Category Archives: Flowers

Settle down and order some seeds

British flowers, wiltshire

Beginning to buy seeds for this year

Once Christmas is over, as sure as Easter eggs will appear on the supermarket shelves and holiday ads will populate the commercial breaks the seed catalogues will drop through your letter box, reassuring you that the weather will soon get warmer and the time will be right for sowing and growing again.

What better way to spend a few hours in the depths of winter than in front of the fire dreaming and planning what you will grow this season? This year we got ahead of the game and formulated our planting plan a few weeks ago and so our seed orders have already started to arrive. There’s oodles of time to get going. Not much can be sown, even under cover until next month at the earliest. And if you subscribe to our mailing list we’ll send you a monthly email with helpful hints and tips to get you on the way to growing your own cut flowers along with us. January’s is about to be sent out.

If you want to grow cut flowers then you need a mixture of seeds to give you blooms right through the season and into the autumn until the first frosts. Look at flowering times, colours and textures that will go together and foliage fillers like grasses and ammi majus.You could even compile a PInterest board to gather all your ideas together and give you an idea of what your flowers will look like when growing together.

British flowers, bradford on avon

Lovely to see flowers you have grown in full flower.


Seed catalogues like Sarah Raven’s are great for suggesting fabulous combinations but you could source the seeds themselves elsewhere if you can find good deals. You can also buy seeds from garden centres or some stores like Wilkinsons but, in general the quality of the seed may be better by ordering from an online specialist. We have used a combination of outlets but are particularly fond of Suttons and Owl Acre Sweet Peas. Higgledy Garden seeds are very reliable and Ben’s quirky online catalogue and blog is so helpful for sowing and growing advice.

Bradford-on-avon, british flowers

Sweet-peas with thanks to Owl-acres fabulous seeds


Settle down with a seed catalogue and plan for a fragrant flowerfest in your garden this year.

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.

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}

Lavender blue dilly dilly…..

Bradford on avon, british flowers

Using dried lavender in wreaths is perfect for scent

Autumn sees the end of the traditional summer flowers including one of the stalwarts of the flower patch – lavender. We grow both French and English lavender in the Not So Secret Garden and it’s all well used in bouquets, wedding buttonholes and wreaths. We use it fresh but also dry some to use all year round.

british flowers

Our lavender being planted 2 years ago

Each lavender requires a slightly different maintenance regime but essentially, once it’s established in well-drained soil in a sunny spot, it more-or-less looks after itself. At this time of year any flower heads which have not been picked need to be cut down and consigned to the compost heap.

British flowers.winsley

Reaping our harvest

Generally speaking you prune English lavender by cutting it back by two thirds in late summer. The new shoots which appear at the base of the bush will then have enough time to grow and harden up before winter comes. Tidying the lavender before the winter helps it keep its shape, and, as we are creating a beautiful garden as well as a flower farm, it’s important that we keep on top of these tasks. For gardeners who don’t wish to harvest the lavender flowers, if you chop your plants again in April it will delay flowering time until after the first flush of roses, giving your garden interest for longer.

lavender, british flowers

Butterfly lavender

Taking softwood or semi-ripe cuttings from young plants in early summer and hardwood cuttings from new growth after flowering in late autumn is quite straightforward. That’s something for us to try next year, although we have been planting more lavender to extend the patch.

It’s been glorious this year despite the lack of a long, hot summer. Lavender truly is a wonder plant with a rich history of uses over time in medicine, cosmetics and floristry as well as a stalwart of the landscaped garden. It’s a great companion plant for roses and who wouldn’t want a lavender hedge keeping the bees happy and supplying the florists at Young Blooms with plenty of beautifully scented flower heads to add to gorgeous summer bouquets.

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

Weddings, deadheading and a garden in full bloom

We’re cutting so many gorgeous flowers from the garden – for bouquets and for weddings. Two Young Blooms brides this weekend have requested locally grown British flowers to make their day special and we’ll be out picking the best of what we have on offer in our little patch of heaven at Hartley Farm.

British flowers at Hartley farm

Our flowers displayed for a wedding at Priston Mill
















The garden is buzzing with bees, customers at the farmshop taking a stroll in the garden and anyone we can spare keeping on top of the deadheading and weeding, which is a constant task in August.

British flowers at Hartley farm shop

One very full wheel barrow.

Some gardeners don’t bother to deadhead and some plants like salvia don’t need deadheading, because they don’t set much seed or the plant neatly does the job for you. However, if you want to prolong the length of the season when plants look great and maximise flower production -which we do – it’s a must.

We try to remove spent flowers as soon as they look scruffy. The simplest method is to just pinch off the faded blooms with finger and thumb. This works particularly well for roses, where snapping the stalk just below the flower head results in more blooms being produced more quickly. Pop into your wheelbarrow or bucket and add to the compost heap.You’ll need sharp secateurs for plants with tough stems (dahlias, calendula and some shrubs).

Bradford on avon British flowers

Dead-heading the cosmos

Like other busy gardeners we don’t always have time to keep on top of deadheading. But there’s a silver lining – leaving sunflowers, cornflowers and rudbeckia to go to seed will keep the birds happy; some roses produce beautiful hips and the seed heads of nigella look pretty in the vase too.

Of course if we are ever at a loose end, there’s a whole heap of jobs to keep the flower grower occupied in August – clearing and feeding beds ready for sowing hardy annuals in September; ordering spring bulbs for delivery in the autumn; cutting back herbaceous plants; taking pelargonium cuttings; propagating pinks by layering and laying traps for earwigs among the dahlias. (An upturned flowerpot filled with straw on a garden cane works wonders.) The thrifty flower gardener will also be collecting seed from calendula, papaver, aquilegia and cerinthe.

