Category Archives: Autumn

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.

British flowers, bradford on avon

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.

British flowers, Bath

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

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.

British flowers, wiltshire

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.


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.


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


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.


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?


Catching up with Helen

chilly weather and the end of the dahlias in the Not so Secret Garden

chilly weather and the end of the dahlias in the Not so Secret Garden

The weather has certainly turned in the last week; we’ve had some proper frost and anyone mooching around Hartley Farm will have seen Helen and Christine hard at work, chopping down the frost-blackened dahlias and barrowing them over to the compost heap. It’s Helen’s turn in the spotlight this month so we’ve given her the opportunity to reflect on what makes her garden bloom and what puts a smile on her face in the Not so Secret Garden.

Helen and Christine moving the roses to their new bed

Helen and Christine moving the roses to their new bed

What’s your favourite cut flower – The bronze sunflower from the Not so Secret Garden. We’ve had so many blooms from the plants and they look stunning with amaranthus and the orange tones of dahlias and chrysanthemums.

And your favourite time of year? – It has to be the Spring with the promise of new, fresh growth and the vibrant greens and yellows of the first spring flowers. Wonderful.

Tell us where is the best place on earth? –  It’s hard to pick just one. Looking over Longleat  Estate from Heaven’s Point, the lake at Stourhead, walking a coastal path and being in the garden….

What’s your top tip for flower growing? – I’m a bit obsessed with dead-heading. Not only does it keep a plant producing more flowers  but it also creates strong, bushy plants.

Is there a gardening task you’d be most likely to get someone else to do? – Yes. It has to be weeding. The weeds in the Not so Secret Garden can be enormous and the stinging nettles grow as soon as you turn your back. (Of course, this means the soil is hale and hearty -Editor)

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt from being in the garden? – Beware of the tops of garden canes. They are great for staking tall plants but can also catch and scratch your arms and face.

What’s the best thing about working in the Not So Secret Garden? – Working outside, especially when the sun shines; noticing the plants grow and flourish; meeting lovely people. I’m always happiest in the garden knowing I’m contributing to bringing happiness to others.

The flowers in the garden are still going strong. What would you put in the perfect Autumn bouquet? – Lots of bronze foliage and copper beech, bronze sunflowers, peach and orange dahlias, berries, rust-coloured chrysanths and dark sedum.

If you had half an hour in the garden, what would be the perfect way to spend it? – Wandering around the garden noticing what’s grown and flowering since I last gardened. Listening to the birds, watching the robins peck around the freshly-dug soil and enjoying the sunset after a day’s work.

What is your earliest garden memory? –  Helping my dad in the garden, pulling up plants I thought were weeds; going with mum to the botanical gardens in Bath in Springtime when the cherry blossom was in bloom.

From whom do you get your gardening inspiration? -My father who was a very knowledgeable gardener with an eye for structure and colour. Like me, he loved the garden and regularly visited gardens for inspiration and enjoyment. I also like this piece of inspiration, taken from my calendar last month

” Flowers always make people happier…..They are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.” Luther Burbank 1849-1926.

Don’t forget that although the best of the garden blooms are over for a while, you can still enjoy the season with Young Blooms florists, learning to craft a beautiful and unique festive wreath that will be the envy of all your friends and neighbours!

Fresh Wreath Workshop, 9th December 11am-1.30pm

Dry Wreath Workshop, 13th Dec 11am-1.30pm

Tickets are available in the farm shop, or call 01225 864 948 to book your place.



Tulip time

Clearing beds and tucking in tulips this week

Clearing beds and tucking in tulips this week

November is the start of tulip planting in the garden. Unlike other spring bulbs, the tulips really need the cold weather to put on their best show in the spring. Planting round about now can help reduce incidences of “tulip fire”, a fungal disease that can cause brown spots and twisted, withered and distorted leaves. In mild autumns it is perfectly fine to leave planting them until December – if the Christmas frenzy doesn’t grab you, although don’t wait until the ground is too hard to dig a planting  trench.

Homegrown tulips are bigger, blowsier. more beautiful and more fragrant than the tight unremarkable specimens which can be seen around the supermarkets in the new year. And there are literally dozens to choose in jewel colours or sophisticated creams and whites.

