Friday 1st December


We started the morning with an ineresting discussion about succulents.  These plants are easy to grow, require little care and look particularly attractive in containers.  Their leaves are thicker than normal and fleshy, usually to retain water in arid climates or soil conditions.  They can withstand hot and cold conditions, but they don’t like wet. Most succulents, such as Aeoniums, Sedums, Kalanchoes, Sempervivums and Echeverias are in the Crassulaceae family .  This is a large family of plants many of which grow at high altitudes in Mexico, where humidity is low, temperatures rarely get too hot and the soil is well-draining.

Sempervivums  (“always living”),  are also known as Houseleeks and are amongst the most popular succulents.


They are an exceptionally hardy genus of hardy, monocarpic (flowering only once then dying), alpine succulents and seem to thrive in cold temperatures, low or strong light – but don’t like the wet. Their flowers feature narrow aster-like petals on oversized inflorescences.

Echeverias are regarded as one of the most attractive succulents.  


They form fleshy, blue-green rosettes (some with pink edges) which offset readily, so they can quickly bulk up in number.  Although they are generally frost tolerant, they are not as hardy as Sempervivums.  Conversely, they can tolerate heat better. Most Echeverias flower yearly, the flowers are bell-shaped, often orange-red and borne on arching stems.


Most succulents can be propagated from leaf cuttings.  Remove a leaf from a plant and leave for a day or two to allow the wound to callous over before planting – this helps to stop rotting.  Then put upright and base side down into gritty compost (it needs sharp drainage).  Place on to a sunny windowsill – the high light levels assist rooting – and keep the soil slightly damp, but not wet.  Many new plants can be created using this method – it takes a couple of months.

Some plants can get leggy (e.g. Aeoniums).  When this happens, cut off the leggy top to leave a couple of inches of stem at the base.  Remove some of the leaves, then make a clean cut at the bottom of the stem and gently push into gritty compost.  Any stem material left over can be chopped into one or two inch pieces, and laid horizontally on to the top of the compost.  New plants will grow from the nodes.  

Both Echeverias and Sempervivums produce offsets which can also be removed and planted up.  Keep them in a sheltered position at five degrees or above.

Plant I.D.

Aucuba Japonica


Commonly called the spotted or Japanese laurel, it is an evergreen shrub.  Most plants sold are female and produce red berries if pollinated.  It will tolerate deep shade and can brighten a difficult corner in the garden and so especially useful in the winter.   Aucubas are bombproof, drought tolerant and long-living.  Most form a rounded bush reaching 6 – 9ft within 5 – 7 years.  They can be pruned back easily.  

Echium Pininana –  also called tree echium and giant viper’s bugloss.


This tender plant is native to La Palma in the Canary Islands and provides a tropical flavour in any sheltered border.  In its first year it forms a low rosette of silver, hairy, spear-like leaves and the following year produces a single 13 ft. flower spike covered in blue funnel-shaped flowers.  The plant dies after flowering, but scatters seed which may germinate.  Ventnor Botanic Gardens on the Isle of Wight has many specimens.

Hesperanthus – (formerly known as ‘Schizostylis’).


Commonly known as the Kaffir Lily, this comes from South Africa. The genus name comes from the Greek “hesperos” meaning “evening” and “anthos” meaning “flower”.  This clump-forming plant is a semi-evergreen perennial which grows from rhizomes.  It has sword-shaped leaves and spikes of starry flowers (pink, scarlet/red or white) from summer to late autumn.  60cms in height, it grows best on a sheltered site in full sun and in fertile, well-drained soil.

Lorapetalum – also known as the Chinese Fringe Flower.


This evergreen, free-flowering shrub produces clusters of bright pink flowers with thin strap-like petals at the end of short branches.  Flowering takes place in winter and early spring.  Related to witch- hazel, it does well in a pot. Grows best in fertile but well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade, with protection in the winter.

Acacia Baileyana


A large graceful evergreen shrub which grows to approx. 6 metres, it has fern-like silvery- grey leaves and racemes of small rounded yellow flower heads in winter and spring.  It requires a sunny, warm, sheltered position.  Common names are cootamundra wattle and golden mimosa.

Jobs in the garden this week.

  • Planting bulbs under the willow arch and removing topsoil from two large pots and planting with fresh bulbs.  Planting more white crocuses on the left-hand side of the willow arch.  


  • Planting tulips in groups of 5s and 7s on the right-hand side of the terraced beds and continuing to plant in the bed behind the hawthorn hedge.  


  • Planting alliums in the rose-arch bed.  


  • Removing succulents from a couple of window boxes, adding gritty compost and planting bulbs in their place.


