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MORE AUTUMN COLOUR! October 28th 2014

'Anastasia' is tender, so now safely indoors, but she put on a wonderful show this year. One of the items on my never-ending To Do list is to take cuttings. I've just refreshed my memory on this subject and apparently this variety roots easily from cuttings in water. Probably a bit late in the year to try, but I'll be needing to cut the plant back quite hard soon anyway, so no harm in trying - I'll keep you posted!

AUTUMN COLOUR October 18th 2014
What a wonderful autumn this has been! The garden is full of colour - mostly reds and pinks... not only are the leaves turning on the trees and shrubs, but many perennials are still in full bloom, including these (and other) gorgeous chrysanthemums, penstemons, geraniums, erigeron, rudbeckia and armeria. Meanwhile, I'm in tidying mode and my trusty brown recycling bin is full the day after it's been emptied - I could do with a whole fleet of them!

For the last year I've been yearning for better storage facilities for my ever-growing collection of young plants, and here it is! A lovely local lady donated masses of old decking which have now been transformed into a double tier of staging. I plan to keep cuttings, dormant plants and empty trays, etc. on the bottom level. Already the whole top tier is full to overflowing, but hopefully space will be made as plants find homes in new gardens over the course of the next few months.


I recently received an order for the delightful plant, Hyoscyamus niger, and was asked the best method of sowing. My customer had tried them in the past with no success. Since mine pop up all over the garden and I've never made my own sowings, it hadn't occurred to me that they might be difficult, so I thought I'd be better do a bit of research! It transpired that they can be tricky.

The most common piece of advice I found was to soak the seeds in room-temperature water for 24 hours, and then to mix the strained seeds with some dry sand to help distribution and to sow direct in the ground, gently raking in. Some sources indicate that darkness is required to aid germination, so you might try making drills half an inch or so deep and sowing into those. It alsooccured to me that they might benefit from cold, making autumn sowing more sensible, but it's a bit late for that at the time of writing this entry, despite the unseasonal temperatures this Spring.

It might be worth trying sowing in a pot or small tray, sealing in a plastic bag and placing in the fridge for a few weeks. Subsequent transplantation would need to be done with great care, though, because I do know that this plant does not like root disturbance.

If you're planning on growing Hyoscyamus niger
from seed, do let me know how you get on!

OUTWARD BOUND! April 2nd 2013

A very successful day at the Methwold Table Top Sale on Bank Holiday Monday. The plants, which were just a small selection of those available, were particularly popular. Thanks to Lucy and Mick for all their help!

Local customers are very welcome to contact me if they would like to arrange to visit the garden to see the many other plants that are available. Some are already potted up, but when possible I'm quite happy to dig up and split plants to order!

SPRING? March 23rd 2013

Snow falling steadily at dusk. My seedlings seem to be coping in the greenhouse, but there are many more yet to sow and I'm not sure it's worth doing just yet. There are some sown seeds on a warm window sill indoors which are steadfastly refusing to germinate... and who can blame their reluctance?!

Still, it could be worse. According to the Met Office, the lowest March temperature recorded in the UK was -21.1C on 4 March 1947 at Houghall, County Durham. On 2 April 1917 at Newton Rigg, Cumbria, it dipped to -15C. And just down the road from here, at Santon Downham, it was -5.6C twice in June 1962, on the 1st and 3rd.

SEEDS, SEEDS, SEEDS... March 21st 2013

Since late February there's hardly been a day when some seeds haven't been lovingly laid on a bed of compost and given their first drink of water! Many of these, and also some which were autumn-sown, are now rewarding with those first, young green shoots. I tend to fret... have I sown them deeply/shallowly enough? Are they too moist or too dry? Too warm or too cold? Are there snails lurking in dark corners? The concerns of any parent, to be able to feed and water them, give them a safe environment and the right amount of love and attention! The next worry, given the still freezing (literally) conditions as I write this with April looming, will be how to find enough space in the greenhouse when they have been potted on to keep them safe and warm. And there are still dozens of varieties yet to sow!

I'm particularly thrilled about the ease with which the seeds of perhaps my favourite shrub, Exochorda macrantha, germinated. Such an exotic-looking plant, but surprisingly easy to propagate from seed. I look forward to being able to offer young plants in the coming months, but why not try growing them yourself?


