October Posy

October's Posy

Cottage Garden Milk Bottles

I have chosen to work with a completely different colour palette of flowers for October in contrast to the vivid Autumnal colours last month. We do still have rich orange and red blooms in the garden. Last week I picked a selection of flowers and vegetables which were full of Autumn brights.

October's Bounty

 Rich Autumnal Hues

Autumn Colours

Soft Autumnal Hues

Vintage Style


Nevertheless our garden is gradually being transformed into a new colour palette of dusky vintage lilacs and pinks. The once vibrant colours are fading as the days get shorter and the garden is beginning to slumber. October is a month of transition.

October Hues

Lucinda Warner – `Everything seems to shift and the feeling of settling and drawing inwards that autumn brings is as pronounced as the bright uprising and awakening that we sense in spring. As autumn progresses and the branches become increasingly bare, it is the softness of the landscape that captivates me. The fields smudged in pastel hues, the full, soft blues and greys of the skies and the warm low light that all at once dampens the glare of the world, yet infuses that on which it falls with a subtle kind of vibrancy.’

The stars of the show this month have been my asters and chrysanthemum. Asters are daisy-like perennials in the Asteraceae family. The name Aster comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning “star”, referring to the shape of the flower head. Asters are also known as Michaelmas daisies as they flower at the time of Michaelmas, the Feast of St Michael which is celebrated on the 29th September. They bring delightful colour to the garden in late Summer and Autumn when many other Summer blooms are beginning to fade. The plant’s height ranges from 8 inches to 8 feet, depending on the type. Why is it that whenever I try to find Asters in local garden centres I always see short, compact varieties?! Do let me know if you know where I can purchase taller varieties which would be better for cutting.

October -1October -2

These traditional lavender-blue asters have a soft colour that is easy to place in the garden as they mix well with both Summer and Autumnal flowers.

Cosmos is a classic annual to grow for cutting. From a few seeds you get masses of flowers through the second half of the Summer to the first frosts if you keep on picking. I saved the seed from last year’s crop so the seed cost me nothing this year! I painted my white cosmos watercolour on a course with the very talented Anna Mason.

October -3October -5CosmosCosmos in the style of Anna MasonCosmos SeedheadsGathered Seeds


Apart from Cosmos another stalwart has been my tall pink Japanese anemone. These plants have had a succession of flowers from August into October and look beautiful at every stage, bud, flower and seed head.

October -6I have never been very keen on Chrysanthemums until this year. They have an image of being garage forecourt flowers and are often presented in gaudy bouquets of bright red and yellow with a smattering of white and pink. I’ve recently had a Eureka Moment! It’s not the flower I dislike it’s the tasteless mismatched colour combinations that are often produced for bouquets on garage forecourts.

Mismatched Colours

Chrysanthemum flowers in bouquets can be extremely tasteful if the colour combinations are given some thought. My Fabulous Flowers bouquet painting depicts a beautiful hand-tied bouquet of `Memory of Diane’ dahlias together with `Margarite’ daisies, `Avalanche’ spray roses and `Aloha’, `Vitality’ and `Alabasta’ roses. I love the gentle peaches and cream colour scheme which works wonderfully with the dahlias.

Fabulous Flowers

The penny has finally dropped and I now realise that chrysanthemums are invaluable garden blooms as they start to flower when everything else is going over. They also make fantastic flowers for cutting as they can last up to three weeks in a vase. By pure coincidence my Spring catalogue from Sarah Raven arrived today and there are an amazing selection of vibrant Chrysanthemums to be bought next year as rooted cuttings.  Nothing namby pamby about these jewel-like colours! I  will be investing in some of these rooted cuttings as I love the texture of these looser growing plants. Garden Centres seem to stock tight immaculate domes of Chrysanthemums that are all flower and no foliage. I like my garden flowers to have a natural cottage garden feel. In fact I would like to grow both Chrysanthemums and Asters with a more loose, floppy look next year.

Abundant Chrysanthemum CollectionJewel Chrysanthemums


I am sure these colours will mix together wonderfully with my vibrant dahlias. `Mambo’ and `Jescot Julie’ have flowered well this October.

MamboJescot Julie

I have chosen paler, pastel coloured blooms to dip my toe in the water growing chrysanthemums this year. To be honest I could only find these colours or garish yellow available to buy. The yellow really didn’t co-ordinate with my gardens’ other October blooms so white and pink it had to be! I must say these plants do look wonderful in pots by the front door. They also last for ages arranged in a posy vase when everything else has dropped their petals and gone brown.

White OctoberSimply WhitePink ChrysanthemumPink ChrysanthemumPerfect PinksOctober’s Posy is inspired by my new affinity with chrysanthemums. I chose to celebrate the dusky pink colour palette of my blooms to create a vintage effect.


October's PosyOctober's PosyVintage StyleCottage Garden Milk BottlesOctober's PosiesOctober's PosyPeach Delight

So here we have my October Mosaic of flowers celebrating Autumn’s soft colour palette of dusky vintage lilacs and pinks. Which colour scheme did you prefer – September’s rich Autumnal Hues or October’s softer hues?

October Mosaic


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September Posy


September Posy
`Autumn …the year’s last, loveliest smile’ – William Cullen Bryant


Autumn Colours

September’s blooms in our garden have been a beautiful rich, warm colour palette of red, orange and gold. These deep, warm colours would make a fabulous Analogous Colour Scheme for a wedding or home decor. I have written previously in my March Posy Blog Post all about the creation of different Colour Schemes. To create an analogous look you pick 2, 3 or 4 colours on the colour wheel that are next to each other. You can either use them equally or use one as a dominant colour with the others to support.

As an artist and  flower photographer I am absolutely passionate about colour and how different hues can be combined together to create beautiful colour palettes. A  Colour Wheel is a simple tool to work out how to combine different hues. It is an invaluable aid as an artist and can be used when planning colour schemes for interior design, for weddings and when planning a new border in the garden.

Colour Wheel


For this month’s Posy I aimed to create an image which celebrated the arrival of Autumn. We still have white cosmos and delicate pink Japanese Anemone in bloom. However the colour of these flowers just didn’t go with the analogous colour scheme I wanted to create.  (Hopefully they will hang on a few more days and I can use them next month!)

`Autumn – as if nature has been saving up all year for the grande finale’

Lauren de Stefano

Autumn Hues


I love the rich colours of Autumn –  deep red rosy apples and berries, vibrant orange pumpkins and squashes and not forgetting sunny yellow sunflowers. I had fun making this September Posy. The Daisy Chain Purse Vase is an Anita Harris design and was a wonderful wedding gift. I love it’s rich deep red lustre with the gold embellished daisies. It is the perfect vase for deep reds and bright golden flowers. The daisy design reminds me of the Helenium and Rudbeckia growing in the garden.

Autumn Hues


Mr Smiles is rather fond on my Boom Boom dahlias. He said they have a texture like deep, luxurious red velvet. Quite poetic! Apart from romantic roses dahlias are one of my favourite flowers. If regularly dead-headed and picked to bring indoors dahlias bloom right from the height of Summer to the first frosts. I am still picking mine!

Boom Boom



Boom BoomIndian SummerIndian Summer

Indian Summer Dahlia with her brilliant red, large spiky flowers has become one of my favourite dahlia blooms. She really does add a splash of brightness amongst the smaller more muted coloured September blooms.

Peaches & Cream Dahlia

My peach dahlia has continued to delight and is extremely prolific! Mambo Dahlia seems to be a late finisher. She hasn’t bloomed all Summer and is now just getting going!


September’s Blooms

Autumn Garden

The stars of the show this September have been the daisy-like flowerheads –  Helenium, Rudbeckia and Echinacea. I have also introduced some grasses to provide some structure and texture.

September’s Blooms 

Physalis   (Chinese Lantern)

Chinese Lanterns

Chinese Lanterns

From July Physalis develops clusters of small white flowers which are set off perfectly by the bright green foliage. As September comes around the flowers develop into paper thin Chinese Lanterns, which are a warming orange-red colour.  I have read that this plant can spread wildly and can take over. However I love the bright, cheery lanterns so hopefully I will not mind a bit of cheer spreading around the garden.


Helenium - The Bishop

Heleniums are members of the Aster family (Asteraceae). The species from which the garden forms of Helenium are derived grow in the wild in North America. The genus contains about 40 species of annuals and perennials. Wild heleniums are found growing in a wide variety of conditions but very often in moist or even wet habitats. The garden forms also show a preference for damp conditions but will tolerate any soils except very dry ones. They also look fabulous when planted with grasses.

I have found a wonderful Website which is dedicated to Heleniums – http://www.helenium.net. 

  `What on earth is wrong with brassy yellows? Or bright scarlet? Or rich crimson? Plants are living, vibrant organisms – let’s use them to good effect and inject a bit of life and robust colour into some of these terribly contrived, dreary and lifeless planting schemes. Pastel colours might look acceptable in a funeral parlour . . . but in a living garden? Nature has no problem with pink ragged robin growing with golden yellow buttercups. Strong colours together can work wonderfully.’

