The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Flowers from the garden: January 2008

human flowers for Jan uary 2008.This is the start of the second year of not buying flowers and just picking flowers from the garden.

In January 2007 I decided not to buy flowers for the house for a year. Having been a rather extravagant flower buyer for decades, this was a testing challenge. Especially when I passed a flower shop or supermarket display.

Danny bought me an occasional bunch but as the months went by I began to prefer the flowers cut from the garden. They have a softness and a charm that is rarely found in commercially produced flowers.

Having been an avid flower grower in the past my focus had gradually drifted to the kitchen garden and all things edible. Suddenly, the thought of flowerless days had me overhauling the herbaceous borders, cutting back shaggy shrubs and adding more perennial plants.

Although perennials are an investment, flowering year after year, I didn’t want to spend wads of cash on plants from Nursery Gardens. So I stopped at wayside stands and kept my eyes peeled at fetes. My favourite plant stall is the one outside the Secret Garden, in Fordham. Everything from there has flourished. Lovely old fashioned flowers that have transformed the garden and given us enormous pleasure. Although the financial investment has been small – barely £25 pounds in total over the year, the impact has been massive.

Somehow these plants seem more precious too. The snowdrops that I bought from a stand in Debden last Spring are just beginning to open. When I look at them I remember that sunny, blue sky day when I stopped and bought them. I wondered about the gardener who had put them into pots to be transferred and loved in other gardens.

This year’s posts have a new twist. There are so many tiny flowers that were just too small to qualify for the vase of the month last year. So this year there will be two vases of flowers for each month. Human and doll sized for those tiny flowers that get lost in a big vase.

The human vase contains Choisya ternata Sundance (pruned a week ago), Chimonanthus praecox (Wintersweet), Lonicera x purpusii Winter Beauty (Winter honeysuckle), Forsythia x intermedia Lynwood Variety, Viburnum x bodnantense Dawn, Sliver King variagated holly, and a lovely shrub that I have forgotten the name of with a fountain shape and small clusters of pretty flowers on the tips of the stems. I also put in two rosemary stalks. A rather straggly bunch but it smells heavenly.

doll vase January 2008The doll’s vase contains a sprig of Forsythia, some polyanthus that were here when I moved into the cottage. There are also snowdrops, single and double and Pulmonaria ‘Mary Mottram’, with pink and blue flowers on the same plant. A single aconite. I love these bulbs – these are the first sign of Spring in our garden and survive everything – snow, frost and ice. A Boudicca of bulbs.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sharron J

    Yes it is possible! I was surprised myself!

  2. This just goes to show that it’s possible to have cut flowers from the garden even in the midst of winter. Well done! I must get outside and bring a few in myself. The daffs are all out, as are the primulas, and the early clemetis is budding so should soon be smothered in flowers that always look lovely in a little vase. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Yes the Pulmonarias have been flowering for a while. Our garden is very sheltered.

    Prunus subhirtillia sounds wonderful. Thanks for the tip.

  4. Kate(uk)

    Gosh! Pulmonarias already! My hellebores and snowdrops are in full swing, but the pulmonarias still just rosettes of leaves, but my primroses are fantastically early and floriferous this year. If you want some really lovely flowers to enjoy from November to April try a prunus subhirtillia: small tree, doesn’t mind being pruned to keep it small, blooms and blooms and blooms, if it gets frosted it stops, has a quick rest and then starts blooming all over again. Soft shade of pink, glorious. I planted one outside my sunny bay window so I can see it on a winter’s morning when it is way too cold/wet/windy to go outside and join it. A really worthwhile investment.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Magic Cochin,

    The Boudicca books by Manda Scott are excellent. I went on a “Dreaming” course with her a few years ago.

    Hi Clare,

    I’ve not heard of this superstition. I always pick a few in January or February – even when I wasn’t into picking flowers from the garden!

    Thanks for sharing. Perhaps they will daty in the border next year!

    Hi Mildred,

    The dolls flowers are usually my favourite bunch.

    Hi Karen

    I love Sweet Peas too.

    Hi Seahorse

    How exciting to be planning and making a new garden. I do hope that you find a stand like the one outside the Fordham garden.

    I’ve seen chickens in a lot of the small gardens in Saffron Walden. If you just have hens, they don’t make a lot of noise.

  6. seahorse

    A lovely post, and flowers all year round! I’m at the start of my great garden project. I have a 42ft long patch of bare earth with a shed in the top corner.
    Trellis is going up, and I want an old beehive, a log pile and, well I was just writing about chickens over at mine, but I’m still on the garden fence over that one. Very built up around mine…not sure about the whole thing. But I loved this post and the Fordham garden sounded magical.

  7. I couldn’t agree more I love natural garden flowers. My favourites are old fashioned scented roses and sweet peas just dropped into a small Victorian glass that I have.

    Karen, Wiggly Wigglers

  8. I love to see a ‘doll’s vase’ of flowers on the table and agree wholeheartedly that the joy of flowers in the garden are the memories they invoke.

  9. Were you aware of the superstition saying you should never count snowdrops?

    I have no idea how it originated but it’s very strongly felt in my (normally not superstitious) family that it’s better not to pick snowdrops, but if you do you must never count how many. Pick enough that you’ve got a handful, and leave it at that. My uncle (a farmer) is quite superstitious and swears blind that it was counting snowdrops that caused an outbreak of foot and mouth many years ago.

    Not trying to scare anyone, but thought it was a moment of english quaintness that should, perhaps, be remembered!

  10. magic cochin

    That was a delightful read as I eat my porridge! I love the first flowers of spring – once you start looking it’s amzing what you find.

    “A Boudicca of bulbs” that’s a lovely phrase – I’m reading Manda Scott’s ‘Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle’ the first in the Boudica trilogy. Recommended for transporting you back to a time a torcs and woad!


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