Category Archives: Garden

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.



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.

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.

Creating art with succulents


succulent chair

a stunning piece of upcycled living art

The Not so Secret Garden at Hartley Farm is a working, productive micro flower farm.

It is also a beautiful and relaxing garden in which to work and for our customers to enjoy.

We want it to look stunning.

With some thought, planning and creativity it is possible to create a cutting garden which looks good all year round and has one or two arty surprises.

British flowers, winsley

Our newest creation

When the mood takes us and as time allows we like to do a little experimentation in the garden. We’ve made willow structures, planted up interesting pots and upcycled chairs, creating beautiful pieces of living art with gorgeous, easy to maintain succulents.

Grace is a real fan of succulents. They make the ideal raw material to create beautiful, textural, porcelain-like  pieces of living art. It’s possible to create long-lasting pots, wreaths, chairs and even walls with succulents. And they are relatively easy to look after, surviving outside in a sheltered spot in quite low temperatures. As native desert plants they are suited to wide temperature ranges and dips as low as 40º F.

Hartley farm-shop, British flowers

Textural heaven

No matter what kind of succulent you use, the rules are pretty much the same, when it comes to care and maintenance. They prefer a sheltered, south-facing site and need plenty of water and weekly feeding in summer but very little water and no feeding in winter, when the plants are dormant. Beware of over-watering or the plants will rot.. A succulent should never be allowed to sit in water and the potting mix should be as free-draining as possible.

Once they are established, nothing could be easier. They’ll produce baby plants regularly during the growing season which can be pulled off and pushed back in to any barer patches, potted up and given away or used in another project.

Grace loves the idea of creating succulent art so much that she’s running a workshop in the garden soon for anyone who’d like to create their own striking piece of succulent art.

British flowers





Click here if you’d like to join us for coffee, home-baked cake and a few hours being artistic with stunning succulents and upcycled pots on October 17th.

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.

Winter tasks

I’m sitting by the log-fire writing this blog as the temperature has certainly dropped over the last couple of days! We are slowly putting the garden to to rest for the Winter and it’s been great to look back over our first year and see what’s been achieved.

British flowers South West

Extending the hazel tunnel

We have extended the hazel tunnel up the slope and round to the shed. It’s looking fabulous and I’m hoping to grow the cuttings of mandevilla that I took this year over it in 2015.

British flowers Bath

Spring bulbs getting planted

Over the last month or so we have been planting lots of tulips, daffodils and ranunculus for lots of spring colour next year. Though having not grown ranunculus before, I’ve started them off in the greenhouse to see how they get on. Then I’ll plant them out next year.

British flowers Hartley farm

Lots and lots of the good stuff to put on the beds

Having the garden based at Hartley Farm is fantastic as we have manure on tap! Richard has been brilliant and brought down lots of the good stuff, we are about half way through getting all the beds done. Pam who works in the garden and is *The best weeder EVER* has been working hard at getting them ready. Some of the patches have been harder than others as the ground, especially by the wild flower patch is incredibly clay like. We are hoping that putting the manure on now will break down the clay texture and make it more workable for next year.

British flowers, Hartley farm

Bertha the ‘Gin Shed’ looking festive

I’ve been working on making the Shed looking slightly more glamorously rustic, sitting in there having a coffee while it was drizzlingly was quite novel, as we had no windows, fairly drastic holes in the bottom and a very leaky roof! But thanks to Mr Bowles and a lick of paint it’s on its way.

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.


A truly British bouquet

It was a very exciting moment for us to be able to arrange a bouquet of flowers all grown in the garden. As you know the weather has been fabulous for the flowers so we had a lovely selection to pick from.

British flowers Wiltshire

Truly British flowers

In the jug are dahlias, cornflowers, verbena, lavender, snapdragons, lupins, mint and alchillea.

British flowers in WIltshire

A very lovely selection picked from the garden

If your interested in ordering an arrangement like this then do contact Young Blooms on 01225 580271 and a floral delight like this can be yours.


Wiltshire British flowers

All pretty & ready to go