Friday March 24th



We didn’t waste any time getting out into the garden this week as we were expecting a large delivery of manure!


Jobs this week.

  • Feeding the roses with said manure.
  • Continuing to label and document the roses.
  • The Dahlias and Gladioli were brought out of the greenhouse.  We sorted through the Dahlias to make sure they were firm (not rotting) and then planted them in pots.  The Gladioli were placed in trays to encourage further growth after which they will be planted up in pots.  Both will then be planted out in the garden when they are more established and less likely to be eaten by slugs and snails.
  • Top Garden.  We emptied pots of Ophiopogum planiscarpus ‘Nigrescens’ and Cyclamen and these were then planted out in the Winter Garden.IMG_0215 Obelisks were woven for the sweet peas. IMG_0222And we fed the Clematis and cleared vegetation from around their base, adding grit and giving them a good feed.  Hopefully this will deter slugs and snails and encourage stronger growth.
  • The rest of the group spent the morning weaving and constructing more plant supports in different areas of the garden:  A ‘cathedral’ was erected on the other side of the greenhouse to match the one built last week.


Obelisks for annual climbers were constructed outside the Garden Room.


And more obelisks were woven for Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’


Plant ID

This week we concentrated on some of the beautiful spring bulbs which are growing in the garden at the moment.

Leucojum vernum – spring snowflake


This bulbous perennial grows to a height of 30cm.  It has dark green, strappy leaves and white bell-shaped flowers with green tips.

Muscari ‘Golden Fragrance’


This is an atractive alternative to the blue forms.  It is free-flowering and highly fragrant.  Its soft-purple flowers turn to a golden yellow when they are fully-formed.

Fritillaria meleagris – snake’s head fritillary


These unusual bell-shaped flowers with a chequerboard pattern are surrounded by lance-shaped grey-green leaves.

Chionodoxa ‘Pink Giant’


These pale pink star-shaped flowers are one of the first spring bulbs to appear in the garden.  If undisturbed, they naturalise well in lawns and can form a carpet, particularly underneath deciduous trees.

Erythronium ‘Pagoda’


These creamy-yellow flowers are born on stems of up to 35cm and have mottled rich green leaves.  If you cut away the old leaves in early spring, the flowers are better exposed before the emergence of the new foliage.

Primula auricula


These delicate plants like to be grown in cool, moist conditions but do not like the wet.  If you look closely, the flowers are clovered in a ‘floury’ coating which can easily mark in the rain.  Many people grow them in ‘auricula theatres’ so that they are semi-protected from the wet.

Narcissi ‘Minnow’


These dwarf Narcissi grow up to 20cm and their stems can carry up to five umbles of creamy-yellow flowers.

Narcissi ‘Elba’


Another of our dwarf varieties looking so pretty in the garden at the moment.


Pat's pot

Friday March 17th


The garden has undergone quite a bit of change since we were here last week:  The cherry tree near the shed has finally been cut down completely, as has the Tulip Tree.  Trellis will be erected behind where the cherry tree stood so that we can add to our collection of climbers.

We started off with a discussion on the Box hedging which can be found in various places around the garden.  Even though it is still fairly early to be clipping it, we decided to get started on a light trim in order to prevent the shrubs from becoming straggly.  So far our Box plants have managed to avoid Box blight but every precaution should be taken to prevent it from entering the garden.  Clipping should only be carried out on dry days as the blight thrives in wet and humid conditions and tools should be disinfected thoroughly afterwards.  Vicky told us that she waters her Box with diluted ‘Rescue Remedy’ after they’ve been clipped and Julia  said that she has used diluted bark flower remedy on hers.

Alternatives to Box hedging are: Euonymous, Yew, Myrtle, Pittosporum, Lonicera and Ilex crenata.

Plant ID

Ribes speciosum – Californian fuchsia.  This spiky plant has small, glossy oval-shaped leaves and bright red fuchsia-like flowers in mid-late spring.  It grows best against the protection of a wall.


In contrast, Ribes sanguinium or Flowering Currant looks similar in appearance although the form we have in the garden is white.  The pendular white flowers are followed by blue-black fruit in the summer.  Although this shrub is attractive at this time of year, it can look a bit dull in the summer and can be quite invasive – maybe not good for a small garden.


Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’ – mock orange ‘Aureus’.  This deciduous shrub has bright yellow leaves when young which then turn greener later on.  It has a beautiful strong scent in early summer and looks good on the edge of woodland.  Again, this plant can look quite dull once it has finished flowering and so perhaps not appropriate for small gardens.  However, if the old stems are pruned out once flowering has finished, bulbs can be planted underneath the canopy to provide more interest.


