Fabulous cut flowers and famine to feast (I hope!)

What a busy start to summer, sadly this blog has become a little neglected.  I console myself with the knowledge that my third and final son starts school in September (I’m going to be cheering and clicking my heels when I leave the school gates that day). I fully intend to establish a weekly kitchen garden routine with plenty of time to blog, I do love a positive and productive plan of action.

I have not completely let the blog go, I have been taking lots of pictures so todays posting will be the story of the kitchen garden over the last few weeks told in pictures, there are triumphs, disasters, and a bit of death and destruction!

The cut flowers have been fabulous so far this year; the plants have thrived in the damp warm weather. These pictures show the amazing growth in the new cutting border in the space of just two weeks, the middle of June to the start of July.

The new cutting border start of JulyThe new cutting border at the start of July

Cutting border Mid June 2The same border in mid June

Cutting border on the drivewayThe cutting border at the start of July

Cutting border mid JuneThe same border two weeks previously, an amazing rate of growth

The star cut flower players have been Salvia Vardis Oxford Blue, Cornflower Black Ball, Nicotiana Lime Green, Antirrhinum, Calendula and Sweet Williams. The Dahlias, Cosmos and Sunflowers are bushing out well ready to produce abundant blooms in the next few weeks.

salvia viridis oxford blueSalvia Viridis Oxford Blue

Cornflower Black BallCornflower Black Ball



Nicotiana Lime GreenNicotiana Lime Green

Bunch of flowers from the cutting borderA bunch of flowers from the cutting border

Flowers for a BBQ from the cutting borderFlowers for a BBQ from the cutting border

Ticking away in my head are plans for a new large ornamental border at the top of our lawn, it will incorporate roses I moved from a traditional (old fashioned) border I grassed over in Spring. I understand that Salvias possess many complementary qualities for roses, reducing risk of disease and encouraging strong healthy plants. This has sparked a new passion for me, Hardy Salvias, beautiful sophisticated blooms which just seem to go on and on. Here are a few of my current favourites and maybe the odd Penstemon and Dianthus. I do try very hard to keep this blog focussed on the kitchen garden, but, these are a bit special and can’t be missed!

Salvia Cerro PotosiSalvia Cerro Potosi

Salvia NachtvlinderSalvia Nachtvlinder

Salvia Stormy PinkSalvia Stormy Pink

Penstemon Just JaynePenstemon Just Jayne

Penstemon Sour GrapesPenstemon Sour Grapes

Dianthus Rainbow LovelinessDianthus Rainbow Loveliness – a stunner!

Compared with the cut flowers the vegetable plot has not felt so productive. Like many we’ve suffered terrible slug problems. I started going out in the evening and cutting the slimy vermin in half, this seemed to have no impact. Our slug population was enormous thanks to the mild winter and wet spring/early summer their perfect climate, slug paradise was then achieved by feasting on the sumptuous delicacies that were being planted out and germinating from my directly sown seeds. Sadly the only viable solution was slug pellets followed by crack of dawn trips to the kitchen garden to collect up the poisoned slugs before the birds got to them. It worked; I filled flower pot after flower pot with dead slugs – YUK! But thankfully the vegetable plants are starting to recover and begin their productive romp. My main gripe which has made me very grumpy has been the lack of salad leaves, I now live in hope that the seeds will develop and I’ll soon be able to pick my lunch again on a daily basis.

I make the vegetable patch feel and sound worse than it is, we’re not going hungry. We’ve been cropping Mangetout, Courgettes, a few French Beans and Tomatoes, Peas, Broadbeans and enjoyed some delicious Artichoke suppers. I’ve harvested the garlic and will plant out the winter cabbages in their place during the coming weeks.

Veg patch JulySome of the Vegetable beds at the start of July

Mixed Veg BedA mixed vegetable bed of Kale and Cape Gooseberries, the Nasturtium are a sacrificial planting for the cabbage white butterflies and their hungry caterpillars

French BeansFrench Beans

Courgette BedThe Courgette bed making a recovery frm the slugs

Tomato SungoldTomato Sungold

Cucumber - Burpless Cucumber  – Burpless

Aubergine plantMy best looking Aubergine plant. I never manage to grow successful Aubergine, maybe it’s time to accept defeat!

