More flowers, please

Thistle flower

I’ve always been a keen veg grower (not always with the best results), and generally prefer to read or watch programmes about growing and eating fruit and veggies. But that’s not to say that I’m not interested in flowers, because I am. I love an abundance of colour, texture and scent in the garden, but my enjoyment of it seems to much more heightened when I know that my flowers are a food source for the many pollinators that live in my garden, or pass through.

Morning light

I almost always choose flowers based on whether they’re beneficial to pollinators, with the exception of the scrambling Spanish Flag that I grew (and loved) last year. That’s not to say it was completely useless for insects and wildlife; many spiders and little critters lived in it during the summer and autumn, so providing housing is the next best option!


But this year I want more flowers in the Smallest Smallholding. Generally I prefer perennials like lavender, echinacea, rosemary, heleniums and erysimum because I just think they’re better value for money, more efficient and a little bit more sustainable. But I thought that if I opt for non-F1 annuals I can always seed collect and re-sow as I do with (bi-ennial) honesty, aquilegias, hollyhocks, poppies and foxgloves (and there just seems no stopping the borage regardless).

echinacea in autumn

The sad truth is that, like many, I’m on a budget so although I would gladly snap up a catalogues’ worth of seeds and seedlings, I’ve got to reign myself in and be sensible about how to get my borders bursting this year.

So what’s on the list?

California poppy

Oh, hang on, there’s more…

Verbena bonariensis
Some sort of climbing rose
Chocolate vine…

… Oh let’s be honest. I am not going to be able to control myself this year.

Golden Days, Good Life

Pudding and me under the arch

Pudding and me under the arch

There is a certain feeling in September and October that you need to “get square” before the winter settles. This past month I’ve been focusing on not only keeping on top of all the millions of tasks to keep The Smallest Smallholding ticking over before the growing season comes to an end – harvesting, mulching, pulling up perennials, pruning – but also just simply enjoying it, while the sun is still warming the earth. These golden days are getting fewer and far between, so it’s imperative to get out there and experience every last possible second.

Gryffindor scarf

Gryffindor gardener!

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll know what I mean when I say that my garden is a bit like a horcrux for me; it’s a place where I can store a little bit of my soul and when I get overwhelmed or the anxiety builds, there’s a part of me contained within it that’s protected and nurtured. Growing, harvesting, and tending to The Smallest Smallholding is remedial work. No, scrub that, it’s not work. It’s just a part of life that’s shaped me and kept me at times from falling apart at the seams but also brings me a sense of achievement, satisfaction and peace like nothing else can.

I just love Autumn and I could write for hours and hours about all the reasons why. Here are a just a few…

Morning light

Morning light

Spanish flag enveloping the arch

Spanish flag enveloping the arch

Bertha my knucklehead pumpkin

Bertha my knucklehead pumpkin

Polka raspberry bush

Polka raspberry bush

I wish I could have eight days a week to work full-time on my little slice of England, but for now I’ll just have to cram in as much as possible as the daylight hours shorten and the nights draw in.

Growing squashes for Autumn

Knucklehead pumpkin growing in September

Knucklehead pumpkin

This year I was given a selection of squashes to grow by Marshalls Seeds, and whilst I’m still trying to find a way to use up all the courgettes, the other cucurbits are also romping away. The happiest of all is my Knucklehead Pumpkin plant, which has now grown to about 7 or 8 metres long and is producing two large fruits. Well, that’s two fruits that I can see as the vine has scrambled its way across the scrubby area by the compost bins. There could be more lurking.

The knucklehead pumpkin is yet to start going orange or knobbly… but I’m hoping that by mid to late October we’ll have a lovely pumpkin to harvest for pies, soup and all sorts of autumnal foodie treats.

Munchkin pumpkins

Munchkin pumpkins growing up the arch

And on the arch – my biggest, bestest bargain of this year – nestling amongst the flowering Spanish Flag, my munchkin pumpkins from Sarah Raven are also starting to fruit. Although it’s fairly late in the year for the vines to be producing flowers, I’m hopeful that they’ve got a lot of growing left in them and we’ll have more than just a small handful of the impossibly cute and pretty mini pumpkins for harvesting this year. I’ve counted about ten flowers and buds so it’s a game of wait and see… not sure the persistent damp conditions and lack of warm autumn sunshine will help my cause though…

Funnily enough, the sunniest side of the arch has been swamped by the Spanish Flag climbing vines, so the munchkin pumpkin plants have struggled to compete. On the less sunny side that faces to the east, the munchkin pumpkins are thriving. Something to bear in mind next year as I’ll most definitely be going for a Spanish Flag-munchkin pumpkin combo again. It’s been my little crowning glory this year.

Arch with scrambling Spanish Flag (Ipomoea lobata) and climbing Munchkin pumpkins

Arch with scrambling Spanish Flag (Ipomoea lobata) and Munchkin pumpkins