Plant at a depth of about three times the height of the bulb in trenches. This makes both planting and cutting easier. When the frosts come we’ll be chopping down our blackened dahlias and either lifting them or leaving them in the ground with a thick covering of mulch. Where you have limited space in your cutting patch. tulips can be interplanted with dahlias and the whole bed mulched thickly with compost. So much beauty in relatively little  space!

This year we’re planting the elegantly-silouetted, white ‘Tres Chic’, ‘Orange Princess’, a lovely peony-flowered tulip with light nasturtium-orange petals, flushed with reddish-purple and ‘Queen of the Night’, a tall, striking almost black beauty.

Tulips really are beautiful. These were grown by another Wiltshire grower Sara of Our Flower Patch.

Tulips really are beautiful. These were grown by another Wiltshire grower Sara of Our Flower Patch.
















Look out for some fabulous bunches of these fragrant tulips in the farm shop in the spring.Young Blooms brides who are interested in The Not So Secret Garden package will certainly benefit from our November plantings too.

And don’t forget, if you’d like to join us for a couple of hours on a wreath making workshop in the run up to Christmas, the details and booking information are available here. We’d love to see you.

Ranunculus and Roses

We’re continuing with our overhaul of the perennial bank in the garden and looking ahead to next season, whilst enjoying cutting plenty of dahlias in the late October sunshine. Once we have a hard frost they’ll be over for another year and will need to be lifted and stored for the winter – or mulched deeply.

Bradford on avon, british flowers

Our newly planted rose bed

There’s always something to be done in the garden and November is the perfect time to be getting on with expanding our stock of fragrant shrub roses. We buy them as unimpressive looking bare root plants and plant them out before the ground gets too hard. This allows them to establish quickly whilst the soil is still warm. When they arrive they need a good couple of hours of soaking in a bucket of water. Some mycorrhizal fungi and pelleted chicken manure added to the planting hole helps too along with a mulch of compost at the end. We can’t wait to harvest them for bouquets next year. Roses are always a favourite with Young Blooms brides and it’s great to be able to supply them for early summer and autumn.

British flowers, Hartley farm-shop

Rose plants all ready to be put into the new bed


Another favourite is ranunculus. They are the perfect rose-shaped alternative to a real rose in springtime. Many people can’t tell the difference. We grow ours in the polytunnel to give an earlier crop and provide them with protection, although you can grow them outside in a sheltered spot. They come in beautiful shades of white with pink and purple edges, red, orange, yellow, pink, purple. It’s hardly surprising that they are so popular.

British flowers, Bradford on avon

Ranunculas plants all growing nicely in the Polytunnel

british flowers, winsley

Ranunculas in bud




Both roses and ranunculus will feature in our new garden wedding package next year. Subscribe to our newsletter to find out more. The latest edition is due to be in your inbox within the next few days.

Catching up with Christine

The Not so Secret Garden has been abuzz with activity – bees foraging among the autumn flowers, our working party planting bulbs for cutting next spring and the continued harvest of dahlias and zinnias, which are still blooming away beautifully. One of our hard-working garden gang is Christine.  It’s her turn this month to sit out on the garden bench and tell us a little more about herself and her top tips for cut flower growing. Without her life would be that little bit less floriferous around here.

Winsley, British flowers.

Hard at work picking Dahlias

British flowers, winsley

Christine on the left, Helen on the right!

Christine has market gardening in her blood and is the woman to go to if you want to nurture some seedlings. Here’s what she has to say about working in the Not so Secret Garden, her top tips for flower growing and where she gets her inspiration from.

What’s your favourite cut flower – dahlia (There’s plenty to choose from here -Editor)

And your favourite time of year? – Autumn

Tell us where is the best place on earth? –  Obviously the Not so Secret Garden but also on a beach in Dorset with a bag of chips

What’s your top tip for flower growing? – Use lots of compost {home grown obviously} or manure and weeding.

Is there a gardening task you’d be most likely to get someone else to do? – Yes. Keep away from pointy things like secateurs. (I think there’s a story behind this – Editor)

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt from being in the garden? – Being outside and friendship with other gardeners can’t be beaten. Meeting like minded people is one of the benefits of working here.

The flowers in the garden are still going strong. What would you put in the perfect Autumn bouquet? – Lots of variety of textures and muted colours

If you had half an hour in the garden, what would be the perfect way to spend it? –  Flower cutting with a cup of tea and a piece of cake.

