The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Flowers from the garden: November

november flowers from a UK gardenWhen I saw the clever fireworks post on Purple Podded Peas I felt inspired to rush out and see what was flowering in our garden. I must admit I wasn’t dazzled by our display but I managed pick this little old fashioned posy. The sort of bijou arrangement that I imagine would sit on a side table in a Dicken’s novel. An incidental backdrop to the plot.

The Flowers from the garden posts report on my progress since I decided not to buy flowers for the house in January 2007. I have managed to avoid buying cut flowers from supermarkets, markets, wayside stands or even from a friend for eleven months now. At first it was really hard. I love flowers and used to spend around 10 pounds a week on them. My rule, back then, was not to pick flowers from the garden. They were part of the garden and to be enjoyed in situ. Also uncut, flowers last so much longer.

So when I step out with my secateurs alarm bells still ring and I feel a bit of a devil picking anything.

This is a two part exercise. Saving money and discovering the bounty lurking in the herbaceous borders and garden pots. Over the past year, I have splashed out on perennials for the garden. I haven’t hoovered the credit card, hired a pantechnicon and headed out to the nearest nursery garden. Although there have been moments when I would have loved this foray. The outlay has been a maximum of a fiver a month but generally just couple of quid. This meant keeping my eyes peeled everywhere I travelled. In February, I found a plant stand in Debden and invested in pots of snowdrops for the front of the cottage. We have small patches. In the future I’d love to have drifts.

Once a month Jalopy and I rumble off on a 12 mile trip to buy a sack of chicken food. I always stop at the stand outside the secret garden and buy 6 plants for two quid. On Sunday I bought a little rose, an aquilegia (hopefully not pink, like all our other aquilegias – the other colours have died out over the last ten years), three digitalis grandiflora and a tiny yew which I plan to plant in a focal point and eventually cut into a good topiary shape. Plants from this stand that I bought last Autumn have already given us pleasure throughout the summer. They are good, strong plants with minimalist labels. I love the mystery and, having seen the secret garden, the plants from this stand have the green light for me.

This November posy contains a very pretty china rose that flowers, even in a cold winter, right up until Christmas. The little yellow rose behind is Canary Bird, which shouldn’t be flowering now and was a bit of a surprise. There is a pretty pink Chrysanthemum (bought from the Debden stand) and a rougher burgundy coloured Chrysanthemum (from the secret garden stand). The last pink cosmos (seed pack 19p from Netto). Some nemisia from the summer barrels at the front of the cottage and a few of the white geranium retreads from my mother’s Cambridge window boxes (2006). Anna’s present of astrantia major is still going strong, and you can see it nestled behind the Debden Chrysanthemum. Beside the astrantia I have added red verbena from the barrels at the front, just for fun. I like the pink/purple/red offset of colours. The final star is a very pretty, delicate pink fuschia – a present from our friends Jocelyn and Miles. It has loved the wet summer and is now a giant amongst shrub fuschias. It may have to be moved.


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13 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate,

    What a wonderful story! I love the idea of you trading a carrier bag for some of the swag.

    Thanks for the planting tips, much appreciated.

  2. Nerines don’t like to be planted too deep, leave the necks above the ground.They also like to be huddled together, so get better as they multiply. They are supposed to prefer a sunny spot facing south, but they will also bloom facing east and west, they just multiply faster and bloom more in a hot southerly place. I rescued most of my nerines from the rubbish heap behind the sea-scout hut. My daughter walked down the footpath into town everyday on her way to and from school, one day she came home and said, “mum, there are some interesting bulbs someone has thrown over the fence behind the scout hut, I think you should come and look at them.” So, the next Saturday we went into town together and stopped to look through the wire fence. Hell fire, a huge, football-sized clump of nerines. Most of the time the scouts kept the very tall gates to their hut locked, but I kept my eyes peeled and a couple of weeks later when I walked past on my way to meet my husband for tea in town the gate was open. I raced in, just in case a) I got spotted b) I got shut in. By now large stinging nettles had grown up all round the heap, but the thought of free nerines was overpowering.I ran out clutching my football of bulbs. When asked why I was late for tea I had a unique excuse ” I had to go behind the scout hut to rescue some nerines, then I had to go to the ironmongers as I knew that the ironmonger’s wife would like some of the nerines too in exchange for a sturdy bag to carry them home in.” Every time I walk down the footpath I check to see if any more nerines have been thrown on the rubbish heap; the rescued bulbs put on their best show yet this autumn and nettle stings are supposed to be very good for arthritis…

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Celia,

    You have a very special garden, reflected in your photos.

    Thanks so much for such a complementary comment!

    Hi Kathyann,

    That™s a great tip about B&Q. Worth checking out.

    You can do so much with tubs and pots.

    Hi Pat,

    The past 11 months have been an interesting challenge. The herbaceous borders are getting much more attention from me now!

    I am still tempted by the shop flowers, every now and then.

    Hi Mary,

    Brilliant news that you have started a blog. What is the address? I™d love to have a look.

    Hi Anne,

    Those are great ideas. I need to experiment with greenery more. Good news that you are now blogging too. I see that you have left some details below. I Googled you and found your blog. Fabulous start!

    Yes, I agree Kathyann.

    Hi Joanna,

    Liveheading “ that tickled me. And you are right. I miss so much of the garden at this time of year. Rushing about in the morning and then it™s dark when I get back from work.

    I must invest in Dahlias. Didn™t know that the more you pick the more you get.

    Hi Kate(uk),

    Nerines. I visited a garden last weekend and it was full of them. I™ve tried growing them here without success. Do you have any special tips?

    Hi Mildred,

    I agree. Somehow, flowers from your own garden seem so much more special.

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