Category Archives: Winter

#5 things for February

 british flowers, bradford on avon

the garden in February – it’s all about the preparation

Winter is the traditional down-time in the flower garden, but as February moves on, light levels get better and seed sowing will start. Early in the month is the perfect opportunity for getting outside for a few hours on a dry day and preparing for the sowing frenzy that is to come.

British flowers

It will soon be time to start sewing seeds

Here are our top tips for #5things to get on with this month.

  1. Weed your beds thoroughly on a dry day, order some bulk bags of compost and mulch the ground.
  2. Order seed compost so that you can get going in the latter half of the month. We’re experimenting with some peat-free seed compost this year – better for the environment and, we hope, just as good for our seeds.
  3. Prune winter flowering shrubs after flowering, which will allow the maximum time for the development of young growth to provide the following year’s flowers before the end of the summer. Cut any damaged or dead shoots back to their point of origin or to ground level. Where there are many stems remove some to ground level to keep the bush open. Finally take out any weak, spindly or twiggy shoots right to the point of origin or to ground level so the plant concentrates its resources on strong new shoots that will bear the best flowers. Each year cut out up to 20 percent of ageing stems to near the base.
  4. After they have flowered, lift and divide snowdrops ‘in the green’ and replant to increase your stock for next year. Much more effective than planting dry bulbs.
  5. Start dahlia tubers stored over the winter into new growth. Divide the tubers when shoots are 2-3cm (about an inch) tall by separating them into portions, ensuring each section has both roots and shoots. Pot each section into a separate container and grow on until they are ready to plant out after the risk of frost is over.

Once all this is done you’ll be ready for seed sowing in a few weeks’  time.

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.

#5 things for January

looking out over the garden at the start of 2016

looking out over the garden at the start of 2016

Happy New Year, flower lovers. We’re not into new year’s resolutions – certainly not of the giving up gin and cake variety. We get plenty of exercise in the Not so Secret Garden all year round to make this unnecessary. However, we have decided to introduce a new feature for 2016 on the blog.

From time to time you’ll see #5things appearing in the header as a way of signposting you to our top tips on all sorts of things. We’re beginning the new year with our top 5 things to do in the cutting garden in January. We’d love to hear about anybody who has been inspired to start their own cutting patch this year and is growing along with us. Tweet us or comment on our Facebook page. Of course, if you love cut flowers but have no time or space to grow many, we’ll happily provide you with beautiful, fragrant, home-grown blooms throughout most of the year.

January may seem like the closed season in the garden but, believe me, there’s plenty to be achieved even in the depths of winter.

  1. Give in to the natural urge to have a sort-out after Christmas. january is the perfect month to get rid of superfluous or broken garden bits and pieces, clean and tidy your greenhouse, wash pots and seed trays, maintain tools and organise yourself before seed sowing starts in earnest next month.
  2. Put in a seed order. Take a long hard look at your growing space, make a wishlist of some of your favourite flowers and settle down to make a planting plan to ensure that you have some cut flowers growing all through the season. (More of this later!) Then spend an hour in front of the fire with the seed catalogues before putting in an order to arrive in plenty of time for sowing tie in February.
  3. Plant a shrub. Increase your stock of foliage  for posies and bouquets by growing a shrub or two. Now is the time to get planting as it’s the dormant season but the ground is still soft  enough to work. Get your new plants off to the best start by adding some myccorhizal fungi to the planting hole.
  4. Prune your existing roses. Roses can be pruned when they are dormant. Cut to just above a bud and remove any straggly or crossing stems to give your rose a good shape.
  5. Plant out under cover (in a polytunnel) for early blooms. If you sowed a few sweet peas back in the autumn then you can pop them into your polytunnel now to ensure early pickings. If you don’t have a polytunnel, then keep pinching out the tips of your seedlings to avoid them getting weak and leggy. You can plant them out once the weather warms u in the spring. We’re experimenting with ranunculus by planting them out early with protection as they have outgrown their pots in the polytunnel. Ranunculus planted out of doors in a sheltered spot will be fine without protection – but our cossetted plants would have a bit of a shock.

If you are serious about growing along with us, then why not subscribe to our newsletterYou’ll receive a monthly email with a planting plan for your cutting patch along with a monthly to do list, hints and tips from Grace and the team.

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!


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.

Bradford-on-avon, british flowers

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.

British flowers, wiltshire

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.

Christmas is coming – it’s time to make a festive wreath

a good morning's work making Christmas wreaths at Hartley Farm

a good morning’s work making Christmas wreaths at Hartley Farm

We’ve been busy running wreath making workshops this week with Young Bloomscreating beautiful, fragrant festive wreaths to deck front doors all over Winsley and Bradford on Avon.

If you fancy having a go at crafting your own, but can’t make it up to the workshop then this post is just the thing for you. Follow our step by step instructions and you’ll soon be decking your own front door with a beautiful circle of fragrant, festive foliage and berries,

Here’s how….

Use a wire frame which can easily be sourced online or from garden centres with a florist’s section. Tie a long string hanger on the wire before you start so that you can hang it from your door. Then it’s time for ‘mossing up’.

