Helping you to get the most out of our region

Outdoor living: September

21st August 2020

This month gardening writer Fiona Cumberpatch advises how to collect your own seeds and how to grow Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ (Local Living’s ‘Garden Hero’ for September), plus there are recommended gardening reads for the month and five minutes out with Ann Ellis, organiser of Stamford in Bloom

Seed Saving

Many seed companies sold out last spring, as more people turned to gardening during the pandemic. Why not collect your own this year so you’re all set for the next growing season? 

When to collect?

It’s time to harvest when the heads have turned brown and hard. Wait for dry weather and clip off the seed heads. Put them in a paper bag or brown envelope (plastic can cause them to go mouldy) and label as you collect, as it’s very easy to lose track. 

Which flower seeds are best?

Poppies, which you can shake straight from the seed head into a bag, and honesty, whose seeds are easily visible inside a flat, silvery case. Nigella works well, as do pot marigolds and alliums. 

How do I store them?

Put the seeds in individual envelopes and label them carefully. Seeds need to be stored in a cool, dry frost-free environment.

GARDEN HERO: SEPTEMBER Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

Why should I plant it?

The month of September lends itself to more intensely coloured flowers, and this crocosmia has small, fiery flowers that glow like embers on the arching stem.

Where should I plant it?

Mix it with other late-flowering plants in a moist, well-drained border in full sun or semi- shade. The corms should be planted at a depth of 10cm and the same distance apart.

Does it need any special care?

Remove faded foliage after it has finished flowering and mulch to protect it over winter. If it spreads too much, divide it in spring.

Find Crocosmia at Stamford Garden Centre, Bosworth’s at Elton, The Barn Garden Centre, Oundle, and Rutland Garden Centre, in Ashwell near Oakham.

We love

Throw from Hilly Horton

A cosy throw means you can sit outside longer on chilly evenings. £62 each, from Hilly Horton Home in Thrapston, or shop via the website,


Bees and Their Keepers

(Maclehose Press, £20), Lotte Möller

Man is dependent upon bees, given that most of what we eat derives from crops that are pollinated by them. Not that you would know it, as we have made it so difficult for these insects to survive. Journalist, bee keeper and garden historian Lotte Möller explores our bond with bees, investigating the myths and mystique, and meeting people all over the world who are immersed in the complex world of apiculture. Beautifully illustrated and written with humour.

The Language of Flowers

(HarperDesign, £25),Odessa Begay

An updated version of the classic Victorian volume, this colourful coffee-table compendium details the 50 most popular flowers worldwide. It blends literary excerpts with botanical information and ideas for culinary usage. Did you know that honeysuckle is a mild, safe herb that can be made into a sweet syrup for sore throats or used as an ingredient in a soothing skin cream? A great gift for anyone who loves flowers.  

Grow Fruit & Vegetables in Pots

(Phaidon, £24.95), Aaron Bertelson

I used this book through Lockdown, when I converted my parking area into a container kitchen garden. It is a practical guide to growing in small spaces, including how to sow, prick out and harden off, but it has an aspirational element too, with beautiful photography by Andrew Montgomery. Aaron Bertelson, who works at the renowned Great Dixter gardens, is also a cook, and his recipes, including Pasta with Container Garden Sauce, Tempura Baby Courgettes and Fig Leaf Ice Cream, elevate this way beyond a how-to book.

All of the above are available from independent bookshops including Walkers Books in Stamford and Oakham, Oundle Bookshop, Quinns in Market Harborough and Kibworth Books.


Ann Ellis, organiser of Stamford in Bloom

Although the annual ‘In Bloom’ competition was cancelled this year, Stamford has been looking abundant this summer. It’s partly down to Ann Ellis and her team of 39 dedicated volunteers, who tend the town’s previously neglected areas and are responsible for the famously floriferous chair planters outside businesses in the main streets.

Stamford in Bloom

How did you get involved with Stamford in Bloom?

My husband Keith and I have lived here for about 17 years now, and, back in 2017, I was fed up with how untidy it had become. On a visit to a pretty Cotswolds town, I got chatting to some people who were involved in a similar scheme. I started thinking that it could work here, too.

How difficult was it to get started?

It was like pushing at an open door: people were ready for it, and we quickly got things going. We started in 2017, ready for the first judging in 2018, and we won a bronze award, which is unusual for the first year of taking part. In 2019 we took a silver medal, and I’m sure we could have got a gold in 2020, were it not for the competition being cancelled.

How has the pandemic affected what you do?

Our communal planting areas and containers include lots of perennial plants (which come back every year), rather than annuals or bedding plants, so that was good because it meant that most of our containers were filled. The crisis affected the number of volunteers available, but we had a lovely response when we appealed for younger people who were not self-isolating, so we have still been active.

Tell us about the decorated chairs.

It’s an idea I saw on Pinterest: old chairs are recycled and repurposed as planters. Thirty businesses took part, donating to have a chair planted up and put outside their premises. Although we’ve had to bring most of the chairs back during Lockdown, we hope to have them on show again for Christmas.

Do you have a horticultural background?

I’ve always been a keen gardener, but I trained as a nurse. I work on Stamford in Bloom about five days a week. It’s a lot, but it is sociable and fun. Businesses in town are so helpful. South Kesteven District Council provide a tap for water, and we get rainwater from the roof of St George’s Hub, which makes life easier. Everyone seems very appreciative of what we’re doing, which is to enhance, not smother, the amazing architecture we have here.

For more information, see the group’s FB page @StamfordinBloom

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