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. Cindy Marlow says:

    I have to say I’m about as excited for the amaranth saving post as I would be for a bag of organic tomatoes. Yippee! (Snoopy happy dance)

  2. Malinda says:

    Your garden is beautiful. I love the updates and progression. Thank you!

  3. Penny says:

    Love your ‘English’ cottage garden!
    I especially love your amaranth and the beautiful snapdragons. Is it true that you can use amaranth seeds as a spice?
    I’m sorry, Karen, but I don’t like dahlias, and I don’t even know why! There’s something about them, and begonias, that creeps me out. Weird, aren’t I?

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Well they’re a lot of work but I’ve never thought of dahlias as creepy. I’ve never heard of using amaranth seeds as a spice! As a grain yes, but spice, no. ~ karen!

  4. Della says:

    Thank you for sharing Karen. Your yard is glorious and I know a lot of work was done to keep it looking so kept! A delight for the eyes!

  5. Vivian says:

    I wonder what it is that makes hand-watering so traumatic? It literally takes me 5 minutes, no real physical exertion, and there’s nothing about it to tax my mind … yet, it’s something I put off as long as possible. Must be a traumatic repressed memory or something. Anyway, I feel you about your poor sad window box. I will take your window box and raise you 4 pots of petunias!

  6. Susan MacMillan says:

    Lovely garden. Thanks for sharing. A tip for next year that I found useful . . . Lee Valley has moisture mats ($2.50 per package). I line my planter boxes with them so that if I forget to water it gives me an extra days grace. I buy hanging baskets one size smaller than my own, gently tip out the plants, line them too with the mats, then add some more soilless mix since there never seems to be enough soil in the planters. I can usually get by only watering them every two days with the moisture mats in place.

  7. Hi Karen, Hi Everybody.
    I LOVE reading about your gardening adventures.

    Karen,…your post about dahlias, (and beautiful pictures), prompted me to try growing them this year. I attempted dahlias a couple years ago and got vastly varying results depending on where I planted them in the yard. Mine over-wintered poorly in storage, so I was discouraged.

    This spring, maybe April, I bought some fresh tubers from Home Depot and IMMEDIATELY potted them up. On cold spring nights I brought them inside. but this earlier planting REALLY gave them a kick start. Now, living outdoors, they have been exploding into the most beautiful ruby red color, with lots of blooms on the plants.

    Compare that to the additional nine varieties I purchased from an Oregon grower in late May. They were on sale…..putting them in soil in early June, they now are only a scruffy 4 to 8 inches in height…..I just hope I’ll actually see any blooms this year.

    As for myself, I think I’ll continue to start potted tubers up, early in Spring, indoors.


  8. You made my day today Karen! Your writing talent is delightful, yes delightful! I often read your posts out loud to my husband to enjoy your unique humor. It entertains him and puts him into a great mood. So thank you!! When I got to the part about the millipede my doxie lifted her head up and I swear I heard her snicker…
    Have a super week! Edie Marie

    PS wish I could walk by and pick up one of those bags of homegrown tomatoes!

  9. Wendy says:

    Love your garden, but love the narrative more. I live on a lake and it always amazes me that people going by in a boat don’t realize how their voices carry. So hard not to comment back 🤷‍♀️

  10. DejaView says:

    I thought the sneak attack component was going to be about the dahlias. Mine were pretty cool when 3 bloomed at once on Aug 3, after a looooong wait. The rest of the garden was sort of humming along and then, bam!, dahlias! Sneak attack. Must have felt like being passed in a race for the other flowers… I planted those darn green Queen Limes, too. They haven’t bloomed yet, but at least now I know I can stop holding my breath. Your picture was pretty depressing. Lastly…I know…but…maybe some fake flowers in the upper window box at least. ? Honestly, that was the first thing I noticed in your cover photo and I wondered if you are ok. Don’t scare us like that. Wait. One more thing. Your snapdragons!! Gorgeous. Mine are getting some kind of worm that looks like a dragon, and it’s eating the blossoms. Grrrrrrrrarrrrr. Enjoy your porch ☕️🍷

    • Karen says:

      I know, my poor windowboxes, lol. The good news is another Lime zinnia I planted around the corner from the first one is very definitely LIME. :) ~ karen!

  11. Jane says:

    Great job, Karen! 👍 Amazing you have kept your garden so tidy this year. With the heat and the rain, everything just exploded! I barely managed to prune enough of the forsythia & grapevine so the fig gets enough light. Still more pruning to go. A never-ending story. Sigh!