  • Planting narcissi bulbs in olive tree bed in 5s or 7s.


  • Removing begonias from boxes and replanting with tulip bulbs.
  • Planting hydrangeas (cuttings of ‘Annabelle’) under the silver birch by the pond.
  • Taking out the cornus (dogwood) stems, then plant crocuses underneath the witch hazels near the Summer House.Creating new vegetable beds.  In addition, taking out the salvias and lining them up by the greenhouse behind the raspberries to protect them over the winter.   Cuttings of Salvia ‘Amistad’ were also taken.  It was noted Rosa ‘Chevy Chase’ also needs pruning.





Friday 24th November


We said goodbye to the 80 year old Sycamore tree in the corner of the garden today.  Sadly it has had to be felled as its roots were destabilising a neighbour’s wall and there were concerns that the wall may crumble and take the tree down with it.  However, the situation has provided us with an opportunity to bring more light into the garden and  with it, new views and perspectives.

Plant I.D.

Cyclamen coum


These little spring bulbs grow well in lightly-shaded areas, eg. under deciduous trees but they also look lovely planted up in pots.  They prefer soil which is kept quite moist during the summer and this can be helped by top dressing once the blooms have withered away.  The leaves of Cyclamen coum are rounded with a silver marbling on the upper surface.  They differ from Cyclamen hederifolium which are known as ivy-leaved cyclamen.

Daphne odura ‘Aureomarginata’ or golden edged winter daphne


This is a compact, evergreen shrub with dark green leathery leaves edged with yellow and fragrant pinkish-purply flowers in early spring.  It is slow-growing and a reputation for being quite difficult to cultivate. It doesn’t take kindly to replanting.  However, it will do well in moisture-retentive soil in a sheltered position in sun or partial shade.

Abutilon ‘Kentish Belle’


This is a compact, semi-evergreen shrub which prefers a south-faciing position.  It has triangular-ovate leaves and bell-shaped orange-yellow flowers.  It can be pruned in spring to prevent it from becoming too congested.

Hellebore foetidus or stinking hellebore


This is an evergreen shrub with red-tinged erect stems which grow to 60cm.  Its pale green flowers are edged with purple and are borne in large open clusters from late winter.  They grow best in a sheltered position in moist, humus-rich soil in partial shade. It should be mulched annually during autumn.

Sarcococca confusa or sweet box


This bushy, evergreen shrub with glossy, deep-green, ovate leaves has sweetly scented creamy-coloured flowers in early spring followed by shiny black berries. It does best in humus-rich soil in a shade position.  However, it will cope with pollution and dry shade.

Uncinia rubra or red hook sedge


This perennial evergreen sedge has striped reddish-green leaves.  It grows to 30cm and has dark flower spikes during summer.  It does best in partial shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Jobs this week

  • Bulb-planting was ongoing to ensure a gorgeous display next spring, particularly in the Top Garden (white crocus and alliums), Lil’s Bed, the bed outside the Garden Room and the terraced areas, (Tulipa ‘Paul Shearer’).
  • Tidying and refreshing Little Dixter.
  • Training a cherry tree on to a frame at the back of the greenhouse.
  • Continuing to prune the roses over the arches and spreading manure around them.
  • General tidying of the greenhouse and the area around it.



Friday 17th November


Today we went and gardened with Elaine in her lovely garden in Woodingdean.  The sky was blue, the sun shone down on us and we spent a great morning soaking up those beautiful sea views, eating delicious cakes (thank you Elaine!) and of course working very hard….

We all came armed with trugs, an assortment of pruning equipment, forks, spades, etc. ready for the morning ahead.


The main jobs to tackle involved clearing Elaine’s herbaceous beds in readiness for replanting next spring.

Some heavy pruning on a couple of large shrubs and small trees.


Sorting out the compost.

The creation of a winter bed.


And the clearing of a grassy area in the front garden in prearation for spring bulbs and some sort of hedging perhaps. 


While we were there, Elaine took delivery of a massive heap of manure which we spread liberally over all the beds we had been working on during the morning.


And then it was time for a well-earned rest and cake!


Friday 10th November


We started today with a demonstration by Bridge of how to plant narcissi bulbs for a stunning indoor display to brighten up the house over the winter months. Bridge planted Narcissi Paperwhites


However, lovely alternatives are Narcissi ‘Avalanche’ which have flowers growing all up the stems.


Or Narcissi Grand Soleil d’Or


Bridge put grit mixed with a little compost in a wide glass bowl.  However, she has also used jam jars which look lovely all grouped together.  The bulbs were placed in the bowl about a centimetre apart and put in a cool place so that the bulbs don’t grow too quickly.  Once the green shoots are established, the bulbs will be brought in to the house where they will grow at a much faster rate and bloom in seven weeks time.