The seed heads of this attractive grass, Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), are delicate, flat, diamond shapes - almost like spear heads - which hang from fine stems, nodding and catching the light beautifully (hence, I guess, another of its common names - 'Spangle Grass'!).

The photograph really does not do this delightful grass justice! Growing to a maximum of a metre or so (usually somewhat less), the erect stems resemble miniature bamboo in their growth habit. Unlike many grasses, Northern Sea Oats flourish in full or dappled shade, where their colour is a rich light-green. However, they are generally happy in a sunny spot, but the colour is a darker green. In autumn they turn a rich coppery-brown. A very useful plant for flower arrangements. Planted en masse, they make good ground cover. I have not found them to be invasive. The edible seeds, which are retained on the plant for months, are a good food source for birds.

Plants have been on offer in the shop for some time, but I have now added seed.


Many people seem to think we only sell seeds, but true to our name, Norfolk Cottage Garden Seeds and Plants, we offer cottage garden plants too! Apart from annuals and perennials, which are being sown now, with plug plants, bare rooted plants and 9cm pots destined both for the site and local sales, there are plenty of shrubs and herbaceous perennials in the garden which are being added to our stock as and when I have time to split them or take cuttings. So do have a good look around the site to see what's available!


All the Epimediums (the common name being, inexplicably, horny goat weed!) provide very interesting foliage all year round, but this should be cut right back in late winter, because otherwise the delicate flowers that appear on delicate, wiry stems in early Spring will be almost completely hidden from view. There are several varieties growing in the cottage garden and I plan to offer them all as plants in the near future, but only one is available at the moment - Epimedium x warleyense 'Orange Queen' , which you can purchase here.

LARKSPUR - WHAT A GOOD SPORT! February 6th 2013

This very pretty larskpur (Consolida ajacis) variation appeared in the garden last summer. It would seem I'm not the only person to discover it, as I've seen something identical for sale on one of the big boys' sites, having been found growing in the garden of one of their customers. Henceforth, I shall name my find Consolida ajacis 'Pink Parfait'!

The plant germinated very late in the year and was small, with only a couple of flower spikes, so I managed to harvest only about 100 seeds. These will be sown very soon and if all goes to plan there will be plenty of seed to offer for sale this autumn and in spring 2014.

Meanwhile, Larkspur seeds in the usual shades of pink and blue are available in the shop



SNOW ON SNOW January 22nd 2013

Winter continues to bite, but very prettily! We forgot to take down the roof of the fruit cage, which is sagging dangerously. Too late now to do anything but hope it bears the weight. A temperature of -9C was recorded at Oxburgh Hall, our local observation station, this morning. If I can get the greenhouse door open I intend to check my autumn-sown seedlings. Meanwhile, the winter-planted garlic is poking through the snow, not at all fazed by the distinctly un-Mediterranean conditions it is being forced to endure!

SPECIAL SPRING OFFER! January 14th 2013

It's time to start Spring sowings! Sweet peas, astrantia, poppies, and herb rocket can be sown now and in February you can sow all the above, plus antirrhinums, ammi majus, corncockle, Hibiscus trionum (an absolute MUST!) and nigella. All these - and many more - are available in the shop.

Until the end of April, there's 15% off everything! To take advantage of this offer, just shop as normal and then add the code 9-SPRFB in the code provided when you get to checkout - simple!

Pictured, right, is one of my favourite spring-flowering plants, Fritillaria imperialis 'Rubra Maxima'. Seeds are available, but are best sown in the autumn.

COME BACK, BEES! October 3rd 2012

Although the number of bees and other pollinating insects increased as the summer progressed, there were markedly less than any gardener would wish for, and this has impacted on seed production. It has been disheartening to open pods to discover a very low seed count, or seeds that are obviously not going to be viable. Fortunately there are usually enough plants to make it possible to harvest enough good seed to include them in the shop, but some may run out sooner than last year.

We have a wonderful apple tree in the garden - an old cider-making variety called Dr. Harvey. It is good both as a dessert apple and for cooking, and apart from its delightful flavour I particularly love the fact that it retains its shape when cooked. There is usually an abundance of fruit - enough to make dozens of jars of apple jelly and freeze bagsful for use until the following autumn, but this year I have harvested only five apples! The same is true of my cherry plum tree - the crop was so meagre that it wasn't worth harvesting.

