Category Archives: Projects

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.

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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.

Celebrating our upcycled greenhouse

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Our green-house in all it’s glory!

We love a bit of recycling and upcycling in the Not so Secret Garden and this year we have excelled ourselves with an entire upcycled greenhouse making use of old windows and doors.

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Gradually, despite the bonkers weather the building took shape, thanks to some precision woodworking from Craig.

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A thing of beauty and a joy forever, we’ve already made good use of it for workshops in the garden. Why not pop up and see it? Maybe it will provide you with some inspiration for your own garden upcycling project.

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.

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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!

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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!

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Looking back at the year

 

British flowers, wiltshire

Our summer workshop in the garden.

I started writing this blog post in the slightly strange period they call twixmus (the time between Christmas and New Year)  and thought a brief look back at the year to celebrate what we have achieved was a good plan before moving onto the new year. As I scan through the photos I’ve taken on my phone through the year, I can see weddings where Young Blooms have created stunning arrangements with flowers supplied by the Not so Secret Garden; there have been workshops in the summer-time; bouquets sold at Hartley Farm-shop and some fabulous floral moments of pure loveliness!

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I’m excited for the year to come as it feels like the garden is ready for a good year. We have tulips, daffs, aliums, some cornflowers and sweet William already in and waiting to bloom. We have great plans to supply more seasonal and fragrant wedding flowers. The weather might be going bonkers at the moment but I feel the Spring is going to be a good one.

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A bucket of pure loveliness

We have ordered more of these gorgeous dark plum coloured sweet-peas as they worked so well in 2015, I think we were still picking a few at the beginning of November. I’m also going to order some of these stunning sunflowers (they are called ruby eclipse) and are a wonderful peachy colour.

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Some stunning sunflowers

As we move into a new year, there’s plenty of activity going on under the soil so that spring will be blooming marvellous. Happy New Year to you and yours from the Not so Secret Garden team.

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.

Creating art with succulents

 

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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.

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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.

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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.