Friday 13th May 2022

Unlucky for some…. but not for one esteemed Friday Group colleague. F/G are off to work in her garden.

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to Lewes we go – complete with trugs, spades, garden forks, saws. You name it, we’ve got it.

It’s a very attractive garden already – and with great potential. Plans have been made by Bridge and Deborah in collaboration with the owner

But first, the all important caffeine hit.

There are beds to weed and plants to clear

One or two branches to be removed from a thicket of Sumac

Soil to be improved with soil conditioner, compost and leaf mould

A new wheelbarrow will earn its keep –

Briefing commences and jobs are allocated

It’s a serious project and we all pay close attention

Well, close-ish attention

The final details are mulled over

then it’s all systems go

Salvias and a Sarcococca are taken out for planting elsewhere. Geranium phaeum ‘Lisa’ and G. phaeum ‘Samobor’ go in, along with Gaura lindheimeri and Alchemilla mollis

Eyes down

and up-tails all

Pruning and shaping; cut Lilac back, move Jasminium nudiflorum and just look what’s happening to that Ribes shrub by the fence –

Tamed!

Soil improved and Heuchera obsidian added plus Geum, Pittosporum, Helenium and Alchemilla

Removing turves to widen the beds

Immersive weeding, removing Bindweed and our old favourite, Ground Elder

Bucketloads of barrowing – soil conditioner, compost, pukka muck

and a spot of leaf mould too

That should help improve things. Plant Vinca minor ‘Alba’ to add to the green and white vibe, Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’, Helleborus, Astrantia….

Not forgetting to add goodness to each planting hole plus some organic pelleted chicken manure

Lovely stuff

Timber!

For every cut, there is a clearance

The pond unearthed. Yellow flag iris removed and geraniums culled

You have to be cruel to be kind

Should be fine. (Fingers crossed.)

And gradually, gradually, it all starts coming together…

The Choisya bed’s looking choice

And this is gorgeous!

Well, thank you!

You too, of course. But that new tree is Malus ‘Gorgeous’. And there’s also Rosa ‘Albertine’, Clematis ‘Etoile Rose’, Grasses and some fab Heuchera ‘Autumn Bride’

Flow

It’s a design thing

Beds improved

More light on the subject

Water, water, water

Time for a celebratory Group Photo

Woohoo!

Hard work

and a lot of fun

Well done, team!

Friday 6th May 2022

This week Friday Group set off for Laughton in East Sussex to work for the morning at Pelham Plants – a wonderful nursery owned by Paul Seaborne, a long-time friend of Garden House.

An opportunity to work in a very special garden under the eagle eye of a fantastic plantsman. Daunting, but exciting.

We congregate,

drink coffee and chat

and are welcomed by Paul, who’s been busy selling his plants at various Plant Fairs recently. That’s in addition to running the nursery, propagating plants, and managing a sizeable garden as well.

Good job The Fab Friday Group are here to lend a hand!

We set off around the garden to discover some amazing plants and also what tasks he has in store for us. And, right at the entrance to the garden, we’re greeted by this –

Malus transitoria

What a tree! Exquisite blossom in profusion and small, ovate leaves which turn yellow in the autumn. Will grow in most soils. Ht. 4-8 m. It’s pretty much the first thing we see and it’s immediately on everybody’s ‘All the Plants I Covet’ list.

Euphorbia epithymoides ‘Midas’

Paul describes this as ‘aptly named’ due to its vivid lime-gold bracts, which emerge in late spring. An easy plant, which likes a partially shaded site, it’s quite unassuming in its habit – but is nevertheless considered a ‘must-have’ by Pelham Plants. Buy, plant, enjoy.

Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’

This one is at Peak Performance Point. Gloriously showy, with white blossom held on horizontal, tiered branches and prominently veined, dark green oval leaves which turn purple in the autumn. This deciduous shrub will grow in most situations, but is clearly flourishing in the fertile clay soil here. A.G.M. Ht. 2.5 – 4 m

Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile

A deciduous shrub which, in the spring, is covered in small, snowball-like clusters of white flowers. The fresh green leaves develop autumnal tints later in the season. Best planted in full sun to partial shade in fertile, moist, well-drained soil. A good, ornamental shrub, attractive to pollinators. A.G.M. Ht. 5 m

Camassia leichtlinii subsp. suksdorfii ‘Electra’

The label reads as follows: ‘Rarely offered 1 m tall hybrid with electric-blue flowers. Its vigour and sterility lends itself to safely planting mid-border.’ The fact that the plant is sterile means that it doesn’t produce seeds and is therefore not cross pollinated by other Camassias. Individual star-like flowers grow up the stem of each plant, and the bulbs flourish best in rich, damp, heavy soils. This cultivar is twice the size of other varieties. Plant deeply in borders or maybe naturalise them in an area of rough grass.

Acer griseum

The Paperbark Maple, so- called because its cinnamon-brown bark peels away from the trunk like paper, leaving brighter chestnut-red wood beneath. When lit by the sun, the bark glows, becoming almost translucent. A good four-season tree, which grows particularly well on clay soils. A.G.M. Ht 6 – 9 m.

Friday Group in full learning mode

The tour of the garden takes in the nursery as well –

complete with polytunnels

Jobs for the day

Weeding. Adding leaf mould to beds. Planting. Sowing. Potting on.

(This all sounds quite familiar!)

On your marks, get set –

GO!

But, the question on everyone’s lips is…. does he stop for cake?

Of course he does. He’s a gardener!

This is a job we excel at

Back to it – there’s work to be done –

Looks biblical!

Removing Spanish Bluebells and deadheading English Narcissi

Potloads of planting

Removing forget-me-nots; not forgetting to leave seeds behind for next year’s display

Nearly there!