Autumn Colours

Helenium – The Bishop 

Clear, golden yellow blooms with a brown eye.

Helenium - The Bishop Helenium – Mardi Gras

Yellow petals, lavishly splashed with orange and red form stiff skirts around deep brown mounded centre cones.

Helenium - Mardi Gras

Helenium – Moerheim Beauty

The rich laid back copper coloured petals fade to ochre-brown. The reverse is an even darker red.

Helenium Moerheim Beauty

Rudbeckia sullivanti `Goldsturm’

Rudbeckia GoldsturmRudbeckia Goldsturm

This herbaceous perennial also known as `Black Eyed Susan’ has a long display of deep yellow, dark-centred flowers in late Summer. It is good for cutting as it produces masses of long lived blooms. I admired the Rudbeckia on a recent visit to Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens. They were planted in drifts with grasses and purple Verbena bonariensis.

Abbotsbury Rudbeckia


Echinacea is another group of  herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family, Asteraceae. The nine species it contains are commonly called coneflowers. They are endemic to eastern and central North America, where they are found growing in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. They have large, showy heads of composite flowers,  blooming from early to late summer. The generic name is derived from the Greek word  ἐχῖνος (echino), meaning `sea urchin’ due to the spiny central disc.

Echinacea  – Mood Shiny

Creamy white petals with brown cone-like centres.

Echinacea Mood Shiny

Echinacea – White Meditation 

White flowers with golden brown centres

Echinacea White Meditation

Echinacea – Little Magnus

Large, deep pink daisies with a central brown cone are produced on strong stems through late summer and early autumn. They are sweetly scented and attractive to bees, butterflies and other insects. The seed heads are attractive through winter and provide food for birds. This particular variety is compact and lower growing than my others so looks attractive near the front of the border.

Echinacea - Little Magnus

Echinacea – Awake

Echinacea Awake

Pennisetum alopecuroides `Hamelyn’ 

Amongst the flowers I have planted a couple of grasses. `Hamelyn’  is an elegant, feathertop grass. It is very decorative and is beautiful as it sways in the breeze amongst the colour of the daisy-like flowers.

Pennisetum alopecuroides `Hameln'

Autumn Garden

Honeysuckle berries

My honeysuckle has wonderful red berries. Bullfinches, warblers and thrushes are known to eat the berries, so I must keep an eye out for them.

Here we have September’s Mosaic full of rich, warm Autumn Colours from my September Garden.

September Mosaic

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August Posy

Gerrie Hoek meets Peaches `n' Cream


Delighting in Dahlias

August has been a month where my dahlias have been putting on a beautiful show of colour. Last year I chose to plant them in pots so I could over winter them in the green house. I am pleased to report that they survived the Winter, so I am continuing with pots. (Unlike the year before when I painstakingly removed the tubers to store and then they either rotted or were eaten by mice.)

Dahlias are beginning to rise in popularity again. People used to associate them with old men and allotments, where rows of flowers were grown like soldiers standing to attention. This has changed over the last few years and the dahlia has become popular again with both gardeners and as a cut flower for florists. There are few plants that offer such a variety of colour and form and they keep on blooming from July until late Autumn if picked regularly. In my Delightful Dahlia Blog Post last year I outlined the history of the Dahlia and the various classifications according to the type of bloom. 

When I was deciding how to present my dahlia blooms for my August Posy Project I wanted small vases which would show off the different colours of my dahlias. I do have pale peach blooms, however my dahlias are mainly bold and bright in colour. I decided to buy Sarah Raven’s Stained Glass Vases in the richest vibrant purples, reds and blues.  (Clever marketing on Sarah’s part as her Hot Dahlia Collection, which I also purchased, is shown pictured arranged to great effect in these vases!)

Hot Dahlia Collection

Jewel Colours


Colours of the Rainbow

I had such a fun time arranging my August Posies of Dahlias! There were so many different colour combinations to work with I was like a kid in a sweet shop! To start with I put all the vases on the table with all the flowers. It didn’t really work as a composition!

The Colour of Apricots

Apricot Halves

My first carefully thought out colour combo for my August Posy was influenced by my apricot jam making. Inspired by The Great British Bake Off I had made an apricot and amaretto swiss roll and wanted to show off my baking skills to best advantage. I chose two dahlias which have an apricot and peachy pink tinge and arranged them in the orange stained glass vase. This gave a delightful peaches `n’ cream effect which would make a wonderful delicate analogous wedding colour scheme. Analogous colour schemes combine  colours next to each other on the colour wheel. For example: red and orange, blue and green, violet and red, etc. These make really good colour combinations as they are pleasing to the eyes.   You can combine shades of 2 or 3 colours next to each other on the colour wheel. When I was deciding on my colour scheme I first considered `Peaches and Cream’ with accents of golden yellow. You can see on the Colour Wheel that these colours all lie next to each other and are therefore analogous colours. 

Wedding Colour Wheel
Wedding Colour Wheel

Gerrie Hoek meets Peaches `n' Cream

The dahlias used in this first Posy were Gerrie Hoek and Peaches `n’ Cream.

Gerry Hoek is a beautiful, delicate pink with a hint of peach dahlia with strong, straight stems and waterlily-like flowers. Waterlily type dahlias have shallow, double blooms, with broad flattish florets. Their broad petals are slightly curled up along their length, giving a saucer-shaped appearance to the flower. The disc florets are not visible. Gerry Hoek was introduced in 1942. 

Gerrie Hoek

Peaches `N’ Cream is a warm golden orange and cream-colored Decorative type dahlia. The petals flow back toward the stem. Decorative dahlias have fully double blooms, showing no disc. Their petals are normally broad and fold inwards from the base. This type of dahlia is very popular with enthusiasts who love them for their colour and decorative appearance. It’s a real shame that I am on holiday for the local Flower Show this year as I would enter this one if I was here! 

Peaches `n' Cream

Peaches `n' Cream

As a bride I would have had dahlias in my wedding bouquet if I had been getting married in late Summer. I painted this wonderful bouquet by Fabulous Flowers in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. It is a hand-tied bouquet of `Memory of Diane’ dahlias,` Margarite’ daisies, `Avalanche’ spray roses together with `Aloha’, `Vitality’ and `Alabasta’ roses. I love the gentle peaches and cream colour scheme. If I had got married later in the year I would have loved a bouquet like this! 


Gerry Hoek and Peaches `N’  Cream worked well arranged together and fulfilled my creative aim of producing a fabulous image of my August Posy. However this arrangement alone didn’t show off my apricot conserve swiss roll to best advantage as there was too much yellow and orange in the image. I had to remind myself that the food styling was a different project to the Posy of the Month Challenge! I decided to use the turquoise vase in this composition as a complementary colour to the peachy orange. I knew from my wedding that peach and aqua look fantastic together. Complementary colours are opposite to each other on the color wheel. When used together these colours  stand out and create contrasts. For example orange and blue, yellow and violet, red and green.  

I added another of my dahlias into the arrangement. Jescot Julie is a really unusual dahlia. Each ray floret (petal) has a burnt orange upper surface with a contrasting rich plum coloured base, creating a striking bloom. They look sensational when mixed with deep, bold reds and dark golden tones. I bought mine to go with a rich red dahlia called Indian Summer. Unfortunately they haven’t bloomed at the same time so far! 

Jescot  JulieJescot JulieJescot JulieApricot and Amaretto PreserveCreamy Apricot and Amaretto Swiss Roll


I was really pleased with how the aqua vase lifted the image and gave it a bit of a zing!

Another peachy-apricot single-flowered dahlia in the garden this year is Happy Single First Love. Single flowered dahlias bear a single ring of outer (ray) florets, with the central (disc) florets visible.

Happy Single 1st Love

Vibrant Pinks and Purples 

Purple Magic

Osirium and Boom BoomKarma Fuschiana and Eyed Beauty

So far the dahlias I have shown you have been in pretty pastel hues. However most of my dahlias are big, bold and dramatic. Three of my most successful plants were tubers saved from last year, which I am really chuffed about.

Karma Fushiana is a new addition in Sarah Raven’s Hot Dahlia Collection. In Sarah’s words `she is a wonderful bright, coral-pink dahlia ideal for zappy contrast in borders and arrangements.The blooms can be both double or single and have dual classification as small waterlily and small decorative type dahlia.  The Karma group have been bred for a much better than usual dahlia vase life, so look out for this group if you like flowers for picking.

Karma Fuschiana

Osirium is one of my old favourites with her large deep magenta red decorative style blooms. This dahlia really does make a bold statement!

Osirium DahliaOsirium Dahlia

Eyed Beauty has striking cerise pink flowers. She is classified as a Paeony dahlia. Paeony dahlias have single flowers with two or more rings of largely flat florets surrounding the central disc.  With their relatively simple shape and open discs they are attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. 