Kerria japonica ‘Golden Guinea’ – This is also deciduous and has bright green leaves and single golden yellow flowers in spring.


Forsythia –  This bright yellow spring-flowering shrub often looks best growing naturally in woodland situations, for example in Beth Chatto’s garden.


Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ – corkscrew hazel.  This is a large shrub with highly contorted branches and yellow male catkins which hang from the stems in late winter-early spring.  If you look carefully you will find the tiny female flowers behind the male catkins.  It will grow well on chalk in semi-shade.  However, new plants can only be produced by grafting.  It is often used by flower arrangers due to its unusual form.



Osmanthus sp. – This is a lovely addition to the early spring garden.  It’s creamy flowers smell wonderful and it looks good in a pot situated next to a path or doorway where the scent can be appreciated.


Jobs today:

  • We had a sort out in the greenhouse.  Pelargoniums were looked at after their winter hibernation and salad was picked and cleared ready to make way for tomatoes.
  • Root cuttings were made of Vinca ‘Miss Jekyll’.
  • Work continued on the Tulip Bed.  Box was clipped and areas of planting were reorganised.
  • Following the Plant-Staking Workshop at the Garden House last week, new structures and “cathedrals” were erected over the path and beds outside the greenhouse.
  • The cold frame was sorted through and some plants were given away to make room for new plants arriving from the greenhouse, eg. Campanula pyramidalis (as seen at Great Dixter).
  • The Herb Bed needed pruning and clipping, eg. the Santolina and Myrtle.IMG_0198
  • We sowed Half Hardy Annuals, eg. Cosmos.  These will be put on the heat to start them off.
  • We continued to list and label the roses.  Bridge has counted at least 60 different varieties growing in the garden to date.
  • Supports for Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’ were made.
  • Katy couldn’t keep out of the pond and she did a great job removing more plants to the paddling pool.  The pond will be pumped out completely at the end of the month  and will be reduced in size and re-lined.


  • We planted Thymes in the paths at the end of the herb beds.


  • We admired our beautiful little Tulipa Turkestanica which are the first tulips to appear in the garden this spring!




Friday March 10th


The garden seems to get better and better this spring with drifts of miniature Narcissi  and Crocuses along with the last of the Snowdrops and Hellebores (see above) which are looking particularly lovely at the moment.  To ensure that the Hellebore flowers return to form next year, cut off the seedheads once they have finished blooming to prevent inferior seedlings taking over.

We looked more closely at a few plants which are looking particularly good in the garden at the moment:

We compared Euphorbia ‘John Tomlinson’ with E. ‘Lambrook Gold’.

Flowering stems should be cut back hard once they are over to encourage new shoots for next season.

We also looked at Vinca difformis (under the Pawlonia tree) and Vinca Major.

These delicate evergreens flower on their side shoots and should be cut back hard in early to mid-spring to encourage bushy growth throughout the summer.

Viburnum farreri ‘Candidissimum’.


Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’.


Plant ID

Today we concentrated on Alpines which are plants that grow in an Alpine climate above the level of the treeline.  These include many different species such as Helianthemums (Rock Roses) and Aubrietas.

Aubrieta ‘Doctor Mules’ is a particularly attractive variety and we have it in the garden outside the summerhouse.  It must be cut back hard after flowering to prevent it from becoming too straggly and should be planted in well-draining compost (half compost/half horticultural grit), otherwise it may rot off.


Iberis sempervirens – perennial candytuft.  This grows to approximately 30cm high with narrow, dark green leaves and pure white flowers.


Saxifraga x salmonica ‘Mrs. Helen Terry’ – this forms compact tufts of small white flowers.


Saxifraga ‘Whitehill’ – this has small white flowers on 15cm stems in May/June growing from neat silvery-grey rosettes.


Saxifraga x arendsii ‘Touran Scarlet’ with small red flowers.

Saxifraga_'ToTouran_Scarlet'_5.6.09_plant (1).JPG

Also included here are London Pride, Heucheras, Tiarellas and Tellimas.

Jobs today:

  • Following on from our discussion about Alpine plants, we planted up the sinks with Alpines.  Ericaceous compost was mixed with horticultural grit and we planted Hepaticas, Corydalis and miniature Narcissi.
  • Work continued on the rockery.


  • Sweet peas were potted on.  We pinched them out as we went along to ensure bushy growth.
  • A fence was weaved around the veg patch from cornus stems.


  • Rosa ‘Highgrove’ was pruned.  More Hellebores were planted around it and the Sage and Helianthemums were trimmed to prevent them from becoming leggy.
  • We planted Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’  in the Tulip Bed and Foxgloves were planted amongst them.