What’s that interesting-looking shed there on the right? It’s in such a beautiful setting

It’s a private privy for plants-people. Complete with a very appropriate wash basin…

We all want one of those too

Just time to explore the nursery in more detail – leading to the inevitable retail experience

Ah! There’s that Camassia!

Not to mention Actaea, Achillea, Aconitum, Agapanthus, Agastache, Allium….. and that’s just the ‘A’ group. Oh, heck.

A wonderful time was had by all. Huge thanks to Paul for a great morning.

Friday 29th April 2022

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These Tulips are putting the zing into spring

A fine day for it, and Friday Group are ready for action. We’re all delighted at the news that the recent Garden House opening for the National Gardens Scheme was so successful; over £2,000 was raised for charity. Marvellous.

The hot news is that work on the landscaping for the new Dry Garden is really and truly underway.

Cripes!

The lawn has gone. Turves are neatly stacked and will rot down into compost, and piles of topsoil are heading to pastures new. Or to make new pastures. A new edging wall has been built –

And the heavy plant is in place, awaiting further activity

It’s all very exciting

Lots for Friday Group to crack on with, but first….it’s the

Plant Ident.

Anthriscus sylvestris

The fabulous frothiness of Cow Parsley (or Queen Anne’s Lace) is now evident along roadside verges and at the edges of woodland and fields. Beautiful to behold at this time of year, it’s so rampant that it is not generally grown in gardens intentionally. It produces such quantities of seed that it is regarded as a nuisance and a weed, rather than something to be cultivated. However, it is a lovely feature of the British countryside at this time of year, and something to be celebrated.

A pretty form of Anthriscus sylvestris exists called ‘Ravenswing’. The foliage is lacy and dark purple, and contrasts well with the creamy-white flowers. This form is desirable and garden-worthy!

Plectranthus argentatus

A tender perennial which is invaluable for use in containers from late spring onward. It’s a stunning plant with soft, silvery stems and foliage and produces small, tubular blue-white flower spikes in the summer. Like most tender perennials, it can easily be propagated from cuttings. Full sun.

Nemesia

A wonderful bedding plant from which cuttings can be taken to increase stock. This one will spread and trail, ideal for a pot or basket – or it can be used as an edging plant in a border. Partial – full sun. Keep this (and the two below) well watered and feed regularly for optimum pizzazz.

Bidens

This tender perennial has a bright white, daisy-like flower. A great choice for hanging baskets or pots, where it will provide the filler/spiller element in a planting scheme. Take cuttings! Full sun.

Trailing Verbena

Another fantastic annual bedding plant which produces masses of flowers over a long period. Ideal in pots. Full sun, but will enjoy a little afternoon shade if possible.

Topic for the week

Taking cuttings from tender perennials

Now is a good time to start tackling this job, as many of them will require cutting back in order to keep them bushy. This will create a lot of plant material which can be turned into cuttings – or ‘free plants’, as we like to call them.

Using sharp snips, cut back neatly to just above a leaf joint; do this all over the plant to form a compact dome shape. Remove all dead, twiggy material as well. (See the Salvia plant, above.)

To root the cuttings, take a non-flowering piece of stem and cut just below a leaf joint. Remove the lower leaves and plant around the edge of an FP7 in a potting mix of compost and perlite. Up to 5 cuttings can be placed in the pot. Place on a heated mat or in a heated propagator on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. Alternatively, put a plastic cover over the pot (e.g. the top half of a bottle or a plastic bag). This will encourage rooting. Leave for a couple of weeks, and hey presto!

Jobs for the week

Pot up the plants which have been removed from the area which is going to be the Dry Garden. Use the available topsoil. Some of the plants will need tidying up and cutting back to prevent legginess.

Remove spent Tulips from pots

The gardening year continues, and although the Tulips have been upstanding and outstanding, many of them are now over. Some varieties are particularly beautiful in the last stages of their performance.

T. ‘Exotic Emperor’ marks its grand finale with a flourish

They need to be deadheaded and turned out of their pots. Leave the foliage on the bulbs, which can then be planted deep in garden borders. Alternatively, dry and store them in a cool, dark environment until next year.

Plant out Sweet Peas, please

…on your hands and knees

These are going in the little sitting area near the Cathedral Greenhouse. Imagine the scent in the summer as you sit there sipping your morning coffee

Pull out Spanish Bluebells

Much coarser than the native English Bluebell, Spanish Bluebells have strap-like leaves and their bells grow all around the stem. They are invasive, and spread like crazy.

English bluebells, on the other hand, have slender leaves and only have bells on one side of the stem, which is what gives them their delicate, drooping habit. See below –

First, hunt down your Sp. Bluebells

Then pull/dig them out – ideally taking the wretched bulb too.

They are dastardly things to shift. Tenacity, brute force and determination are essential.

But slow and steady wins the race!

Stop for cake

It’s the law

Cut back tender perennials – and make cuttings

Best to collect all your cuttings in a moist plastic bag to prevent them from drying out. Like so –

Prick out seedlings in greenhouse

It’s a production line at this time of year. Dianthus ‘Chianti’ needs pricking out, as do the Mina lobata seedlings and, and, and…

Check on the Pelargoniums

Tidy them up; remove dead, diseased, dying material; feed; water.

Check. Check. Check.

Check

Pot on young plants taken from the coldframes

Such as the Verbascums

All ready to start!

Now, what about these two? Are they potting on? Or just playing up?

It looks as if they’re about to make mud-castles.

Someone had better keep an eye on them

Everything in the garden’s lovely. And there’s more to look forward to

Happiness is being in the garden

Friday 22nd April 2022

Cydonia oblonga, the Quince tree, is in full flower at Garden House. Nature’s way of reminding you to save all your empty jam jars now, ready for the benison to come in the autumn.

That’s if you actually managed to eat all the quince cheese you made from last year’s bountiful crop…

Plant ident.

