Friday, 22 May 2015


The Cottage Garden Society is one of the UK's foremost gardening organisations, operating at a national and regional level, run and funded by its members.  It caters for people who enjoy the cottage garden style of gardening.  This is a traditional, informal style that lends itself to any situation, rural or urban, large or small.  If you want to extend your gardening horizon, joining a group like this could be the route for you.

There are over 30 regional groups in the UK.  Most meet monthly and have talks in winter and visits to gardens and plant sales in spring and summer  Joining one of these groups is an excellent way to meet fellow gardeners, swap plants and seeds and go on outings.

Annual national membership subscription is £12 single and £15 joint.  Regional groups organise diverse activities for similar modest subscriptions.  To see if this is for you, and to find out how to join, phone us on 01270 820940 or visit . We are also on Facebook and Twitter.

Yorkshire covers a large area so, although the group covers the whole of the county, it is based in the Doncaster/Wakefield area - although garden visits can extend as far north as York.  Meetings are held on the third Sunday of each month, winter meetings being held in the Lawson Hut at Badsworth, between Doncaster and Wakefield, commencing at 2.00 for 2.30 pm.  Garden visits usually commence in May, the last being in September.

Anyone wishing to join the Yorkshire Group should contact the chairman:
Mick Reeve
Tel: 01302 313030

Wednesday, 30 July 2014


The Cottage Garden Society

Yorkshire Group

The 2014 Kenneth Black Memorial Lecture

“Barnsdale After Geoff”


Nick Hamilton


Woolley Hall, Wakefield

Sunday 16th November 2014 at 2.30 pm

Price £8 Members, £10 Guests, including refreshments

Tickets available from Jane Billings, Tel: 01924 276744

Thursday, 14 March 2013


Amazon Kindle

A Garden Fit For A Cottage"

Cottage gardens are a delight. 

This little book describes the creation of the author's own small garden in South Yorkshire from a 'building site', through design to fulfilment, over a period of ten years.  

It is dedicated to her husband without whose efforts the dream would not have become reality. 

It contains many photographs illustrating progress and planting.

You can now read this blog on your Kindle

We all know it is easier to read
something whilst sitting comfortably,
so why not download this blog.


The following link will take you straight to it

Other Kindle books by Liz Reeve


The true story of a relationship between a mother and her son who refused to conform to the norm. The 43 year journey took the family into the world of new-age travellers, loss, addiction, international social services, ill-health, death and despair before reaching the tentative but more positive place being experienced today. A story of love and hope which cannot be extinguished.



A series of 22 meditations based on a journey through Europe in a camper van. Mick, Liz's husband, was made redundant in 1995 and embarked on a Diploma in Horticulture, the second year of which was work experience. This was done in a variety of chateaux and botanical gardens in Belgium, Italy, Gibraltar, Portugal and France. Liz resigned her job as Secretary to the Council for Social Responsibility of Derby Diocese to join him in this adventure and this little book is the result of their experiences.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Chapter 10 - Autumn: September to November

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close-bosom friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

John Keats’s ode captures something of what can be expected during the months of Autumn, when gardeners awake to mists floating over their plots in the morning and welcome the fruits of their labours in the form of apples and pears and nuts and grapes if they are lucky enough to have space to grow them. 

Unfortunately, our garden is rather small and the only fruit we have managed to produce so far are from two blueberry bushes which stand in pots on the patio, a few nuts on the Contorted Hazel and a good crop of peaches one year, seemingly never to be repeated again.  Nevertheless, we enjoy this little excursion into ‘fruitfulness’ and take pleasure in the benefits.

I also have to admit that I am merely the supervisor who is mainly happy to oversee the labours of my husband in the collecting and drying of seeds, the taking of cuttings and the pruning of shrubs.  This is not necessarily from choice, but because I am generally accused of going too far when I have a pair of secateurs in my hand.  My forte seems to be in the clearing up afterwards arena; again, not necessarily my choice, but because I can’t stand to see an untidy patch and can only restrain myself for so long.  So I sweep the paths and the steps and remove the debris to the compost heap or the recycling bin.

