Friday 4th June 2021

No need to water the garden today. Nature is doing it all for us. Copiously. Which means that we are allocated under-cover jobs. As opposed to undercover jobs – although that does sound a lot more exciting. We’ve even got the right coats.

But what could we possibly need to spy on at Garden House?

Well, look what we found in those boxes…

Oh, I say, Moneypenny

In these situations, it’s always reassuring to know that someone is at the ready to take notes

Plant ident.

This week we looked at plants traditionally found in cottage gardens. Nowadays, no matter whether your style is formal formality or informal florals, these can be used in all sorts of schemes.

Gladiolus byzantinus

An architectural herbaceous perennial with attractive sword-shaped leaves. Comparatively fleeting in its flowering period, but the almost neon quality of the magenta flowers make it a desirable plant. Self seeds freely in some gardens.

Geranium phaeum ‘Lisa’

A Mourning Widow Geranium, with very beautiful foliage – the leaves are paler in the centre, which has the effect of lighting them up. Good in both deep and dry shade, making it a must-have plant for many gardeners. Cut to the ground at the end of June after flowering and you will be rewarded by fresh growth. From the Geraniaceae family, these are one of the Cranesbill genus – so named because of their seedheads.

Erigeron karvinskianus

Herbaceous perennials. These little beauties are a joy. Where they are happy, they seed and flower profusely all over the place and provide little cushions of delight throughout the garden. Good as ground cover, they will grow in cracks in paths and patios and look especially good around walls and steps, softening hard landscaping. Masses of white daisies gradually turn pink, contrasting with their bright yellow centres; they flower from May through to October. Cut back to encourage fresh growth during the season.

Geranium sanguineum

Low-growing with delicate ferny foliage, this Geranium variety looks good growing with shrubs or Roses or towards the front of a border. Dead-heading prolongs the flowering period. Good for attracting all sorts of pollinators as the flowers are rich with nectar and pollen

Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata ‘Black Barlow’

A double form of Columbine, or ‘Granny’s Bonnet’, which admittedly isn’t particularly good for bees and other pollen lovers, but is reliably perennial and doesn’t cross with other forms. Upright in habit and behaviour (like your granny), it grows to around 90 cms. Flowers are a deep purple-black in colour. Good foliage too – the leaves are grey-green and divided. Lasts well as a cut flower. Likes semi-shade and any soil.

Jobs for the week

Clear out the Potting Shed

Use the opportunity of a rainy day to shape up, clear things out and make everything shipshape. Find your inner Marie Kondo, if you will.

In every job that must be done there is an element of fun.

Sort out boxes of seeds

You find the fun, and snap, the job’s a game…

And every task you undertake

Becomes a piece of cake…

Did somebody say ‘Cake?’

Thank goodness. I’m exhausted with all that writing.

Time for a flask of delicious tuna juice

Work in the conservatory

But be careful in there

Check on the succulents and other ravenous pot plants. Re-pot as necessary. Mind your fingers.

Work in the greenhouse

Pricking out. Potting on. Labelling. Gritting. Watering.

A laugh, a spree…

Reorganise the library


Pelargonium Prefects Perfect the Pelargonium Palace

Feed the Pellies according to the seaweed creed. Remove dead, diseased and damaged plant material and generally tidy them up. Check for aphids. Kill them. But in a kind, gentle and organic way. Undercover training has prepared you for this.

Hope for dry weather next week

Now that. Is a stunner

Anyone sense a new obsession coming on?

Friday 28th May 2021

The days fly by, and once again it’s Friday Group time

It’s all looking very busy in the greenhouse

Plant ident.

Tagetes patula ‘Linnaeus Burning Embers’

The African Marigold is frequently grown in the vegetable garden as a ‘companion plant’. The idea of companion planting is that communities of plants are grown together for their mutual benefit, either to protect against pests or to improve pollination/growth. This particular half-hardy annual is related to Calendulas, and its scent is known to deter pests; try it next to Tomatoes to ward off an aphid invasion. The mahogany petals are edged with yellow, echoing the centre of the flower. An easy, but very attractive, summer garden resident which makes a good cut flower. Full sun, please.

Hesperis matronalis

Known more widely as Sweet Rocket, this very attractive biennial plant has purple, mauve, lilac or white flowers. A traditional cottage garden plant, it tends to seed itself around and enjoys being either in the sun or part shade. Beautifully scented – and especially so in the evening. Dead-heading will encourage more flowers, but remember to let some go to seed, so that you don’t lose it in the garden. Much easier to let it do all the work! ‘Chedglow’ is a purple-leaved cultivar worth cultivating.

Calendula officinalis

Another cottage garden plant which is easy to grow and a delight to behold, is the English or Pot Marigold – with its distinctive bright orange flowers. A hardy annual, it’s often grown on the vegetable plot as a ‘sacrificial plant’ (sounds biblical). The idea of these ‘trap crops’ is that they will attract pests away from the main crops you want to protect. Aphids and other undesirables head over to the Calendulas/Nasturtiums /Chervil and infest them instead. Terribly barbaric, if you ask me. They also attract pollinating insects. The petals are edible and can be used to add panache to salads; Mrs Next-Door will be well impressed, despite herself. They look great as cut flowers in a summer flower arrangement, If they have managed to survive being eaten by humans or pests, they look great as cut flowers in a summer flower arrangement. There are many cultivars available, of which ‘Neon’, ‘Nova’ and ‘Indian Prince’ are three. Direct sow in a sunny position.