Brought to us today courtesy of Paul Seaborne of Pelham Plants fame. A Nursery not to be missed.

Geum ‘Princess Juliana’

Geums are popular herbaceous plants which develop mounds of neat, dense foliage. Apricot-orange semi-double flowers are held on tall, wiry stems from April/May through to August. A great plant for the spring-early summer border. H. 70 cms

Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Rote Glocke’

Pelham Plants describes this as the reddest of purple Pasqueflowers. Restrain yourself from dead-heading it, as you’ll want to enjoy the fluffy seedheads later on, and maybe even collect the seeds. ‘Pasque’ relates to Easter time, and it is sometimes known as ‘the Anemone of Passiontide’ for this reason. Loves chalky soils. Plant in full sun.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’

Honestly, it’s ‘Honesty’. Rich burgundy-black leaves and seed pods contrast with glowing lilac-purple flowers. An easy biennial with decorative papery seed cases forming later. A fantastic choice for the spring garden; looks stunning with a froth of forget-me-nots around its feet and offset by a few white Honesty plants planted nearby. A must-have.

Osteospermum compactum ‘Irish’

Fantastic in a container or on a sunny bank. Needs well-drained conditions. Low growing silvery-grey foliage contrasts with bright purple/pink daisy-like flowers from late spring through to autumn. Compact in habit. Good in poor, sandy or gravel soils; it thrives in full sun in the summer. Hardy in well-drained soil. Ht 30 cms.

Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’

Large, scarlet-orange flowers provide a hit of rich colour at this time of year. This form is a sterile hybrid and is an introduction from 2016 by Elizabeth MacGregor; reliable and repeat-flowering. Grow in moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Deadhead regularly. 50 – 60 cms

One wonders if there is a Mr MacGregor, and whether this plant is rabbit-proof? Peter Rabbit would know.

Jobs for the week

This weekend the garden is opening for the National Garden Scheme on both Saturday and Sunday. The call has gone out for plates of cakes (please), and for many hands to make light work of the refreshment stall.

And for Friday Group, today is all about preparation. We call it a V.E. Day, as the aim is to provide the perfect Visitor Experience.

But, oh dear! We’ve already been diverted by the tantalisingly tempting plants set out and ready to sell on the Pelham Plants stall.

Prick out seedlings

Artichokes looking good in the top right of the picture

An esteemed Friday Grouper looking good in the centre of the picture

And lots of little seedlings coming on a treat all over the picture

Clean the Cathedral Greenhouse until it gleams

Gleaming!

Tidy the top garden

Glue individual petals back onto Tulips. (The recent windy conditions have taken their toll on some of the early flowerers.) Spray fully flowered Tulips with hairspray to maintain the display for as long as possible. Caution: these techniques are not widely recognised; do not try this at home.

Deadhead, feed and water the Pelargoniums in the upper greenhouse.

Little Dixter

Tidy and sweep area. Prettify the pots

Plant out Sweet Peas

These are Lathyrus ‘Mollie Rilstone’

Plant around the base of the finely crafted Sweet Pea Teepee. It’s a woven wonder.

Weed the cut flower bed and plant out more hardy annuals

General V.E. titivation

To encompass deadheading, weeding, sweeping paths and under no circumstances looking longingly at the plants for sale.

Meticulous weeding going on here

A beautifully posed reminder that perennial weeds go into a black trug for the garden recycling bin. Not into garden compost.

Pots being prettified

Beds weeded. Paths swept

The Boiled Sweets Tulip Bed

Looking delicious!

Peak pink perfection in a pot

And here are some photos from the N.G.S. opening. Photos courtesy of a genius photographer from the Fantastic Friday Forum….

A happy weekend was enjoyed by all

Friday 1st April 2022

Snowy Mespilus living up to its name

Well, guess what? April Fool’s Day, and it did indeed snow! Some couldn’t believe their eyes, tails, paws or whiskers –

And then, the next minute, the sun came out and lit up the Great White Cherry –

We do love the dear old British weather

Plant ident.

Prunus spinosa

Blackthorn. The hedgerows are frothing with it right now. Ebullient, uplifting, its appearance announces that spring has sprung. The branches are often decorated by lichen which thrives on its nutrient-rich bark. Sometimes mistaken for Hawthorn (which flowers later, in May), the Blackthorn’s white blossoms flower on bare wood before the leaves emerge. Fleeting, but gorgeous, and followed later by Sloe berries, used to make Sloe gin. A strange name for a drink which disappears so fast.

Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’

Honesty. Stunning blue/purple flowers which are almost irridescent. Seems to be virtually perennial. Continues to please over a long period, as the papery seed cases, which form later, are beautifully decorative.

Another sought-after variety is Lunaria ‘Chedglow’, with outstanding deep chocolate/burgundy foliage, dark lilac flowers and magenta stems. A stunner.

As well as being a caterpillar plant food, Lunaria is good for attracting bees, butterflies and moths. It has nectar /pollen rich flowers. Ht. 0.9 cms

Euphorbia myrsinites

A semi-prostrate perennial, with close-set leaves spiralling from base to tip. Flowers with the usual panache of Euphorbias, having vivid, acid green/yellow bracts. Quirky and architectural. Needs full sun and good drainage. Ideal for a dry/gravel garden. Beware the milky sap which can be toxic.

