Plotting a Wedding

Recently I was offered my first chance to grow wedding flowers and with some (realistic) trepidation have accepted. So now the planning begins. What a responsibility, but how exciting to have a definite focus to work towards. Just what I need as Spring is so stubbornly refusing to cooperate. The date is early August so this should give me lots of time for planning  and successional sowing once I have decided exactly what it is I should grow.

The brief from my daughter’s lovely friend is very open, but definitely must include cornflowers – lucky then that I already have  Autumn and early Spring planted plants. Will just need to keep this going.


Lets hope this year’s cornflowers are as lovely as last

Couldn’t sleep on the first night after taking up the offer for thinking about  larkspur and nigella. Almost got up in the dark to sow some. In daylight, it was clear that some calm planning was necessary. Even a mood board perhaps – never done one in my life, but now might be the moment. Want to give the bride an idea of the different possibilities before it is too late to sow them. So far, along with the cornflowers, nigella & larkspur (white and blue) I am thinking dill and ammi (I do have some Autumn sown in pots) and fail safe cosmos. Also hoping that I will be able to keep my sweetpeas going until then.


Cosmos Dazzler

But what about the impact flower? Possibilities include dahlias, roses if they are still flowering at the plot and sunflowers.


Roses at the plot

Stuck indoors with the last of the snow lingering, I sent off a flurry of seed orders. The very opposite of the careful planning that was needed. Scabiosa in all its guises seems to be my current obsession and the sturdy, Autumn sown Black Cat and (perhaps more appropriate for a wedding) Blue Cushion plants give a head start.

So over four months of planning, propagating and plotting to go which is a very fine prospect indeed.


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Six on Saturday

This is a whirlwind Six before setting off on a trip. Mild and damp outside, it couldn’t be more different from last Saturday’s white out. The elastic resilience of plants has amazed me. Last week bent down with heavy snow, there seemed to be no hope for the hellebores or daffodils, but they have popped right back up. Apart from sowing some seeds hopefully in the greenhouse and pricking out, there wasn’t any real gardening to be done last week, so damagingly for my bank account, I had too much time to buy plants and seeds. And, excitingly, they have arrived already.

So first up is the lovely, double primula, Dawn Ansell. Not something I would have liked a few years ago, but now have a dangerously soft spot for pretty plants like this,(though the common primrose which spreads around the garden is still the favourite). Am hoping this purchase will be the mother plant for lots of offspring over the years. Or is that just an excuse?

primula dawn ansell

Next are the slightly ragged auriculas which were given shelter in the greenhouse and are producing buds despite looking a little off colour. This is another plant I have changed my mind about.

Third are the sweetpeas plants which are pretty much everywhere there is a flat space. Pricking them out is a constant of my week and there are still lots to go. In the time of snow, when I wasn’t thinking as straight as I should, even ordered more seed. Like the tomatoes and chillies, they are mounting a takeover. White Mrs Collier and Royal Wedding along with brights like Barry Dare and Blue Velvet are looking  perky despite being kept outside now to toughen up.

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In the corner of the garden, the quince is almost glowing and promises to soon unwrap its beautiful and very slightly blowsy blooms. It has never produced fruit, despite us having it for ages whereas my allotment quince was laden after two years. It doesn’t really matter, as the blossom is worth it on its own.


Fifth is the resilient achillea Cerise Queen which was neglected on the potting bench outside to cope with everything Winter had in its arsenal and has survived it all looking green and healthy.


Last of all are the muscari armeniacum bulbs which seemed to coming up blind, but there they are are showing hopeful tiny buds. And that seems to suit today.


There may be persistent rain to come here over the next week, but the warmth this morning and the length of the light, are definite signs that we are moving away from winter.

Please take a look at the The Propagator for a growing number of excellent Sixes.


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Six on Saturday

Lets be honest if it was difficult last week to find a different Six, this week it is teetering on the impossible. The real blanket on the ground, close schools and make the road outside your house impassable snow only arrived softly and slowly on Thursday. Now, on Saturday, it has got all my garden under its grip and there isn’t much to see apart from its whiteness. But I am not going to miss my Six again so here goes, with apologies for the sparseness and possible repetition.

