Cook little pot, cook!

One of my favourite Ladybird books when I was a child was The Magic Porridge Pot.  It is a story of a starving girl who is given a magic porridge pot by a wise woman/witch.  All she has to do when she is hungry is to say ‘Cook little pot, cook!’ and the pot will cook a perfect little bowl of porridge.  Then she has to say ‘stop little pot, stop’ and it will stop.

One day the girl entrusts the pot with her mother, giving her instructions before she goes.  The mother gets a bit peckish and says ‘Cook little pot, cook!’  Only she forgets the second bit, and soon the porridge pot is overflowing, all over the table, onto the kitchen floor, out of the door and down the street!

All the mother had to remember was ‘stop little pot, stop!’ but for some reason this simple thing eludes her!  An allegory on maternity brain?  The hazards of multi-tasking? But not to worry, the daughter returns, commands the pot to stop, and whilst the town is swimming in porridge, no one is hungry!  Everyone gets to share the porridge, including some adorable little mice that appear in every illustration with little bowls and spoons at the ready.  Can you spot the mouse in the picture below?


So what, you may ask, does this have to do with gardening.  Well, this:


Now I’ve started it, I just can’t stop it! I’ve forgotten the words!


‘Sto-…  No.  I just can’t remember.  It will just have to keep on coming.


I already had to cart the borage off to the compost heap as it had got to 7 feet tall and was encroaching upon its neighbours.  Now the nicotiana is threatening to do the same.


But really, I am not complaining.  I love it.


And the scabious has finally joined in!  ‘Cook little pot, cook!’

Scabious atropurpurea ‘Fata Morgana’


I love how the flowers open out from the outside first.  Spilling over onto the floor.


Until it is fully frothy.


Is it just me, or does anyone else sometimes get the urge not to turn the gas down when your pot of pasta is just starting to boil over? Or to squeeze the entire tube of toothpaste out? Just the once? I am a quiet anarchist.  I trace it back to ‘The Magic Porridge Pot’.

Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’ and Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’. Splurting out.

There is something deliciously evil about this Dahlia ‘Ripples’.  I think it may be a witch/wise woman.  The flies seem peculiarly attracted to her.  I think they are her minions and she sends them out on missions.


Sometimes they cower a little, when she is cross.


The middle raised bed is a triumph, even if I do say so myself.


My favourite combo is Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’, ‘Vino’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

Dahlia ‘Vino’, ‘Totally Tangerine’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ in descending order.

I utterly love ‘Waltzing Matilda’.  It opens deep watermelon, and then fades beautifully.  This might actually beat ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ which was my previous favourite single dahlia.

Dahlia ‘Waltzing Matilda’
Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’, ‘Vino’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’.

This combination morphs into Zinnia elegans ‘Cupid Mixed’…

Dahlia ‘Vino’ with Zinnia elegans ‘Cupid Mixed’.
Zinnia elegans ‘Cupid Mixed’

and into Scabious atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’.

Zinnia elegans ‘Cupid Mixed’ and Scabious atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’.

And what bonnets they are.

Scabious atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’

This is the slightly freakish quadruple flower that featured as a bud in Oasis.  Now it is wearing its bonnet at a jaunty angle.

Scabious atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’, looking debonnaire.

The bees and butterflies love scabious.  Here is a hoverfly enjoying the spill.

Scabious atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’ with a hoverfly.

Hoverflies are impossibly handsome.

Scabious atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’ with a hoverfly.

In case you think it is all just impossibly lovely (nature’s doing, not mine), just settle your eye for a moment on this slightly scratty corner.  This is Nigella papillosa ‘Midnight’ with Cosmos bipinatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’.  I have come to the conclusion that the soil in this bed needs some work.  The dahlias at either end were a bit rubbish last year, and I thought it might be some sort of replant disease.  This year the annuals have done just as badly.  I think the clay is compacted and I need to mix in a good dose of manure in the winter.  It doesn’t help that I haven’t deadheaded the Cosmos behind in this picture, but I thought we needed an antidote to the eye candy.

Nigella papillosa ‘Midnight’ and Cosmos bipinatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’.

This is the good bit of the top bed.

Clockwise from left: Dahlia ‘Juliet’, ‘American Dawn’ and ‘Bishop of Canterbury’.

The number of bees on the single dahlias this year makes me reluctant to choose double varieties, impressive as they are.  In double flowers, the nectaries and pollen-producing anthers have been replaced by an extra few layers of petals.  This must be very confusing for the poor bees.  Whereas Dahlia ‘Juliet’ below is a single, so has her nectaries in tact.

Dahlia ‘Juliet’ and a bee.

Look at how slarted up this bee is, with pollen!

Dahlia ‘Juliet’ and greedy bee.

The single dahlias also attract the butterflies.  Here is ‘Bishop of Canterbury’ with a gatekeeper butterfly.

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Canterbury’ with a Gatekeeper Butterfly.

If you look more closely, they are both a little raggedy around the edges.  They have lived a little.

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Canterbury’ with a Gatekeeper Butterfly.

Here is Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’.  Now it is lovely, but blue it is not.  It reminds me of a Queen Mother’s hat.


It is easy to take the ever-reliable Cosmos bipinatus ‘Xanthos’ for granted.  It does deserve a little shout-out.

Cosmos bipinatus ‘Xanthos’

And is perhaps best viewed from below.  The mouse-eye view.

Cosmos bipinatus ‘Xanthos’

‘Cook little pot, cook!’

Anyone who happens to be passing, please come and cut some blooms, or we will be drowning by next weekend!