Pachyphragma macrophyllum

Single, pure white flowers appear in a domed form from late winter. This attractive plant is described as having a slow, dense, creeping habit (we know people like that). Pelham Plants say that it is one of the most underrated, shady, evergreen groundcover plants they grow. If it’s recommended by them, then it’s worth getting five of them immediately. Ht. 30 cms

Epimedium ex ‘Spine Tingler’

Raised from seed taken from the strong and reliable E. ‘Spine Tingler’. Copes with dry shade once established, and therefore invaluable, although it prefers a moist, well-drained soil. A low-growing, evergreen perennial with lance-shaped leaves which emerge bronze-red in colour. Sprays of long-spurred, pale lemon flowers dance over the leaves in April/May. Cut back in late winter, before the new flower stems emerge. Pelham Plants comment? “Should be interesting.” Watch this space. Ht. to 50 cms

Anemone nemorosa

Commonly known as Windflower, it’s a spring showstopper. Go into mature woodland anytime now to enjoy carpets of these beautiful wild flowers. They grow in deciduous woods and flower before the leaf canopy develops overhead and reduces the light. Star-shaped petals surround golden-yellow anthers, and green leaves offset the beetroot-coloured stems. Wood Anemones are ancient-woodland-indicator plants, signifying that the area is a rare and special habitat. Legend suggests they were named for the Anemoi, the four Greek gods of the wind, who used the flowers as harbingers of spring.

It’s a busy time in the garden right now. Seed-sowing, potting-on, planning pots for later, cutting back, feeding, planting, making plant supports, cosseting and caring for the precious compost heap. It’s all going on.

Jobs for the week

Cut back Jasmine on arch

Before it engulfs everything in its path.

Plant Gladioli corms

These are Acidanthera, or Gladiolus murielae. Graceful late summer gems, which have wonderful, white, starry-shaped flowers with purple central markings. The elongated leaves are sword-shaped. Lovely in borders and in pots, they also make an excellent cut flower. Scented. Plant in trays in the greenhouse to get them going – they’ll respond well to a little warmth. Nerine bulbs can also be planted now.

Feed Auriculas and Pelargoniums

We’re talking organic liquid seaweed or, alternatively, worm leachate – the liquid which drains off from a bin full of worms. Liquid gold. Dilute in water in a ratio of 1:10. Plants love it.

Sow seeds

There’s all sorts going in today

Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’, Tithonia, Orlaya grandiflora, Heliotrope ‘Marine’, Rudbeckia and Nicotiana. It’s going to look beautiful. Hold off for another week or so on quick-growers like Cosmos, Tagetes and Zinnias, or you’ll be swamped by seedlings all jostling for your attention.

And as she sows, it snows

Cripes! What the hecky decky is that? Oh – Amaranthus Tricolor ‘Splendens Perfecta’? Obvs.

Plant new Jasmine in pot. Make a support for it

Cut back Salvias, Lavenders etc

This job is largely centred on the herb beds. All sorts of Mediterranean plants can be cut back, Salvias, Lavenders, Phlomis, Ballota and Artemisia amongst others – although watch out for cold spells. (Like now!) Count back to 2 shoots from the ground and prune at this point. Sounds harsh, but they need a firm hand to prevent them from becoming spindly and leggy. This will keep them nice and bushy. Unless you’ve killed them.

Well, it’s no good telling us that now. We’ve just cut them all back!

Take cuttings from the prunings or use the herbs in your next culinary cook-up.

We ache for Cake Break

Thirsts and appetites slaked! Thanks to a ripping raspberry, blueberry and lime drizzle cake and a marvellously, marbled marble cake. That’s Friday Group for you!

Plant out spent indoor Hyacinth bulbs and Lunaria

These look well spent

There are no short-cuts when it comes to adding extra va-va-va-voom to the garden

Hang on, where’s she going?

Ah. Taking a short-cut to the plants

Some are more risk averse, thank goodness, and have read the G/H Health and Safety Manual (951 pages).

Alpine sinks

Weed, tidy, re-grit surfaces. Plant Thrift and Alpine Crocus. Take cuttings from alpines and place immediately into plastic bags to prevent them drying out before planting them.

Sempervivums and Succulents

These can be used in alpine troughs to great effect too. Add some slates and grit to top it all off and you have a display fit for Chelsea.

Pruning

Cut back Phygelius and hardy Fuchsias to about 10 cms from the ground. Again, watch out for extended cold spells – you may need to throw some horticultural fleece over the newly-shorn shrubs just for safety’s sake. Use the cuttings to propagate new plants. Waste not, want not.

Feed plants after pruning. Pelleted chicken manure is just fine.

Cut back the stems of established Cornus before the new leaves come through. Either cut all stems hard back, or take out one third of the stems every year. Propagate new plants from the prunings, or use them to weave decorative edgings on obelisks, wigwams or in borders. Or, let the inner florist in you run amok –

Oh, I say.

We may have had four seasons in one day, but here at Garden House you can always find sunshine in a pot.

Friday 25th March 2022

Here are some of the Dahlias and annuals we’re going to be growing this year at Garden House.

Let’s look at the choice of Dahlias in closer detail –

Plant ident.

Dahlias

There was a time when these fabulous plants were somewhat neglected by regular gardeners. Perhaps because they were seen as complicated things to deal with – and only worth growing by Mrs Cholmondley-Smythe at The Manor for Withering-in-the-Water’s Annual Village Show. Thankfully, in recent years, they have come roaring back into fashion.

Nowadays it’s thought that unless you have very hard ground frosts, it’s feasible to leave Dahlias in the ground from one season to the next. This is especially the case in warm, sheltered areas of the country. They should, however, be given a good dressing of mulch in the winter to provide extra protection.

When in bloom, keep picking the flowers to encourage greater floriferousnessesses. Apparently, their petals are edible!

Dahlia ‘Nicholas’

A Decorative. The colour moves from apricot at the outside of the flower head through to crimson at the centre.

Dahlia ‘Renato Tosio’

One of the Decorative group of Dahlias, with a wonderful starburst quality to its flowers. A soft, pinky-orange, it’s an early flowerer, starting in July and continuing to perform over a long period – often into November.

Dahlia ‘Josie’

Named for the Head Gardener at Perch Hill, Josie Lewis. Described as being brighter still than D. ‘Totally Tangerine’, it promises to be a winner. Anemone-type.

