The English Cottage Garden – July

My English cottage garden at the end the day at the end of July. This is the calm before the storm of dahlias arrive in August.

Here’s the thing about a garden like mine. It’s the perfect setting for a sneak attack. By this time of the year things have grown tall enough and bushy enough that if I sit on my porch I can go completely unnoticed. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting on my porch going largely unobserved unless I hiccup. I have the hiccups.

It’s not the hiccup that tips people off that I’m on my porch it’s the fact that I habitually scream HICCUP after every hiccup.

Also, maybe it is my hiccups because they sound identical to the sound a crow would make if mid flight he suddenly discovered he only had one wing.

But most of the time people don’t notice me. This is a a great eavesdropping opportunity obviously as people slow their walk past my house to look in the garden.

I’m sure if they knew I was there they’d never mention out loud that they don’t know what to have for dinner. Or that they bought their shoes on Amazon. ONE woman walked past, talking on her phone, and declared for the whole world to hear that SHE DIDN’T WANT TO GO BACK TO WORK IN THE OFFICE.

Last week I put a few paper bags of tomatoes on the brick wall that surrounds my garden with the word “free” written on them. I was hidden on the porch when the first bag was discovered and met with a squeal of delight.

FREE?? FREE ORGANIC TOMATOES? YES PLEASE!! Then the recipient grabbed a bag, did a bit of a tomato dance and continued down the street wiggling with all the might of someone auditioning for a Beyoncé video.

By the time he got down to the corner of the street I couldn’t hold the laugh in anymore and it blared out across the neighbourhood, murdering the gentle sound of my one winged crow hiccup.

This of course startled him out of his dane routine and he suspiciously made his way back to stare around the garden before breaking into dance again and twirling down the street.

Then there was the couple who walked past who wouldn’t let their dog drink from the bowl of water I put out every morning.

Oh, no! No. Yucky. That’s yucky water. Look at that. This yucky water that’s dirty. Yucky.

Then they mumbled all the way down the street about the horrifying status of my dog water.

Obviously I immediately went out to check to see what possibly could have happened to the bowl of water I put out for dogs since the morning.

It was a horrifying scene to be sure. There was, in the bowl, scrambling on the surface of the water, a single millipede.

It’s no wonder they were so alarmed. Had their dog accidentally ingested the millipede it surely would have ruined its dinner which, being a dog, could have been anything from raw meat, to someone’s hangover vomit, to it’s own mound of feces.

Good call yuppies.

Is yuppies still a thing? Or did that term die out the same time the show 30 Something did?

I 100% could have come out of hiding on my porch and sneak attacked the dog walkers but instead I let them complain because sometimes that’s just how people are. Where they find joy in complaining about things, I find joy in not being them.

Although, get ready for it, because I am about to complain.

These are supposed to be Queen Lime Zinnias. Bright lime green zinnias. Instead they seem to be white zinnias with a hint of lime green around the petals. Not enough of a hint to make them amazing. Just a barely there hint, that you can’t really see and does nothing to make them more beautiful.

Like getting 4 highlights in your hair. Or adding a fingernail sized piece of ice to a bucket of warm iced tea.

Looking around the garden things are growing but they haven’t become full blown yet. The dahlias for example are taking their time and as of the time I took these photos just before the sun went down last Friday there were only 2 dahlias that were about to bloom and the tomatoes were just starting to ripen.

I predict by next week the dahlias will start burst and the tomatoes will start coming in so fast I’ll be eliciting tomato dances from neighbours all day and night long.

Subject change: My windowboxes are dead. The bottom one isn’t too bad but the upper one is completely croaked. THIS because I didn’t put the watering system I have in place on a timer. Because I couldn’t be bothered to buy a timer.

I knew, KNEW, that this was the year I was going to be responsible enough to actually just turn the tap on to water the window boxes because it only takes 5 minutes in total (between turning the tap to the drip system on and then waiting 5 minutes and turning it off. )

As it turns out, I am not up for that kind of time commitment.

Which would explain why the birdbath is almost empty as well. That would take at least 30 seconds out of my hiding on the porch time.

