The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


The grand amaryllis challenge

Posted in Flowers | 13 comments

The grand amaryllis challenge

My mum gave me two amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs at Christmas and finally today they have been set in a bed of compost. They will flower a bit later than usual but that’s fine with me. We usually have a race to see whose amaryllis flowers first. A few years ago I was decorating her house and seemingly overnight her amaryllis developed a second bud. Neither of us had ever seen this wonder before. Like many people nowadays she keeps her mind in trim by tackling The Times crossword every day. She does not get up in the morning until she has...

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Hyacinths

Posted in Flowers | 9 comments

Hyacinths

It’s my T.S. Eliot time of year. Three large blue hyacinths loll beside the laptop on the kitchen table. Their scent is as overwhelming as the weight of their waxy flower heads. My old edition of Eliot’s complete poems is just out of reach. Slim and tempting and almost as worn as the hands that turn the pages. The book now smells musty. I have opened its covers and dived in for nearly thirty years. The long intermittent journey has been more startling and intriguing than most. Hyacinths and The Waste Land are a heady mix. This...

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Isolde the self propogating Dendrobium orchid

Posted in Flowers | 8 comments

Isolde the self propogating Dendrobium orchid

Isolde, our Dendrobium orchid has had five babies this year. The quintuplets didn’t come all at once. They have developed gradually. Initially I noticed that she was developing a cluster of leaves on a stalk, with very fine roots, about ten months ago. The roots thickened up. I decided to leave the baby orchid on the plant and wait to see what would happen. Gradually more babies appeared. Isolde continued to throw up flowering shoots. Just as one would expect from an orchid named after a Wagnarian heroine. About a month ago I found the...

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How to make your orchids flower for months

Posted in Flowers | 25 comments

How to make your orchids flower for months

I can now understand why some people get obsessed with orchids. These are definitely flowers with attitude. We have two types of orchid living in the cottage. Phalaenopsis and one Dendrobium. Their flowers remind me of the heads of mythical beasts. Open-mouthed in a chatty rather than a snappy way. If you care for them properly, their extended flowering period almost guarantees that eventually they will start to work their magic and make their presence felt. Our orchids live in the bathroom, on a deep windowsill. They seem to like the steam...

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Hyacinths in The Waste Land

Posted in Flowers | 0 comments

Hyacinths in The Waste Land

There’s something very sexy about hyacinths. Their fresh, heady exotic scent draws one way beyond the waxy flower heads and squeak of constraining leaves. Danny buried his nose in a pot of them and glanced up at me, “Mmmmm. Lovely. They smell of spring.” And they do but the scent has a deeper resonance for me. Each year the hyacinth draws me back to T.S. Eliot. When the flowers have finally come into their own and the house is heavy with their sultry perfume, I’m searching for my copy of The Waste Land. Somehow the...

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Narcissus: Paper Whites are flowering for us

Posted in Flowers | 0 comments

Narcissus: Paper Whites are flowering for us

When my Mum left at the end of her Christmas visit this year, she asked me to open the boot of her car. She had a funny glinty look so I was intrigued as I put the key in the look. Snuggled up beside the tyre jack was a bowl planted with paper white narcissii. I was delighted. In an instant she had filled a yawning gap. Usually we buy bulbs and plant them in large bowls for the cottage so that they’ll flower for us indoors through January and February. Once they are over, I plant the paper whites in a sunny protected spot in the garden...

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Jasmine Hoop (Jasminum polyanthum)

Posted in Plants and Bulbs | 1 comment

Jasmine Hoop (Jasminum polyanthum)

If I haven’t had time to pot up bulbs for the house before Christmas I usually nip into Homebase around New Year to snap up some bulb sale bargains. This year I treated myself to a hoop of Jasmine polyanthum and now the kitchen is filled with its heady scent and the expectation of six weeks of flowers. There is something rather old fashioned and charming about this plant. I’m tempted to buy one most years and generally it fades away after flowering. I’m not intuitive with houseplants so I decided to do some research on caring...

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