Shop. Rarely seen in florists shops or supermarket flower buckets they are a firm favourite for a kitchen table or bedside posy.

A change in the Season

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This might seem to be a strange photo to start this blog off with but it was a celebration we had a couple of weeks ago after Becks had come up to the garden on the bus by herself. She’s now been home for just over a month, so you can see we’ve certainly moved into a new season in the garden!

Next weekend it will mark two years since Becks suffered an aneurysm and just over two years since we started the Not So Secret Garden. It seems to have flown by and I can’t believe how far Becks has come.

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I think there are times where I grieve greatly for what has happened and how it’s affected Becks and Craig and the garden in a strange way but when I apply a glass half attitude I’m immensely thankful that Becks is now home and still in one piece to put it simply. It’s hard to put it into words without sounding twee or wishy washy, but I’m sure you know what I mean….

I’m also immensely proud of where the garden has come too and thankful for the team that we have, Helen and Christine are both fabulous and hard-working, Becks is beginning slowly to come back into work and we also have Jonathan who’s joined our gang over the last couple of months.

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As we all adjust to having Becks back I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and what will unfold in the Not So Secret Garden.

Normal service will resume on the blog next weekend and we look forward to sharing all our sweet-pea tips and tricks.

Grace xx

Visitors to the garden

As well as a flurry of spring pre-planting preparation and seed sowing we have been welcoming some special visitors to the Not So Secret Garden recently. We’re always pleased to see Marie Lennon from BBC Radio Wiltshire. Marie has been one of our supporters from the very start, when the cutting patch at Hartley Farm shop and Cafe was just a dream. Recently she came back to the garden to see how the plot is developing.

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Being interviewed down in the garden by Marie Lennon

You can hear all about it by tuning in to her afternoon show on April 3rd. We’ll pop up a link as soon as it becomes available and we’ll be popping up on the radio once a month to update you on our growing plans and share hints and tips for growing cut flowers. As you can see we’re very excited.


We’ve also been visited by Claire from Perennial, a charity who have been supporting our plans to get Becks back up to the Garden. They help horticulturalists who have suffered accidents or financial hardship and provide a whole raft of advice, help and services for horticulturalists. We all met Claire recently to talk through the situation and are looking forward to working more closely together in the future. You can follow their work on Twitter or by logging on to their website

We’re always happy to show people round the garden. Why not pop in when you’re next up at Hartley ?

Celebrating Mothering Sunday

Seasonal scent and colour for a much loved mum

Seasonal scent and colour for a much loved mum

Our partners at Young Blooms are flat out this weekend preparing lots of beautiful bouquets for the mothers of Bath and West Wiltshire. Meanwhile the garden is enjoying a spot of spring sunshine after the snow (yes snow!) last night. Not that it lasted long in our part of the world. A wander around the lanes nearby reveals clumps of snowdrops, hanging on, wild daffodils and primroses coming into their own. Meanwhile, in the churches nearby, groups of volunteers are busily making up small posies of spring flowers and foliage for the children to give to their mums in the Mothering Sunday service tomorrow.

Traditionally, on Mothering Sunday, three weeks before Easter Sunday, sons and daughters who were in service and required to work at Easter were given the day off to return home to their families and ‘mother church’ carrying a simnel cake, which they had baked and stopping to gather posies of wild spring flowers from the hedgerows. It was a welcome break and celebration in the middle of the

We are happy to keep up the tradition and endorse this combination of spring flowers, cake and getting together with family and friends by holding two spring workshops in the garden in March. Bring a friend, learn a new skill and take home something lovely for Easter. Details here.

Welcome back Becs

I was sat with Rebecca’s husband last Friday in the garden chatting about the month to come, Becks is due home from rehab at the end of March and we were talking about how it was all going. It’s a lot to take in that it was two years ago that Becks and I dreamed up this idea of growing flowers in the Not So Secret Garden to sell at Hartley Farm-shop for Young Blooms and two years ago that Becks suffered with an aneurysm followed by two strokes and is where she is now.


I trawled back through photos of my phone that I have kept of the start of our garden and it’s strange to look at the photo above. We had a photographer friend come take this shot, as we had just been to the garden centre to buy some plants to help the sloped section of the garden get  head start. Becks had been sourcing logs to help our wild-life corner so with all these bits we tried to create a shot looking like we were already standing in an established garden. I think this is where you use your imagination!



I don’t have many pictures of becks working in the garden before she became ill, mostly I never knew she was there. I would finish work at Young Blooms and walk down to the garden and find she planted a whole row of lavender….

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Our lavender being planted 2 years ago by Becks

She was an absolute workhorse and would go like crazy at a project with all her strength, I guess that is going to be the intriguing and also tricky thing as she leaves rehabilitation to see what work will look like for her now. She is beginning to walk again, which was amazing to see and is manoeuvring herself around a lot more. She still has a hell of a long way to go but Becks is a very determined character and I’m looking forward to seeing what part her work in the garden will look like.

I’m a firm believer that there are seasons in everyone’s life and some are a heck of a lot harder than others. Standing on the side-lines and sometimes playing a part in Craig and Becks journey over the last two years has been hellish and exhilarating at the same time.

I hope in a way that the garden can be part of Becks recovery as she comes home and I’m intrigued to know what the next year will hold for Becks and for the garden and the part that it can play!