The bee pictured on the self-sown sunflower, left, was a welcome visitor at the end of August. I do hope she will return next year, along with many sisters!



AUTUMN SOWING September 23rd 2012

Early Autumn is a very good time to direct sow many hardy annuals. Not only does it help establish plants for early flowering next year, but it saves a good deal of precious time in Spring, when, if you're anything like me, there are so many tasks to be attended to in the garden that it's difficult to keep up!

Some annuals are so tough that they can withstand the worst that winter in the UK throws at them. But you can help them along by making the soil as inviting to germination and growth as possible:

Make sure the areas you wish to sow are weed-free.

If your soil is on the heavy side, it is best to first dig it well, but lighter soils may only need light forking.

Rake and firm the area to provide an even surface on which to distribute your seed.

Unless your soil is extremely depleted, do not apply any fertiliser, which can result in too much foliage at the expense of flowers.

Mark out areas for each seed variety you plan to sow, taking into account the heights and colours of the plants. You can do this by scoring lines with a stick or by filling an old plastic drink bottle with fine, dry sand and sprinkling lines with it. For a natural look, make the defined areas in broad and sweeping curves.

You can either broadcast seed thinly, gently raking it in, or, for more precision, score rows with a stick into which you can sow thinly or individually. Distance between both rows and seeds in a row will depending on the size of seed and ultiamte expected size of the plant, as will sowing depth.

If there is no rain, keep the soil moist by gently sprinkling with a hose or watering can.

Thin out seedlings to the required planting distance, but don't be in too much of a rush to do this - unwanted plants are generally preferable to unwanted weeds and can be removed later, though before they become too crowded.

Much as I adore them, cats can be a menace - they are invariably attracted to a seedbed, which is perfect for attending to their toiletry needs! Try pegging down some fruit cage netting over the area, but remember to remove it before the top growth prevents you from doing so.



Ornamental Quince - Geisha GirlI'm looking forward to next spring for many reasons, not the least of which is that I hope to see what kind of blooms will materialise from my sowing of Ornamental Quince seeds last spring. Germination was good and growth very fast; I now have four strong plants in the nursery area. The leaf colours vary from very dark to pale green, so I'm confident that there will be some interesting flower colours to come. Meanwhile, I love the variety pictured here, 'Geisha Girl', which has been resident in the garden for some years now, planted against our beautiful brick and chalk wall, bringing some welcome colour early in the year.

COULD DO BETTER September 19th 2012

I created this page because it seemed a nice idea to keep a record of activities in the garden. But I've proved to be a hopeless journal writer - always busy doing stuff and equally always meaning to add items to the diary.  Mick has now built a nifty little content management system to make entries easier to create, so perhaps I'll now improve!

The beautiful passion flower pictured right is Anastasia. Apparently it comes easily from cuttings rooted in water. I'm trying a few stems and if successful they will be added to the shop.

SPRING IS HERE! February 24th 2012

Oops! It's been pointed out to me that I hadn't updated the About page, which was saying that the shop was not yet launched... it is, it is! Now fixed. You can choose from 100 varieties of annual and perennial flowers, vegetables, herbs, trees and shrubs, with many more to be added during the coming months.

I'm also in the process of scanning the covers of a selection of very interesting second hand gardening books, which will be added to the shop soon! Subject matter includes water gardens, Zen gardening, organic gardening, growing herbs, perennial garden plants and garden design.

It's a glorious early spring day. The frogs are active in the pond and it's a perfect day to get into the greenhouse for a sowing session!

GARLIC February 22nd 2012

Nice surprise this morning... my spring garlic arrived - now filed in the 'waiting to be planted' folder in my brain - along with the winter garlic... *sigh*. Still, always, a rule-breaker, the same thing happened last year and the winter garlic produced lovely plump bulbs, even though it didn't find its way into the ground until March.

I'll choose a different spot this year, but will take a similar approach to last year, in planting near the front of a herbaceous border, positioning the cloves a little further apart than is the norm and filling in the gaps with annuals such as rudbeckia and yellow cosmos. By the time the ornamentals mature, the garlic will be ready to harvest and can be carefully removed to make way for the blooms.

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