First of all and surprisingly healthy considering it has overwintered on my draughty windowsill is the brilliant, bright red of pelargonium, Stadt Bern, bought as a small plant from Derry Watkins’ Special Plants and potted on. I love it so much that I bought another by mistake a few months later. I have at least managed to get a cutting from it to survive the Winter. Its leaves are still dull and not Spring fresh, but it’s alive.

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Next is the everyday loveliness of narcissus Tete a Tete; before the snow came this flower was bent over and frozen so picked it. A few hours later, it had perked up and cheered me up. Pretty sure you can’t have too many of these. Now all my other daffodils are bent over and weighted down with snow. Hope they bounce back up too once its gone.

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Third is a bit of a cheat – another pelargonium. This time a cutting of Salmon(maybe)Queen which is hanging on indoors waiting for some warmth. Took this at a propagation workshop so am looking forward to seeing what it looks like.

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Number 4 are the tender seedlings, sheltering on the kitchen table waiting to be potted on. The compost in the greenhouse is too cold and would probably see them off. I am waiting for tomorrow when everyone else is out for the day to do some furtive potting on the kitchen table. Slim Jim aubergine, Principe Borghese tomatoes and Submarine chillies will all be moved into their own small pots. Then the real challenge will be where to put them…


Fifth is the delicate and beautiful acer just outside our kitchen window. As with many of the plants in the garden, its name is long forgotten and I am not even sure we realised that it would provide interest on every single day of the year when we bought it. It has fresh green leaves in spring, fiery Autumn colour and these wonderful red stems in Winter and we don’t have to make any effort to see it.

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Last of all is not a plant, but my very trusty and useful small white van which we bought when the car finally died. The regular sprinklings of soil in the boot of our last shared car, along with tools and sometimes an odd plant was a source of  regular disappointment to my partner. Now, how wonderful to have a van where all that is legitimate and where I can fit all my farmers market plants without having to shove boxes on the passenger seats.

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But today it is not going anywhere.  Lots of time then to enjoy other people’s Sixes  with thanks to The Propagator.

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Six on Saturday

Difficult to feel that there is an abundance of choice for this week’s Six on Saturday with the ground frozen, plants stopped in their tracks and newly emerging seeds looking regretful. Here in this garden a new bout of Winter isn’t welcome. The snowdrops are almost past their best; some of the hellebores are looking strained and much of the garden is pretty desolate. Nevertheless, I am determined not to miss a Six two Saturdays in a row – so here goes (with thanks to The Propagator).

Number 1 is Puschkinia ,  a new bulb for this year. Wasn’t sure I was going to like it in its emerging stage when the flowers looked as if they were going to be  too squat, but today in sun and cold it has grown into itself and looks satisfyingly fresh and starry, though it still has some growing to go.

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Not fully out, but already very pretty

Number 2 is the stalwart vinca which just pops up her and there along the back fence; today it has a couple of new blue flowers to look at the sun.

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Next, protected in the greenhouse from last night’s freeze,  are the newly emerging tips of my Havel peas, bought from Real Seeds and destined for the allotment. Am hoping to get organised enough to get  a continuous supply of peas this summer – Oskar is next for sowing. It is almost certain that all of them will be eaten fresh from the pod and not make the pot.

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Fourth is the plant which has given me the most joy this Winter – the winter flowering honeysuckle. It certainly doesn’t look showstopping, but its scent stops me in my tracks almost every day. The bees luxuriate in it too.

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Fifth might have appeared before so apologies, but am surprised, considering their neglect, to have so many small penstemon plants growing healthily from cuttings. This one is Alice Hindley.

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Last is the reappearing tarragon. Shoved in the greenhouse over winter it is coming back tender and green.

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So that was my six and once I started looking of course there was a lot more going on than I thought.

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Six on Saturday

Ok, I’ll admit it straightaway – this is probably a bit of a cheat, but in my defence this week I have either been ill, or working and today I am off on a trip. So here is something that is gardening related, but not directly about my garden. My Six on Saturday is about  what have been some of my best gardening learning experiences to date. Lets hope the meme leader, The Propagator, doesn’t think this is going too far off the gardening path.

Even when I was working all hours and family was full on and I had an uncontrolled garden and a weed filled allotment as well as an undeveloped plot , I still found time to sneak off somewhere now and again to learn how to garden better. Sometimes that might be just upstairs with a book  and other times it would be 200 odd miles away to a course or a garden visit.