Eyed BeautyEyed Beauty

Boom Boom is a reliable workhorse of a plant! I don’t really like the very deep burgundy hue. However she produces abundant ball type blooms and the deep colour does provide a dramatic backdrop for the other more vibrant blooms which I love. Ball type dahlias have flowers that take on the form of a ball. The flowerheads are double, with a slightly flattened top. Petals are arranged in a spiral pattern and the tips are blunt or rounded. 

Boom Boom DahliaBoom Boom

Rich Autumn Colours 

Arrival of AutumnBishop of Llandaff

 Jescot Julie with her striking red underneath the petals also works well in an Autumnal Colour Scheme. I arranged Jescot Julie with the paeony flowered red Bishop of Llandaff. I chose to place the red bloom in a complementary coloured green stained glass vase. I also used orangey-red Echinacea Joy and the deep red Boom Boom dahlia in my Autumnal themed arrangement. I felt the deep burgundy gave a nice contrast to the yellow petals of Jescot Julie. Purple and yellow are also complementary colours. I find it fascinating that I have included two sets of complementary colours in this image, but it still works! The overall effect is an analogous colour scheme of rich reds, oranges and vibrant yellows. However the green vase and the burgundy flower lift the image and make the colours sing!

Bishop of Llandaff is another paeony flowered dahlia. She is a favourite British cultivar dating back to 1924.   Bishop of Llandaff has crimson red flowers and dark bronze foliage. 

Bishop of Llandaff


My Indian Summer dahlia didn’t make an appearance for my photoshoot, but did bloom in July and is ready for action in September! Let’s hope the weather does the same for my Dorset cottage holiday in September. Indian Summer is a fantastic spiky dahlia with brilliant red blooms. I bought her to flower with Jescot Julie, but they don’t seem to want to be together, each blooming at a different time! 

Indian SummerIndian SummerI really did have fun arranging my dahlias in different colour schemes this month. Do let me know the names of your favourite dahlias – I may add a few more to my collection if I can find space!

So here we have August’s Mosaic.

August Mosaic

I do hope you have enjoyed seeing my ever expanding dahlia collection and have got a few ideas for colour schemes along the way.


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Creamy Apricot & Amaretto Swiss Roll

Creamy Apricot and Amaretto Swiss Roll

Inspired by the new series of `The Great British Bake Off’ I decided to make a swiss roll. Now I knew if I was going to bake in the style of Bake-Off I needed to make my own jam. Mr Smiles’ favourite jam is apricot and as apricots are in season at the moment apricot preserve seemed like a good choice.

Jammy Definitions

I am a bit confused about the terms jam, conserve and preserve. I thought preserve was just a posh word for jam. The terminology for preserve making is confusing. One person’s conserve is another person’s jam!

Jam –  a thick mixture of fruit and sugar that is boiled gently but quickly until the fruit is soft and has a gel consistency. Jam should be clear, well set but not stiff and should be spreadable. It should have a distinctive fruity flavour and a good colour.  Most people seem to agree that with jam the fruit has broken down during cooking.

Jelly –   made by a process similar to that used for making jam, with the additional step of filtering out the fruit pulp after the initial heating. The whole fruit is gently cooked, then left to strain. The resulting juice is then boiled with sugar until a set is reached. A jelly is a clear fruit spread that is firm enough to hold its shape.

Preserves – fruit spreads that have chunks of fruit surrounded by jelly.

Conserve –  similar to jam but the set tends to be softer. They can contain dried fruit and/or nuts.

Marmalade – similar consistency to jam but made with citrus fruit and peel.


Apricot and Amaretto Preserve

Apricot and Amaretto Preserve

2lb (900g) fresh apricots

2lb (900g) granulated sugar

Juice of 1 large lemon

Trace of butter

Large Dash of Amaretto liqueur

You need to start the day before you actually want to make the preserve. Halve the apricots and reserve the stones.

Apricot Halves

Place them in layers in a preserving pan, sprinkling the sugar in between the layers.  Add the lemon juice, cover with a cloth and leave over-night.

Easy Squeezer

Delia Smith says that `pre-soaking the fruit in sugar firms up the fruit, ensuring the apricot pieces stay intact when making the jam.’ I adapted this recipe from Delia’s Summer Collection.  I must admit I had a dilemma at this point. My apricots were large! So did I continue to halve them or quarter them?! I stuck with halving. I would actually advise quartering if you pre-soak in sugar and have big, juicy apricots like mine.

Apricot Jam Making

Crack the apricot stones with a nutcracker and save the kernels.  Blanch the kernels in boiling water for a couple of minutes.

Apricot Kernels

 Drain them, pat them dry and remove the outer skin. When I read this process I thought `What a palaver!’. I didn’t know the reason for using the kernels. I thought it was some mysterious ingredient which would aid the setting process. Then I learnt that apricot kernels are actually used as the main ingredient in amaretto liqueur. I thought amaretto was made of almonds. When I cracked open the apricot stones I got an aromatic waft of amaretto so I was converted to the idea of using the kernels. In fact I thoroughly embraced the idea and decided to turn my plain apricot jam into exotic amaretto preserve with apricot chunks and kernels.

Blanched Apricot Kernels

To make the conserve place the preserving pan over  a medium heat and let the sugar dissolve completely. When dissolved turn up the heat to the highest setting and boil rapidly. It took about 20 minutes to reach setting point.

Ready to boil

Stir in a knob of butter to disperse any scum. Add the reserved kernels and allow to settle for 15 minutes before pouring into warm sterilised jars.

Apricot and Amaretto Preserve

Apricot and Amaretto Swiss-Roll 

Creamy Apricot and Amaretto Swiss Roll

3 large eggs

115g (4 oz) Caster sugar

115g (4 oz) Plain Flour

Apricot and Amaretto Preserve

Double Cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

Icing Sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, Gas Mark 6). Grease a 33 x 23cm (13 x 9 in) swiss roll tin and line with baking parchment. The tin suggested in the recipe was a swiss roll tin 13×9 inches. I had 3 tins – a baking silicone flexi-sheet 14 x 10.5, a brownie pan 13.5 x 8 and a heavy duty Swiss roll tin 12 x 8.5 and didn’t know which to use! Why is it that whenever you follow or adapt a recipe the size of the tin is always different to what you have! I read reviews on the silicone sheet and made the decision it was too big. I would have crispy burnt edges. The browny pan seemed a bit deep. So I went for the heavy duty swiss roll tin and just had a bit of left over mixture. 

Lined Swiss Roll Tin

Put the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the mixture is very thick and pale, and leaves a trail on the surface when the beaters are lifted out. The eggs should be at room temperature. It’s thick enough when it’s about three times the volume. 

Whisking Eggs and Caster Sugar

All whisked up!

Sift half the flour over the whisked mixture and gently fold it in with a large metal spoon. Sift over the remaining flour and fold in together with a tablespoon of tepid water. It is important to fold in the flour with a sure but light touch – you don’t want to undo all that good whisking by knocking out the air. 

Swiss Roll Mixture

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and give it a gentle shake so that the mixture spreads evenly into the corners. Bake for 10–12 minutes or until the sponge is well risen and pale golden, and springs back when pressed gently with your finger.

Swiss Roll MixtureJust out of the Oven

Turn out onto a sheet of baking parchment slightly larger than the sponge. Peel off the lining paper. Trim the crusty edges of the sponge with a sharp knife and make a score mark 2.5 cm (1 in) from one of the shorter edges (this will make the sponge easier to roll up). 

Roll up loosely from the short side, with the paper inside, and place seam side down on a wire rack to cool.

All rolled up!

When the sponge is cold, carefully unroll it and remove the paper.

Whip the cream with the vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of sifted icing sugar until the mixture forms soft peaks. 

Whipped Cream

Now we get on to the fun bit! I chose to spread my apricot preserve on first and then spread the cream on top. I was too generous with my filling! It is a good idea to leave a border at the edge. When I came to roll up my sponge I had a tidal wave of cream and apricot jam all over the kitchen work top and beyond. I had to keep scraping up the mixture to try to roll the cake up.  So the instruction to `Carefully roll up the sponge and place seam side down on a serving plate.’ was tricky! 

Swiss Roll in the makingReady to Roll!

A good swiss roll should be made of a light as air sponge. I do think I made a good sponge as it was light and moist. As Kate said on the Great British Bake Off `a dry sponge is never good!’.

However a well executed swiss roll should also have a tight, clearly defined roll. I was expecting a beautiful swirl of cream and golden apricot preserve.  What I  had was a sticky mess and no swirl!


No matter –  I tidied up the ends, dusted with icing sugar and got creative with my camera! I must say the end result was not bad. I’m not sure Mary Berry would approve of my messy baking. However the end result was delicious even if I do say so myself!

