Category Archives: Meet the team

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

British flowers, Bath

Becks gets ‘Back on Track’

The sun is shining; we’re picking bucketfuls of blooms every day and Becks is back where she belongs, working in the garden with the help of a motorised wheelchair, adapted garden tools, bags of determination on her part and the support of Bev Pace and her charity Back on Track SLS (Stroke Rehabilitation Service) which provides hands-on support, advice, advocacy and practical help for stroke survivors of working age.

British flowers, Bath

Summer blooms from the garden

Bev is a force of nature – positive, practical and resourceful so it’s no surprise that she has single-handedly set up a charity which does so  much good work. An Occupational Therapist who has worked for the Stroke Association, four years ago she saw the need for practical hands-on help for working age stroke survivors and set about doing something to plug the gap. Whilst there was plenty of written advice for stroke victims and their carers there was little in the way of day-to-day help working alongside people in their rehabilitation as they adapt to a new way of life. Watching Bev working alongside Becks in the garden, it is easy to see why this is so important. Her can-do attitude and practical advice is empowering. Currently she works with up to 35 clients and their carers throughout Wiltshire at any one time. Referrals come from stroke units in hospitals as well as family members of stroke survivors.


In addition to working alongside stroke survivors, the charity advocates on behalf of its clients with employers and the Benefits department, facilitates a weekly social in Melksham where clients and carers can support each other and share ideas and runs short courses on computing, photography and even one-handed cookery. Meeting every client at their point of need is the key to getting them back on track, whether it’s accompanying a former rugby player to the gym, teaching a mother who has lost the use of one hand to cook again or getting a gardener back to work in the environment they love most.

British Flowers, wiltshire

Not the best photo but at least you get an idea of Becks grovey new scooter!

The charity operates mostly on the generosity of individuals and small businesses who organise sponsored events or make small donations in addition to any successful grant applications. Bev’s daughter recently completed a sponsored hike to Machu Pichu and accountants from Mander Duffill have been skydiving to raise funds. The firm also provide free accountancy services to the charity enabling them to keep their costs down. Bev is conscious that using the skills of the clients themselves is  beneficial for everyone and so they sit on the committee, making decisions about the direction the charity takes and compile the newsletter and publicity materials amongst other things.

Bev’s dream is to be able to develop the charity to allow for the employment of a full-time counsellor and a speech therapist in addition to the occupational therapy specialism that she herself provides. She is also actively developing relationships with local businesses which will allow for more volunteering opportunities in the world of  work for stroke survivors, enabling them to learn new skills and equip themselves to be able to return to paid work in the future. We think we might be seeing more of Bev and some of her clients in the garden in the future. The garden is a great place to learn new skills, make new friends and start to feel positive again but for now we couldn’t be happier to see Becks getting back on track.

Details of the charity can be found here. If you feel you can support them with a donation, a sponsored event or volunteering opportunity, do get in touch.

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.

British flowers

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 ?

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….

british flowers

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!






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.



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.



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.