The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Flowers from the garden: December

December flowersIt’s quite fitting that the last day in the year should end with the final monthly instalment of Flowers from the Garden. This was a challenge that I set myself in January 2007. Having been an extravagant flower buyer for over 20 years I decided not to buy flowers for the house from a shop or even a wayside stall. For the period of a year all flowers for the cottage had to be picked from our garden. With the exception of flowers given to me.

This required a phenomenal strengthening of character. After two months of floral buying cold turkey the process got a lot easier. More flowers bloomed in the garden and I started to prepare for the future. The herbaceous borders were overhauled and planted with pots of flowering plants (mainly from the stand outside the secret garden, 40p each or 3 for a pound). If I was going to stick to this new way of life, I needed to cultivate more flowers.

I was tempted many, many times. I was amazed at the power of the flower buying daemon. I often found myself considering lying to Danny,
“Mum gave me these flowers.”
As she lives 15 miles away and I had only popped out for 20 minutes this would be unlikely.
“Someone stopped me in the street and gave me these flowers.”
I am not quite glamorous enough for this sort of gesture.

I’d run through various lies in my head and by the time I had rejected them all as too outlandish the craving for bought flowers and crackle of cellophane would have passed.

Yesterday I was queuing in the supermarket behind a couple who had rather a moth-eaten bunch of roses in their basket. As the man proffered a ten pound note I glanced at the till. ?9.50. The roses were not a deluxe bouquet so this must be the change due. Clearly they were selling off the out of date flowers. The flower buying daemon sprang into action,
“If the roses are only 50p, there might be lilies. I am sure that Danny owes me money for various things. If I bought the flowers I wouldn’t really be buying them as I’d be paying with Danny’s money.” I was startled out of my reverie by swish of the till opening. She handed over the change – to my horror it was only 50p.

I’ve saved a lot of money but the biggest bonus is that I enjoy the garden far more than I have done for years. The focus had been on vegetables and fruit but now has widened to include flowering shrubs and plants again. I’m impatient to see the new plants flowering next year. Many had lost their labels so 2008 will be full of surprises.

Today I was amazed to see that the forsythia is in bud and a few flowers were opening. So I snipped off a bit for this month’s arrangement. The roses (a mystery variety) were waving their heads beside the chicken run. I expected the two viburnum and the winter flowering honeysuckle to be in flower but was stunned to find that I could fill a proper vase rather than a doll’s sized glass. I have included a hellebore (I seem to inadvertently have started farming this particular variety), sprigs of mahonia, elaeagnus, wintersweet, ivy and a variegated holly.

There’s no question of turning back now.

Happy New Year!

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kay

    He was rather eccentric and fun and insisted on being called Uncle Tony.

    I haven’t read any Beverley Nichol’s books. I remember my brother reading them when we were growing up. I must check them out!

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Amanda

    Happy New Year too! So pleased that you’ve enjoyed the posts.

    Hi Leanne,

    Happy New Year. Thanks for your inspirational blog.

    Hi Jan,

    Yes the viburnum is Dawn. A real treasure as it flowers on and off all winter. I could always send you some cuttings if you draw a blank with your friend.

    Hi Joanna

    I’m continuing through 2008. I can’t give up now. Happy New Year.

    Hi Mildred

    We have Spring bulbs just peeping up too. I saw a pool of snowdrops in Cambridge yesterday – that means we’ll have them in a couple of weeks!

    Hi Kay

    I met Beverley Nichol’s partner a couple of years ago but was too in awe to ask anything about him!

    Lichen is beautiful. We have winter jasmine in the garden but it’s not in flower at the moment. It’s planted in a really shady spot and has struggled. I think that it would be worth putting in some more. I love violets.

    Hi Sara

    I’m hoping to be a bit more adventurous with my arrangements in 2008.

    Hi Rosemary

    Fancy having a delphinium already! I love broom, ours died a few years ago. I must replace it.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Our jug of holly is still looking fresh too. Thanks for the inspiration. I think that I’ll add to it after 12th night.

    Hi Sam

    There’s nothing like you own flowers on your own table – especially in Winter!

  3. Kay Sexton

    OMG – you met Mr Nichol’s other half! Amazing. I know Beverley is not popular right now, but he is my gardening guru, I read ‘Down the Garden Path’ when I was twelve, picked up a trowel and have never stopped gardening since

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