We have lived at Mill yard cottage for a year now. My mum has owned it since before I was born and while we lived at another property with a far larger garden, she rented it out. Moving back last year was a wrench. The garden at the back is very small while the front is paved with red bricks divided by steps leading down to the cellar.
It was sad to have to say goodbye to my pure breed bantams, my aviary of canaries and a pond that bubbled with frogs and in which grew ruby red blooming water lilies at our old property. But instead of getting depressed over these goodbyes I put my energy into creating something beautiful at Mill yard.
Out came Sarah Ravens plant catalogues and the Bold and Brilliant garden book. I wanted a rich colourful plant pallet with shades of scarlets, deep purples, indigo blues and splats of tangerine oranges with as many plants as possible being bee friendly. I began planting in late summer last year. From our old house I bought lots of dolly tubs and decently sized terracotta pots. Into these I planted single bishop dahlias along with fancier types like Jescot Julie, Blue Bayou and Sam Hopkins. Other tenders that accompanied these were annual rudbeckias, nasturtiums, salvias, Ipomoea and cosmos, fabulously hard bloomers right up until the first frosts. Once Jack Frost did arrive the dahlias were lifted and stored and as I write this have just started to flower again this year.
In the small areas of ground I have planted Echinops, Monarda, Papaver Orientalis, Cirsium rivulare, Vipers bugloss and various hardy scabious. I have planted roses – the first time they have appealed to me, as I just remember my grandfathers that bloomed once a year, had skin cutting thorns and looked diseased – so these I hope will look good once they mature. This year only one of them has bloomed. but they, like the clematis and honeysuckle planted with them, take time to mature but are worth the wait. The roses include Charles de Mills, Tuscany Superb and Reine de Violettes.
For foliage hostas in tubs look good and a cardoon planted in the corner provides some structure. I have a betony in a pot that has bloomed this year and would recommend this and the vipers bugloss to anyone as they are stunning and the flowers are brimming with nectar.
This spring saw the dolly tubs look incredible for they were bursting with tulips. I did bulb lasagne’s in them and the results were fabulous. I now know my favourite tulip combination made up from tulips – Red Star, Queen of Night, Ballerina, Dolls Minuet and Burgundy. I planted alliums and various tulips in the beds among the plants – tulip Blue Parrot held its petals the longest, but I planted too many for the small space. As the bulbs began to emerge the allium leaves smothered the crowns of their neighbouring awakening perennials quite a bit so I had to be ruthless and snap them off leaving just the flower stems; so this may mean we don’t get as many alliums next spring.
At the time of writing our little garden is a magnet for bees. The monardas, of which we have several varieties, are starting to bloom in their beautiful deep reds and purples although alas they have already got mildew. In the dolly tubs the dahlias have been planted with cosmos dazzler and sunflower valentine.
I have planted Nerone lilies too and these look incredible accompanied by Helenium Moerheim Beauty in a neighbouring pot, a chance combination that works. Our cottage is small – my bed room window was full up with seedlings for a long time but the hassle of this always pays off with the display of annuals just coming into bloom around this time of year. Leaving is sad but my mum can now plant to her taste… it is her garden after all and I am going to help up keep one of our most famous – Kew for a year from this August! I will let you know how I settle in.
Enjoy the sunshine!