The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Wild garlic: Ramsons (Allium ursinum)

Posted in Hedgerow food, Plants and Bulbs | 13 comments

Wild garlic: Ramsons (Allium ursinum)

  Back in the last century, when I was at boarding school, the music and science block was a short five minute walk from our classroom. This is also where I was taught to play the violin by The Missing Link but that’s another story. In Spring there were frothy cushions of wild garlic either side of the road. No one was keen on singing lessons so one day we thought that we’d spice things up a bit and eat some wild garlic. “Then we’ll open our mouths as wide as possible as we sing.” “Yes lets! She can’t complain as for once...

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How to grow your own saffron

Posted in Plants and Bulbs | 5 comments

How to grow your own saffron

  Saffron – fragrant, delicate and more expensive than gold can be grown in your own garden. Given the right conditions it is easy to grow. Even though we live just a 25 minute drive from Saffron Walden, where saffron was grown commercially from the 16th to the 18th century, I hadn’t considered growing it myself.  Then two years ago I read this post on the Purple Podded Peas blog. “Hmm.” I thought. “I’d like to try growing some myself.” And then forgot all about them. The next year Magic Cochin gave me another nudge and I...

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Buying bulbs in bulk and a few bulb planting tips

Posted in Flowers, General care, Plants and Bulbs | 9 comments

Buying bulbs in bulk and a few bulb planting tips

This is the time of year that the shelves are groaning with Spring bulbs at the local garden centres. Tempting displays that usually draw me in. But not this year. These little packs of 10 bulbs for £3.99 are too expensive. I’m buying in bulk. When I first moved to the cottage I invested in a lot of tulip bulbs that gradually died out over the years – I had no idea that most of them need to be lifted and stored over the summer. Since then we have invested in species tulips that spread gently in the tubs and borders. There are two types of...

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Amaryllis (indoor and hardy)

Posted in Flowers, Plants and Bulbs | 3 comments

Amaryllis (indoor and hardy)

  Now that’s a name to conjure with. I’ve never met anyone or even a pet called Amaryllis. I did know a girl called Primrose T. She had big bones and would galumph across the lacrosse field and score goal after goal. Not being a sporty type I was always relegated to the edge of the field where I could observe the hub of the game and rarely be tasked to join in. Oh the bliss of growing up and not having to endure school sports. I used to only grow white amaryllis but gradually I have begun to appreciate the huge range of colourful blooms...

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How to get the best from your lilies

Posted in Flowers, Plants and Bulbs | 9 comments

How to get the best from your lilies

  I’m embarrassed to admit that until last week I didn’t know that most lilies prefer acid soil. I knew that most of them thrive in a well drained sunny site but I never investigated the soil aspect. Again I think that acquiring gardening knowledge is a time thing. No pack informs you that you need a slightly acid soil. Clearly, withholding this information will sell more bulbs. For the past 18 years I reckoned I had all the answers and planted my lily bulbs with gay abandon. Always with a decent layer of 5 cm of horticultural grit but...

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Seeds and seed packets

Posted in Plants and Bulbs | 8 comments

Seeds and seed packets

  Following the excitement of last weeks visitor and staying up for two whole days without a rest, I feel completely shattered today and spent most of the day in bed. The laptop was working overtime as I was researching buying vegetable seeds on the internet and comparing prices. This was prompted by finding a pack of Heritage and Heirloom seeds that I bought from the  Pennard Plants stand at Hampton Court Flower Show this summer. It was the illustration on the pack that attracted me. Surely it’s Great Aunt Daisy Beatyl wearing a long...

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Childhood perennials

Posted in Flowers, Plants and Bulbs | 6 comments

Childhood perennials

I stayed at home today. Can’t seem to kick off the laryngitis so spent most of the day in bed, with the Min Pins and a hottie. This evening D and I strolled in the garden. “What are these?” He touched the large evergreen waxy leaves gently. “Bear’s Ears. Bergenia. Ours have pink flowers in the spring.” “And what are these?” “Lamb’s Ears. Stachys byzantine. Touch them. They’re as soft and silky as a Min Pin pup.” I’ve included these two perennials in all my gardens. Flowers that I remember growing in gardens when I was...

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Every year I fall in love with Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ again

Posted in Plants and Bulbs | 6 comments

Every year I fall in love with Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ again

We only grow old roses in our garden. As we have loads of space we can afford to do this rather than plant repeat flowering roses. Some of the old ones do repeat their flowers throughout the summer but even with these the first flush is always the best. The newer varieties of roses are bred to flower on and off all summer. If you have a small garden these can be a joy but they rarely bowl you over or are stunning at any point in the year. They are bred for repeat floweng and that’s what you get. The old roses that flower just once a year...

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