  • Euphorbia oblongata from the greenhouse was planted out.
  • The Vinca was trimmed back and fed in the Yellow Bed.


  • We continued to catalogue the roses.



Friday March 3rd 2017


The garden is finally waking up from its winter sleep and the spring flowers are looking beautiful.  Bridge congratulated everyone on how good the garden is looking – it’s amazing what hard work, layers of compost and pelleted chicken manure can do.  Looking good in the garden are: snowdrops, hellebores, crocuses and iris unguicularis.  Also, dogwoods and bergenias in the winter garden.

Plant ID

This week we looked at trees:

Crataegus monogyna – hawthorn.  These trees are in the Rosaceae family and are deciduous trees and shrubs.  They usually have spiny branches, lobed or toothed leaves and clusters of creamy white flowers in May followed by red or black fruits. Some have good autumn colour and they are good trees for gardens as they encourage wildlife. They are good for exposed windy sites and very hardy.  There are many cultivars, e.g.  Paul’s Scarlet (A.G.M.) which has double pink-red flowers (in the garden, by the Summer House) and grows 5-10 metres high.




Cornus mas – Cornelian Cherry. A small, early-flowering tree with a long period of interest bearing delicate, yellow flowers on bare wood.  It bares cherry-like fruits and looks a little like a witch hazel.  It does well on chalk.


Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Ballerina’ – There is one by the pond in the garden.  A good tree for small gardens, it has white, starry flowers in May, followed by good autumn colour and small black berries which can be eaten.  It doesn’t like thin chalky soil.   


Betula utilis var. jacquemontii – these are slender birch trees with white trunks, particularly striking during the winter months.  They have ovate leaves which turn yellow in autumn and yellow-brown male catkins in early spring.  (See the street trees in Warleigh Road and also the grove of white birches in the gardens at Anglesey Abbey.)  Birches can be grown very effectively as a specimen multi-stemmed tree or close together in a small group.


Acacia dealbata – this tree divided opinion in the group, some loving it, others not so sure. It has delicate feathery grey-green leaves with small globular clusters of fragrant yellow flowers.  It doesn’t do well on chalk and is only hardy down to minus 5 degrees Centigrade.

Julia showed us a picture of some prunus twigs from the Garden House which have blossomed in a vase in her house – see below:

“We looked at trees in the ID this week & I told the group how I took home some prunus twigs with small brown buds after the big old cherry tree was cut down in January.  Bridge was not optimistic they would develop into flower as would normally not flower until May. But after weeks they have slowly burst into blossom & now all twigs have successfully come out. They were not even freshly cut but had been stacked on the path for a day or two; all I did was put cut stems in boiled water for 30 seconds”


Jobs for the week

  • Weeding under the birch tree around the pond and looking at which plants to keep or remove.


  • Ongoing work in the greenhouse.
  • Weaving supports for the vegetable beds.


  • Planting two pots of lily bulbs in memory of Dawn.  Dogwood stems were cut down and used as supports in the pots along with witch hazel.
  • Re-arranging Little Dixter.
  • Seed-sorting.



  • Planting silver plants around the edge of the Tulip Tree bed.  The tree is to be removed next week.
  • Planting Rosa ‘Veilchenblau’ and pruning Rosa ‘Dorothy Perkins’.


  • Planting white crocus bulbs on both sides of the willow arch.


  • Rose labelling.  To record all the roses in the garden and note types of rose and pruning period.





Friday 24th February



All rested and raring to go after half-term, a smaller than usual group met on Friday.  Good wishes sent to all who couldn’t be with us -thinking of you and looking forward to seeing you again soon.                                                                                                             

Vicky and Bridge reported on their recent trip to Wisley, featuring wonderful witch hazels and beautiful bulbs in bloom, spectacular edgeworthias, camellias and tiny early-flowering rhododendrons.  Highly recommended.

We looked at cut-and-come-again salads currently being grown in the cold greenhouse – easy to grow from packets of seed and very rewarding in the winter months.

We also discussed Lilium regale   These bulbs are made up of a series of scales.  Producing very beautiful flowers, they can be planted now in pots at a depth of 8-15cms, but beware the evil orangey-red lily beetle.

Bridge did a demonstration of pricking out   N.B. seedlings should have two sets of true leaves before being pricked out.  Overfill the pot you are transplanting the seedlings into, using your hand to sweep off excess compost.  Using a small dibber, make a hole in the centre of the pot to drop the seedling into, so that it will benefit from equal amounts of light and space to optimise growth.  Use the dibber to remove the seedling, and hold it by a leaf, not the stem.  The seed leaves need to touch the surface of the compost they are going into as otherwise the stem will become elongated.  Half- hardy annuals, such as Nicotiana mutabilis, cannot be planted out until all danger of frost has passed.