GarlicThe garlic harvest, ready to be dried out in the conservatory before storing in a cool dark place

There is definite hope for the kitchen garden, bumper crops will be on their way, it’s just been a tricky start to year and I do miss my salad leaves.






The Kitchen garden in December (and early January)

Happy New Year! The kids are back at school and I’ve spent a lovely day in the garden tidying winter debris and moving daffodil bulbs. During the Christmas period I’ve only set foot in the kitchen garden to harvest winter salad and vegetables. It was a refreshing change to be back outside, the rain held off and there were patches of blue sky. Sometimes I garden with Radio 4, but today it was to bird song and my thoughts, plotting and planning the next batch of garden projects to be completed over the coming months. High on the agenda is a new composting area and the landscaping of my main lawn.

Veg patch in early JanuaryThe winter vegetable patch

It’s not all rosy in the kitchen garden though. So far we’ve had a mild and wet winter with only three frosts (yup, I’m counting), the result, my kale is covered in white fly, I’m sharing my spinach with hungry caterpillars and the thriving slug population is munching its way through anything green. Early daffodils which usually flower in mid February started blooming in late December, my Japanese Quince is putting on a beautiful display of blossom, but my snowdrops, generally the first blooms of winter are still little shoots. It is all wrong. I fear that without a cold spell, gardening next year will be an uphill battle, the slugs and snail population will be enormous, pests and diseases rife. My fruit trees have a tendency to attract brown rot, last year we had very little, but I suspect it will be back with vengeance without a cold spell to cleanse our gardens of ills.

All this doom and gloom was soon swept to the back of my mind as the husband presented me with a package this afternoon. He’d been tidying up his studio and discovered my main Christmas present which he’d completely forgotten about, a tripod for my camera. I’m thrilled with it; no more balancing the camera on make shift structures attempting to keep it still and the subject in focus. The husband is definitely in my good books, he’s even finished painting the wood inside and out of my conservatory/potting shed, the colour is Grey Moss by Little Green Company and it looks smashing, a little bit of kitchen garden chic.

Conservatory, potting shedThe newly painted potting shed/conservatory

Now for the usual monthly garden summary in pictures:


Pelargonium sidoides in a vasePelargonium sidoides still flowering in the potting shed

Snowdrop shootsSnow drop shoots

Japanese Quince blossomJapanese Quince blossom

Daffodils flowering in DecemberDaffodils flowering in December

Caterpillar eaten hardy geraniumHardy Geranium leaves yet to die back for winter, nibbled by caterpillars and slugs

Cockerel statueChristmas present from my middle son, in pride of place looking over the kitchen garden

Braodbean plantsAutumn sown broadbeans growing well in this mild weather, we could be in for an early crop this year – not all bad!

Garlic and SpinachGarlic and Spinach

Green ManureOne of my beds of Green manure, a vetch and rye grass mix

Purple Srpouting BrocolliMy favourite delicacy at this time of year, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, and it’s pest free!

The kitchen garden in November

November has been blustery, dank and murky. I’ve not spent enough time in the garden this month, the result a drab, decaying winter mess. Leaves have blown into large piles in the nooks and crannies around the raised vegetable beds and the kitchen garden generally needs a good tidy and weed for winter. This will make life far easier come spring and help bring back the defined structure of the kitchen garden, revealing some winter order and beauty. If I have any well rotted garden compost left (my herbaceous border has first dibs), I’ll give the vegetable and cut flower raised beds a good mulch, this not only suppresses weeds, improves soil structure and fertility but is an instant visual lift to any border.

My great triumph of the month has been successfully negotiating a ‘man and a digger’ from the husband for Christmas! Over the last year my kitchen garden has gradually come together, the rest of the garden is in a state and requires landscaping help. The husband sadly witnessed some of my shovel and wheelbarrow action in the kitchen garden, and presumed I could continue the rest myself, saving a pot full of money! So I’ve spent the last month slowly chipping away and gently negotiating the value and investment, ‘a man and a digger’ would be to our family. So fingers crossed come spring I’ll be rid of a 1970’s crazy paved rill, several large municipal style rose beds cleared then levelled ready for grass seed and the front garden prepared to build further cut flower and dahlia beds. As we all know a girl can’t ever have enough dahlias and cut flowers. November has not been a complete waste!