British flowers Winsley

How stunning are these Zinnia

Pop into the garden, feast your eyes on the flowers and introduce yourself. We’d love to hear what you think.

Dallying among the dahlias

dahlias in muted shades

Gorgeous dahlias in muted shades

Without doubt, the undisputed queen of the August flower patch is the dahlia, blooming its socks off from July, right through to the first frosts of Autumn. It’s hard to believe, when cutting these beauties that they were first bred to be eaten as tubers, rather than enjoyed in the vase. It’s an interesting taste apparently, somewhere between a carrot and a potato, with a dash of celery thrown in for good measure. Though when first spotted, growing wild on the hillsides of Mexico I’ll bet it was the flowers that drew admiring glances rather than the thought of a quick dahlia stew.

It’s one of the miracles of the flower patch. Plant what looks like an unremarkable muddy bunch of chubby fingers and you’ll be rewarded with dozens of beautiful blooms in myriad shades from  classy, muted pastels to statement-making jewel hues. Some dahlias are as large as dinner plates, whilst others are delicate, neat pompoms. A flower of such infinite variety is a definite winner for the florist and the flower grower.

Classy Cafe au lait

Classy Cafe au Lait

We grew many of ours from seed last year, lifted them, stored over winter and potted them up in the spring before planting them out. This year we took some cuttings too and now they’re romping away in their corner of the garden and we’re cutting almost every day.

Perfect in a sophisticated wedding arrangement



or as a single statement bloom.


We even sent a bucketful over to a nearby National Trust property this week so that visiting children could try their hand at some quirky posy-making.

Pop into Hartley Farm Shop and you might be lucky enough to bag yourself a bunch.

Dahlia time is well and truly with us.

As well as enjoying the dahlias and all the other gorgeous blooms in the garden we’re making a concerted effort to keep you all up-to-date with what’s happening at Not so Secret Garden via this blog and our newsletter.

Subscribe now for all our latest news, hints and tips for growing your own cut flowers and any special offers coming up. We promise not to bombard you with spam.


Wild Flowers at the Not So Secret Garden

All through the Summer the two wild-flower patches that we have in the Garden have been greatly admired. We created them back in the Spring using two mixes from this fantastic company ‘Meadow in my Garden’. We knew we wanted to create a natural wild area and after some research found this local company who are based in Devizes (Wiltshire).

British flowers, Winsley

We bought two boxes of the Butterfly mix  with the aim of helping biodiversity within the garden. The mix included lots of honey & nectar producing varieties of flower.

I cut just a few of the flowers last week for these photographs though there is still a huge range of flowers still going strong and we are in week two of October!!

British flowers, Not so secret garden

I’m having to brush up on my names of wild flowers, but so far I’ve seen Zinnia, Cosmos, Cornflowers, Amni, Daisies , Poppies and Scabious to name but a few!

Not So Secret Garden, Winsley

The flower collection

I’m really look forward to seeing how the patch progresses next year, we’ll be working on it over the next couple of months as flowers die down. We’ll be wanting to encourage new growth for next year, making sure the seeds from this years crop are spread through the patch.

Dahlia love

The dahlia patch in the Garden is going slightly mad at the moment, I wanted to try & categorize some of them that are growing. Remembering names of varieties, ones that lasted well, colours that I liked etc etc….

However I got slightly sidetracked by taking the pictures below of them!

British flowers, Wiltshire

Rather yummy dahlia

Half of the dahlia we grew from seed and half came from Tubers. Varieties I know in the picture above are the one that has a red/pink centre and paler outer petals. That one I think is called ‘Art Deco’, the red dahlia next to it with the yellow centre is ‘Bishop of Auckland’. That variety has done really well this year, growing very tall stems, great for cutting and if you cut them at the right point, you should get 4/5 days of enjoying them in a vase.

photo (8)

The velvety red dahlia at the bottom of the photo is I think a variety called ‘Charma Choc’. Size of the heads are slightly smaller than the ‘Cafe Au Lait’ but by not much.

Most of the yellow ones are grown from seed so you could probably make your own names up for those!

British grown flowers Wiltshire


The pale peach dahlia at the top of the photo above is my absolute favourite. The size of each head if you let it get to full size is HUGE, its called ‘Cafe Au Lait’. I’ve posted some more pictures of this variety on our Facebook page so you can see how huge they really are.

Hope you enjoy these photos as I’m sure I’ll be posting more.

Happy Bank Holiday to you all.


Funeral flowers from the ‘Not So Secret Garden’

I wanted to share these photos of a funeral that we supplied the flowers for. The family wanted very natural and informal style of flowers and that’s exactly what we could do with all that we have grown.

I think sometimes flowers can speak for themselves….

British flowers winsley

Tied Sheaf

This was ordered through Young Blooms  for a burial here, so no oasis, wire, tape or cellophane was allowed to be used.

Winsley British flowers

A very natural styled arrangement

I gathered a selection of flowers from the garden, most of the time customers have a set colour that they want to stick to. But if you think of cottage gardens or hedgerows, you don’t only see pinks & purples or orange and yellow (unless your a very organised gardener!) As you see the arrangements I went for a wild mix, Lupins, foxgloves, mint, lavender, dill, love-in-the-mist and so on…..

British flowers Winsley

Winsley British flowers