Dahlia ‘Sarah Raven’

An Anemone-type Dahlia, named after the famed gardener, cook and writer. Her catalogue describes this one as having ‘tall, straight ebony stems and a good vase life. Exceptional amounts of pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies. ‘ We’re sold.

Dahlia ‘Molly Raven’

A Decorative Dahlia: ‘Rich stripes and stipples over a soft coffee to pink petal base. The foliage and stems contrast perfectly to the flowers.’ Sounds scrumptious. Wonder if it could be made into ice cream?

Jobs for the week

Pot up Dahlia tubers

These are Dahlia tubers – not creatures from the Black Lagoon. Now is the time to start potting them up. Store in a sheltered place, somewhere light and frost free, keeping them moist but not soaking wet. Once the plants have reached about 20 cms, pinch out their growing tips. Only plant out into the garden after the last frosts.

Note: the last frost will be the one which comes the day after you have planted out your Dahlias

Continue planting on cut flower bed

The gardeners are camouflaged behind the architectural structure of the Olive tree, but they are busily planting seedlings of Dill and Beth’s Poppy.

Plant out hardy annuals

Add them to pots on the display area outside the greenhouse.

Plant out the forced Hyacinth bulbs

These Hyacinths have now finished flowering indoors. Remove the spent flower heads and plant the bulbs out into the garden. Leave the foliage to die back naturally; the leaves produce the energy the bulbs need to form next year’s flowers.

Sow salad seeds in boxes

Cover with cling film. The boxes, not the gardeners. This will speed germination.

Take time to look at the new growth in the garden

Adopt a romantic pose. Recite a few lines of poetry, should the mood take you.

There’s plenty to inspire us

Friday 18th March 2022

The third week in March… and the Tulips are beginning to pop!

Here are the magnificent Emperors in all their majestic glory – ‘Exotic’ and ‘Orange’

So, this week, it seemed appropriate to look at a few Tulips in the course of doing the Plant Ident.

Tulipa turkestanica

Guess its country of origin! This is one of the species Tulips and has been awarded an A.G.M. A wonderfully wild-looking flower, with a yellow centre and fragrance too. Can be left in the ground year-on-year and will eventually naturalise and spread. The seedpods are also attractive. Full sun and well-drained soil. Plant in quantity. H. 30 cms.

Tulipa ‘Exotic Emperor’

Semi-double, fragrant white flowers flamed with green are held on strong stems above sword-shaped leaves. It’s a stunner and looks wonderful in a bold planting as a single variety or, alternatively, to make a more dramatic statement, together with a contrasting colour such as yellow or orange. H. 30-40 cms

Chionodoxa forbesii ‘Pink Giant’

‘Glory of the Snow’. An early-flowering bulb, whose pink, star-shaped blooms fade towards the centre of each flower. Likes a well-drained soil in a sunny or partially shaded position, and naturalises well in lawns. Plant in groups for maximum impact. H. 15 cms

Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’

It’s a Grape Hyacinth, Jim, but not as we know it. This unusual variant is bi-coloured, starting off as a dusky purple, but developing yellow shades as the flowers open. Very free-flowering with a delicious scent – said to be like that of Gardenias. Fully hardy, it needs full sun. When clumps get congested, lift and divide in the autumn. Flowers April – May. Said to be deer and rabbit resistant. H. 10 cms

Jobs for the week

Dead head any bulbs which have finished flowering, but leave the foliage to die back naturally.

Seed sowing

No, it’s not enough to chuck a few seeds in and hope for the best. It’s all about careful preparation, planning and precision.

This will involve measuring

Running a string out to mark a straight line for the seed channel

And sowing seeds carefully and not too thickly. Then you’ll have plenty left over for later sowings to ensure a continuous supply of flowers right through to the end of the growing season. These are seeds of Orlaya grandiflora and will eventually look like this:

Yes, isn’t nature wonderful?

Some seeds are better started off in warmth on a heated mat in the greenhouse.

These pots are being watered in a trug so that they’ll soak up water from below – indelicately known as ‘bottom watering’. This prevents the soil on the top of the pot being swished about (technical term) by a brutal, direct hit from the watering can.

Gently does it

Weeding and pruning

The work continues… some like to explore their gardening through the medium of dance.

Check seedlings and cuttings in pots and cold frames

Those babies need constant attention

Spot if they need a re-pot

Weed the dry bed

Weed mindfully to soak up all the benefits of being outdoors

Tidy up time

These two are setting a good example by cleaning their tools before putting them neatly away in the shed. Just look at the shine on those trowels!

We could definitely get used to this unseasonably warm weather.

Friday 11th March 2022

There’s an element of euphoria about the Euphorbias, and it’s only the second week in March.

And the bulbs in bowls are beaut.

A quick cup of coffee before we move on to the plant ident. In a distracted moment, someone thought this was a milk container… Which actually, it once was – but no more

At Garden House, they’re always banging on about the importance of labelling. And for good reason.

Plant ident.

This week we concentrated on early bulbs. Starting with –

Narcissus Grand Soleil d’Or

There are many different species of Narcissus (Daffodil) and this one is a golden gem, bursting with energy and the promise of spring. It’s a tazetta (or indoor) Daffodil. It can actually be grown outdoors in a sheltered position, but tazetta bulbs are a popular choice for indoor forcing, where they will flower much earlier. The petite, bi-coloured flowers are produced in quantity – from 3 to 20 on each stem – and have a rich sweet scent. A flash of sunshine on a cold, cloudy day.

Narcissus ‘Avalanche’

Another tazetta Daffodil – and this one comes with an A.G.M. Vigorous and very fragrant, it is capable of producing 10-15 flowers per stem. An old-fashioned variety with white petals that frame a small yellow cup. Enjoy it as a forced indoor performance, although it is said to be resistant to deer when grown outside.

Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’

This little marvel looks a bit as if it’s been asleep for 20 years and woken up looking extremely dishevelled. Rather like its namesake. Mad, but delightful.

Leucojum vernum

The Spring Snowflake appears in late winter/early spring and is often mistaken for a Snowdrop. Which it ain’t. Each stem carries one flower which hangs downwards like a little lantern. Little dots of yellowy-green seem to have been hand painted on the base of its tepals, and the flowers nod above long, glossy-green leaves. Delicately scented. Grows on most soils, but likes them damp and well-drained. Will naturalise well and looks great when grown in large drifts. Deer and rabbit resistant. Apparently. A.G.M.

Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’

Indoor Hyacinths can be replanted outside once they have finished flowering. Remove the flower heads, but not the leaves, plant in the ground and feed. They will have a looser, wilder appearance when they flower again in the following year, but will still look gorgeous and smell wonderful.

Pushkinia

Scilla

Iris reticulata

Such a joy. Their stripes, splashes and splodges provide well defined landing strips for bees heading for the nectar/pollen rich flowers. So many varieties, you are spoiled for choice.

Galanthus elwesii ‘Mount Everest’

Snowdrops are the latest passion at Garden House. They seem to have gone from zero to hero in the space of a year or so, and the collection is gradually growing. Last count? 16 cultivars. Only another 2,484 to go. This one is a large flowering Snowdrop with pure white flowers and strap-like upright leaves.

Muscari

The Grape Hyacinth. These blue beauties are perhaps the ones we are most familiar with.

Wonder what the collective name is for a group of Muscari? A bunch of Grape Hyacinths?

And here’s a rather weird and wonderful looking cultivar. But do keep it under your hat, or there’ll be another collection underway before we know it.

Any questions? Yes! What’s the difference between a bulb, a corm and a tuber?

Bulbs

A bulb is an underground food storage organ; a true bulb, such as an Onion, Tulip, Allium or Garlic, consists of fleshy layers of scales which are leaves in their embryonic form, storing food for the developing plant and protecting the stem and flower at the centre of the bulb. They often have papery skins, called ‘tunics’. Bulbous plants can spread by seed and also by producing offsets (bulblets) to reproduce themselves; these form around the edge of the mother bulb’s basal plate. The original mother bulb doesn’t die, but nourishes them as they grow.

Corms

A corm is an enlarged, modified stem in which food for the plant is stored. It has a basal plate, tunic and growing point. If you cut one in half, it’s a solid mass rather than having concentric rings of leaves (as in a bulb). Examples of plants grown from corms are Crocosmia, Gladiolus, Crocus, Freesia and Muscari. Plants can spread by seed and also by forming cormlets, which grow one on top of the other, rather like a string of beads. The mother corm eventually dies, to be replaced by the growing cormlets.

Tubers

These are enlarged structures used as storage organs for nutrients in some plants. Usually short and thickened, they generally grow below the soil and provide energy and nutrients for growth and are high in starch. Potatoes are a great example of stem tubers, and Dahlias are an example of root tubers. The big advantage of Potatoes, of course, is that they can be made into chips. And Dahlias can’t.

Jobs for the week

Potting on

Pot on Sweet Pea seedlings from their deep root trainers into 1 litre pots. One module of seedlings per pot. You know the rules. Lathyrus ‘Mollie Rilstone’ and Lathyrus sativus var. azureus amongst others got the removal treatment. Water and label every pot.

Prick out Chasmanthium latifolium seedlings

And others. There will be lots. Remember to fill pots/modules to the tops of the rims and then strike off any excess compost. Plant well-rooted seedlings deep enough for their seed leaves to rest on the surface of the soil.

Prepare beds for cut flowers

Empty the raised beds of any remaining plants, weed and add compost. Rake over. Lay out a grid and plant hardy annuals 30 cms apart: Larkspur, Ammi majus, Orlayas and Eschscholzia.

What a good grid

12.00 noon. Cake stop.

We made short work of that task

Work in top greenhouse

Pot on succulents into terracotta pots. Use a sharp mix of 50% horticultural grit and 50% compost. Also do some propagation by leaf cuttings, placing one leaf upright (in the aforementioned compost mix) in a small module. Cut back pelargoniums.

Plant Roses in pots

Remove those which have been heeled-in on a temporary basis and plant in large pots.

Happy in her work

Seed sowing

First, make up some compost suitable for seed sowing. The recipe is as follows: 25% leaf mould, 25% coarse sand, 50% sieved garden soil. Mix together, then riddle through the middle of a garden sieve.

Here they are, riddling like anything

In a perfect world, bake this delicious mix in an oven to kill off any weed seeds. Thankfully, it’s not a perfect world. And, anyway, nobody knew how long the baking time should be. Two weeks was one helpful suggestion. Could be overkill.

Sow seeds of Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’, Malope trifida and Achillea on a pot filled with damp seed compost. Finish with a light layer of grit. Label.

Cut back Grasses

Time to give the deciduous Grasses (e.g. Calamagrostis, Miscanthus and Pennisetum macrourum) a haircut. And we’re looking for a flat-top style, please. You’ll need a lot of trugs for all that hair, I mean herbage

It can all go into the compost

The evergreen Grasses merely need a comb through to remove dead thatch.

Planting

Vincas, Snowdrops and Primroses to go in, as well as some creamy-flowering Comfrey.

Meanwhile, in a peaceful corner of the garden, the Camellias quietly get on with looking gorgeous.

Friday 4th March 2022

There’s a sudden spring in our step at Garden House. And in fact it looks as if a spot of spring cleaning is underway –

Pots all sorted, clean and orderly

Plant ident.

Plants in shady spots can provide year-round interest and colour. In our bid to rush forwards towards the vivid colours of spring and summer bulbs, annuals and herbaceous perennials, it’s easy to overlook these stalwart heroes, which work so hard for us, but often remain unsung.