What is your earliest garden memory? –  Digging and planting up pots with my grandma in Yorkshire

From whom do you get your gardening inspiration? -My family are great market gardeners so inspiration comes from them. My Grandma and parents passed on a lot of knowledge.



If you pop into Hartley during the week, say hello to Christine. She’ll be hard at work with her secateurs or helping to overhaul the garden ready for next season.



Out and about at the Great Bath Feast

Garden life has been really busy and last weekend  we gathered up the beautiful blooms and got out and about at The Great Bath Feast.

British flowers, winsley

Our stall at the Great Bath feast

Grace, Helen and Christine  along with a host of Hartley Farm suppliers were at the popular farmer’s market from 10am to 3pm in heart of the city.

British flowers, winsley

Bouquets from the garden

It was lovely to spend the day in Queen’s Square with some gloriously fragrant homegrown blooms. We chatted about our plans for the garden, recent developments, upcoming events and sold some gorgeous bunches of homegrown flowers. We also handed out some of our brand new postcards to people popping in.

Winlsey, British flowers

Our shiny new postcards


British flowers

Fabulous tubers for sale

We also have some of our dahlia tubers for sale so that customers can grow some of these gorgeous buttery blooms next year in their own gardens.

And of course we had some of the best of our handmade seasonal wreaths.

Winsley, British flowers

Wreaths will be for sale

Autumn Bulb Planting

The Indian summer over the past week has provided the perfect opportunity for planting the first of the autumn bulbs in the Not so Secret Garden and now the rain can water them in nicely. It’s amazing how nature sometimes  provides the perfect conditions for getting plants established.


british flowers

Double headed daffodil


Planting bulbs for cutting is different from planting them in drifts in the wild or groups in the garden. You can pack them in trenches when they are utility bulbs for cutting – and they still look fabulous. Plant them at about three times the depth of the bulb itself and firm the soil on top. Keep an eye out for greedy squirrels and mice who like to dig up newly planted bulbs.

british flowers

Muscari are so pretty on mass

Bulbs are great for the cut flower garden as many start flowering in late winter or early spring before the hardy annuals get going. Choosing a mix of early-, mid- and late-flowering cultivars means that you can extend the season even further.

british flowers, winsley

Ranunculas are already growing in the polytunnel

The best way to plant bulbs is with friends with the reward of coffee and cake outside when its finished. A reward for a job well done. Narcissi and alliums can be planted now but wait until November to pop in tulip bulbs because they like the cold weather to produce the best flowers.

This year we’ve opted so far for …..

Queen of the Night tulips {purple}

Tres Chic tulips {white}

Catching up with Grace

Our fabulous flowers have taken centre stage on the blog in recent weeks. And rightly so. They have been delighting visitors to the garden, shoppers at Hartley Farm and customers of Young Blooms right through the summer. Even now our dahlias are an absolute delight. However, just as an army marches on its stomach, so a flower garden blooms better for the attentions of a hardworking and skillful group of gardeners. We think that it’s about time you learnt a bit more about the ladies responsible for the abundance of the Not so Secret Garden. Over the next few months we’ll be shining the spotlight on one of the garden gang who work so hard to keep our patch looking lovely. First onto the garden bench is Grace. British flowers Grace, along with her friend and neighbour Becks is the inspiration and driving force behind the Not so Secret Garden. It’s been a tough year for them both as they cope with the aftermath of Becks’s illness but, through it all, the garden is fast becoming that little patch of floral heaven they both planned.  Here’s what Grace has to say about her year in the garden, top tips for great cut flowers to grow, garden memories and what she does when she’s not wandering around with a bucket and a pair of floral scissors. What’s your favourite cut flower?  This year has to be the Zinnia. They are such a fabulous flower. Robust as anything, striking colour and customers seem to love them!