Which annuals are your top performers this year?  Have any disappointed?  Which are the best for attracting the bees and butterflies?

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors.

Some posts are more fanciful than others. I can even be practical at times.

If you would like to join the joy, click on the ‘Follow’ button at the end of this post. You will receive an email each time I post a little pop of wonder.

36 Comments Add yours

  1. A great post! That was my favourite book too. 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      It seems to have wide appeal! The delight of making a mess!

  2. Lee says:

    Just last week I was reading that story with my daughter – somehow it had escaped me as a child, so it was a first for me too! I’ll soon be saying the same to my pumpkin plants, I suspect!

    1. Ali says:

      I love that we can share these stories with the next generation.

  3. cocoaupnorth says:

    Lovely, lovely images of your garden. And, oh I loved that story as well as a child. 🙂

  4. I’ll pop over Ali! Glorious, glorious in every way! Your garden is looking so pretty!
    All children love this book don’t they? Fun post!
    My annuals are doing ok ish. I didn’t add enough compost or manure to one of my beds and the plants in there have suffered. After the rain has stopped (yes, it’s still raining here! Hooray!) I will add the contents of my compost bin to the border to see if it will improve for the autumn. My cosmos and dahlia have thrived in my other bed but that’s because I prepped it properly. Lesson learnt!
    Have a fab Sunday.

    1. Ali says:

      Thanks Sophie! We’re finally having some useful rain too!

  5. Tish Farrell says:

    A truly magnificent over-boiling, Ali. I love your scabious. I think the guerrilla garden could do with some.

    1. Ali says:

      Oh yes, definitely! I think they self-seed too.

  6. An ingenious introduction to a lovely series of photographs. I’d have to enlarge the illustration to see the mouse. A vole, incidentally, has demolished our Bishop of Llandaff. The ritual humiliation takes me back to my grammar school days. As soon as we departed the school grounds we deposited our compulsory caps into our pockets. Not our head boy. One day he got into fisticuffs with some local lads who ridiculed his headwear. The headmaster paraded him, with this story, at assembly. It wasn’t meant to encourage humiliation, but…….

    1. Ali says:

      Any sort of headwear is asking for trouble, isn’t it? Someone I knew had to wear a straw boater!! 😂😂😂

  7. pommepal says:

    I do so miss being able to grow dahlias, one of my favourite flowers, so I was able to enjoy your pot of them overflowing.

    1. Ali says:

      What don’t they like, Pauline?

      1. pommepal says:

        I think it is the humidity, I tried them when we first came here, poor things just wilted and struggled, then got mildew problems

      2. Ali says:

        Oh dear. No one wants a wilty Dahlia. I can imagine they are very sad and drippy if they’re not happy – I hate seeing them after a frost.

      3. pommepal says:

        I felt so sorry for them I didn’t try them again. I had a lovely border of them in my NZ garden, I do miss their cheery faces

  8. As always, thank you for bringing me into your world of flowers. It’s not very different than the world of humans, quite an allegory. And I love the porridge story! I could have used one of those pots when my kids were growing up.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, beautiful simplicity!

  9. I absolutely love how you constructed this post. Such talent in so many realms! Knowing and remembering plant name varieties is something that alludes me many a time and they just spill off your tongue (or, rather your fingers) so easily! It is utterly impressive. That combined with your talent of photography spins a wonderful garden tale! I am beginning to wish we didn’t live an ocean apart, for we have a lot in common! My best performers this year are liatris, asiatic lilies, ornamental kale, petunias, and geraniums, along with my milkweed. The petunias and geraniums were grown by a teen in a near by town who has a green house business. They were wonderfully healthy plants and had a great start, augmented (I feel) by my first use of milorganite! Thanks for sharing your beautiful gardens!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you for your very kind words. Your selection sounds wonderful. And I love hearing about young people growing plants.

  10. bcparkison says:

    If I could spread wings and fly over the big pond I would certainly come and clip an arm full. They are just getting more beautiful every time you post.Let’s enjoy while we can. they won’t last forever.

    1. Ali says:

      That’s true! We are going away in 3 weeks and I’m never sure how they will last when I’m away.

  11. Nicky says:

    Ah yes Scabious, another one I love – I wonder if I can find a space for it somewhere.

    1. Ali says:

      Takes up very little space! 😂

  12. Such a beautiful garden, lovely photos and story.

  13. Emma Cownie says:

    Lovely, lovely flowers. I think stories about everlasting porridge come from a time when people faced starvation when harvests failed.

  14. Heyjude says:

    Do you pick armfuls for indoors then Ali? You should join in the Vase on Monday meme! I have planted some annuals this year in my veg bed (got tired of the veg doing nothing) all white ones. The Scabious has been the best I think for bees and butterflies. Ammi majus has flowered for ages and I like the Cosmos Psyche, but that has grown very tall. Next year I shall be planting more perennials. Oh, and sweet peas. I always grow them.

  15. I have never read that book you mention! It is delightful, and I love the suggestion that you just can’t stop gardening. I really hope to have that same problem myself someday. Right now what I can’t stop is walking! Which, I guess, is also a good problem to have.

    1. Ali says:

      That is fantastic, Shelly! I keep thinking I should walk more, but it is so hot here at the moment. We just can’t do everything. I have a tendency to berate myself for not doing this or that (usually exercise), but maybe we shouldn’t aim to tick all the boxes. Like you don’t have to have everything in an ice-cream sundae. At the moment my cup is full with gardening!

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