Hedera helix ‘Goldheart’

The dark red stems of this ornamental Ivy contrast so effectively with the dark green-blotched-with-golden-yellow leaves. It can clamber up a pergola or over a seating area in shade, as it has adventitious roots, but it has the ability to light up an area, rather then making it gloomy. Clip back to keep in shape. Propagate from stem and tip cuttings. Each section of a stem can be rooted to make more (free) plants. Much loved at Garden House. Get one and you won’t regret it.

Acanthus mollis ‘Rue Ledan’

Bear’s Breeches. Large, glossy, green leaves which have a distinctive, classical, architectural vibe going on. This cultivar is not your common-or-garden type of Acanthus; it has tall spires of pure white flowers. Properly sophisticated and will do very well in a north facing border. Apparently, it’s not invasive – and, as it’s also sterile, it won’t self seed either. 1.2 m tall

Fatsia japonica

From the Araliaceae family. An old, but very useful, favourite for dark corners, which can also be grown in a pot outdoors or in. Big, shiny, dramatic, palmate leaves. It produces interesting fruit in spring – rather like the berries borne by Ivy, to which it is related.

They eventually turn black

The plant can cope with a good cut back from time to time, usually best done in mid to late spring. Either prune all stems down to a base structure, or alternatively take out one third of the stems down to the base. There is a newish variegated cultivar now available – ‘Spider’s Web’ – which is a Marmite plant. Frankly, if you don’t love it, you’re wrong.

Fatshedera lizei

Impress those neighbours of yours, who have just ‘popped by’ to tell you about their flashy, new, 4-bed R.V., by telling them that this sprawling/climbing shrub is a bi-generic hybrid. A fascinating cross between two genera of plants: Ivy and Fatsia. Their eyes will glaze over, and they’ll be gone in no time, leaving you the rest of the morning to get on with your gardening in peace and quiet.

Pulmonaria saccharata

This is one where the Latin name is worth using, because its common name is Lungwort, which sounds dreadful. It’s derived from the ancient concept of the ‘doctrine of signatures’, where herbs thought to resemble parts of the body were used to treat ailments afflicting those areas. So, the spotted leaf of Pulmonaria was thought to be appropriate for pulmonary (lung) infections. Don’t try this at home.

The plant is good in shade, but needs moisture to get established. It’s fascinating, because the flowers change colour (turning from blue to pink) as they are pollinated by bees. Cut back with shears after flowering to encourage further growth. There are many lovely cultivars – ‘Sissinghurst White’, ‘Blue Ensign’., ‘Diana Clare’ amongst others.

Polypodium vulgare

Ferns are fab, not least because the word ‘fronds’ can be used with gay abandon. This one is under the Pittosporum at the top of the steps at Garden House and is doing very well. They are rhizomatous plants which like a fairly shady position in moist soil with lots of organic matter and very good drainage. This one has long, leathery but lacy fronds. Great for a woodland area, where it will spread happily but not too invasively.

Polystichum Fern

The Shield Fern. Soft, dark green fronds that emerge upright before unfurling and falling open. Good amongst Solomon’s Seal and Hostas.

Vinca difformis

This white Periwinkle is a fantastic plant for shade. It clumps up to provide really good ground cover and the delicate flowers sparkle amongst the glossy foliage. Cut them over with shears now and this will encourage growth and the production of more side shoots and flowers.

Camellia japonica ‘Little Bit’

You can’t beat the karma of a Camellia. Refined. Elegant. So Japanese. Glossy, evergreen, ovate leaves. And this one looks like raspberry ripple. Delicious in every way. Perhaps a little blousey, compared with the simplicity of the single forms, but oh, so composed. Neutral to acid soil. Deadhead regularly. Likes a sheltered position in shade/part-shade away from morning sunshine (which can brown the petals and leaves). Good displays of Camellias currently at Nymans Gardens.

Jobs for the week

Prune the Fig

The Ficus carica is quite an old specimen by now. It has a big, fat trunk but rather skinny branches, and needs to be pruned back hard to encourage more vigorous growth. Now, this is a job for those well acquainted with all Health and Safety provisions. There are long, sharp pruning saws involved

Ah.

Be brave. Be radical. Prune back to 2 – 3 buds from the main stem. Pull (rather than cut) away any suckers growing at the base. Have a go with rooting hardwood cuttings taken from the prunings – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Remove pond plants growing in aquatic pots

There’s a bit of overgrowth going on in the pond area. So, the plants need removing, dividing, reorganising and re-potting.

Maybe start with this one – Equisetum hyemale, or Rough Horsetail. A.k.a. the Lego Plant. Fun fact: pieces of the stalk can be pulled apart…. and then re-attached! I know! Bizarre and guaranteed to fascinate every small toddler, who will thenceforth be pulled like a magnet towards your garden pond. You may find some adults will be pulled in the same direction too. Can be grown as an indoor or outdoor plant.

Well, he’s caught a magnificent specimen

But it’s no easy task

After a lot of hustling and tussling…. success!

Bravo!

I thought you said there would be fish?

Propagate pond plants

Divide and separate.

Pot up into new aquatic baskets. Replace in pond.

Carefully

Oh heck

Note the presence of the Garden House Lifeguard.

Eat cake

A job we all enjoy

Plant up the Green Roof

This is usually on top of the shed, which is currently in the process of moving. (Sheds move quite slowly.) As the roof is currently at ground level, it’s a good moment to plant up more Houseleeks and check through the existing planting.

Plant Roses

Plant deeply, adding compost to the planting hole. Dust a little mycorrhizal fungi powder on the roots of the plants when planting. Sprinkle some organic, pelleted chicken manure around the planted area. Don’t forget to provide posh metal labels complete with a catalogue number for the Rose. Oh, and water in. Natch.