September and October are often wonderful months and an Indian Summer might bring an extended flowering period for many perennials along with a second flowering of clematis and other shrubs, as can be seen from the photographs shown below.

Clematis Tangutica

Alcea (Hollyhock

Sanguisorba officinalis

Salvia 'Wendy's Wish'

Bronze Fennel

Sedum 'Ruby Mantle'

Verbascum chaixii
Knautia 'Melton Pastels'


but as the months pass and the fruit has been picked, the seed heads begin to form in readiness for collection for future years - or food for the birds throughout the winter.  Late arriving butterflies and bees also take advantage of the nectar still to be had.

A mouse shares the peanuts

Despite the gradual dying back of the garden, however, unless the weather is so bad as to lay everything waste in one fell swoop, November too can still provide something to admire until winter arrives in earnest, when we begin to look for those really hardy plants which then come into their own.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Stinking Hellibore

November sunshine

Early frosts can provide quite a spectacle too, with sparkling plants and glistening spiders’ webs, whilst a surprise fall of snow might suddenly clothe everything in white.  

Frosty Grass

A pheasant in the pussy willow
Snow in the Courtyard

And so the seasons have come full circle and winter beckons once more.  One more year has passed and we reflect on what has worked well for us and what we might need or like to change. 

Unfortunately, we were unable to take part in Doncaster in Bloom during 2012 due to unforeseen circumstances, but we look forward to having another go at repeating previous Gold and Silver Gilt awards in 2013.   

So, this is the end.  I hope you have enjoyed reading about our garden in South Yorkshire and should you be coming our way and like to visit us, we would be happy to see you. Just send us an email and we will get back to you to arrange it.

Liz Reeve

The Reeve Rose

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Chapter 9 - Summer: June to August


Views of the garden from the upstairs of the cottage

The Spring Bank Holiday and early June herald the beginning of summer.  Frosts can be forgotten, bedding plants can be brought out into the garden from the greenhouse or cold frame where they have been hardening off and the roses begin to bloom in earnest.   Or at least they do in our garden.  Rosa 'Albertina' on the archway and Rosa 'Felicite Perpetue' on the top wall, both pinky cream, but the latter much smaller, fill their allotted places beautifully.  The other roses are not so prolific, though 'William Lobb' is improving as the years go by.   But summer is the time for perennials and there are so many to choose from.

         Rosas 'Albertina',  and   'Felicite Perpetue'    

Rosa 'William Lobb' 

The Top Border

Framed between the shed and the Summerhouse, this area is backed by the purple Cotinus coggygria, 'Felicite Perpetue' and 'William Lobb', but features several clematis as well as tall perennials such as Hollyhock; Allium; Astrantia and a yellow Verbascum.  The next layer, height-wise,  includes such things as a peony; Smilacina, the false Soloman's Seal; Heuchera; Tiarella; Papaver 'Orientalis' and, one of my favourites, Chaerophyllum hirsutum 'Roseum', a mauve cow parsley, which seems to be a rarity in our area, but is an excellent filler which spreads and sends its inflorescences just where they are needed, whilst not being a thug.  Smaller plants come in the form of primulas.

                                           Astrantia                              Chaerophyllum hirsutum 'Roseum'                                                   