Creamy Apricot and Amaretto Swiss Roll

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July Posy

  Country Cottage Garden Meets the Coast

I try to have a theme in mind when I pick my Posy of the Month. This month I have had a dilemma. My front garden is full of coastal plants which remind me of the seaside and I love them. The back garden is full of quintessentially English cottage garden flowers and I love them just as much! So for my July images I have chosen two themes – coastal and cottage garden.

Coastal Posy for July

Seaside HuesOh I do like to be beside the Seaside!

At the front of our bungalow we had an area of practical, but unimaginative stones. This part of the garden is a challenge. In the Winter it gets water logged and grass just turns to moss. In the Summer it catches the sun and bakes dry. Mr Smiles had decided sensible stones was the answer to the problem. I thought this area was a bit boring, but didn’t want to undo the hard work already put in by laying a waterproof membrane and then putting the stones down. So I have experimented with seaside alpines. It was suggested they wouldn’t grow as there was no dirt. I have been collecting pebbles, shells and driftwood whenever we go on holiday to the coast. I simply made holes amongst the pebbles with a trowel and shoved the alpines in.  They grew magnificently!  Along side the alpines I have large pots in seaside colours of cobalt blue, grey and white which contain plants which remind me of holidays. I have a tree fern, eucalyptus, various grasses and an olive tree in these pots. I overwinter them in the greenhouse with horticultural fleece.This month it has been my brilliant blue Agapanthus and white Hydrangea which have been the highlight of the front garden. I love these plants. They remind me of happy holidays in Cornwall. For my July Posy  I decided to take photos outside amongst the seaside pebbles and shells. I used blue and cream MDF backing boards and even bought an ornamental boat to add to the sea-side effect. The neighbours must have been amused! As a vase I used a glass water bottle which reminded me of nautical life buoys. I must admit the neck was a bit narrow to display the blooms to their full advantage.

Agapanthus BluesCoastal BluesAgapanthus Posy

Agapanthus Posy

Simply BlueAgapanthus

White Agapanthus















Seaside PosyAnother favourite flower is the Hydrangea. You either love them or hate them! One of my friends described Hydrangeas as `old lady blooms in either garrish overly-bright colours or rather dusky faded hues!’ I love them! I love their big, blowsy, look-at-me blooms. I also associate them with happy holidays by the coast.

I have five different varieties of  Hydrangea. My white Hydrangea macrophylla is called The Bride. The Bride has pure white flowers which gradually take a pale pink blush. It differs from most other Hydrangeas as it is from the Endless Summer Collection which produce flowers on old and new wood. I have made the mistake of pruning my others in the Autumn and then they do not bloom the following year!

Endless Summer - The Bride

Backlit Bride

Macrophylla Hydrangeas can be either mopheads or lacecaps and are invaluable for poor soils, exposed positions and by the sea.. Mopheads are often blue, pink or purple and have big, puffy balls of flowers.

Hydrangea macrophyllaKaleidoscope Colours


Some hydrangeas have the ability to change the colour of the flowers. This colour change is due to the soil PH and aluminium availability. Those with blue or pink flowers tend to be blue in acid soil conditions (high available aluminium levels), mauve in acid to neutral soil conditions, and pink in alkaline conditions. To get the best flower colour, choose cultivars that give the best colours for the pH in question. White flowers remain white regardless of soil pH.

Hydrangea macrophyllaHydrangea macrophyllaHydrangea macrophylla

It is a good idea to water hydrangeas with rainwater, since mains hard water can affect the flower colour, turning blue flowers mauve or pink. Cultivars with blue flowers can be kept blue by growing the plants in acidic soil (pH 4.5-5).   To keep hydrangeas reliably blue you can use ‘hydrangea blueing compounds’. These compounds contain aluminium sulphate. If the soil is very alkaline or if there is any obvious chalk in the soil, this treatment will not work, but can be used for container-grown plants. If you want to enhance red or pink flowers, apply a dressing of ground limestone or chalk in winter. Ok that’s the theory covered! In practice I just plonk mine in and wait and see what happens! I actually like the kaleidoscope colours of blue, lilac and pink on the same bush, so have given up worrying about fancy compounds and I go with the flow…

Lacecaps are similar to Mopheads.The shape of the blooms are flatter and more refined. The little buds in the centre are the fertile flowers  and the large showy blossoms around the outer edge are sterile.


I also have a plant called Pinky-Winky which is a Hydrangea paniculata. Paniculata blooms are panicle or cone shaped rather than ball-like.

The other type of Hydrangea I have is a climber – Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris. It will climb like a vine along a wall or fence clinging by aerial roots. The white lace-cap like flower-heads appear in Spring and Early Summer. 

Country Cottage Posy for July

Vintage Vase

The back-garden has been full of traditional country cottage flowers in July. I am very proud of my Sweet Peas which I grew from seed and which smell heavenly. Hence why I needed to create a different Posy to the Coastal one. Somehow Sweet Peas, Agapanthus and Hydrangeas don’t work together in a Posy! The Sweet Peas are too dainty to go with the big, boisterous mophead Hydrangea flowers. The Agapanthus blooms are too tall and architectural to work with them in an arrangement.

Simply SweetpeasPinks and Purples

The Sweet Peas are from Sarah Raven’s Highly Scented Sweet Pea Collection and include Matucana and Lord Nelson. Matucana has lovely bi-colour flowers in crimson and purple with spectacular scent. Lord Nelson has wonderful, highly-scented, old-fashioned, purple-navy flowers. 

Highly Scented


I also have a magenta pink perennial Sweet Pea plant which grows rampantly over an obelisk when the flowers are continually picked. The blooms don’t really smell of much, but I use them to bulk up arrangements of the annual variety.  The silver vases are a family heirloom dating from the early 19th Century. I imagine they may have been a wedding present given to my Great, Grandparents. I recently got one of the vases repaired and was looking for an opportunity to use them in my Posy of the Month Challenge. 

Perennial Sweet PeaPerennial Sweet Pea


Apart from the Sweet Peas the back garden is full of stately Hollyhocks and other cottage garden favourites.

Hollyhock BeeHollyhock Pink

Hollyhock Pink








Hollyhock Pink







Echinops BluesEchinops BluesBuddleia Butterfly


So here we have July’s Mosaic.

I hope you have enjoyed a trip to my Country Cottage style garden with inspiration from the sea-side!

July Mosaic

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June Posy

June Posy

Our June garden has seen roses in abundance. Big, blowsy garden roses are my favourite flowers. In fact I have 20 different roses and know virtually all of them by name! I loved creating June’s Posy. I had fun creating coloured MDF backing boards with tester paint pots, wrapping paper and sheet music. (We have some very interesting paint patterns on the grass now!) June PosyJune Posy

June PosyJune Posy

Take time to Smell the Roses!

Smiles (korgohowa)

Smiles Rose

When I saw this rose `Smiles’ by Mattocks I had to buy her as my surname is Smiles! However I wasn’t sure…The label describes the rose as `a novel cheery rose that will make you Smile! A repeat flowering Floribunda with yellow blooms tinged cerise pink. The pink tints are intensified as the weather get sunnier, providing an ever changing display from June to October.’ The thing is I don’t like dark, garish flowers and the buds are a bit garish…

Smiles Rosebud

Smiles Rose





However as June progressed and the blooms began to fade my Smiles rose became a delightful frilly number and lost her garish vibrancy. I like her now!

Smiles Rose

Smiles Rose is a Floribunda. The word `Floribunda’ means lots of flowers. They were first produced in the 1920s and they can bloom continually throughout Summer into Autumn. The flowers are produced in large clusters on strong, upright stems, rather than as individual blooms like the Hybrid Teas.

Tea Clipper (Ausrover) 


Tea Clipper is one of my favourite roses by David Austin Roses. I bought her after getting back from visiting the the tea picking districts of Sri Lanka on honeymoon. As I had peachy apricot flowers in my bouquet and the rose was called Tea Clipper it seemed appropriate.  The blooms are a rich apricot colour in an informal rosette shape and nicely quartered. Tea Clipper is a large informal shrub with its flowers dancing on the end of each branch. The fragrance is a mix of Tea, myrrh and citrus.

Tea ClipperTea ClipperTea ClipperTea Clipper

Shining Light (Cocshimmer) 

Shining Light

Shining Light was given an ultimatum last year – `Bloom, or you’ll be hoiked out of the garden!’ I am pleased to say my stern words (or the weather) worked and Shining Light has been blooming magnificently this June! This rose is known as a Patio Rose, a compact Floribunda. Shining Light has blooms in a bright golden, apricot colour and a very light fragrance.

Shining Light

Sutter’s Gold

Sutter's Gold

Sutter’s Gold is a Hybrid Tea Rose which was introduced in 1950. The Hybrid Tea rose is the archetypal rose. Pointed buds open to double, high centred flowers with gently unfurling petals. Large, individual flowers are carried on strong stems. The Hybrid Tea is a cross between a Tea Rose and a repeat-flowering Hybrid Perpetual rose. My Grandma Betty had a Sutter’s Gold rose in her garden and her mother Ethel grew this rose in her garden too. My love of roses is obviously inherited! I asked my Uncle to buy me Sutter’s Gold as a gift in memory of my Gran.  I have photos of both my Grandma and my Great Grandmother showing off their garden roses. It’s a shame I don’t have a photo of my mum with her roses as I know she had a climbing rose growing over an arch when I was growing up.