    • Karen says:

      For me the weeds have been a big part of the upkeep. This front yard garden doesn’t normally get many weeds because it’s protected from blowing weed seeds by the fence. This year weeds here and at my vegetable garden have been insane though. ~ karen!

      • Grammy says:

        I gave up on my attempts at an English garden look about 35 years ago. I carefully researched and planned they types of plants that would do well in our hot, dry summers (northern central valley of California) and still give me the general appearance I wanted. It was pretty successful at first, I even got compliments from walkers about how beautiful it was.

        But then I found I was spending every waking moment weeding Bermuda grass out of the beds. Some genius decided 80 years ago that planting Bermuda grass in this suburb when they built it was a great idea. I’ve been in this house 43 years and have done everything imaginable to eradicate it, but it always rears its ugly head wherever a garden bed is watered.

        So, I love your beautiful garden. It’s a joy to behold and I appreciate your sharing it with us. I hope the weeds you encounter are not so sinister that you can’t have a good life and a good garden at the same time. The rest of the world is counting on you.

        Bermuda grass is why I can’t have nice things.

      • Karen says:

        Bermuda grass is now my enemy. ~ karen!

  12. Lee says:

    Thank you for that. It was like taking a stroll thru a good friends garden on a warm summer evening. Love your writing. BTW How are your luffahs? Mine are huge this year!

    • Karen says:

      I started mine early but got them in the ground late so they are definitely not huge but I should get 4 or 5 of them *hopefully*. I still have a whack of them from last year so I won’t run out. :) ~ karen!

  13. Janis says:

    I spent this morning in my southern France garden, tsking and clucking and shaking my head. Occasionally marveling at the new eggplants and the number of little green tomatoes on my straggly plants. Mostly pulling cutworms from the soil and drowning them in a bucket. Then I read this blog post. Thank you thank you thank you. Off to the shade of my porch with a late morning Cup o Jo. Janis

  14. Peter says:

    I grew the green zinnias and they grew to true green, which was unremarkable because a green flower is lost in its green leaves and I decided green zinnias don’t stand out the way the other colors do, so I will no longer grow them. But I understand your disappointment that yours did not turn true green.

  15. L says:

    You had me at the ‘30 Something’ reference!

  16. Buzzy knight says:

    I think your having a lot of fun with your garden and cottage it shure makes life worth living don’t it

  17. Addie says:

    I love your cottage home and garden…right up my alley. From what I can see it appears you have quite the lovely neighborhood of vintage homes. Could you, would you, ever do a video or snapshots of your neighborhood? I know you would not be too shy.
    Wish I could of had some of those organic tomatoes!!! Mine were doing great until the crazy monsoon wiped them out (Arizona).

    • Karen says:

      It’s a very old neighbourhood Addie. :) Occasionally in the winter I’ll do a walking tour of the Christmas lights around me but other than that no, I haven’t done a tour of my neighbourhood. ~ karen!

      • 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!!

      • Bev Hawkinson says:

        I must agree with Addie! I felt like a celebrity stalker, zooming in on the neighbouring homes and cars and (was that a Santa Claus up the street? ) to get a better sense of my blog crush’s environs!
        Lucky lucky neighbours! It may be that I’m old, but the older the neighbourhood, the more I enjoy it. Like seeks like I guess.
        – Bev
        ps. I live in San Diego but was born in Ontario. I’m deliberately adding the U in neighborhood! They don’t understand me here.

    • Ameena says:

      Yes! A neighborhood tour, please?! I’m in Arizona too and I so miss charming old homes and quaint neighborhoods like you have there.

      • Addie says:

        I am in Prescott, AZ…lots of charmers here but I was not lucky enough to get one!!! Very few are all still original ;( People do crazy “No sense” remodels….yuck!!!! I’ll take a newer one over that.
        Yes!!! We have to convince Karen to do a tour!!!! Other readers please chime in!!!!

  18. Jaimee Saliba says:

    Did the lime zinnias get any limier when they filled out?

    • Karen says:

      No! They must be an anomaly! They only have one row of petal sand are just sort of sad looking. The plant is HUGE but they are some sad flowers, lol. Around the corner is another lime zinnia and is indeed lime. ~ karen!

  19. TucsonPatty says:

    Back in there hiding so that no one will try to honor that National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Someone’s Front Porch Day that was today, August 8th!! You need to go do some sneaking tomorrow, just for fun, and because they won’t be expecting it!! Oh, hey – I never checked my front porch!!
    I love your garden, Karen. It is beautiful, and I hope is getting closer toward your dream/fantasy/idea/manifestation of exactly how *your• English Garden is to look!

  20. Dora says:

    Love how you describe your garden ❤️

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