The Right Border

The floribunda rose with, in front of it, the Yucca which we removed in 2012

This border is backed by the unknown pink floribunda rose, which spreads across the roof of the summerhouse; ivy, various clematis, a Ribes Speciosum, and a couple of honeysuckles with foxgloves, Veronicastrum virginicum 'Alba'  and several salvias making their way towards the front.  We have developed a special interest in salvias since our discovery of the vast range available.  On our Year on the Road in Europe from September 1996 to September 1997, Mick worked for two weeks in La Mortola, the garden on the Mediterranean border of France and Italy, originally belonging to the Hanbury Pharmaceutical family who donated the land for RHS Wisley.  Until that time, the only salvia we knew of was the bright red annual which is used extensively in displays in parks, but the gardener there staggered us by introducing us to over 200 varieties.  Unfortunately, many of the most attractive are tender, which we have learned to our cost, and there are many deletions in my database.  It is important when buying them, therefore, to check this out if winter storage is a problem.  However, some are hardy and we manage to keep several going from year to year, particularly  S. 'Glutinosa', a pale yellow; S. forsskaolii, a purple with a white stripe; S. mycrophylla 'Hot Lips', a white with a red tip; and S. sclarea 'Turkistanica', pink to purple/white.  Despite our losses, we continue to be tempted and a couple bought last year are still unknown quantities in the survival field!

Some of the salvias we have loved and lost:

Salvia 'Lady in Red' 
Salvia gesnerifolium        
Salvia 'Indigo Spires'
Salvia 'Uliginosa'
Following the removal of the enormous Yucca from the top of this border, its space was filled with a Viburnum sargentii 'Onondaga' so that the Crinum Lily and Geranium should now be seen to better advantage.

Penstemon and Knautia

Bronze Fennel stand at each end of the border with a Bamboo in the centre and the burgundy-coloured Knautia macedonica mingles with lavender at the end near the patio.   Deutzia x elegantissima 'Rosealind', a small variety with the prettiest pale pink star-shaped flowers  continues behind the table and chairs, alongside a heuchera, day lilies and Echinops ritro 'Veitch's Blue' which is really in the wrong place as it's spiky balls and leaves have to be fastened well back to protect visitors to the patio.

Deutzia x elegantissima 'Rosealind'

Next to the Rockery

This area is an effort at a hot border, with Crocosmia 'Lucifer' and Potentilla 'Monarch's Velvet' , though it does have the purple Buddleia at one end and the likes of Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii', Ajuga reptans 'Multicolour', Trycirtis hirta - the purple toad lily, and yellow Lysimachia punctata at the other.   However, the pink version of Rogersia aesculifolia, Skimmia japonica, and red Monardas, Penstemons and Dahlias were planted there last year.  Rosa glauca 'Pourr' also stands in a pot on the patio in the hope that it will add its tones to the array.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

You may remember from Chapter 2 that we were in two minds about the Salix caprea 'Pendula' which lived next to the rockery.  As it had developed rust and showed no sign of recovery, I can now report that it was removed. 

The Rockery

 Many of the plants here have been and gone by the time June arrives, but nevertheless there are usually quite a number of small plants which carry on flowering for a while longer.  There are also the Geraniums hymalayensis 'Flore Plena' with its lovely double purple flowers, and the pale pink 'Endressii' , the old favourite, London Pride and Fragaria 'Ruby' , the pretty ornamental strawberry which spreads by its runners, but is easily controllable.   Lilies of the valley, and Euphorbia cyparissias 'Red Devil' - both real thugs - also grow well here, but have to be pulled out at regular intervals to reduce their hold.

                                   Convallaria majalis                        Ajuga reptans 'Multicolor and
                                                                                     Euphorbia cyparissias 'Red Devil'

The rockery is finished off at the end by what was supposed to be the herb garden with a Bay tree in the centre.  The Bay Tree has survived well,  but lavender has now replaced the herbs within the sections, which were created by box hedging, as it was found difficult to access them, sited as the garden is on top of the wall and at the side of quite steep steps.    Hopefully the lavender will survive the winter.

The Water Feature

Spring-flowering shrubs are in the majority in this corner, so when the Spring bulbs have finished, there is not a great deal to provide colour, but on one side is the Deutzia pulchra, a larger version of the elegantissima 'Rosealind',  which should flower in June; it is relatively young, but I am hoping it will have grown enough by this year to put on a good show.    On the opposite side is the Catalpa which is beautiful in summer and enhanced by other climbers.  Beneath the Catalpa small cyclamen have been planted, but a Crocosmia, Penstemon and Lily add to the effect as summer advances.

