Hollyhock heaven

If you’ve found this site following the little snippet on Gardeners World… welcome. Here you will find a few musings on hollyhocks and cosmos (the other collection I’ve established). Do follow on instagram if that’s your thing @thejsheppard. We have a few seeds on sale on the website.

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The last two years…

… have been hard for lots of people. Life took quite an unexpected turn due to Covid. In the scheme of things I’ve been very fortunate. But in terms of gardening the last two years have also been pretty dramatic for me too. Pre Covid there I was… gardening away and just having fun with it. Fast forward those two “covid years” and here I am with two national plant collections, attending an RHS conference last week which was for exhibitors to RHS Hampton Court in July.

I think for anyone that’s quite a journey in a short time. I never intended having a national plant collection as I just think people should grow whatever they like. Ignore “fashion”, ignore what other people like. Grow what YOU like and your passion may encourage others that its the thing to grow. If you are passionate about it, then thats what will get you outside on a cold winters day doing things to move things forward.

Why have I do it? Well number one, I enjoy it. If I didn’t then there would be no point. The day it becomes a chore is the day to give it up. But more importantly there is a part of me that wants to show other people they could have go. And that includes starting a national plant collection to sowing some seeds. (I was so surprised at how many people were scared about growing from seed).

Plus if I can show that I can garden on a larger scale than average while trying to be a bit more sustainable than maybe others could change a few habits too.

It’s going to be exciting to see where the next two years takes this. Keep watching this space. On that note.. its time to check the cosmos seedlings that will hopefully look as good as last years 👇🏻


There’s no better feeling than getting your hands deep into some crumbly compost. Ok maybe there is.. but this might be a close second.

Today 4 cubic metres was delivered from a local farm who turns the green garden waste into this. I may not use it for growing the seeds in, but it can certainly be used to top up the hollyhock beds.

At little over £80 it seems good value, and no peat. I better get my shovel!

Danish Trolleys – I think we’re gonna need some

I’ve been wondering how on earth I am going to to get my cosmos plants to Hampton Court, and have been constantly thinking I may need some of these Danish (I’ve seen some call them Dutch) plant trolleys.

As mine will be in big terracotta pits there won’t be need for shelving, but I think using them and tying them into a van would stop them being slung all over the place.

So I bit the bullet and have just bought 6 second hand ones that will hopefully make their way to me from Scotland. 🤞🏻🤞🏻

When to sow my cosmos?

I often get asked when should I sow my cosmos, as come the new year everyone is of course keen to get sowing things as they want to look forward to doing something garden related.

The following is just my experience – this isn’t to say that this is the only right view. As has been often said, ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’. Weird saying – but you get the gist.

Firstly when you see someone sowing something remember it isn’t a race. Just because they are sowing doesn’t mean you should be – there can be many variables. Maybe they are in a different part of the country or globe. Remember, your seed packet has guidance on sowing times – but even then there are things to consider.

Lets to a random pack of Cosmos (pictured above). It says sow indoors from Feb. OK – yes I could absolutely do that. But my understand is that sowing dates can be based on the most favourable location. So I have to think – if I sow at the start of February, and I can have a frost at the start of May (it happens for us) do I have the capability of keeping lots of cosmos alive in pots and frost free under cover, and do I actually want to?

Well yes – I do have the capability – I have a polytunnel – so thats another thing to consider. Not every scenario is equal. You may see some people sowing as they have heated propagation beds and polytunnel. If you just have a windowsill maybe you aren’t comparing like with like, so in that case, don’t feel obliged to sow when others do.

And then I think my next point would be the extra effort. If you can time your sowing so that just about the time you would need to be potting on the plants can go outside, then maybe thats a good time for YOU to sow. Work backwards from that. You will know your own plot better than anyone, but even then you can get surprised. I’ve lost over 100 cosmos plants before to a May frost – but the plants had to go out as they had been sowed that early they were suffering in their pots.

So yes you can sow early. But it can be extra work keeping your plants alive. Don’t always follow what others are doing unless you think you have the same growing resources. Also consider if you live in a similar location in terms of the weather. South West will be different from North East for eg. And when you get the itch to sow but you kind of think it might be a bit early in terms of it being cold and not enough light, just tell yourself wait… wait… wait… as patience can often be the best course of action.

Plant labels from 70 year old tiles off the house

You will remember the article about my flowers led to the daughter of the family who had our house built getting in touch, and that we learned her mum loved growing Cosmos here.

Fast forward to me hopefully going to Hampton Court, with half an eye on looking at issue with regards sustainability in gardening, as well as obviously growing some nice cosmos, and my mind turned to what would I use as labels for the plants

When we had a new roof we kept all the tiles. Some were sold, some used for other projects and the remainder used as the base for a few paths, with some left near the one for wildlife to take over.

As I want to use terracotta pots for my cosmos, ideally I’d also like plant labels that at least look similar in appearance, so after some work with a diamond cutting blade, I think they could really be a possibility.

Old rosemary tiles
Cutting into plant labels
Possible labels marked for drilling

197 days to go….

OK, I know it seems ages to go but when you haven’t done it before the phrase ‘you don’t know what you don’t know ‘ is pretty accurate. There will just be some things I don’t know I need to plan or even think about.

So where am I? Well the acceptance went it – so I’m kind of assuming I have secured my little area in the Floral Marquee. Then we managed to rectify the link that let me provide my BACS details. I’ve made my introduction to the team who build the staging – as I know I have so so many questions as to what they do and what I’m expected to do.

Other things I’ve been cracking on with is ordering things that I know I will need as some things have quite long lead times. I want to exhibit using Yorkshire pots – they are based around an hour away and their pots really are built to last. In terms of trying to be more sustainable I have always thought the move away from a throw away society is one of the biggest things we can do. So yes, while I know terracotta has a bigger impact in terms of CO2 when you think of its production, I think the fact that the product I will use will be around for years and years to come and not be thrown away is the right choice for me. More on the cost and what they look like closer to the time.

Then I’ve been considering what I want to sell along with my exhibit. I am minded to not sell plants, as I think it may just be a step too far for a first time exhibitor, but we will see. I do want to sell some seeds from the national collection, so know I need to get the text on the seed envelope approved by the RHS. One thing that maybe could be done sooner rather than later, as I can crack with that while things are less hectic.

Then I’ve put an order in for some tote bags with an image of one of my favourite cosmos. Don’t ask how much they have cost 😱.. needless to say I may need to sell more than a few. Limited run of 100 – so you could say they are a collectors item.

I look at the wonderful displays such as this one I photographed this year and still have so many thoughts about what I could or should do next year.

I’m sure there is plenty of time to make my choices… and that’s not even thinking about the work that will need to go into growing some amazing cosmos. I better crack on.