Generations of Rose Lovers

Ethel's Rose GardenBetty's Rose GardenPatsy's Rose Garden

Crocus Rose (Ausquest)

Crocus Rose

Crocus Rose is an English rose bred by David Austin. The English roses are modern Shrub roses with the charm of old-fashioned roses. They are renowned for the beauty of their flowers and their fragrance. Crocus Rose has cupped, rosette-shaped apricot cream flowers which become paler with age. The outer petals reflex as the flower matures. She has a light tea rose scent. Crocus Rose was the star of the show in my Posy this month.

Crocus Rose

White Star (Harquill)

White Star

I bought White Star from the Malvern Show a couple of years ago. White Star is a short climber which is being trained along the trellis. She has semi-double blooms of pure unfading white with a deep golden eye. White Star

Winchester Cathedral (Auscat) 

Winchester Cathedral

I am aiming to create a peaceful garden at the front of our house with soft pinks, lilacs and whites. I have selected roses specifically with this soft colour palette in mind. Winchester Cathedral is a white English Rose bred by David Austin. She has typical Old Rose rosette formation with a light Old Rose fragrance with a hint of honey and almond. I must admit Winchester Cathedral hasn’t bloomed as freely as some of my other roses this year although David Austin has promised a mass of flowers!

Winchester Cathedral

William and Catherine (Ausrapper)

William & Catherine

William & Catherine Rose was named to celebrate the Royal Wedding in 2011. This is another creamy white David Austin rose in my front garden. The blooms have the classic shallow cup shape and the very full petalled form of many of the Old Roses. The fragrance is of myrrh. William & Catherine has been blooming very freely this year.

William & Catherine

Open Arms (Chewpixel)

Open Arms

Open Arms is one of my favourites. She is a delicate repeat flowering rambler. Ramblers are ideal for unsightly buildings, high walls or scrambling up trees and through hedges.  Open Arms has been blooming continually throughout June and looks like she will go on and on flowering through my trellis.  She has soft peach buds which open in large clusters of pink blossom with attractive yellow stamens. The flowers remind me of the wild roses you find dotted in the hedgerows.

Open Arms

Strawberry Hill (Ausrimini)

Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill also graces my peaceful front garden. She has pure rose-pink cupped rosette flowers which fade to pale pink. The scent is of myrrh with a hint of lemon. The bees seem to like her! Strawberry HillStrawberry Hill

The Generous Gardener (Ausdrawn)

The Generous Gardener

The Generous Gardener has soft pink flowers fading to almost white. The flowers are cup shaped and when fully open expose their stamens. She has a delicate fragrance of Old Rose, Musk and myrrh.  I have two of this variety of rose – one is grown as an arching shrub and one as a short climber rambling through other shrubs.

The Generous Gardener

The Generous Gardener

The Generous Gardener

Pretty Pink Rose

Pretty Pink Rose

When I bought this pretty pink rose a few years ago she was labelled `Peace’. However I am beginning to think the label was wrong as the Peace roses I have seen are classic Hybrid Tea roses with lemon yellow flowers flushed with pink. My rose is pure pink and is a delicate little number! Any suggestions would be welcome as I know most of my roses by name!

Pretty Pink RosePretty Pink RosePretty Pink Rose

Harlow Carr (Aushouse)

Harlow Carr

Harlow Carr has small, almost minature cupped pink flowers. I grow her as a low growing shrub next to lavender bushes which works well together She has a strong old rose fragrance.

Harlow CarrHarlow Carr

Mum in a Million 

Mum in a Million

I bought this rose simply to remind me of my mum! Most of my roses were bought because of their colour, shape or scent. This one was bought for the name.    She is a medium pink Hybrid Tea. She does need to buck her ideas up a bit though as I have only had two blooms so far this year!

Boscobel (Auscousin)


I fell in love with the beautiful rich salmon coloured flowers of Boscobel at Chelsea Flower Show last year. As you’ve probably noticed most of my roses are soft delicate pastel peaches and pinks rather than vibrant reds. I know red roses are mean to represent love, but I’d much rather be given creamy yellow or peach roses! I do like the striking colour of Boscobel though!


June’s Mosiac is a celebration of all my beautiful roses. Do let me know which is your favourite!

June Mosaic


Taking Time Out to Smell the Roses!

Stop, Sit and Smell the Flowers!

Chelsea Flower Show 2014

RHS Chelsea Flower Show is one of the highlights of my year and this year was no exception. Chelsea 2014 fell in the middle of a very difficult week for me as a close relative was in the process of being diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get up to London as I was staying in Dorset. However I made the decision I needed to go for my own well-being. So after a 3 hour train journey I finally arrived. This year was a different experience for me. I largely ignored the fancy, show gardens with their sophisticated high-falluting ideas. Normally I would pay more attention to them and would come back with a few ideas of my own. However this year I got irritated by the crowds of people trying to catch a glimpse of the Show Gardens and engage the designers in conversation whilst I was being `gently’ pushed out of the way. My garden is never going to be a `Show Garden’ with sleek lines and abstract concepts. What I want in a garden is an oasis of calm, a cottage garden full of pretty flowers spilling over in abundance. I want to create a lovely spot where I can take time to smell the roses away from the stresses of day to day life. Chelsea was good for me. I spent most of my day in the Great Pavillion `a horticultural haven of stunning floral displays’. I simply decided to let the beauty and the wonderful aroma of the flowers do my soul good and it did! So many times I found that I stopped and took time to drink in the smell and the exquisite beauty of the flowers and the whole Chelsea Experience became very restorative! I am therefore going to make no apologies for simply sharing the photos I took of beautiful flowers.  I hope they do you good too!

One of the things I loved about Chelsea this year is that there was a lot of naturalistic, cottage garden displays. I particularly liked the stately foxgloves in hues of pink, purple and white.

Pretty Pink

Gentle Foxgloves

Foxglove Forest

Whites and Purples

Digitalis purpurea `Excelsior'

Gentle Height












Apart from colour schemes of pinks and purples I saw a lot of naturalistic planting using vibrant yellow and orange and rusty hues. I liked Geum `Totally Tangerine’ so much I bought this wonderful plant when I got home. I already have a few verbascum which are more delicate in appearance than foxgloves but equally wonderful.

VerbascumSharp Green

Pimpinella major RoseaAllium let loose







Totally Tangerine (and yellow!)







Wild at HeartRusty HuesAntirrhinum majus ScrophulariaceaePedal PowerStatement Dahlia

One of the Exhibits I adored was the inspirational Hillier Nursery Display, simply because it was my kind of garden. I sat down in the midst of the bustle of the Grand Pavillion on a bench with 2 ladies on a trip from the USA. We had a lovely chat and I managed to help them with the settings on their camera. This is what good garden design is all about – providing an oasis of calm amongst all the bustle. Lovely!

Hillier Nurseries Display had several different styles of garden. Of course I loved the Hillier Rose Garden. This really did show how a small garden space can be transformed into a fragrant oasis; a lovely spot to sit and enjoy the fragrance of the flowers. Although I couldn’t sit on the bench I would have loved to sit there and enjoy a glass of pink lemonade!

PinkyStop, Sit and Smell the Flowers!

Queen of Sweden


The Hillier White Garden is reminiscent of Sissinghurst with it’s green and white planting scheme.  I actually agree with the concept behind the planting. The aim was to create a green and white planting scheme which was cool and calming and a relief from the activity all around. It works! The garden looked cool, relaxing and a thoroughly nice place to be.

White and GreenDigitalis purpurea f.albaThe White Garden

This elegant white planting scheme was echoed in Jo Thompson’s London Square Garden. A unique bench was a work of art in itself surrounded by white and green plants including Rose `Macmillan Nurse’ which has wonderful old-fashioned cupped flowers of a pale creamy yellow with a double centre.

London Square


The Hillier Bee Garden was so pretty, although I’m not sure I want to have a beehive in our garden! Actually one of our bird boxes seems to have been taken over by quite a few bees this year.  The Bee Garden struck me as a nice place to potter with it’s pretty pastel Summer colours. Planting included pots and containers and plants which are particularly bee friendly such as Philadelphus `Belle Etoile’.

Pink VerbascumHillier Bee GardenQuiet Corner

I’d love to potter about in that garden with a selection of these Garden Girl Accessories!

Gardening Kit fit for a Lady

Pink, Pink and More Pink! 

Pretty Seating

Aquilegia vulgaris Altrosa

Delightful Dahlia


Delightful Dahlias

Kelways’ Peonies 

I can’t decide if my absolutely most favourite flowers are roses or peonies. In some ways they are similar – really girly,flouncy frilly blooms which are short-lived but so worth the wait!  There are different ways of classifying peonies:-

The June-flowering varieties of P.lactiflora or Chinese peonies.