British flowers

Zinnia are a firm favourite

Do you have an unsung garden hero? Verbena! Looks gorgeous when planted in huge swathes and also lasts very well in a vase! Are you an early morning person or a night bird? Early morning for sure, I’m way more productive first thing and there is not much better than being in the garden in the early morning cutting flowers! Can you share your top tip for flower growing? Just get stuck in, if you have never grown flowers before it’s a fun thing to do and you don’t have to spend a ton doing it. Autumn time is great for seed sales. You will get loads of half price seeds this time of year! My garden at home is teeny tiny and I have a Barbie sized greenhouse. I’m gradually expanding the flower part as my husband thinks vegetables are more sensible than flowers! What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt in the garden so far? If it fails just try again and then if it fails again ask for help! The funding that the garden has had from Seedbed has been invaluable. Having Christine and Helen working in the garden has meant that we can bash ideas round together. If one of us gets tired someone else has probably got some much needed chocolate to pep you up! What was your lowest point in the garden this year?  On a serious note it was the night Becky had her accident, I didn’t get much sleep at all. It’s been a incredibly tough year for her. But I just remembering panicking in a selfish way about how we were going to get everything planted! But through support from friends and family the garden has survived and Becks is doing brilliantly! She is able to walk with support and I’m really looking forward to her coming back, maybe next year to work in the garden! IMG_3638.JPG What’s your favourite scent of summer? The pale pink David Austin rose that’s planted under the arbour and I can’t remember the name of! It’s stunning and the scent is quite yummy.

Roses, Not So Secret Garden

The unknown David Austin rose

Tell us the perfect way to spend half an hour in the garden? I’m very easily distracted in the Not so Secret Garden because I want to see everything that’s grown. The garden changes shape so quickly and flowers are always popping up that I had forgotten about. Do you prefer Spring or Autumn?  Oh that’s tough. I think it would have to be Spring because year on year I never get over the excitement/pleasure of planting/growing and watching what happens. We know you love the garden but what’s the best place on earth? There are too many to think about, though the sunsets in the garden this year have been pretty spectacular! What’s your earliest gardening memory?  Weeding the blackberry patch because my brothers wouldn’t. (We think that shows real dedication to gardening – Editor) And finally…. Red or white?  I presume you’re talking wine! It would have to be a nicely chilled white in the summer with a robust red in the winter!  Cheese or chocolate? Cheese, without a shadow of a doubt! Cat or do?  That’s tough, my cat George can be quite moody so most of the time I prefer Winston my Dog! Winston has a habit of getting in on the act whenever we are interviewed about the garden. What’s your party piece?  I can cook a fairly good tarte tatin. Will that do?  We certainly do, especially if she brings one to share over a coffee whilst the autumn planting is going on.

Settling in the Sweet Williams


September’s new beginnings are all around. It’s back to school week with all that entails – new stationery, new uniform, new friends, the start of a new journey. It’s not so different in the garden as we begin to plan for next year by taking a critical look at how the flower patch has performed this summer, clearing space, chopping back, digging up, remodelling, extending and trying new things.

British flowers. Hartley farmWe’re planting out biennial seedlings now to overwinter. It’s the first time we’ve tried it and we’re starting in a modest way with Sweet Williams to fill the late-Spring gap when the bulbs are coming to an end and before the hardy annuals have got going. Christine has been bringing on some seedlings over the summer in her greenhouse. Now they’re ready to plant out. Sweet Williams have been around in British gardens since the sixteenth century and have seen a bit of a revival recently, even making an appearance in supermarket buckets in the ‘British grown’ section. Their clove- like scent and generally long vase life (two weeks) make them a favourite with cut flower enthusiasts. Young Blooms have bought them in from elsewhere for arrangements but we can’t wait for a corner of our own patch at Hartley Farmto be filled with gorgeous blooms. Ranging from pure white through varying shades of crimson to deep burgundy, we hope you’ll love them as much as us when you visit us next Spring.

Hartley farm, british flowersElsewhere we’ve decided that the red hollyhocks don’t earn their place in our cutting garden and would be better off flowering their socks off in the gardens of Bradford on Avon and Winsley. We’re digging them up and sharing the flower love by making them available to customers who’d like to plant them in their own gardens. Pop up and pick up a bargain at the garden gate stall. They really are lovely but we need the space for more flowers that we can cut and use in bouquets. Sometimes tough decisions have to be made. This is a working flower patch not just a lovely garden. We’re still cutting buckets full of sweet peas, dahlias and zinnias and, at last, our David Austen roses are giving us a second flush of gorgeousness. We’ll certainly be planting more in the Autumn for next year’s bouquets. The bank of perennials is also having a bit of an overhaul and we even have some delightfully quirky ornamental gourds about to burst forth, destined to take centre stage in some super seasonal table decorations. I love September.

Hartley farm, British flowers

Dahlia still going strong