1.In my early days of gardening it was Sarah Raven’s Perch Hill that I was drawn to again and again. First to morning courses on growing vegetables or cooking them or growing flowers for cutting and often for Open Days and once or twice (because then I could afford it) for the indulgence of a whole day’s course. Getting there takes over two hours, but I  always found it worth it.  As a teacher, I am probably more than usually critical about people who are teaching me, (though I realise this isn’t a particularly positive trait). Sarah Raven, as I found out straightaway, is a brilliant teacher and, as with all excellent teachers, it is hard to exactly pin down exactly what she does to be so completely engaging.

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Dark (Sarah Raven influenced) dahlias

2. Equally and consistently excellent are the workshops and classes at, the more local to me, Green and Gorgeous. A flower farm with all the flowers I love grown expertly, it is also  a wonderful place to learn about propagating, growing and arranging flowers with Rachel Seigfried a generous and inspiring teacher.


An abundance of blue at Green and Gorgeous

3.Sometimes, just visiting a place can give you inspiration and if you live near Worton Farm in Oxfordshire, just a few minutes walking around will give you a bag full of ideas about growing.

4. My absolutely favourite  book on propagation is Carol Klein’s ‘Grow Your Own Garden’ which is reassuring,  clear and authoritative.


5. A very different and still completely wonderful book is ‘The Morville Hours’ by Katherine Swift which in graceful prose taught me that gardening as an obsessive delight  is not quite as unusual as I thought.

morville hours

6. And last of all is, not a book nor a blog, but my very lively and loyal gardening buddy who, unlike me, has lots of RHS qualifications to their name. Gardening therapy is the term we have taken to giving to our (at least) weekly, intense discussions over wine or coffee.

Next week, even if it still feels too cold to go outside,  there will be a six very firmly grounded in the garden.

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Examining the Plot

Just like the allotment, I have found it too easy to forget the plot.  It seems I have been in almost total gardening hibernation since November, apart from the odd hour here and there pottering in the greenhouse and digging up leeks from their clay bed at the allotment.

Definitely no pretty pictures from today with this post as apart from the nettles which do look perky with new growth, there is very little else showing at the plot. Though, the  sturdy pittosporums, both variegated and fresh green, are looking resilient, totally unaffected by Winter’s cold and wet. Shiny and healthily lovely in the gloom, they are waiting for something else to come back and join them. And amidst the fallen debris of last year’s annuals, there are a few small beaks of tulips opening up and some narcissi with a hint of bud. But everywhere else it is about decay and cold earth. Of course, there is hope that there are perennials biding their time under the surface just waiting for warmth. A little like me.

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Six on Saturday

So now it is February and there have been some piercingly bright days slicing the grey and the gloom. The light is lasting for longer and although the nights have gone back to cold and some mornings to frosty, seed sowing now seems more justifiable. In the only very faintly heated greenhouse the cuttings and seedlings which seemed to have been  holding their breath dormant for months are now gradually breaking into life:  putting on fresh green growth and shoving white roots vigorously through the bottom of their pots. Increasingly difficult now  to ignore the seedlings which are elbowing each other in their overcrowded trays.

First of all and starting in the shelter of the greenhouse, there is optimism in the survivors from last Autumn’s propagation workshop at Derry Watkins’ Special Plants.Yes, the pelargonium cuttings have been under attack from the tiny slugs sheltering out of sight under the lip of the pots, but they still seem robust enough.


Second are the the Jamaican Primrose cuttings, taken from Derry’s garden on a wet and windy Autumn afternoon, which are definitely outgrowing their pots. Just hope they can keep this up until some warmth creeps back.

Next are the Thalictrum seedlings which are unfurling their fresh greenness very prettily.


Number 4 (and last in a quick final look round the greenhouse highlights) are the unexpectedly healthy looking cuttings taken from Salvia nachtvlinder – perhaps the most loved out of my many loved (but often neglected) salvias.


Outside the  door, entirely exposed to the worst of all the weather are some of the autumn planted cornflowers – blue, black or lacking a label. Probably should be potted on or out, but for now they are marooned there waiting.


And 6 can be the lovely fat buds growing on the clematis around the apple tree at the end of the garden which have survived the dog’s raids on the squirrels.


Not a day for being outside with its mean, bleak mizzle. Or even inside the cold greenhouse. Better to light a fire and catch up on everyone else’s Six on Saturday – thanks to The Propagator.

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