Plant ID

Bridge had ordered snowdrops in the green.  Destined for the Winter Bed, they will be planted about 5-10 bulbs per hole.  Do not remove their leaves after flowering.

Cyclamen coum -these need good compost to establish but will eventually tolerate dry shade.


Cyclamen coum  would look good as an underplanting to Abeliophyllum distichum, an attractive alternative to yellow forsythia.   Flowering in February, it is a scrambling deciduous shrub bearing forsythia-like fragrant white or pale pink flowers on slender bare branches.  Can be grown up a trellis.


Hepatica triloba is a beautiful winter-flowering plant, a small perennial with anemone-like blue, violet, pink or white flowers in early spring.  Likes shade but not very keen on chalk.


Narcissus cyclamineus – this little daffodil has narrow, rich green leaves and bright yellow flowers with reflexed petals swept back from an elegant, slender trumpet.  Likes damp soil, but not chalk.

narcissus fflos cyclamineus deeproot.jpeg


Epimedium ‘Spine Tingler’ – epimediums provide very good ground cover. This one has elongated jagged-looking glossy, evergreen leaves tinged chocolate bronze, especially when young. It has winged starry flowers of clear lemon yellow in spring and early summer and is best in partial to full shade and in any reasonable soil, but not too dry.


Asarum splendens – the wild ginger plant has dark green, pointed heart-shaped leaves marked in silver with flowers in brown-purple and white.


Jobs for the day

  • Feeding the Hellebores
  • Cutting back the leaves on the epimediums and putting in new plants.


  • Working in the bed at the side of the Garden Room.  Celandines were weeded out, cyclamen coum were planted along with epimediums and young digitalis plants.img_0164
  • Pruning the apple tree at the rear of the garden.
  • Pruning and tying in Rosa ‘Albertine’.
  • Sorting out the greenhouse.
  • Weeding and further planting in the Winter Bed.


  • Eating copious amounts of delicious cake!



Friday 10th February


We started today talking about our visit to Wakehurst Place.  Such a beautiful garden and plenty to see at this time of year.

We then talked about more plants which are looking good in the garden at the moment, many of them due to their leaf shape and architectural form:

Lavendula intermedia – the variety shown here is Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’.  It grows up to 90cm high and has green-grey foliage.  It is very aromatic and has dark purple-blue flowers in the summer.


Bergenia ‘Overture’ or elephant’s ears ‘Overture’ – this has rounded leathery leaves and erect clusters of bright pink flowers in the spring.  It has scarlet stems which add interest and its leaves turn red in the winter.



Rosemarinus officinalis – this is a dense evergreen shrub with a leafy habit.  It has narrow, aromatic leaves with violet-blue flowers.  It starts flowering in the spring but can flower throughout the year at sporadic times.  Many selections are available and its habit and flower colour can vary according to the cultivar, from prostrate to upright and from white to pale blue, pink or purple.


Eleagnus pungens ‘Maculata’ – this is an evergreen shrub which can reach 4m tall.  It has spiny brown shoots which have bright yellow leaves with a narrow dark green margin and  small fragrant white flowers in the autumn.  It is good as hedging, does well in coastal locations and is fairly drought tolerant.


Fatsia japonica – this is a medium-sized shrub with a spreading habit.  It has shiny palmate leaves which can reach 45cm across, small white flowers in the autumn and small black fruits.  It adds good architectural shape in the garden and can do well in semi-shaded areas.


Sarcococca confusa or sweet box – this bushy shrub can grow to 2m with glossy, dark green, wavy ovate leaves about 3-5cm in length.  it has higly scented small creamy-white flowers in the winter followed by glossy black berries.  It can be grown in pots in the shade and is fairly drought tolerant.


Griselinia littoralis – this is a fast-growing large evergreen shrub with shiny light green broadly ovate leaves.  It has very small yellow-green flowers and purple fruits on the female plants where both sexes are grown together.  It makes good hedging and does particularly well in coastal areas.


Jobs for the day:

  • Continuing to work on the winter bed.  The griselinia was pruned and bergenias and hellebores were planted.
  • The compost was dug over and sorted.  leftover hay was added from the hens who sadly left us today to start their new lives at Carden School.


  • Even though the camellias are flowering, they badly needed re-potting in fresh ericaceous compost.
  • Leaf litter was taken off the bed by the shed and the area was dug over and improved.


  • Little Dixter was re-arranged to reflect the season’s new bulbs and polyanthus were planted to add a cheery note.
  • Paul’s Himalayan Musk was pruned.


  • Seed sorting.

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