Below is my monthly summary in pictures.

The bulbs I planted in the cutting border have emerged and coming on strong, the mild weather we’ve had this Autumn/Winter seems to have given them a head start; I fear a cold spell might halt them permanently in their tracks.

Anemone Coronaria Sylphide shootsAnemone Coronaria Sylphide shoots

Drumstick Alliums shootsDrumstick Alliums

ranunculus aviv orangeRanunculus Aviv Orange

The messy vegetable patch.

Upper veg patch in NovemberThe upper vegetable beds

Staked KaleKale I’ve staked. They were getting battered by the wind.

Rocket in the greenhouseRocket in the green house, we are still cropping from the previous outside sowings

Viburnham Tinus in flowerViburnham Tinus in flower. We have a gorgeous mature hedge of Viburnham Tinus that divides the kitchen garden from the rest of the garden. It’s beautiful white flowers with a hint of pink are so valuable at this time of year and will make an appearance in many of my Christmas decorations.

Garrya in flowerGarrya in flower – the star performer in November

Garrya in a vaseGarrya in a vase, there is something quite angelic about the elegant flowers cut for the home


The Kitchen garden in October

To me the autumnal leaves have been better this year than any other I can remember. On our half term trip visiting friends in Wiltshire, I often thought this must be a taste of what the renowned Canadian Fall foliage is like at this time. The garden seems to be successfully fighting off the calls of winter, we’ve got many plants in flower, several on their second flush for the year. My sowings of winter salad, green manure, garlic, peas, broad beans and hardy annual seeds have all emerged and doing well. I think I’ll have to buy some fleece to pop over them if we have the exceptionally cold winter we seem to be promised by commentators,and the large quantities of holy and other berries in the hedgerows (generally a good guide to a severe winter). As always below is my monthly round up in pictures.

End of October Vegetable BedsThe top vegetable beds, still producing spinach and salad

Garlic shootsThe garlic sown a couple of weeks ago is thriving in this warm weather, I’m hopeful for large bulbs next year

Broad bean shootsBroad bean shoots

Pea shootsPea shoots

Green manure shootsGreen manure seedlings

Salad seedlings, seed tape v seedSeed tape (background) v hand sown (foreground) winter salad, hand sown is winning so far although I think I was a little heavy handed with the seed!

VerbascumVerbascum looking pretty

Penstemon - Just JaynePenstemon ‘Just Jayne’, a hard working garden essential, the colour in the blooms is not quite as vibrant as a month ago but still looking good

October dahlia bedThe dahlia bed

Dahlia HalloweenAn October dahlia, ‘Halloween’


Centaurea montanaCentaurea montana

Knautia macedonica 'melton pastels'Knautia macedonica ‘melton pastels’

Fuji Cherry TreeFuji Cherry Tree, not only does it have beautiful spring blossom but stunning autumn leaves, a great tree for a small garden

Holly BerrriesOur garden indicator of a cold winter, holy berries. I can guarantee there’ll be none left when I’m out cutting for Christmas foliage!

Chilli Ring of fireChilli – Ring of fire, we’ve had a great crop this year and they’re still going strong

The kitchen garden in September

It’s been a glorious end to September, blue skies and low autumnal sunshine giving the garden a rich golden glow.

Our apples and pears have cropped heavily this year and we’ve started to pick our bounty. The pear trees branches are drooping heavily with weight of the fruit. Sadly I’ve just noticed an apple trees that is leaning at a 45° angle with the weight of its harvest. I’m hoping I can pull the trunk back up with a sturdy stake and a tree strap.

I’m still filling the house with flowers from the cutting border. The sunflowers are fabulous, but, it’s the dahlias that are the star of the show, they really take off into another dimension come the autumn. Long may the frosts evade us.

