Category Archives: Flowers

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.

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.

British flowers, Bath

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

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.


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?


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.



Sweet peas for summer

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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

Be our British Valentine

The cut flower industry in Britain is huge but I wonder how many of you, picking up a bunch of flowers to brighten a gloomy Winter’s day realise that 95% of the flowers sold in Britain are grown overseas? That’s a change from thirty years ago when only about 5% of the flowers sold in Britain came from overseas.

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Send your love in a floral way

The buy local, eat seasonal approach to fruit and veg consumption applies just as much to flowers. Of course that means that you can’t always have what you want but that doesn’t mean that a beautiful bouquet can’t grace your home all year round. It can. And we are one of dozens of growers making that happen.

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The bees go crazy in the summer for the flowers

With the decline in habitats for butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects, buying British grown flowers is an easy way to do your bit along with planting flowering plants to bloom throughout the seasons in your gardens. British flowers in your vase have already helped increase the biodiversity of the area in which their grown and provided food all the way up the chain. Many allotmenteers here at Hartley Farm grow a proportion of flowers for cutting alongside their veggies for that reason as well as the obvious advantages of having a few buckets of blooms to arrange around the house.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, one of the biggest days for florists in the whole year we’ve been thinking about what #britishflowers alternatives could be promoted instead of the ubiquitous red roses, which whilst lovely when home grown and are in reality poor unperfumed jet-lagged things that have been flown hundreds of miles to represent love in the UK in February!

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Hellebore’s from the garden

Here are our favourites to include in homegrown Valentine’s bouquets
• Anemones in jewel colours are very seasonal for February, not to mention totally stunning.
• Tulips
• Ranunculus
• Narcissi
• Hellebores
• Dainty bulbs planted in pretty vintage teacups and miniature bulbs planted in heart-shaped planters
• Heart shaped woven wreaths
• Hyacinths, pussy willow, viburnum and blackthorn make a lovely bouquet
• Snowdrops
• Violets
• Myrtle -despite not flowering in February the dark green glossy leaves have the
There’s a little of time to think about how you might support local, seasonal flowers for Valentine’s Day. Pop into Young Blooms to chat about what they could do to bring a bit of romance to your Valentine. Perhaps a gift voucher for one of our upcoming workshops would hit the spot with that special someone.
Maybe the colour of Valentine’s Day should be a rich purple not scarlet. It’s certainly the colour of the season in homegrown terms?

Ravishing ranunculus

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Can’t wait to see our plants flower

The cold weather recently and the continued rain may bring on a case of the winter blues. We’ve dosed ourselves up with thoughts of spring in the form of bunches of ravishing ranunculus in multiple shades. We planted ours in pots undercover in the autumn but the combination of a mild autumn and winter and a large root system means we’ve had to plant them out just when the temperatures dipped. Hence the appearance of cloches around the Not so Secret Garden to protect them until they get used to their new home.

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Our new cloche in place


all tucked up

Originally from central Asia ranunculus grows in the wild in swampy areas. This may be something to do with the origins of its name – ranunculus means frog in Latin. However, in the garden they are happier in a sunny spot in well-drained soil. A raised bed is ideal. They don’t do well in warm, wet conditions. Ideally plant them in the cool of autumn, with the tuber’s claw pointed side down and apply a mulch. Treat them as annuals, rather than perennials. Pull them out and compost them after cutting or leavethe tubers in the soil to rot in the moist warm summer soils.

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Stunning orange ranunculas

As cut flowers they last in the vase for about a week after cutting. Cut them when flowers first show colour, in the early morning after they have had the night to recharge themselves with moisture

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Delicate colours are gorgeous


In the language of flowers the ranunculus symbolises charm. Many a Victorian lady would have been happy to receive a bunch telling her that she had many charms and they are still guaranteed to make people.

We’ll see how ours cope with a midwinter transplanting and, in the longer term, with the warmer, wetter weather. Growing cut flowers has its share of experimentation and risk taking. It’s been a voyage of discovery. Seeing spring bulbs and roses flowering at the same time has been astonishing.