Florence’s Favourite: Cottage Garden plants

Today I thought I would share a list of plants for those of you to buy who are looking to plant a cottage garden. Hugely popular, this style of planting yields lots of cutting flowers for the house and has a dreamy, thoroughly English feel to it. All you need add is a picket fence! This is by no means an exhaustive list but contains some of my favourites. Plant a border with a combination of these flowers and you’ll be well on your way to having your own cottage garden in no time.

Perennials (Plants that you plant once then come up year after year, dying down over the winter.)

  • Dicentra or ‘bleeding heart’, named for the heart shaped pink flowers. Late spring flowering, copes well with partial shade.
  • Lavender, always a favourite, choose the traditional English type for a quintessential English country garden look. Try edging your borders or paths with it. Suits sun baked corners and dry conditions.
  • Peony. Hard to grow but rewarding when it finally flowers. Patience is a virtue! Needs plenty of sun.

Annuals (Seeds you grow in the spring then flower in summer, then die. They live for only one summer.)

  • Nigella, also known as ‘Love in a Mist’ – pretty pink, blue and white flowers veiled by fern-like foliage.
  • Cornflower. Classic country meadow flowers, easy to grow in sunny conditions and not just available in blue! (There is also a perennial cornflower that is easy to grow.)
  • Sweet peas are perfect for picking, grow the old fashioned varieties for a fabulous scent. Make sure you don’t let them go to seed – picking them ensures they keep flowering throughout the season. They need support – buy or make wigwams out of cane and tie the plants to the supports loosely.

Biennials (Plant in spring or summer of one year and they flower the following summer.)

  • Lupins – Spires of multicoloured flowers and a long flowering period. Easy to grow but needs good sun.
  • Foxglove – perfect for shady corners and reminiscent of woodland gardens. Tall spires of flowers rise from low plants so place them between lower bushes like ferns or hostas which provide ground cover and also like shade.
  • Delphinium – Tall blue or white spires of flowers. Needs sun and often need staking.
  • Hollyhocks – Very tall spires of large pink flowers.


  • Garden Rose – The prettiest kind and grown on a bushier plant that is better in a border than the likes of newer tea roses (think interflora!)

So have I missed any readers? Have you got any favourites? Please feel free to add any you love in the comments box.




Friday Food… Phoebe’s Party Bites

Good Morning Readers and Happy Friday! This morning we’re having a bit of a Friday Food Party special. Next weekend I’ll be holding a Christmas drinks party as I do every year and so I was keen to get some recommendations for new recipes. Enter Phoebe from Miller Weddings with some fabulous suggestions that I’ll definitely be trying this year. 🙂

I adore Christmas. Capital letters, underlined…adore. I love dark days, twinkling fairy lights, snow, and mainly the food. The fact you can eat more without being socially lambasted is always a bonus. There are always copious amounts of parties to attend, and the expanding waistline doesn’t help when slipping in to a party dress but I just don’t care. I will lose it at New Year. Here are some simple party food ideas. There are many variations of the mini pizzas and I would love to hear yours!

Halloumi Bites from Nigella

Image Credit: Nigella.com

I am a cheese fiend and halloumi is one of my favourites. This recipe is exceptionally simple and the halloumi can marinate hours in advance in the fridge. It works best done in a skillet or non-stick frying pan.

These are quite a slippery so best served on cocktail sticks or at a “table to plate” scenario.


250g Halloumi – each block roughly makes 12-14 bites
A handful of chopped parsley (I have used basil, tastes just as yummy)
Lots of black pepper
15mls lime juice (or lemon)
30ml garlic oil (increase by 20 for each extra block)


Slice the halloumi into bite size pieces, try for 6mm wide.
Add everything together in a large shallow dish (can be left)
Heat a heavy based pan and fry the cheese until golden on both sides, roughly takes 2 minutes
Put the fried halloumi back in to the shallow dish, mix and serve!

Chorizo and Chilli Mini Pizzas

Image Credit: DashingDish.com

This is a great little recipe to have because you can add so many variations. This makes 20.


A pack of flatbread or wraps
100g manchego cheese
100 chorizo
1/2 a red chilli


Heat to 200c/180c for fan oven
Use a pastry cutter to cut out 6cm circles from the bread/wrap
Grate the cheese and scatter over the circles
Add the chorizo (pre cook if needed) then top with chilli
Bake for 10 mins till the cheese is bubbling.

Orange and Cinnamon Mince Pies

Image Credit: BBC Good Food

These are wonderful! I can’t remember where I even found this recipe but they are a festive twist on the everyday mince pie and exceptionally simple to do. These have a delicious crumble topping instead of pastry but you can still add whatever jazzy decor you’d like. Brandy butter is optional.