The herbaceous species. These flower in May or earlier.

Varieties of P.suffruticosa, the shrubby or tree peony.

Tree peonies are slower growing, but can grow up to 10 feet. They do not die back into the ground in Winter. The flowers of herbaceous garden peonies tend to be smaller than tree peonies at 3 to 4 inches across. Tree peonies can produce flowers up to 12 inches. An intersectional hybrid peony is a cross between the tree and herbaceous peony. The flowers look like a tree peony but the stems die back. I have recently bought Coral Sunset, a herbaceous variety and an unnamed pink tree peony. Both are yet to flower but I am hoping for great things next year.  I fell in love with Coral Sunset at Chelsea Flower Show last year.

Coral SunsetKelways BeautyRenown Tree Peony


Renown - Saunders Hybrid Tree Peony
Renown – Saunders Hybrid Tree Peony

Renown Peony has delectable blooms of a unique copper strawberry colour.  



Garden Treasure - Intersectional Peony
Garden Treasure – Intersectional Peony

 Garden Treasure is a semi double with bright yellow flowers and scarlet flares. This cultivar has a particularly long flowering season because the flowers do not develop all at the same time. 



 Stop and Smell the Roses

I was in Heaven, as not only were there beautiful peonies in the Garden Pavillion, but also a plethora of roses. I spent a  long time enjoying both the David Austin Rose Stand and the Harkness Exhibit. There were also outstanding roses dotted throughout the Show. I currently have just under 20 different roses in my garden and I know them all by name! I’m not sure Mr Smiles thinks there is any more room for any more roses in our garden, however I’m sure one more won’t hurt! Which one would you choose?!

The Lark Ascending  

The Lark Ascending (Ausursula)
The Lark Ascending (Ausursula)

The Lark AscendingThe Lark AscendingThe Lark Ascending

`The Lark Ascending’ is a beautiful semi-double cup shaped apricot rose grown by David Austin.

The Poet's Wife
The Poet’s Wife ( Auswhisper)

The Poet’s Wife David Austin English Rose has flowers of a strong unfading yellow colour. It is an ideal rose for the front of the border.

Graham Thomas
Graham Thomas (Ausmas)

Graham Thomas is a short climber in a rich pure yellow colour. It has a fresh tea-rose fragrance.

The Lady Gardener (Ausbrass)
The Lady Gardener (Ausbrass)

The Lady Gardener has large rich apricot coloured  flowers. The colour pales towards the outside of the bloom.  The flowers are of a rosette shape and very full petalled. It repeat flowers quickly and stands up well to rain.

Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn (Ausecret)
Queen of Sweden
Queen of Sweden (Austiger)
Persian Mystery (Harkness)
Persian Mystery (Harkness)

Persian Mystery is an unusual rose in that it has a contrasting deep coloured centre compared to the outer paler pink petals.

Olivia Rose Austin
Olivia Rose Austin (Ausmixture)
Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten (Ausencart)

English RoseJune RosePinkyStop and Smell the RosesPink roses


Chandos Beauty (Harkness)

Chandos Beauty (Harkness)
Chandos Beauty (Harkness)

Chandos Beauty

Chandos Beauty is THE rose I would like to buy this year. It has a very delicate pale peach colour, although it was the scent that I adored. Chandos Beauty has an absolutely exquisite fragrance. This was the rose which stopped me in my tracks and made me `Stop and Smell the Roses’! Absolutely lovely!

Jacqueline du Pre (Harkness)

Jacqueline du Pre - Harkness
Jacqueline du Pre – Harkness

Jacqueline du Pre couldn’t match Chandos Beauty for fragrance. However I liked the unusual striking flower centre.

I just loved the David Austin Cut Rose Collection arranged in a beautiful afternoon tea setting showing off their English Rose Bone China.

Tea and Roses

Rose BouquetFreshly Picked RosesElegant Tea

I hope you have enjoyed looking at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014’s blooms as much as I did. I thoroughly recommend taking time out to smell the roses this month. It has already been good for my soul!




May Posy

Purple FrillsI have been amazed at how much everything has grown in the garden this month.  We started May with the last of the Spring tulips in full bloom, progressed onto bluebells and have finished with Summer roses. Everything seems early responding to both the warmth and the wet.

May Colours

May’s blooms in our garden have been a beautiful late Spring colour palette of pinks, mauves and violet blues. These soft, pastel colours would make a fabulous Analogous Colour Scheme for a wedding or home decor. I have written previously in my March Posy Blog Post all about the creation of different Colour Schemes. To create an analogous look you pick 2, 3 or 4 colours on the colour wheel that are next to each other. You can either use them equally or use one as a dominant colour with the others to support.

Colour Wheel

Pink flecked with GreenWe started the month with pink viridiflora tulips – `Groenland’.  The  Hardy Perennial low growing Geranium sanguineum also made an early appearance. This pretty pastel pink Geranium is actually a British native wildflower and is perfect ground cover.

Geranium sanguineum



The star of the show this month has been my peachy pink Oriental Poppy. She has been greatly admired by my neighbours. Unfortunately the flowers were at their best when I was  on holiday. This is one of those plants that is a real showstopper, but is no good for cut-and-come again hand-tied posies.

Softly salmon
Papaver orientalisPapaver orientalis








In the back garden my father-in-law built me a fantastic trellis for climbers.   This month the clematis had been quite at home winding round the trellis. At the very beginning of May we had pale pink Clematis montana `Fragrant Spring’ in bloom and now we have semi-double deep pink Clematis montana `Broughton Star’. I also have a much bigger bloomed clematis underneath the apple tree. I wanted Clematis `Bees Jubilee’ to thread through the apple tree branches. However it prefers being lower down! This has meant I have now bought a climbing rose which I am hoping will climb more freely. 

Clematis montana Fragrant SpringClematis montana Broughton StarClematis `Bees Jubilee'

WallflowerThe wallflowers have been flowering freely for some time now. I have just given them the `Chelsea Chop‘. The Chelsea chop (so called because it is usually carried out at the end of May, coinciding with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show) is a pruning method by which you limit the size and control the flowering season of many herbaceous plants. There are a number of benefits to chopping back. Spring-flowering perennials can be persuaded to  flower again as long as the plant hasn’t set seed. Chopping back now limits overall height and creates plants with a more compact, bushier shape that is less likely to flop at the end of summer.

May has seen quite a few blue and mauve flowers in bloom. Brunnera macrophylla `Jack Frost’ is another plant which definately benefits from the Chelsea Chop. It is one of those plants which isn’t showy but is quietly dependable. 

Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

Violet Blue Centaurea montana is also another vigorous stalwart. 

Centaurea montana

The other plant that popped up was Borage. I really do not know if I planted this or whether it self-seeded from somewhere else. I didn’t know what it was until I saw `Borage’ labelled in the Herb Garden at Sissinghurst  whilst on holiday earlier in the month. Apparently Borage makes a great herbal tea and goes well with Pimms!



The garden is beginning to see cottage garden perennials and Summer bulbs come to life. We have had foxgloves, allium bulbs and now roses. Unfortunately the bluebells went to seed whilst I was on holiday. Although I got to see bluebell woods whilst away.

Allium Hollendicum aflatunenseChivesGranny's Purple BonnetMatucana

















My greatest success this month has been the sea-side garden I am aiming to create in the front. Under our front window my husband had created an area with small stones on top of plastic matting. I thought it was functional, but boring! So gradually I have been adding to the stones. Every time we have a holiday by the sea I collect a few specially selected pebbles and shells. I was on a mission for driftwood last holiday! I have gradually been buying alpines and simply pushing them into the stones. It was a gamble as there is no dirt other than the moss which falls off the roof. However alpines are often found tightly wedged between cracks and fissures on rocky cliff faces or growing on steep scree slopes. My gamble paid off and the plants have loved their sea-side home. I really like the Sea-Pink as it reminds me of Summer Coastal holidays. In a few weeks time these plants will be joined by Agapanthus in blue and white glazed terracotta pots which have been over-wintered in our Greenhouse. 

Phlox amoena VariegataArmeria maritima AlbaGypsophilia cerastiodesSea Pink

Here is May’s Mosaic celebrating the flowers in my garden this month:-

May Mosaic


After having been on Sarah Raven’s Course to learn how to tie a Hand-Tied Bouquet last month I decided I’d better have a go for my Posy of the Month!  We had plenty of foliage in the garden – I particularly liked Rosemary for the aromatic scent. My next door neighbour had been admiring my poppies so I decided I would make her a Posy including one of my prized poppies. I also made posies for my mother and sister in law picking roses as the central `Wow’ flower.

I am in need of a florists bucket to collect flowers in.  No matter, I improvised and used a saucepan!