Plant I.D.

The ident today concentrated on conifers which have gradually come back into fashion in recent years.  Bridge mentioned the amazing conifers at Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk where some of us were lucky enough to visit in the summer.

Ginkgo biloba 


Ginkgos are deciduous gymnosperms which are plants whose seeds are not encased in an ovary unlike angiosperms which are plants which produce seeds within an enclosure – in other words are fruiting plants.  Their seeds have been found in fossils dating back millions of years and are one of the only plants to have survived the Hiroshima atomic explosion.  They are very good at soaking up pollution and so are a good choice in city gardens.  Their fan-shaped and bilobed leaves turn a lovely buttery yellow in autumn before falling.

Thuja plicata ‘Zebrina’ – Western Red Cedar ‘Zebrina’


These trees have flat, aromatic sprays of leaves which produce small knobbly cones. They can growm higher than 12 metres and are often used as hedging.

Cryptomeria japonica – Japanese cedar


These large evergreen trees have a conical habit and change colour from dark green to red in the autumn.

Juniperus scopolorum ‘Skyrocket’ – Rocky Mountain juniper ‘Skyrocket’



These are narrow columnar evergreens which have grey-green foliage and grow to approximately six metres.  Junipers in general incuding Juniperus communis are good in coastal gardens and can come in all shapes and sizes.  However, care should be taken when handling the leaves as they may cause skin irritation.

Pinus sylvestris – Scots Pine


These large majestic trees can grow up to 25 m.  They have distinctive grey-green needles and can produce large cones of 5cm in length.

Taxus baccata – English yew


These medium-sized evergreen trees can be bushy in shape if not kept clipped.  They have very dark evergreen leaves and produce small flowers, followed by red fruits on the female plants.

Jobs this week:

  • Planting broad beans and onion and garlic sets in pots.  Sets tend to do better than onion and garlic seeds in cooler climates.


  • Continuing to plant foxgloves and tulip bulbs underneath the arches.


  • Pruning jasmine and climbing roses over the arches.


  • Working on Little Dixter – planting crocus and Iris reticulata bulbs in pots ready for a pretty spring display.
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  • Preparing the bed next to the green house for an espaliered cherry tree and rhubarb.  All the nasturtiums needed to be ripped out and the ground dug over.
  • Clearing out of the long rhubarb bed, replacing with wallflowers and tulip bulbs.


  • Planting euphorbias in the tulip beds near the greenhouse, along with black hollyhocks and sea stocks.
  • Planting tulip bulbs on Lil’s bed 


  • Emptying containers in the Top Garden of all their summer bedding and replacing that with tulip bulbs, heucheras and violas.


All in all, a lovely day in the garden preparing for next next year’s delights!

Friday 3rd November

It was great to be back at the garden today after a prolonged break.  We spent a while catching up on Bridge’s Garden House trip to Japan which sounds amazing and we also discussed how we all got on working in each other’s gardens a couple of weeks ago.

With a change to our normal Friday mornings,  we started off by learning how to sharpen our secateurs when Ian Swain dropped in to give us a talk on how to look after our garden tools.

I think Ian put us all to shame when talking about how we should be caring for our trusty forks and spades.  When you consider how much we use them and what we expect of them, perhaps we should treat them with a little more respect.  Many thanks Ian for a very informative workshop.

No plant ident to day.  However we wasted no time in getting outside brandishing our newly-sharpened sectors.

Jobs this week:

  • Cleaning up last year’s tulip bulbs ready for planting.
  • Sorting out the compost.


  • Preparing the large terracotta pots for planting.  Broken-up pieces of polystyrene were placed in each pot and the pots were then planted with heucheras, pansies and Tulipa Ronaldo bulbs.
  • Clearing the bed outside the greenhouse  and replanting with allium and pink tulip bulbs.  IMG_0441.JPG
  • Deadheading chrysanthemums and planting-up of new ones in the greenhouse as well as taking care of any weeding that needed doing.  Planting cuttings of Erysimum ‘Bowles Purple’ into trays which were then placed on the heated propagator beds.IMG_0439.JPG
  • Preparing Lil’s Bed for tulip planting.
  • Planting out crocuses on the Winter Bed.
  • Planting apricot foxgloves under the arches along with red tulip bulbs.
  • Planting more tulip bulbs in the old veg bed.
  • Clearing the Hot Bed in readiness for a new fruit cage.
  • Pruning the jasmine which trails over the arches.