                                               Catalpa flower                 Crocosmia 'Emily McKenzie'

                                                                 Lilium longiflorum                     

The Centre Ground

This quite large area is full of all sorts of perennials, but is also home to shrubs and trees.  The Daphne and Hamamelis have finished flowering by this time, but the aptly-named Viburnum opulus is super with its white 'snowballs'.  The Corylus is a disappointment in summer, with its heavy, dark-green, crinkly leaves and we do our best to hide it behind delphiniums and other tall plants.  

In my opinion, some work needs to be done in this area, with several large plants needing to be removed.  For instance, another yucca has outgrown its space and a tree peony adds nothing to the design.   However, discussions are yet to decide their ultimate fate and in the meantime there are many good things to see.  Tall grasses, such as Miscanthus sinensis 'Silberfeder' and Molinia caerulea ssp arundinacea 'Windspiel'  and Kitaibela, a very tall white flower with separated petals give some height and the large pink Lamium orvala provides a good clump of medium-sized flowers.  Nepeta and several varieties of geranium  are very showy and mix well with Love in a Mist and Origanum.  Poppies,  Penstemon, Phlox and Phlomis  vie for space with Salvias, Sisyrinchium and Sidalcia. 

                                         Papaver 'Curlilocks'                         Papaver orientalis                                   


The edges of the path are overlapped by Oxalis, Trifolium, Persicaria and Alchemilla Mollis, whilst seed from violets, aquilegia, poppies and many others force their way through cracks in the paving in an abundance of new growth.

                                            Alchemilla Mollis                                Persicaria      

The cottage garden in summer is exuberant and colourful, bursting with vigour and vitality and only contained by stakes and rings and nets if they are put in at the right time in the right place.  If not, precious plants will be dashed by the English rainstorm which 'came out of the blue' .

For those of us who love our gardens and want the best for them, someone has to spend many hours planning, propagating, pruning, preparing and composting before the flowers arrive, as well as watering  and dead-heading when they do.  

To maintain a garden at its best throughout the summer is truly a labour of love. 

The Back Courtyard

Monday, 4 February 2013

Chapter 8 - Spring: March to May

We don't usually clear the garden at the end of the year, but leave the seed heads for the birds, which means that we look forward to some good days from February onwards when we can begin the  clear-up operation.  It's always a thrill when the winter begins to fade away, the green shoots push their way through the brown earth and we can begin to look forward to the wonders of the year ahead. 

The first flowers to show their faces are usually primroses. 

Primula vulgaris

Since we began the garden, we have been inundated with them.  They covered the original lawn each spring and are still rampant in our neighbour's orchard.  We don't have quite so many now as we have dug them up to sell at the annual plant sale of the Yorkshire Group of the Cottage Garden Society, but they must love the limestone subsoil and so continue to self-propagate and give us a wonderful show each year.  The ubiquitous Spanish Bluebell is also impossible to root out.  I would prefer to have the English variety, which does bloom in the nearby woods, but we seem to be stuck with the larger, stronger Spanish invader.

Hellebores are also wonderful self-seeders so that we never know where they will come up next.  We now have several varieties, mainly the orientalis, but also the H. niger, the smelly H. foetidus and a pretty pink Helleborus Hillier 'Hybrid's Double' which is quite fragile in comparson with the others. 

Helleborus 'Orientalis'

Helleborus 'Niger'

Helleborus Hillier 'Hybrid's Double' 
The windflower, Anemone nemerosa 'Vestal' or A. blanda 'White Splendour' are also delightful accompaniments to the miniature tulips and daffodils which are available now and can be planted together in pots to make a lovely display.  Ipheion 'Album' also makes a good companion to these as do the many Narcissus varieties, such as 'Avelanche', 'Bridal Crown' or 'Tete a tete'.