375g shortcrust pastry (shop bought unless you are inclined to make it yourself)
250g mincemeat (make your own, it really is easy. I have a recipe if you’d like it!)
50g plain flour
4tbsp demerara sugar
40g butter
finely grated zest of 1/2 orange ( I always add a little more)
2tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 200C
Thinly roll out the pastry. Using a 8cm pastry cutter, cut out as many discs as you can.
Grease a muffin tin and press the discs into the holes. Make sure they come up quite high at the sides
Spoon 2 teaspoons of mincemeat into each case.

Crumble topping

Rub together flour, demerrar sugar, butter, orange zest and the cinnamon until you have a chunky crumble mixture.
Scatter over the top of the mincemeat
Place in the oven and cook for 15mins until they are golden and crisp (mine only take 10 often)
Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Merry Christmas!

Are having a Christmas Party this year and will you be trying any of these recipes?

Don’t forget, if you have a recipe you would like to share please send it in to hello@florencefinds.com


Friday Food – Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness cake

This morning, I am shamelessly beginning the Friday Christmas Food series… as Christmas is so much about food, there may be a couple of extra food posts coming your way between now and Christmas, and I really want you guys to get involved. If you have perhaps the perfect cranberry sauce, the best truffles, Christmas pudding, your gran’s best roasts, even a Christmas cocktail or ways to use up the turkey after the big day, please please do send them in – I can supply images, we just need you guys to share the wealth of knowledge in the Florence Finds community! 🙂 Send them to hello@florencefinds.com and mark the subject box with Friday Food.

This week’s Friday Food comes to you courtesy of Bex from the The Olive Dragonfly who road tested a new Nigella recipe and deemed it worthy of sharing… you won’t be disappointed by this one!

Hi Florence Findettes!  Bex here with my usual excessive use of exclamation marks from the comments!  (Sorry, it’s how I actually speak, I’m very over-excitable in real life too!  Feel free to edit them out Rebecca!) and I am super excited that December is finally here and hope to tantalise your taste buds with this yummy Nigella Lawson recipe for my ultimate winter comfort food – cake!

So here is the most amazingly Chocolatey Guinnessy cake in the world, Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake.  Hubby says it’s the best cake I’ve ever made.  It was super moist and soft and bouncy and delicious.  The major bonus for me was the icing, my all time favourite – cream cheese!  I have made it before for Red Velvet cupcakes but the twist here is adding double cream and Oh My God, it makes it even more yummy!  I did find the icing quantity a tad too much (which I often do with cake recipes) even though I love it, so I just stored a couple of tablespoons of it in the fridge – leading to inevitable eating with a spoon later, you may just want to adjust the quantity you make instead and save the extra added inches to the waistline!

Image credit: DesignSponge.com


    • 250ml Guinness
    • 250g unsalted butter
    • 75g cocoa
    • 400g caster sugar
    • 1 x 142ml pot sour cream
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
    • 275g plain flour
    • 2 1/2teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
    • 300g Philadelphia cream cheese


  • 125ml double or whipping cream
  • Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C, and butter and line a 23cm springform tin.
  • Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter – in spoons or slices – and heat until the butter’s melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and bicarb.
  • Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.
  • When the cake’s cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the icing. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsieved icing sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.
  • Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

Image credit: Bex at www.olivedragonfly.blogspot.com for Florence Finds

I made it exactly as stated (I used the food processor technique for the icing, so much quicker, easier AND I didn’t end up covered in icing sugar like usual!), it needed 55 minutes in my oven and was cooked perfectly.  The edge was slightly crispy which I love but the whole cake was moist – not dry at the edges like some cakes I’ve baked before!

It went down a treat at work and hubby was popular too since he took a chunk in to theatre with him for the nurses.  I am actually making another one today (Thursday) to take down south with us to see my brother and the in-laws this weekend!  What can I say, I love compliments!  😉



Find more of Bex at www.olivedragonfly.blogspot.com


Nigella’s Courgette Cake

So, my allotment has been growing out of control lately and I’m desperately trying to use or gift all the produce – it really does all come at once!

One of the main things I’m having trouble with is courgettes – once my absolute favourite vegetable I’m now more than a little tired of them in their steamed, ribboned, or stir-fried form so I’m looking for new ways to use them up!

A friend suggested that I make a courgette cake, which I had already heard of so I decided to seek out and road test a new recipe. None amongst my usual cookery book collection meant I ended up on Google which lead me to Organikal and a re-posting of Nigella’s Courgette Cake.

Et Voila!

As for the review… it was seriously good. I’m a big fan of carrot cake so the cream cheese frosting went down really well, but it was also a whole lot easier to make than carrot cake – less faffing with ingredients. And the end result was a much lighter cake – more suited to summer and incredibly moist. Dare I say it – it also didn’t appear to be as sinful as the usual Nigella Lawson style.

I also found this trio of ideas from Nigel Slater in The Guardian Archives including one cake.

What are you waiting for? Go try it out and let me know how you got on!!


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