We continue to crop courgettes, tomatoes, kale, spinach, salad leaves, runner beans and beetroot. We’ve just started to harvest our butternut squash and borlotti beans. An oddity for this time of year, I cut our first crop of purple sprouting broccoli, I can only think I sowed it far too early. It was not a pleasant addition to our supper, six caterpillars were discovered floating in the water and further intruders were discovered on our plates. It’s not all rosy living the ‘Produce from the garden’ good life!

As usual here’s the September summary in pictures:

SunflowerInstant happiness! Cut and come again sunflowers.Cosmos PurityA sea of cosmos ‘purity’PearsPearsApple and pear harvestApple and pear harvestBorlotti beansBorlotti beans, dried in their pods on the plant. I can’t wait for a borlotti bean and sausage stew!Tomatoes in greenhouseTomatoes still going strong in the greenhousePlum tomatoesDelicious plum tomatoesHerb bedMy herb bed, packed with sage, thyme, parsley, oregano, chives and garlic chives with their beautiful white pom pom flowersButternut squash HunterButternut squash ‘Hunter’Runner bean flowersRunner beans flowering and cropping wellCourgetteCourgettesKale RedborTastes amazing, looks stunning in the vegetable patch and will see us through till springKale Cavolo NeroCavolo Nero, an italian kale perfect with pasta, it will also see us through until SpringPurple sprouting broccoliThe offending purple sprouting broccoli, fingers crossed it will be at its peak after Christmas

The kitchen garden in August

Gardeners spend much of their time working towards their goal, a productive season where you can sit back and reap the rewards of your work. August is often the pinnacle of that season, huge gluts of produce, too much to be used at once, so shared between the kitchen, freezer and friends. It’s also the month when I throw my arms and trowel in the air and say ‘Sod the weeds’. Whilst indulging in my garden bounty, my mind is drifting off, pondering this year’s successes and disappointments, plotting and planning for next year. This year my courgettes, have not cropped as heavily as I’d expect, it’s been okay, but I’ve not heard the tell tale glut statement ’not courgettes again mum!’ I think the current watering system, which sprinkle from above has not been sufficient. Next year I am going to point the water system directly at the base of the plants, soaking their roots and hopefully this will ensure a larger crop. My bean crops (french, runner and borlotti) have been magnificent and the tomatoes and basil have thrived in the green house. I’m starting to plan which hardy annuals I’m going to sow this autumn in the cutting garden, with the hope of an earlier flower crop next year. I’ve already planted out my Sweet Williams, sown earlier in the summer and will be getting round to planting garlic, broad beans and bulbs in the next month or so.

Below are the pictures telling the story of August in the kitchen garden.

RaspberriesThere’s been a constant steam of raspberriesplumsGrape like bunches of plums have weighed down the treesApples on the treeThe apple trees are also ladden, we’re looking forward to a good harvestPear on the treeLast year we had just one pear, this year the tree is fullSweet williamI’ve planted out my sweet williams in the cutting border reday for early blooms next yearDahlia BedThe dahlia bedDahlia Paul EmoryDahlia Paul EmoryRunner beansThe runner beans have thrived in the gloomly wet weather we’ve had the last few weeksTop Veg patchThe top five vegetable bedsBottom veg bedsThe bottom three vegetable bedsChilli'sChilli’s in the conservatory, once picked we keep a couple fresh and freeze the rest for use over the next year

The Kitchen garden in July

It’s been a great month, gorgeous weather, armfuls of cut flowers, delicious vegetables and soft fruit. I’m just going to let the pictures tell the tale this month.

The greenhouse

Tomato 'sungold'Tomato ‘Sungold’, the sweetest and best cherry tomato, ever!Tomato 'Black Krim'Tomato ‘Black Krim’ – a lovely colour, hearty flavour and my favourite beefsteak tomato Tomato 'Pomodoro'Tomato ‘Pomodoro’ – another gorgeous beefsteak tomato, growing with basilmini cucumbersMini cucumbers, my first year of growing cucumbers, a huge hit with the kidsThe green house in JulyA tomato jungle!