Anemone - Windflower

Narcissus triandrus 'Thalia'

The larger varieties of daffodil and tulips aren't forgotten either and we have had exceptional value from T. fosteriano 'Purissima', a fabulous white, and T.triumph 'Negrita', an equally good purple, over a number of years.  However, T. double late 'Angelique', which was wonderful the first year, has diminished in quality and quantity since they were first enjoyed so much.

Tulipa fosteriano 'Purisimma'
Tulipa triumph 'Negrita'

 Rockery plants such as Doronicum 'Goldcut', with its lovely bright daisy-like flowers add a touch of sunlight on dull days, as do the aptly-named Lithodora diffusa 'Heavenly Blue' and L. 'Star'.  The Saxifrage family also come to life during this period and the ornamental strawberry, Fragaria 'Ruby', will also be showing its pretty pink flowers and may even produce some fruit later on.  The pasque flower, Pulsatilla 'Alba' and its blue equivalent also find themselves on our rockery and are beautiful reminders of the Easter story, with feathery seed heads left behind when the flowers are over.

Doronicum 'Goldcut'

Lithodora diffusa 'Heavenly Blue'

Fragaria 'Ruby'

Pulsatilla - Pasque Flower

Fritillaria meleagris is another woodland plant which grows well in our garden and has increased in number each year; both the white and the chequered varieties enhance the water feature, along with miniature irises and blue and yellow crocuses which the blackbirds seem to annihilate.

Fritillaria meleagris

Poppies are great, lifting their large colourful flowers to the sky at the last minute.  We had hundreds of them come up unexpectedly in the early years and assume the seeds had been in my mother's old compost heap.  Needless to say, we had to go round pulling lots of them up, but we have since planted more specialised varieties, such as 'Ladybird' and 'Curlilocks', as well as the smaller Papaver nudicaule 'Pacino', the iceland poppy, which is so pretty and continues well into the summer and autumn. 

Papaver 'Ladybird'
Papaver 'Orientalis'

Papaver 'Curlilocks'

We also have a well-travelled dark red peony which came to us via an aunt in London and my mother about 50 years ago.  It then moved to Derbyshire with us and finally came back to Sprotborough ten years ago.  Our daughter also took a a piece to the Isle of Man, where it continues to thrive, so it obviously travels well.


The Persicaria bistorta 'Superba' can be found at the back of the top border, but I particularly like the smaller, low-spreading P. vaccinifolium with its bright rose-pink spikes which flower right through the year and are even looking good today in their autumn colours as we approach the end of November. 

We did have the even smaller variety, P. 'Needham's Form', which has very small round pink flowers, but I'm afraid we lost it some time ago and it doesn't seem to be widely available.

I also have a small collection of Primula auriculas for which Mick built a 'theatre', but I'm sorry to say they haven't done as well as I would have liked and I have lost quite a number.  Perhaps the position isn't quite right.

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'

Ornamental grasses also begin to show the promise which will come to full fruition later in the year.  The tall ones mix so well with later-flowering perennials, but the low-growing black grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens', with its tiny blue flowers and black seeds is good value, multiplying whilst still being controllable.   It is planted in the small plot at the front of the cottage which faces south and so gets lots of sun, but the floods of June 2007 did it no harm at all.

A very unusual plant which I have only ever seen in one other garden is the Haquetia epipachtis, which has grown slowly into a small mound. 

Haquetia epipactis

I think it might be considered to be one of the few 'green' flowers, though they are relieved by yellow centres.

It would be possible to go on and on, but I will end by just mentioning three very different 'Vs': the lovely little violets, which also grow wild around here, Veronica gentianoides, with its graceful pale blue spikes, and Vinca minor variegata, a bit of a thug  which will take over if it's not kept under control. 


Veronica gentianoides

The presence of these, along with shrubs and trees, which are now coming into flower or putting on leaf, are an indication that the Spring garden is looking forward to a promising summer ahead.