  • Tidying up Little Dixter and adding to the display with newly planted ferns.  The Pelargoniums were placed in the potting shed for their winter hibernation.



Friday 20th October

As we often do around this time of year, today we split into small groups and worked in Friday Group members’ gardens for the morning:

In Sarah’s garden in sunny Lewes…

“Thank you to my superstar gardeners and Jane for lovely cake.  Here are some pics of work in progress…”

And lovely photos from Julia’s garden in Hove..

Meanwhile, over on Pat’s allotment…

“A good time was had by all and some useful clearing got done as well as admiring the views and eating cake!”.






Back in Hove, I was lucky enough to have a fabulous team helping me out in my garden.  Lil and Katie planted my Tulip bulbs in large pots (the first time before December in years!); Christian did a great job at pruning back the overgrown Vibernum and Prunus shrubs as well as my Rosa Mme. Alfred Carriere which was very out of control;  he also lifted the canopy on a large Cotinus which looks much better now.  Finally, my team planted up a Mahonia aquilfolium and Hellebores in my shady bed.  Thank you so much – everything looks great and now I’m inspired to get the rest of my garden in order over the winter months.

And last but not least, a team spent the morning helping Tabby in her Hove garden.  Mary wrote:

We had a geat time in Tabby’s garden in Hove! Tabby’s cakes excelled, the sun shone, we chatted happily and got loads done. Loved it!

This just about summed up everyone’s mornings I think.  Always fun to experience other people’s spaces as every one of them is different and we’re always learning.  Half term next Friday but we’ll look forward to returning to the garden the week after with plenty to talk about.

Friday 13th October


Unlucky for some but we had a great Friday in the garden last week.

Following on from our discussion the previous week about the pricking out of hardy annuals, Bridge showed us how to take semi-ripe cuttings of eg. salvias, argyranthemum, verbena.  Semi-ripe cuttings are usually carried out during late summer – early autumn when the base of the cutting is hardening but the non-flowering tip is still soft.

It is best to take cuttings in the morning to avoid wilting and these should be kept in a plastic bag until you are ready to carry out the process.  Shoots which are more horizontal in habit with short gaps between the leaves make good material for semi-ripe cuttings.  Trim the cuttings to 10 -15cm in length, cutting just below a leaf joint (node).  Remove the bottom leaves and the soft tips as all the energy is needed for the growth of new roots.

Using a dibber, place the cuttings in a suitable container filled with half compost mixed with half perlite or vermiculite (to provide good drainage) and water well.

Place the cuttings in a greenhouse or cold frame.  Alternatively, cover with a plastic bag and put in a warm, bright postion out of direct sunlight.  The compost should be kept damp but not allowed to become waterlogged.  The cuttings should take around six weeks to root if provided with “bottom heat”, ie. a heated propagator.

The cuttings should be ready to harden off during the following May and planted out next summer.

Our Plant ID on Friday concentrated on plants which are tolerant of coastal conditions:

Tamarisk sp.



This is a deciduous tree with light feaathery leaves and racemes of tiny pink or white flowers in late spring.



This slow-growing evergreen shrub is great for hedging and clipping.  It is often used for flower-arranging with its mainly deep purple (sometimes yellow) blooms during the winter.

Phormium ‘Alison Blackman’


This medium shrub (growing to 1.2m) has stunning leaf markings and will tolerate partial shade in moist well-drained soil.

Griselenia Littoralis


This fast-growing evergreen shrub is fantastic for hedging with bright green ovate leaves.  It has yellow-green very small flowers in spring, followed in the autumn by purple fruits on female plants where both sexes are grown together.

Elaeagnus x ebbingei


This dense evergreen shrub has broad, leathery, dark green leaves which are silvery underneath and produces fragrant white flowers in autumn.

Jobs this week:

  • Taking semi-ripe and hard-wood cuttings.
  • Tending to raspberries in pots.IMG_0407.JPG
  • Sowing sweet peas in root trainers.


  • Potting on hard wood cuttings into long pots.
  • Clearing the strawberry bed.IMG_0408.JPG
  • Continuing to prune Rosa Cecile Brunner – I think we’re there now!
  • Continuing to clear Lil’s bed in readiness for bulb-planting in earnest when we return from our half term break.


  • Clearing away nepeta and geraniums from underneath the arches in readiness for bulb-planting.


  • Collecting lavender sprigs to prepare cuttings.


  • Making a London Pride hedge under the espaliered apples.IMG_0409.JPG
  • Making a hanging basket with ferns.

We’ll be back in a few weeks when we return from our half term break.


A weekly account of the activities of the Friday Gardening Group at the Garden House in Brighton