This is the process of securing a moss base around the whole circle of wire. Use moss from a lawn or purchased from a florist wholesaler. Take a handful of moss at a time, place it on the wire ring and and wind string round quite tightly to secure it. Do this until you have a complete circle of moss. The moss provides a nice base for the foliage and gives the wreath a better shape and a natural look.

build onto a mossed wire ring

build onto a mossed wire ring

To decorate your wreath you need some bundles of evergreen foliage. Pine, berried ivy, even leylandii are all good to use. Snip all the foliage into similar sized stems. Strip the bottom of the stems of leaves and gather a selection together into a  tiny bundle. The bundles should slightly overlap the frame to give a full, abundant look.

build bundles of foliage round  your mossed circle

build bundles of foliage round your mossed circle

Secure each bundle onto your mossed base, pulling the string quite tight or securing with metal pins and laying each bundle over the stems of the previous bundle. When you reach the end, lift up the first bundle and secure the final one underneath the first to give a cohesive look, which stays nicely in place.

snip off anything too long which spoils the shape

snip off anything too long which spoils the shape

Decorate further with pinecones, a big bow, bundles of chillis, orange slices, cinnamon sticks – all of which can be wired in quite easily. The choice is yours.

a cheerful welcome for all your Christmas guests

a cheerful welcome for all your Christmas guests

And if all of this sounds like a lot of work, for which you have little time, don’t forget you can pop up to Young Blooms and order seasonal wreaths, table arrangements and bouquets. Let us do the work so you can have a fabulously fragrant, beautiful and stress-free Christmas.

Fabulous foliage

At this time of year more than any other, a garden bursting with shrubs and evergreens is a real boon to the flower grower. If you don’t have room for many then plant one or two and check out the gardens of friends. Try to negotiate pruning/foraging rights to spruce up your seasonal arrangements of home-grown flowers.

British flowers, bath

Mint is fabulous through the summer months as a foliage

Foliage is equally as important or even, more important than the flowers. A floral arrangement should be just like a garden: the foliage is really what holds it all together.

Bath, british flowers

Old’s man beard is a perfect filler in Christmas wreaths

We’re intent on cultivating plenty of foliage in the Not so Secret Garden and have drawn up a list of our favourites.

British flowers, bradford on avon

We now have three eucalyptus bushes in the garden.


For winter we’d be happy pruning from any of these:-

  • white & green Euonymus
  • Bay
  • Rosemary
  • Curry plant
  • Senecio
  • Skimmia japonica
  • Berried and trailing ivy
  • Photina
  • Viburum tinus
  • Tight leaved silvery hebe
  • Mahonia
  • Abelia grandiflora
  • Myrtle
  • Eucalyptus
  • Leucothoe
  • Sarcococca
  • Crab apples
  • Pittosporum
  • Curly (contorted) Hazel
  • Curly (contorted) Willow.
  • Leylandii, Old Man’s Beard, Scots pine and Silver backed pine really come into their own at wreath making time. Larch cones are a boon too.
Bradford on avon, british flowers

A small selection from the garden

As with flowers you need to cut your foliage a few hours before arranging it. Recut the bottom of the stems once you’ve got it indoors, and plunge it straight into water to condition it before you start. Your foliage will last longer.

Be selective when you prune. Only cut what you need and think about how you are pruning the plant when you cut. You want to be able to come back for more next year.

We’ll post again our favourite spring and summer foliage plants in plenty of time for you to sow and grow your own in the new year. If you haven’t time, don’t worry we’ll be only to happy to supply you with some beautiful flower and foliage arrangements from the garden next year. We’ve tucked it up for winter but the shoots of bulbs are already poking through.

Don’t forget that our partners Young Blooms are running two wreath-making workshops soon. It’s a great way to while away a couple of winter hours and come away with a fabulous wreath to welcome friends to your front door over the festive season. Details here.

Tulip time

Clearing beds and tucking in tulips this week

Clearing beds and tucking in tulips this week

November is the start of tulip planting in the garden. Unlike other spring bulbs, the tulips really need the cold weather to put on their best show in the spring. Planting round about now can help reduce incidences of “tulip fire”, a fungal disease that can cause brown spots and twisted, withered and distorted leaves. In mild autumns it is perfectly fine to leave planting them until December – if the Christmas frenzy doesn’t grab you, although don’t wait until the ground is too hard to dig a planting  trench.

Homegrown tulips are bigger, blowsier. more beautiful and more fragrant than the tight unremarkable specimens which can be seen around the supermarkets in the new year. And there are literally dozens to choose in jewel colours or sophisticated creams and whites.

Plant at a depth of about three times the height of the bulb in trenches. This makes both planting and cutting easier. When the frosts come we’ll be chopping down our blackened dahlias and either lifting them or leaving them in the ground with a thick covering of mulch. Where you have limited space in your cutting patch. tulips can be interplanted with dahlias and the whole bed mulched thickly with compost. So much beauty in relatively little  space!

This year we’re planting the elegantly-silouetted, white ‘Tres Chic’, ‘Orange Princess’, a lovely peony-flowered tulip with light nasturtium-orange petals, flushed with reddish-purple and ‘Queen of the Night’, a tall, striking almost black beauty.

Tulips really are beautiful. These were grown by another Wiltshire grower Sara of Our Flower Patch.

Tulips really are beautiful. These were grown by another Wiltshire grower Sara of Our Flower Patch.
















Look out for some fabulous bunches of these fragrant tulips in the farm shop in the spring.Young Blooms brides who are interested in The Not So Secret Garden package will certainly benefit from our November plantings too.

And don’t forget, if you’d like to join us for a couple of hours on a wreath making workshop in the run up to Christmas, the details and booking information are available here. We’d love to see you.

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.