The perennial sweet peas continue to get most of the attention as people walk past but they had better get used to being in the chorus because the stars of the show, the dahlias, are just powdering their faces and will be taking to the stage soon.

Partly because they’re at kid height, partly because of their name, the snapdragons are always a favourite with kids.

Coming up I have an especially nice shot of my dead windowbox.

Told you so.

The self seeded amaranth has been my go-to for cut flowers so far this year because they’re so prolific and just a few stems makes an incredibly impressive arrangement.

The best part about amaranth is you can preserve it perfectly so it stays soft and looks exactly the way it did when it grew in the garden. And yes, I will have a post on how to do that soon.

As long as it doesn’t take me more than 5 minutes.

Signing off for the day now. If anyone needs me, you know where I’ll be.

I’ll be hiding on my porch with a coffee and all the time in the world waiting, patiently – dressed in a millipede costume.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←


  1. Kat says:

    I have a question about your milkweed plants. I have planted about 50 milkweed plants started from seed last year. They did very well for their first year. This year they are ever so healthy and tall. Next year I should have blooms being the third year. My question is do you cut them back to the ground come fall or let them dye off and clean it all up in the spring before the new shoots come up?

  2. May says:

    In reference to your window boxes: this year I used disposable diapers when I repotted my Boston ferns to help reduce watering duty. I bought the cheapest ones at the dollar store and put them in the bottom of larger pots that I already had, then added potting soil and the ferns. Our front porch is southwest exposure and usually by mid august the ferns are brown and brittle. Not so this year. And the petunias have stayed green and flowering better with less watering this summer, too.

  3. deleuzion says:

    Did you try to cook with Amaranth? Use it like spinach…

    • Karen says:

      I don’t eat it but I know you can eat the leaves. Although I’m not sure if you can so much with the more ornamental amaranth. My neighbours at my community garden are from Zimbabwe and they recognized the plant right away for the leaves for eating. :) ~ karen!

  4. Nancy says:

    Thank you for writing ICED TEA. Dear God in Heaven, it’s not ice tea.

    And the dog water? What do they do when their dog licks it’s own ….. for hours.

  5. Connie says:

    Great Post. Thank you.
    I removed by hand, all the grass but a strip that looks like yours but there it ends. Your garden is fabulous, stupendous, wonderful and all that accolade language.
    Mine is coming along as a Kansas Native and xeric garden to match our 100+ degrees but we have had some frog stranglers this summer and I mostly worry that all that water will kill my efforts.
    I love hearing the comments as I work trying to destroy my neighbors trailing Burmuda grass ( a never ending drama). “Look, she took out almost all her beautiful grass.” My bees and butterflies love me though.

  6. Ada Berry says:

    Dear Karen,
    As always you make me laugh!! My amaranth is already harvested and drying for the grain. But apparently, it will keep producing so I can’t wait for your post on how to preserve the amaranth flowers. Wouldn’t that be stunning in your Kale seed wreath?
    Thanks for your posts

  7. Lynn says:

    Love love your English garden!
    Out here in Alberta this year has been very hard to keep even the grass growing 🤧. Both my rhubarb plants have even failed this year 🥴. As a result I am living vicariously though your yard and garden, which I thank you.

    • Karen says:

      My neighbour told me she was worried my rhubarb was going to crack my foundation, lol. Has it been hot or dry in Alberta? Or both?! ~ karen

  8. June says:

    Garden looks lovely!

    Best laugh was the doggie water segment. A millipede, the horror!

    Haven’t had dogs in years but their favorite treats were those tasty nuggets from the kitty litter box. Still my pups were downright gourmets compared to a friend’s dog who would always find ‘large, un-identifiable, furry-ish , guess- that -was-alive- a- few- days- ago- things in the local woods.

  9. m'liss says:

    Your snapdragons are beautiful! I haven’t grown them in years. Did you grow them from seed?

  10. Lois says:

    I’m curious too which snapdragons you plant? And tell me about your sweet peas——perennial—-I haven’t heard of that.

