Category Archives: Plants

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

Flowering sprouts

Polytunnel News..

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We have collected quite a few plant pots

We’ve spent the last few days tidying and cleaning the polytunnel in preparation for the new sowing season which begins from the end of January. We start with Sweet Peas, a hardy annual and have about five different varieties to sow, all in separate ‘long rooted planting tubes’.

We seem to have accumulated a vast range of plant pots and seed trays, but its surprising the quantities we use as the sowing and growing season progresses.

Its important to use clean plant pots and trays to ensure the growth of healthy young plants, so there;s a lot of washing up to be done in the coming weeks! We’ll also be using the pressure hose to give outside of the polytunnel a good clean which in turn will allow the maximum light in, to encourage plant growth, and then lighting an insect killer ‘block’ which releases smoke to kill off any unwanted parasites.

Wallflowers and Sweet Williams

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Our sweet-williams are looking promising…

Both the wallflowers and sweet-williams which we planted out last September/October (having first sown in seed trays last August) are looking well and have grown considerably since putting in the ground. We look forward to the scented flowers both plants will produce, with the wallflowers being picked around March, hopefully with some of the tulips we also planted as bulbs last November. They’ll make lovely Spring bouquets!





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Sweet-williams in the mix



The Sweet Williams should flower in May and make a perfect cut flower with a long ‘vase life’ in a variety of pink, red as well as white shades. They flower at a time when many summer garden flowers are yet to blooms, so are a good in between season flower to grow.




Flowering Sprouts!

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Our flowering sprouts have finally arrived


Yes you really can get ‘flowering sprouts’ – so much nicer than the edible variety! These were grown from seed around May last year and on initially planning our, were pecked by the local pigeon population! They consequently had to be dug up and given some TLC back in the polytunnel before planting out again and tying lots of CDs on string around the planting area to scare off the pigeons this time. We had hoped that the plants would produce little florets in time for Grace’s Christmas Wreath making workshops, held last December, but whilst the plants looked healthy enough sadly , only very tiny florets were appearing on the stems and of no use whatsoever in the Christmas Wreaths!

Still, we haven’t completely given up on them – maybe they will have grown sufficiently to use for one of Grace’s Easter floral projects instead!

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.

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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

Crazy mixed up seasons

Remember when seasons used to be very distinct? Winter cold snaps kept the slug population under control; April showers came right on cue to water in your newly planted seedlings and the midsummer heat wave was there to help your crops put on a spurt.

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Our seedlings starting up

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Both 2015 and 2016 have been bonkers with warm dry springs and wet, cooler summers. The perennials have done well in these circumstances and our spring-sown sweet peas have romped away; but it’s true to say that the late sown half-hardy annuals have struggled a little to get going because of the lack of heat.

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Our early sweet-peas

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We’ve mitigated some of the effects by using the greenhouse and polytunnel and waited to plant out until the temperatures are better. Big temperature differences put plants under stress and there are certainly more pests and diseases after a mild winter. There’s never a dull moment in flower farming. You have to keep vigilant and flexible to weather conditions and its effects on your plants. We’re learning every day.

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Sunflowers we started in the polytunnel

We’d be interested to know how your flower gardens are growing season by season.

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

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….

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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!






Settle down and order some seeds

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ranunculas plants all growing nicely in the Polytunnel

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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 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!

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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.

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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.

Succulent heaven

Becky and myself both have a love for Sempervivum plants or succulents as you might know them. They have come into fashion in a big way over the last couple of years in wedding flowers and in gardens in general.

We decided to create some unusual pieces for the garden using the succulents, the first was a rather delightfully vintage looking chair that had been found in a French Brocante…..

First things first, we had to rip the base of the seat off and then cover with chicken wire to hold the compost/plants in place.

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The beginning

The next stage was adding in the compost mixed with shingle style stones, as these sorts of plants like a gritty compost. We also added some Sphagnum moss round the outside to hide the edges but you’ll see later on what happened to that….

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Chicken wire in place and ready to go…

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Mini Sempervivum being put into place

We then started adding in these mini Sempervivum plants. I love the colours and textures that you can get and they seem to change colour as they grow and mature. We had some discussion as to whether we should be organised and create a pattern but in the end I think we just got to excited and got planting!

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Nearly finished

One thing that we did decide on was to add in some pieces of slate, Becky had some which we broke into smaller pieces and added in.


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The chair itself a couple of months after being planted.

Unfortunately the Sphagnum moss that we added around the edge came away, my hope is that the plants will gradually grow over the edges in time (anyway the rough edges add to the rustic feel)

We decided to create a bed around the chair to give it added interest, I managed to source some rather fabulous Victorian bricks to create the wall and then filled it in with plants.


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The finished creation

This is the finished piece, I was really chuffed as this was a photo taken by a visitor to the garden over the weekend and posted on our facebook page. Do visit  the page and give us a like and you’ll be able to stay up to-date with all that’s going on in the garden.#