Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A feast of flowers! The Autumn-sown flower border in June

The weather is glorious – 'Flaming June!'

"Your poppies are looking good this morning" said Cliff, when he returned from letting out the hens early this morning. And when I looked out of the window I could see the Autumn-sown flower border vibrant with colour . . .

I am experimenting with ideas and techniques for filling the garden with colourful flowers AND have free-ranging hens. "Is she mad?" I hear someone say – don't answer that – I will show you how I created a feast of flowers.

Last September the Supervisor and the Under-gardeners helped me to mark out a new border and to dig up the lawn.

I then sowed Hardy Annual flower seeds, mine were from Higgledy Garden plus some poppy seeds collected from my Mum's garden. I covered the seed beds with wire mesh 'tunnel cloches' to prevent Mr Cheep and his hens from scratching them all up . . . this is the most vulnerable time for the seedlings and hens love to follow and copy anything I do in the garden – where I dig, they dig!

The seeds soon germinated and became healthy looking but tiny plants. This is how they remained all winter, the wire mesh would have also protected them from snow . . . but we had no snow last winter.

As the temperature began to rise and days lengthened, the little plants grew quickly and pushed against the wire mesh, so I carefully removed it and made twiggy woven structures around the patches of young plants. I included little wire mesh fences to prevent the hens from walking through the growing plants, by now they seemed bored by my project so didn't interfere. At this stage it looks a bit of a mess – but not for long  . . .

After the Spring Equinox growth really takes off! the twiggy/wire-mesh structures disappeared under a mash of swaying plants and I waited expectantly for the buds to open.

I love the mix of shapes and colours, like Liberty Tana Lawn that's come to life.

 100 Flowers #084  Opium Poppy - Papaver somniferum

Once grown abundantly in Fen villages for medication against symptons of the ague, the latin name means 'sleep-bringing poppy' and it is the source of many narcotics; but it is legal to grow it in the UK as long as you don't start making drugs from it. This is the poppy so familiar in Art Nouveau designs, the frilly foliage is grey-blue and the buds are elegantly hooked over until a day or two before the flower opens, when they stand up straight. 

100 Flowers #085  Corncockle - Agrostemma githago

Corncockle was once a common wildflower in wheatfields and the seeds got mixed into the harvested grain . . . which was a bit of a problem as all parts of Corncockle are poisonous! So eradicating this toxic weed from crops was necessary, consequently the Corncockle is now very rare in the wild.

It is a very pretty flower, deep pink with spiky green sepals like a green star; just don't eat it!

100 Flowers #086  Cornflower 'Black Ball' - Centaurea cyanus

This is a cultivar - taller and with larger flowers than it's wild blue cousin. I grew this last year as a Spring sown annual, but the Autumn-sown plants are so much bigger and more robust. For those of you who like to sprinkle petals on your food – this one is safe, Cornflower petals make very pretty sprinkles. I think that the deep dark burgundy flowers are fantastic cut flowers that seem to blend well any other colour and it looks particularly wondrous mingled with Ammi.

100 Flowers #087  Common Bishop's Weed - Ammi majus

Ammi is the 'posh Cow Parsley' that is so fashionable with garden designers and florists wanting a 'natural country-look'. It is ethereal and wafty, insects love it and it is the perfect mixer for your flowery cocktail. This is another flower I wouldn't recommend eating - I know some people nibble Cow Parsley but there are so many similar plants that are highly toxic (Hemlock for instance) or a bit dodgy like Ammi, so be safe and no nibbling.

The wonderful thing about Hardy Annuals is that most of them make good cut-flowers, the more you pick the more they flower – win win win! You can pick buckets of flowers! Have fun filling vases with flowers, give some to your friends – flowers make people smile.

Top tip: grab your diary and make a note to sow some seeds in September. It's easy – throw seeds onto dirt and wait. Pop over to Ben's lovely seed shop at Higgledy Garden, he has all the seeds and information you need. (There are lots of other seed suppliers but they aren't as entertaining to follow on Twitter.)


PS: you can now also follow my garden and studio on Instagram including a video of the poppies.


  1. Thanks for sharing tips and your method on achieving a flower border whilst having hens roaming around too. It looks great and the result is certainly a feast for the senses!

  2. What a lovely post! The poppies are just so good right now, I must try and get a picture of ours. We've now got our first chicks, so we'll soon be experiencing the scratching for ourselves!

  3. We're way behind you down here Celia as far as growth is concerned. Following your previous recommendation I bought loads of seeds this year from Mr Higgledy and they have all germinated well. Lots are in the greenhouse and it's a bit of a jungle in there but with the rabbits we dare not sow direct with some things. I don't think the poppies put on a show like yours but I shall let it all self seed and hope to achieve something similar next year. Gorgeous photos - a real sign of summer!

  4. What a fantastic flower bed. It's interesting to know that the seeds can be sown in Autumn. I've planted some cornflowers "Black Ball" but no flowers yet - they were only sown in spring. I like how you've neatly and effectively kept the chickens away - cleverly done!

  5. Where there's a will .... Stunning displays. Wonder if I can find a solution for keeping the window cleaners from flattening my oriental poppies!

  6. Well Celia, I think that Cliff is so, so right! Your poppies, and all that surround them are gorgeous. I'm sure that all real gardeners will greatly benefit from all your hints re autumn planting, protection from curious hens, and so forth.

    As for myself, I just enjoy seeing the photographs of all that's going on in your garden. Gosh...looks as if we are getting close to that 100th flower.


  7. I do love your poppies. I grow them too but they normally self seed and this year seem to have attached themselves determinedly to the raised bed in the kitchen garden. I want them in the side garden or the cutting bed but zilch. Now Ian wants to plant out squash and remove my poppies! Hi ho. Gardening life.

  8. Looks wonderful! I'm never organised to 'sow ahead' in September, but this has inspired me to have a go. Good ideas about the mesh and twigs - my chickens also love to rampage around the garden. (As do the rabbits - grrr!)

  9. So pretty! definitely worth the work.
    I really love "wild" looking flower beds. Poppies are another of my favourite flowers that I have trouble growing here, it can't be a climate thing though, because many of my neighbours have gorgeous clumps of Poppies that come back every year.I will keep on trying :)
    Your Cow Parsley is what we call Queen Anne's Lace - a much prettier name for such a pretty flower. I have some in the garden, but it grows wild in all the fields and roadsides here, it's gorgeous.


  10. Very tempted by this- it looks glorious!

  11. A truly gorgeous post! I adore your flowers and the natural way you've planted the border. Well done you :)


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