Freshly Picked


I was really chuffed with myself because I remembered to condition all the flowers by placing in boiling water and stripping the unwanted leaves and foliage. I also found it much easier to handle a smaller hand-tied bouquet. However I got in such a pickle with tieing it up without Sarah Raven to hand to help! It’s quite a tricky job to hold on to the flowers and tie up the stems without dropping the lot! Then I didn’t know how big the pretty waxed waterproof tissue needed to be. Waxed Waterproof Tissue I also couldn’t remember if the tissue went inside the cellophane or outside and if you placed the tissue all over the stems. I finally concluded the end of the stems needed to be free so they could suck up moisture and the cellophane needed to be on the outside. Then I couldn’t work out how to use two different coloured wax tissue papers in an aesthetic way. There also seemed to be a waxed side of the paper and an unwaxed side. I couldn’t believe how complicated it was getting! I won’t even mention trying to tie coloured raffia in a pretty bow! Actually the pretty bow needed to be done at the end over the cellophane so I ended up with two pretty bows not one! I have now watched Sarah’s You Tube video on `How to Create a Hand-Tied Bouquet’ and the tissue just needs to be lightly wrapped not tied. Finally I got to the cellophane sheets. Again how big did they need to be for a small hand-tied posy?! Sarah promises `These cellophane sheets are a must if you are growing your own flowers. With this floristry cellophane you’ll be able to wrap hand-tied bunches to give or take to friends.’ I’d even been on the course,  but I still struggled! It is clearly important that the stems are cut to the same length. I got in such a pickle and when I added the water it went all over the worktop and on to the floor. As for trying to make it stand up – the posy wouldn’t!  I had had a go though and the flowers were beautiful. I took the bouquet round to next door and apologised for the soggy tissue paper and suggested the flowers were put in a vase immediately!

Purple Poppy Posy


I got better with the next two. My sister-in-law noticed I had chosen to give her a prized David Austin pink rose `Strawberry Hill’ in her bouquet and my mum-in-law received quite a successful hand-tied posy with white David Austin `William and Catherine’ roses.

DSC_1780Purple Hues


Making my own Hand-Tied Posies for my May Posy has been a very steep learning curve. Once I had made them I tried out my new MDF backdrops painted with pink and purple paint to photograph them. To be honest my favourite shots are the ones with the flowers collected in the saucepan! I had such trouble trying to get the posies to stand still. My first effort kept falling over and then I got water everywhere again! Oh well I do think the saucepan shot is lovely!

Pastel Charm


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Growing and Arranging Cut Flowers

Last week I spent a fantastic day with Sarah Raven learning how to grow and arrange cut flowers. The `Growing and Arranging Cut Flowers Course‘ was held in Sarah’s garden at Perch Hill Farm in Sussex. It was a wonderful sunny day. Now as I sit at home looking out on to my wind swept garden with intermittent drizzle, Perch Hill seems to be a place where the sun always shines, everything blooms and looks beautiful and there isn’t a greenfly or slug in sight! I am sure this isn’t always true!

When we arrived we were offered tea and coffee. However it wasn’t any old common beverage! You could choose a freshly made home-made tea using flowers and herbs from the sunny conservatory and herb garden. This was brewed in a glass tisaniere.  I couldn’t believe how much use the team made of edible flowers. I thought the pretty pink pelargoniums were simply pretty flowers and didn’t realise they were used to decorate food and make tea!

Pretty Pelargonium


Pink Pelargonium

Edible Flowers















Mid Morning Treat

At break time we had scrummy cake with edible pelargonium petal decoration. Lunch was also a feast of home-made delights including salad leaves with edible Viola `Heartease’ and Calendula `Indian Prince’ petals. I’ve grown both of these and never considered eating them! Inspired I need to get cracking and sow some Edible Flower seed.

Edible FlowersTasty LunchYummy Dessert


I seem to have got distracted by the edible delights. However I was there to learn and not just indulge!

Planting Flowers for Cutting 

The morning was spent discovering how to grow a cutting patch, full of suitable flowers to pick and make beautiful bouquets. When growing cut flowers you have to make different choices than when growing a herbaceous border. The first choice is `square inch productivity’. To get a lot out of a small garden you need very high square inch productivity. Some plants have stupendous blooms, but tend to be one hit wonders. I learnt that a lot of the flowers I love fall into this category. I have recently bought a stunning Peony `Coral Sunset’, which I fell in love with at Chelsea Flower Show last year.

Coral Sunset I do know that the flowers are big and showy and absolutely lovely. However the blooms will be far too precious for me to pick them! We learnt that the perfect cut flower is cut-and-come again. This means you pick them and, within days, the flowers have come again. `To get large numbers of buckets of cut flowers from a small plot you need to devote most of the soil to growing cut-and-come-again flowering plants.’

Cosmos is an example of a fabulous cut-and-come again flowering plant. I grew Cosmos last Summer and the blooms went on and on all Summer no matter how many I picked.



Other good choices are sweet peas, cornflowers, zinnias, sunflowers, euphorbia, calendula, dahlias and chrysanthemums. The perfect cut flower plot includes more Hardy Annuals, Half-Hardy Annuals, Biennials and less Perennials. Cut-and-Come-Agains only stop producing when they run to seed, or when they get tired at the end of the season. This is where I went wrong last year. I planted lots of suitable seeds, but was afraid to cut the flowers as I didn’t want to spoil my lovely garden and pick all the blooms. If I had constantly picked my sweet peas and dahlias I would have had more and more flowers. In stead of thinking `What a waste to pick that fabulous flower!’ I need to think `I’m going to enjoy that bloom in the house and have more later on to give away in hand-tied bouquets!’ Sarah advocates rather than dead-heading, pick the buds and flowers earlier and live-head when the plants are in their prime.

I must admit I will never give up my roses or peonies even if they aren’t the most productive plants for cutting. These are my show stoppers which I adore. However Sarah did give me a few ideas of plants to grow I’d never considered before. I am going to try chrysanthemums later on in the year. To be honest they remind me of cheap garage forecourt flowers. However I know they always last in the vase and they provide colour in the late Autumn when the garden is going to sleep. I like the look of `Anastasia Green’ which looks big and bold and very architectural. Nothing like those white and red garage varieties which I dislike. Sarah’s Abundant Chrysanthemum Collection looks appealing. I really can’t believe I am saying that chrysanthemums could look appealing!

Anastasia Green

Abundant Chrysanthemum Collection



At the end of the `Growing’ Section we had a guided tour of the Cutting Garden at Perch Hill. I would love to work here! The garden is beautiful and there are wonderful views of the Sussex Weald. Add in a home-made lunch together with an atmosphere of peace and calm and working at Perch Hill would be my dream job!

Planting OutHard at Work

Handy ChairQuiet Haven

Sarah had organised the course in Early May to take advantage of the tulips. Bulbs are not Cut-and-Come-Again, however they do provide a riot of colour and a bit of glamour. This year we have had so much mild weather that the tulips were nearly over and the alliums were in bloom. I did see a kaleidescope of tulip colours in the garden.

Tremendous TulipsTulips for CuttingLast of the TulipsOrange Mix

These orange and yellow tulips would like great in the Stained Glass Vases on sale in the shop.

Multi- Coloured Vases Jewel ColoursVibrantWow!


I thought I didn’t like dark tulips, but these beauties have proved me wrong! They look so effective against the backdrop of the other jewel like colours. Wouldn’t they look great in those jewel coloured stained glass vases? I also saw a calmer palette of blues, purples and greens in the garden.

Stained Glass VasesPure Purple Allium HeavenPurple and GreenEuphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii


Apart from the beds there were pots full of prettiness where ever you looked.

Pretty PotsRambling Clematis

Creating a Hand-Tied Bouquet 

In the afternoon we were shown how to make a hand-tied bouquet, which Sarah made look very easy!  We were given advice about picking flowers. One point was to pick flowers last thing at night or first thing in the morning. Plant cells are full of water (turgid)  after a period of darkness when levels of transpiration and photosynthesis are low. Turgid cells don’t flop as easily. Cut flowers should be plunged straight into water and not left in direct sun. A flower bucket is a good idea and this one keeps the separate components of your bouquet separate.

Zinc Divided Flower Bucket

Sarah recommends choosing three types of foliage and three of flowers and a divided bucket seems a good idea.

Ready for arranging

The second step is to Condition the flowers. The bottom two-thirds of the leaves should be removed. Leaves in the middle of the arrangement clog it up and they go mouldy in water.  Stems should be seared in boliing water to stop them flopping and increase the vase life. Woody stems need about 30 seconds. Flowers also benefit from having a rest in a cool, dark place before you arrange them. I’ve never seared plants before so I am looking forward to my flowers lasting longer when picked for a posy.