The Vegetable patchCourgette and pumpkin bedThe courgettes and pumpkin bed is no-where to be seen!Green courgetteGreen courgetteYellow courgetteYellow courgetteSaladCut and come again salad, a lunch time essentialRunner bean flowersRunner bean flowers, I forgot to take the picture before picking!PumpkinA pumpkin, sown from last years halloween pumpkins, I only need three, one for each child. I think we’ll end up with lots more!OnionsOnions, seed 39p from Lidl, sown direct. My best crop ever.PearsFor some reason we only got one pear last year, the tree is laden this yearBorlotti beansBorlotti beans, they’ll be left to dry and saved for winter stews

The cut flower bordersMalopeMalope, a lovely long vase life, and when the petals drop you’re left with stunning acid green budscosmos 'purity'Cosmos ‘Purity’ – my top cut flower, long stems and keeps flowering all seasonCosmos ' Rubenza'Cosmos ‘Rubenza’ – a stunning colourCalendulaCalendula – Another must have cut flowerCentaurea cyanus 'Black Ball' corn flowerCentaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’, corn flower, unlike the blue variety this dark colour doesn’t fadeClaryClary, the pink and blue varieties are both very useful in flower arrangementsDahliaDahlia – the queens and princesses of the cut flower worldDahlia 2Dahlia, one more day and it will be perfect for cutting

The Kitchen Garden in June

A week into July, my June round up is a little late! This is the time that you start to reap the rewards of your labour. The cut flowers including my dahlias are in full swing and the veg patch is filling the kitchen with seasonal treats. We’re cropping, cavolo nero, perpetual spinach, courgettes, bowls full of salad, french beans, mangetout, broad beans, runner beans and tomatoes packed with flavour, only possible from the soil of a well tended kitchen garden.Tomatoes and basil in the greenhouse

Tomatoes and Basil

My June favourites have been, the climbing purple pod peas, with an exquisite, fresh, sweet taste. They are so fine that they are yet to find their way to the kitchen, all pods seem to be picked and nibbled by friends, family and myself as we potter round the kitchen garden. Next year production needs to be tripled!Purple podded peas


Purple podded peas

Courgette flowers, lightly fried in tempura, a gourmets delicacy, not often found as the flowers must be cooked fresh from the plant. My most relished indulgence so far this year from the kitchen garden.

Courgette flowerCourgette Flower

I had forgotten how fantastic young home grown beetroot is. Boiled whole with a long stem helping to prevent bleeding from the root. The sweet, rich flavour is the highlight of my lunch time salad.Beetroot plants


I’m thrilled with the kitchen garden, I started landscaping and building 6 months ago, with a vision in my head. In a short space of time it’s come to fruition. It works well as the multi functional space I dreamed of. Somewhere to grow flowers and veg, relax, enjoy, entertain, cook and dine. You really can’t ask for much more from a garden.Kitchen Garden - lower veg patch


The lower veg patch in the kitchen garden

Kitchen garden - upper veg patchThe upper veg patch in the kitchen garden

Lastly, a bunch of cosmos in a jam jar, ready for my pound stall on the road.Cosmos in a jam jar

Jam jar of Cosmos

The kitchen garden in May

May is ending on a wet note. I’m not complaining, the weather this month has generally been good, friends have even commented on my gardening suntan. The newly planted dahlias have been looking a bit limp and in need of a good water. The dahlia bed is not linked to a watering system; past experience has proved that dahlias can survive a fairly dry summer. When first planted out they do need regular watering to give them time to establish. So this wet end to the month has come at the right time. I have finished constructing the frames in the dahlia bed. This structure gives the dahlias support as they grow. A strong wind can easily snap dahlia stems at the base restricting dahlia produce for the year.

Dahlia bed with frameThe dahlia bed with the completed frame to support the dahlias

 My herb bed which I planted outside the kitchen door last year is flourishing, the chives and thyme are both in flower and looking stunning. I will cut the chives back hard as the flowers go over, this will produce lots of new fresh growth and stop the flowers setting seed, leaving me with chive weeds everywhere. Once the Thyme has finished flowering I will lightly prune this, stimulating new fresh growth to crop for the kitchen.

