The Cottage Smallholder

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Boning up on flowers for the gate side stand


Photo: The herbacious border that I am extending

Photo: The herbacious border that I am extending

Having come from a long line of perennial gardeners I always thought of annuals as the sort of summer bedding that you see on roundabouts and parks. I usually put geraniums in the big barrels beside the cottage front door and add a bit of lobelia.  Apart from a few marigolds to grow with tomatoes and lots of sweet peas, that’s it.

I had no idea that there were so many gorgeous annuals available until I read your comments on this post and on the post the next day.

In the end I decided to order some plugs and some seed. This past week has been a steep learning curve for me but there’s a true delight in looking at flowers and planning the new look herbaceous borders. I had never heard of Bells of Ireland or Ammi Major. Taking Kate’s advice, I’ve been lurking on Sarah Raven’s site for inspiration and ideas. Like Lou I’m going to grow Verbena bonariensis. I took Bib’s advice and have ordered a bareroot Alstroemeria collection from Thompson and Morgan – I had no idea how much cheaper it is to buy bareroot plants.

Louise mentioned Cleome – another new one to me. I picked up seed for this in Newmarket. It was really handy to have Magic Cochin’s tips of the flowers her grandmother grew to sell – loads of inspiration there.

After watching the flower growers in My Dream Farm suddenly everything began to fall into place. Again I am so grateful for all your advice. We have a good range of shrubs in our garden and 50 yards of beech hedging which will come in handy for foliage. Captain Shagrat suggested sea holly – what a fantastic plant – Thompson and Morgan have 2 bare rooted plants for £6.99 . So many ideas – posies, tussie wuzies, ivy, herbs – my head whirled.

I took Jane’s advice and ordered Sarah Raven’s The Cutting Garden. Although published 14 years ago this book is a delight. Packed with planting plans and floristry techniques it is a brilliant and inspirational resource. Bu the way one of the reviews suggested looking at the book on Google which I duly did – as I wanted a reference book. Someone to hold my hand and explain in detail how to get the best out of this project.

When the ground isn’t frosty I’m expanding the herbaceous borders by about two feet (60cm). I do an hour a day. With just bare earth the garden is looking better – the larger borders balancing the hedges. I am creating about 25 square yards (22.5 square meters) of extra growing space. When the ground warms up I will be splitting up perennials and changing the structure of the borders. The annuals will go in between the perrenials. I’ve discovered that quite a few perrenials can be moved from the sunny border to a shadier spot – which will give me even more freedom.

I’ve also been looking at summer flowering bulbs and Dahlias. Suttons has 20% off all bulbs, tubers and corms at the moment so is well worth checking out.

Meanwhile I am studying which flowers to follow on from those that have stopped flowering. The aspects that each flower prefers.  There’s such a lot to learn but I’m enjoying myself immensely.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Heather

    Suddenly it’s much wrmer here with a real feel of spring in the air!

  2. Heather Squires

    Thankyou for the inspiration. As soon as I can get into the garden–I know the spring will be here in a flash– I’m going to sort out thew flowers. Can’t wait.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Magic Cochin

    Thank you for pointing me in the direction of Paugers Plants. I hadn’t heard of them and they sound like a brilliant resource! And much nearer than Scotsdales…

    Hi Small Pines

    Ditto! Veg info seems to be easy to remember flowers are a completely different kettle of fish. Perhaps it’s because there are so many of them?

    Hi Sidriss

    Many apologies. Plugs refer to plug plants. Tiny plants that are grown on in the greenhouse. Some plants take ages to germinate and develop to this stage so plug plants are useful if you are a bit behind or don’t have the space to rear all your plants.

  4. Sidriss


    Something in the blog has puzzled me: “I decided to order some plugs and some seed.”.

    I feel terribly dumb asking this but, what is a ‘plug’ apart from something you have in a sink!

    A slightly embarrased Sidriss…

  5. Small Pines

    I’m right with you, CS. Big learning curve with flowers this year, for me as well. Being that we started with a property that was an absolute mess, I’m starting from scratch with just about everything. Sometimes I feel like my head is just not big enough to hold all the names of plants. For some reason, I retain info about veg, but have a hard time remembering flowers.

  6. Magic Cochin

    Before you order plants it would be worth giving Paugers Plants a call – they’re not far from you and I think they are the best local nursery. Fantastic quality for very good prices. If you visit take a look round their garden – inspiring!

    I don’t think they have a web site, but there are directions here:

    I’m sure they will be very helpful


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