Create two obelisks

For the benefit of two (more) Roses. They’ll love the support. Applications from artistic types only. That will be:

you

and you, yes you up that ladder

Tidy up time!

Enjoy the scent of spring

And in these dark, sombre days, remember that to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

Friday 25th February 2022

Sunshine at last! And all sorts of bulbs are presenting themselves for our appreciation – and to form the basis of this week’s

Plant Ident.

Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’

The fabulous beetroot colour combines with a knockout scent to make this one of the season’s must-have bulbs. The ones in flower right now are the forced bulbs which have been kept in a cool, dark place for 10 weeks before being brought into gentle warmth and light. After flowering, they can be dead-headed (but don’t remove the leaves) and then planted out in the garden. Regular Hyacinth bulbs can also be grown in the garden, but they won’t flower until April. So grow both! At Garden House the presence of H. ‘Woodstock’ amongst the pink stems of Rhubarb creates a very effective colour combo.

More to come!

Iris reticulata

There are many different cultivars of these delightful little bulbs, ‘Pauline’, ‘Harmony’, ‘George’ and ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ to name but a few. Cheap and joyful, there is no reason not to buy them in quantity and plant them in bowls or beds to enjoy now. They like a sunny site in well-drained soil, and need to be planted deeply (around 10 – 15 cms down). This will help them to flower well. Plant bulbs in the autumn. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’

Another forced bulb making its sunny, fragrant presence felt indoors. Long upright stems are topped by multiple, bi-coloured, scented flowers. A good cultivar for forcing, but it can also be successfully grown outside in a rockery. Good as a cut flower.

Narcissus ‘Avalanche’

Clusters of exquisite, small, white flowers emerge over narrow leaves of greenest green. The petals (perianth segments, don’t y’know) surround a pale golden cup, and the flowers are sweetly fragrant. Excellent as a cut flower it’s perfect for indoor forcing, or for naturalising in lawns. A perennial bulb, said to be deer and rabbit resistant, it holds an A.G.M.

Puschkinia scilloides

The Russian Snowdrop. A dwarf bulbous perennial related to Chionodoxas and Scillas. This petite little darling has silvery blue star-shaped flowers with a faint blue line along the length of each petal. About 6 cms tall when it draws itself up to its full height. Easy to grow, likes well-drained soil in full sun/partial shade.

Topic of the Week

Potting on seedlings. It’s a technique worth perfecting. Bridge demonstrated using tomato plant seedlings: the aptly named ‘Gardener’s Delight’. Once your seeds have gone from this –

– to this –

and have developed two true leaves (not their seed leaves), then the seedlings need to be gradually potted on into ever larger pots. Use FP7s to begin with. Take a clean pot and overfill it with a mix of peat free multi-purpose compost together with the priceless stuff made at Garden House (sieved). Strike off the excess and tap the pot firmly to settle the contents. The pot should be full to the top. Holding the seedling carefully by a leaf, make a hole in the centre of the compost with a dibber, and gently drop the seedling in so that its roots go right down and the seed leaves are just resting on the surface of the compost. The stems of the tomato plants will develop roots all the way along them. Clever things.

Keep in a sheltered, light position – a greenhouse or conservatory would be perfect, or a bright kitchen window sill.

In a few weeks time (by May) they will need potting on again into FP9s. Eventually all this work will result in a triumphant trugful of Tomatoes.

Sometimes seedlings can get very long and leggy (‘etiolated’), in which case you need to adopt the ‘nip and tuck’ method. Cosmetic surgery for tomato plants, if you will. It’s a delicate operation. Lay the stem of the seedling on the compost, bend the stem gently, pressing it down into the hole. A dipper should suffice – you won’t need forceps. Then tuck the roots in down behind the stem.

Jobs for the Week

Pot on seedlings

A lucky duo win places in the greenhouse. They love pottering and potting. Today they are dealing with Tomato seedlings, but need to check on the progress of the Chillies and Cobaea too.

The Cobaea scandens seedlings are romping away

Roses

Continue the ongoing project to label, name and number every Rose in the garden. There are 68 of them. Rosa de Rescht is one that requires a new metal label.

Several David Austin Roses have arrived and these will need heeling for the time being. And which Roses have we plumped for?

Aha!

And by tomorrow, there will be another new arrival – a granddaughter, baby Ella! Many congratulations to all.

Irises

Cut dead leaves off the Irises in the bed near the espalier Apples. Feed with organic, pelleted chicken manure.

Rockery/pond beds

Cut back Epimedium leaves to expose the flowers to come. Cut back dead plant material in the pond area. Weed.

Anyone got the time?

Just gone midday? Good grief, it’s time for….

Recipes please!

The Pond

The top part of the pond is rather messy and needs taking in hand. Six of the best Friday Groupers were allocated to this task.

However.

They decide instead to embark on some serious training for the World Aquatics Championships. Their dedication knows no bounds. Five coaches and one swimmer.

Plenty of Health and Safety equipment. At least one fishing net.

Go, go, go

More pace, more pace!

Phew! She arises from the water!

Style 10, Speed 9, Degree of Difficulty 11. And who knew that bobble hats were de rigueur swimwear these days?

Well, that was eventful.

Auriculas

There are plans afoot for these to be centre stage in April and May – they’re even having a theatre purpose built for them. Pot on new plantlets into compost with really good drainage and feed with diluted liquid from the wormery. Feed every 2-3 weeks until they come into flower.

We’ll be enjoying them in all their genteel glory by mid to late spring

If your estate isn’t large enough to accommodate livestock such as deer, Shorthorned cattle or Sussex Saddleback pigs, why not consider worms? Wiggly Wigglers are a good source of composting worms, wormeries and advice on all things wriggly. Just be careful not to muddle up your home-made apple juice with that recently decanted worm wee.

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