Thyme in flowerThyme in flower

Chives in flowerChives in flower

 My Broad bean plants are well over 4 feet high, laden with flowers and at last I have some miniature bean pods developing at the bottom of the plants. Hopefully I’ll only have to wait another couple of weeks to savour this produce from the garden. I have spotted today that black fly have discovered the fresh luscious top shoots of the broad bean plants. It’s now time to cut off the tips, taking away the temptation for the black fly, who if allowed will heavily infest the plant resulting in poor pod formation.

Black fly on broad bean tipsBlack fly on the broad bean tips

 We had our first dish of turnips this month. Once they reach golf ball size they’re ready for the kitchen. I simply steamed the turnips until tender. Cut them into 1cm sized cubes and finished them off in pan with melted butter and a selection of fresh herbs presented to me by my eldest, a handful of marjoram and thyme. They were delicious and got thumbs up from the whole family.


The greenhouse has thrived this month, we have lots of green tomatoes, a tomatillo forming, mini cucumbers and lots of basil, a companion plant for the tomatoes, the basil helps repel whitefly, mosquitoes, spider mites and aphids, it improves tomato health and flavour.

TomatilloTomatillo ripening

Tomatillo flowersTomatillo flowers

Green tomatoesGreen tomatoes

We’ve started to crop our perpetual spinach; this really is a kitchen garden essential. I only put last years plants on the compost heap last month. There aren’t many vegetables that provide produce 11 months of the year. The shallots which I sowed in modules and planted out without separating individual plants are doing really well; they seem to be spreading out making space for themselves. This is a great time saving tip for growing shallots from seed.

Shallots and SpinachShallots and perpetual spinach


The Kitchen Garden in April

The blossom has been stunning in the last month and the prospect of maturing fruit in months to come is very exciting. We have baby gooseberries, blackcurrants and our first tiny green tomato. The raspberries are shooting and we’re feasting on our enormous rhubarb crop.

Baby GooseberryA Baby Gooseberry

Baby BlackcurrantsBlack currants forming

Baby tomatoMy first tomato this year

The tender plants sown from seed in my conservatory are desperate to move to their final home, my borlotti beans have tendrils getting on for 2 feet high and the runner beans are not far behind. The courgettes have multiple leaves and are developing flower buds, they will all have to wait a little bit longer, we had a frost only two nights ago, which would potentially wipe the whole lot out. I have planted out two courgettes under cloches as I can’t wait to start harvesting one of my favourite summer vegetables.

Courgettes under clochesCourgettes, protected from possible frost under cloches

I’m cutting the odd mizuna leaf for salads, a crop well worth growing, far more flavour than lettuce but not as peppery as rocket. It can be grown virtually all year round under glass and is a cut and come again crop.

MizunaMizuna, a cut and come again salad crop well worth growing

We’ve started to harvest our first batch of radish and they are delicious. I served one to the husband who took some persuading to taste. The last time I grew radish, he claims it ‘nearly blew his head off’. I must confess it was incredibly hot and unpleasant. Lesson learnt, this year I have sown ‘Radish, French Breakfast’ with crisp flesh and mild flavour, they will definitely become a veg patch regular.

radishThe radishes

Annual weed seedlings just keep coming up in the new raised beds, I take them out with a hoe as much as I can. In areas where there are delicate seedlings popping up it is very tricky, the weeds are best pulled out by hand. I keep telling myself that as long as the weeds don’t set seed themselves, there will be far fewer next year.

weed seedlingsAnnual weeds, in amongst my onion seedlings (can be spotted if you look carefully)

I have taken a new approach with my shallot seeds. Usually I sow shallots indoors in February and then transplant them individually into the veg patch, a laborious task, by the time I’m half way through the seedlings I’m chucking the rest on the compost heap. I saw a tip in a seed catalogue this winter which suggested sowing a few shallot seeds into modules which are planted out as a whole. It says the shallots will develop making space for each other. So far so good, fingers crossed the theory works and the shallots can make sufficient space to grow.



For those who read my posting two weeks ago about sowing sweet pea seeds, I’m pleased to say their fresh green shoots are up, roll on the beautifully scented flowers.

Sweet pea shootsSweet Pea shoots