    • Karen says:

      They’re regular old snapdragons that have self seeded and cross bred with each other for decades! And the sweet peas are perennial like I said. They bloom profusely in the early summer and again closer to fall. Perennial sweet peas only come in white and purple (as far asI know) and sadly they don’t have a scent. ~ karen!

  11. Erin M. says:

    I’m in California, but started my veggies late (depression is a bitch). I feel better that I’m not the only person on the continent whose tomatoes have yet to ripen. My dahlias have been prolific though, so one bonus.

    … the rest of my yard is dead though. The lawn died when the rain stopped (our sprinklers suffered from our attempt to put a shed in; no shed yet), and I have no idea what to do to make the rest of the backyard look pretty. But I’ll be damned if my veggies and dahlias look just fine, thank you. LOL

  12. Mary W says:

    Obviously, I’m not done talking to you. Did you know that snapdragons can be gently pinched on the sides of their jaws (when fresh and sturdy) and they open their mouth to reveal 2 front teeth? So fun. Even at 75. Also, the brick surround that is between your sidewalk and the first outside flower bed is really nice! Did you put it in or did it come with the house, or does the city add that when installing sidewalks? The colors you chose for the snapdragons are great and your hydrangeas are so lovely. Now I’m done, bye.

    • Bev Hawkinson says:

      I noticed the brick also! And the brick walkway from the gate. I’m going to share it with my husband and son to demonstrate that irregular and a little “gently aged ” makes it charming. So my steps up the hillside are also charming, if a bit quirky, since some seem to be at a 45 degree angle!!

    • Karen says:

      Of course you had more to say! I did know that and I show every kid that walks past, lol. The wall was put in by the city when they redid the sidewalks and I’m having a reallyyyy god hydrangea year! ~ karen

  13. Mary W says:

    What is that little wooden window box thing under the dead window box? Maybe an old hole that used to be a window? I’ve tried to think of the purpose but fail and like a game of crosswords, I just need to know and don’t have a page with answers to look into. Your yard looks very good even without the dalias but I agree, the porch hiding spot has got to be the most fun. I would be setting all kinds of ‘things’ out for walkers to discover and comment on.

    • Erin says:

      I think it’s her Monarch butterfly box. She keeps the caterpillars and food in there.

      • Mary W says:

        That explains it! A perfect place for butterflies to land. When I was very small, we lived in Wisconsin and one spring day, the back door was open and the screen was COVERED thickly in monarchs. Strange but a delightful memory now that I’m 75! I haven’t seen a Monarch in several years down here in Florida but I keep looking and planting flowers in case they show up. But the county sprays for mosquitos in the evenings killing ALL bugs (except roaches, of course). I’m glad I have my sweet memory of one magic morning when I was 4.

      • Karen says:

        It is! ~ karen

    • Karen says:

      That’s my butterfly enclosure! ~ karen

    • Nicole says:

      I’m not positive but I think that’s where the monarch butterfly caterpillars become butterflies.

  14. Cathy R says:

    In dog mom’s defense, my pup gets giardia nearly every time he drinks from a puddle or well meaning bowl set out by nice folks like you.
    I envy your flowers because nothing like these grow in Arizona; although we’re finally having a decent monsoon season and lots of things are blooming but overall they’re not good for bouquet making.
    Your yard looks lovely.

  15. “I let them complain because sometimes that’s just how people are. Where they find joy in complaining about things, I find joy in not being them.”
    Absolutely my fav quote of the month. Words to live by. Happy to have found your blog.

  16. Sandy says:

    Beautiful! Can you share with us what type of snapdragons you planted? And did you start with seeds or plants? They appear tall and I love the sherbet colors! I planted some I purchased as plants from a (gasp!) big-box store and they never got tall. So disappointing.

    Can’t wait to see your dahlias! :)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sandy! All of my snapdragons are self seeded or they survived the winter. They’re always tall but this year they’re especially tall. One trick I can tell you is to cut them! It encourages growth. Most of mine are regular snapdragons but some are Chantilly snaps. ~ karen!

    • Joan says:

      I work in the garden center of a big box store and it seems we only ever get the dwarf variety of snapdragons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Art of Doing Stuff