outside-in: May 12/12

Outside-in charts my attempts to bring the garden into the house with haphazard English Freestyle flower arranging.

There’s so much going on in the garden this month that I almost forgot to bring any flowers inside until yesterday evening.

picked in the rain, cottage garden, gardening blog

It was raining so it wasn’t really ideal for flower-picking, but I managed to get a good haul.

alliums and peony, cottage garden, gardening blog

For the first time ever I picked some peonies. The Karl Rosenfeld variety which didn’t flower at all last year has lots of buds coming. I allowed myself three and left the rest outside.

Brookside geranium and rose, cottage garden, gardening blog

Bringing the first roses of the new season into the house made it feel (and smell) like summer is well and truly here, despite the rain and the fact that we have lit the wood burner twice this week.

Brookside geranium close-up, gardening blog, cottage garden

I really, really love this geranium. It’s called Brookside, which is impossible to say without a Liverpudlian accent if you grew up in the UK in the 80s like I did. We bought this plant from the nursery at Burrow Farm Gardens when we were driving back from a trip to Devon last year. If you’re ever in East Devon the gardens are well worth a visit – and you won’t be able to resist taking a few things home. I hope we can get back down there some time soon.

allium roseum, gardening blog, cottage garden

This allium (Roseum) is probably my favourite new plant of the year so far. It’s more delicate and subtle than the other alliums we have in the garden, and I can live with its oniony smell in the house.

So, that’s the last in my 12-month series of outside-in posts. The idea was to see if I could keep the vases furnished with flowers from the garden all year round. We just about managed, although I did resort to weeds – ahem – wild flowers in March.

It’s certainly true that we have far more flowers in the garden now than we did this time last year. It’s partly because the mild winter has brought everything forward by a good three weeks.  But I can also see that we’re slowly starting to add new layers to the fabric of the garden. And we’re getting better at choosing varieties that flower early or late in the year to extend the season and keep things pretty.

it’s beginning to look a lot like summer…

lupins, evening sun, cottage garden, gardening blog

Rabbit damage wasn’t the only thing we found in the garden after our holiday.

Our three year old watched in utter bemusement as Steve and I ran round shouting ‘the lupins are out!’ ‘the rose on the vibernum is flowering!’ ‘have you seen the alliums?!’.

allium bed, cottage garden, gardening blog

allium purple sensation

May is a pretty stupid time to go away for a week if you’re into gardening. It put a spanner in the works for hardening-off the tender plants. And although we had Steve’s brother lined up to do the watering (thanks Dave!) I didn’t really want to sow any seeds in the last couple of weeks before we left.

allium cristophii, cottage garden, gardening blog

allium cristophii

But it was wonderful to come home and see how much everything had changed. Some of the plants that are now in their second year are starting to look really at home.

malvern hills rose, cottage garden, gardening blog

malvern hills rose

And the borders are literally buzzing with bees.

allium roseum with bee, cottage garden, gardening blog

allium roseum

Hello, Summer.

malvern hills rose back lit, cottage garden, gardenig blog

malvern hills rose



those pesky wabbits

616px-Young_wild_rabbitA few weeks ago I spent a happy few minutes with my daughter watching a rabbit nibbling weeds by the compost bin. She’s a big fan of Peter Rabbit and his cronies.

When Steve saw, he told me it spelt disaster for the garden. I muttered something about Mr McGregor and ignored him.

How naive I was. We’re just back from a week’s holiday and our neighbour tells me he has seen up to four rabbits at a time skipping around the veg garden. They’ve had a go at the peas, but it seems to be the new cutting patch alongside the veg that has really taken their fancy.

Just before we went away I decided to take a gamble, putting out some of the young plants we’d grown from seed in the greenhouse. The rabbits couldn’t believe their luck.

newly planted cutting patch, cottage garden, gardening blog

before the rabbits came

Now many of the plants have telltale marks of rabbit teeth: it looks like they’ve been neatly snipped with scissors. I’ve discovered rabbits have strangely selective tastes. My Earthwalker sunflowers are untouched, while Vanilla Ice has been razed to the ground. Cosmos are clearly a favourite, but only the ferny leaves. They have left me the stalks. The consolida Snow Cloud that I was growing for the first time – and very much looking forward to – have been virtually destroyed. The gaillardia and cleome don’t have a mark on them.

This should just be a temporary setback rather than the end of the cutting patch. I had spares of most of the plants, except the consolida, and I think there’s still time to sow a few more batches of seed.

We’re supposed to be getting a new fence to keep the dogs off the veg garden and cutting patch. I’d been planning something pretty and cottagey. But perhaps a rabbit-proof fence will be more appropriate.

Or am I being over-optimistic to hope that now we’re home – and the dogs and cats are at large in garden again – the rabbits will stay in the fields.


Wild rabbit photo from Wikimedia Commons

making a sweet pea castle

hazel poles for sweet peas, cottage garden, gardening blog

hard at work coppicing hazels

We’ve finally dug up the remains of the massive pampas grass that dominated the centre of the garden when we moved here. Well, Steve has anyway. And it looked back-breaking from where I was standing.

This is the only section of garden that gets sun all day. So now the pampas has gone our plan is to create an island border and fill it with the sun-loving perennials that we struggle to find space for elsewhere.


It’s going to take a bit of work though. Especially since the list of plants we want to include gets longer by the day. For the time being, we’ve turned the pampas patch into a sweet pea castle for our three-year-old.

sweet pea castle, cottage garden, gardening blog

trying the castle for size

Our hedge is full of hazels that grow like mad and provide us with an endless supply of plant supports. Last weekend Steve coppiced a few and I strung them into a frame for the sweet peas to scramble up. It’s like a traditional sweet pea wigwam, except we left a hole at the front for a door and didn’t gather the poles at the top.

It’s fairly robust, but if I did it again I would think a bit more carefully about my stringing technique. I should have alternated, doing a row at the bottom then one at the top, instead of just working my way up. By the time I got to the top, I decided the poles should taper in a bit, but as I tightened the string some of the lower layers slackened off. That’s the problem with making it up as you go along.

Steve did praise the fact that I worked clockwise then anticlockwise. Apparently this makes it stronger. I just nodded knowingly when he told me, and didn’t say I’d only done it that way because I was too lazy to cut the string after each level.

sweet peas

nibbled by a rabbit…

I’d been planning to use the Easton Walled Garden heirloom sweet peas that we sowed in November to grow up the castle. I thought the blue, pink and white of the Lord Nelson, Miss Willmott and Dorothy Eckford varieties would work well as a centrepiece for the garden through the summer. As well as providing a pretty, scented den for our girl and her playmates of course.

However, semi disaster struck a couple of weeks ago when a passing wild rabbit decided he was rather partial to sweet pea shoots. The plants seem to be recovering, so I’ve still used them. But I interspersed them with a couple more old-fashioned varieties that we sowed later (Nelly Viner and Lady Grisel Hamilton).

Last year our sweet peas grew up and over their poles. I don’t know if the rabbit-nibbled ones will grow anywhere near as tall. I suppose we can always fill any gaps with a few runner beans.