Stars of the ShowGathered Ingredients

The next stage was to Make a Hand-Tied Bunch with our flowers. Sarah made it clear that organisation was key to success! She laid out the conditioned flowers and foliage in the order she would need them. Sarah also cut a length of string ready to tie up the bouquet. Sarah chose primary foliage to form the scaffolding of the bouquet. Her choice was acid green Euphorbia oblongata. With the primary foliage Sarah made a kind of sieve scaffold to pull the other elements of the bouquet through. She used other secondary foliage of Cerinthe major and Viburnum opulus. The idea was to create a loose, natural, garden style bouquet. Any excessive foliage was snipped off.

The start of a BouquetDeep in ThoughtRemains of the Day

For the flowers Sarah chose orange tulips as her main component. This was described as the` Bride’, the flowers which you most admire and have that `wow` factor.  These are usually the most expensive in a florist shop and the flowers you fall in love with in the garden. The Bride forms the centre of attention in the bouquet. Sarah combined her Bride with bridesmaids. These flowers are often similar in colour to the main flower, but not quite so showy. Sarah had chosen orange Calendula `Indian Prince’. These flowers are threaded through at an angle through the scaffolding of the foliage.

Vibrant Calendula

Work in ProgressOne More?Ready to Snip

The last flowers were what Sarah called `Gatecrashers’. These provide a contrast to the other flowers. Obviously if you want a bouquet which is full of calm, peaceful colours then leave the Gatecrasher out! Sarah chose striking purple alliums to contrast with the orange flowers.  The purple also picked up on the purple of  the Cerinthe foliage.

Sparkler Allium

Once arranged the bouquet is tied with the pre-prepared string.The stems are cut to the same length. Lastly the bouquet is wrapped in waterproof tissue  and cellophane.

Tieing UpReady to  wrapWaxed Waterproof TissueAll Wrapped Up Pretty

Finally it was over to us to have a go! I definately learnt by doing and by my mistakes…Firstly I forgot to put water in my bucket, so I was picking flowers in the heat of the day with no water! I think I was feeling like a kid in a sweet shop and was excited to finally pick my own flowers for a bouquet. Some of the foliage had already been picked for us and pre-conditioned. Sarah had advocated organisation. We were slightly pressed for time so I just got stuck in! That meant I couldn’t remember which flowers had been conditioned and which hadn’t. I also forgot to remove unwanted leaves and foliage. I had picked fluffy fennel as foliage, but Sarah said this was not recommended as fennel always flops.  I chose to use a different Euphorbia to Sarah as foliage. I loved the bright acid green colour. However it had one strong upright stem and couldn’t be made to form a scaffold to pull the flowers through. Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii I then thought I’d use the Viburnum as a scaffold. I was rather over exuberant and used far too much and had forgotten to condition the stems. The overall effect was I ended up with far too much foliage and leaves in my bouquet and my `Bride’ got lost! In fact I would say the guest foliage took over the wedding and the Bride disappeared from sight! I had so much foliage I struggled to hold the bouquet. The stems were so dense that when I tried to pull the flowers through some of them snapped off.  Cerinthe Major Purpurascens

I chose similar flowers to Sarah – beautiful orange tulips as the Bride, together with orange calendula and ranunculus as bridesmaids. I added in alliums as Gatecrashers. I learnt another lesson. It is helpful to pick flowers of similar length stems. My calendula and ranunculus had short stems and got lost in the bouquet overshadowed by the viburnum.

Hand-tied Bouquet

Blues and PurplesFinally I had not cut my string and needed assistance to tie up! In fact I noticed other people had similar problems and saw three people were involved in tieing up one person’s bouquet!

Hand-tied Bouquet

I learnt that producing a Hand-Tied Bouquet involves skill and forward planning. It is not just thrown together!

Spring BloomsBlues and PurplesMaking a Hand-tied BouquetWrapped UpFreshly Picked My Hand-tied Posy

Here’s mine posing back at our holiday cottage in Sissinghurst. The viburnum is starting to flop as I forgot to sear the stems. Some of our bouquets may not be perfectly formed, but the flowers are beautiful and a lovely reminder of a fabulous day. I learnt so much on Sarah Raven’s Course and I look forward to honing my skills over the coming months!

Hand-tied Bouquet

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More Vintage Jewels!

`Precious' pink jewels

I popped into Antiques on High in Oxford today to get my Grandma’s necklace re-strung as it had very sadly collapsed on the bedroom floor. Caroline Henney from Bag the Jewels Vintage Jewellery and Accessories was very helpful and told me to pop them in to Antiques on High and she would get them re-strung for me.  I was so pleased they could be re-strung as I wear them a lot and even wear them to work! I love them as they really do sparkle and lift an otherwise drab work outfit.

Vintage Crystal

Gran’s beads are facet cut Austrian crystals and sparkle with a whole rainbow of colours. Caroline told me that `these beads were so popular in the 1950s and 1960s and it is easy to see why! You come across them in single rows or doubles and triples, but I have sold a five row necklace before. Clip on earrings with a cluster of beads and matching brooches were often worn with them.’  I have the matching clip on earrings. However I think these are slightly over the top for work wear! 

Austrian CrystalOf course whilst I was pottering around in Antiques on High I couldn’t resist a few new vintage jewels to add to my collection!

I’ve never really done vintage brooches and have stuck to my trusty trade-mark necklace with every outfit. However inspired by Caroline’s comment that Austrian Crystal necklaces were often worn with a matching brooch I decided to branch out into brooches. Oh dear please keep quiet – Mr Smiles doesn’t need to know my vintage jewellery tastes are expanding! Firstly I fell in love with this beautiful crystal number from the 1960s. I think this sparkly beauty will look fab on my navy jacket! It will also co-ordinate a treat with Gran’s necklace when she is re-strung.

Austrian Crystal Bead Brooch - 1960s


Having considered brooches to be my latest accessory I found this lovely early 19th century Gilt pink jewel set brooch.

Gilt Pink Jewel Set Brooch - Early 19th Century

Of course I needed a matching pink pendant! This Edwardian pink crystal necklace fitted the bill nicely with her dainty gold chain and beautiful detail…..

Edwardian Pink Crystal Necklace`Precious' pink jewels

In my opinion a girl can never have too many necklaces and I do seem to be in love with Austrian crystal. May be we should take a trip to Austria?! Gran loved Austria and went there on several occasions. So here we have it another 1950s crystal and mother-of-pearl necklace in a rather striking petrol blue colour.

Austrian Crystal & Mother-of-Pearl Necklace - 1950sI wear a lot of turquoise and this will look lovely with a simple turquoise cardy! In fact I have just the cardy in mind. I really love clothes by the company White Stuff. A lot of their clothes are colourful with a real attention to detail. In the Summer my trademark style has become a pretty White Stuff Skirt with lots of detail together with a simple white top and a pretty cardy. There is always a necklace to go with it in my collection! White Stuff’s latest Flowerpress collection suits my style beautifully. `Texture is key and luxurious lace, delicate broderie and embroidery make ‘Flower Press’ feel soft, light and romantic. Strong geometric floral designs keep it feeling fresh and modern.’  Everything I want – colour, floral and prettiness! 

My petrol blue crystal necklace will look fabulous with my White Stuff skirt and blue cardy.

Summer Specs Skirt White Stuff

Sweet Heart Cardi - Whitestuff









As a Dispensing Optician I just have to wear this Summer Specs skirt this year! Although I am keeping it for outside of work.

On my way to get the cash for my selections at Antiques on High I fell in love with another skirt in the window of White Stuff.  I wear a lot of chartreuse green and yellow and whenever I do people always say what a fabulous colour it is on me. Chartreuse doesn’t suit everyone. Chartreuse is a color halfway between yellow and green that was named because of its resemblance to the green color of one of the French liqueurs called green Chartreuse, introduced in 1764. Similarly, chartreuse yellow is a yellow color mixed with a small amount of green that was named because of its resemblance to the color of one of the French liqueurs called yellow Chartreuse, introduced in 1838.

Green Chartreuse


Yellow ChartreuseYellow can be a hard colour to wear as it can make many people look slightly green. However with my warm complexion and blonde hair chartreuse seems to bring out the golden highlights in my hair and makes me feel full of cheerful optimism. Chartreuse is a true Spring colour and Spring colours suit me.  I found when I picked out the colours from my Spring primroses and daffodils there was a lot of Spring yellows and greens to be seen. 

Primrose HuesThe skirt I fell in love with was the Multi-Madness skirt with it’s bold geometric print including chartreuse, pink, red and turquoise. It was a bit of a multi-madness buying afternoon after all! I teamed the skirt with a co-ordinating zesty cardigan and another impulse vintage necklace from Antiques on High! My last acquisition was a delightful 1930s Art Deco silver Marcasite necklace with chartreuse yellow jewels. 

Hearty Cardy - White StuffMulti-Madness Skirt - White Stuff


Art Deco Silver & Marcasite Necklace - 1930sArt Deco Silver & Marcasite Necklace - 1930sUnfortunately when I got home it was a bit chilly to wear my lovely new Summer skirts. When the weather brightens up I will get Mr Smiles to photograph me modelling my new outfits and new vintage jewels! I can’t wait for Summer sunshine!



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