A less well-known half-hardy annual, Gomphrena is from the Amaranthaceae family. Its small spherical flower heads are held on the ends of stems. Good at the front of a dry garden border as it is very drought tolerant, and also combines well with other hot summer annuals such as Zinnias. Easy from seed.

Brachyscome iberidifolia

The Swan River Daisy has long been a popular half-hardy annual for gardens. Originating in Australia it likes well-drained soils, of most types, and full sun. A good choice for hanging baskets or window boxes, as it has a rather lax habit which lends itself very well to informal planting. Flowers profusely over a long period; colour can vary according to the cultivar, but is often blue/mauve. Apparently it doesn’t need to be dead-headed (can this be true?) – but cutting off the flowers now will result in lower, bushier plants.

The Dry Garden

The plan continues to evolve, and Liz described where the project was up to. Very unfortunately, there was unruly behaviour in class and the naughty step was brought into play.

Jobs for the week

There’s such a lot to do in the garden at the moment. So, secateurs at the ready!

Feeding Friday

The feeding season is upon us. Why not be organised and do it on a Friday, every Friday, without fail on a Friday? Dilute, organic seaweed feed is at the top of the Garden House menu. The Pelargoniums need particular care and attention as they grow into their summer lushness, as do the Streptocarpus. (Cape Primroses – not Sore Throats.)

On parade at Pelargonium Palace

Work in the pond

Skim off weeds and algae which have accumulated on the pond’s surface. Throw a bale of barley straw into the water, to prevent the formation of more algae. Adding a black pond dye to the water can show the water feature off to full effect, creating an obsidian mirror which reflects the sky by day and night. Warning: poetry may result.

“You’d never believe it. It was enormous. Massive. Humongous. It got away.”

Remove Tulip bulbs and Primroses

This clears the beds/pots/containers to allow summer plantings of annuals such as Ammi and other frothy loveliness; these will benefit from staking to ensure tip-top outcomes.

The spent Tulip bulbs can be planted in other areas of the garden, or dried and kept until the autumn, when they can be replanted.

Work on the Exotic Bed

Is there a dress code?

Here, the Tulip bulbs are not being removed. Instead they will be left to become a perennial planting scheme, with more bulbs being added each year. Musa, Hedychium, Nasturtiums and annual Dahlias will eventually go in to create a truly tropical vibe. Throw in a few cocktails, shaken, not stirred, and all will be complete.

Enjoy May

For soon. It will be June

FRIDAY 21st MAY2021

We’re back!

Not at all excited or anything….but breakfast bubbles were the order of the day

We could get used to this

Caption competition?

“Thank you, Jeeves. That will be all.”

The Winner!

Who knew that prosecco could be such a stimulant to conversation and gardening?

There’s a lot to catch up on as we can see

And cakes? Steady now…

Maybe later. For now, let’s get on with the

Plant ident

Iris germanica

Currently the stars of the show. Blooming marvellous.

Bearded irises are statuesque, evergreen perennials with narrow, grey/green, sword-shaped leaves and erect stems. The latter carry three large, dropping petals, ‘falls’, and three smaller, upright, ‘standard’ petals in late spring. There is a yellow ‘beard’ in the centre of the flower, which guides insects towards the pollen. Best in full sun on well-drained alkaline to neutral soils (chalk, loam or sand).

Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’

This tough Hardy Geranium is a great doer in the garden and will happily self-seed around – particularly into cracks on terraces. A good cultivar, it has red stems and a profusion of eye-catching, small, bright purple flowers. Attractive to butterflies. Much appreciated at Garden House. Grow in sun or shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Geranium macrorrhizum

A semi-evergreen Cranesbill which flourishes best in shady positions – even in dry shade. It has pink/purple flowers which emerge on long stems above shapely, aromatic leaves. Reliable and easy, these are very useful plants, the foliage also having the benefit of turning red in the autumn. Plants will bulk up to provide good ground cover and act as an effective weed suppressant.

Rosa ‘Bengal Crimson’

A chinensis shrub Rose which legendarily flowers for 365 days of the year in the Chelsea Physic Garden. And 366 in a leap year! Single, crimson flowers contrast with healthy, glossy green leaves. Robust and compact – and loved by many.

Anthemis punctata subsp. cupaniana

This will be a must-have plant for the new dry garden at Garden House as it grows quickly to make a sprawling mound of ebullient white daisies with finely-cut silver-grey foliage. Good on walls and terraces as it will drape itself attractively over them. Light, well-drained soil in full sun.

Akebia quinata

Aka the Chocolate Vine or Five-leaf Akebia. A fabulous, twining climber, which can become quite vigorous, so needs to be kept in check. Fragrant, deep purple/chocolate- coloured flowers emerge along dangling racemes. Exotic! If it cross pollinates with a neighbouring Akebia, it may produce sausage-shaped fruit after flowering. Semi-evergreen. Needs warmth. As do we.

The Chelsea Chop

Now that we have all become adept hairdressers over lockdown, we can put our newly-acquired skills into practice in the garden. Time for the Chelsea Chop. A process of cutting back herbaceous perennials in late May to avoid ‘floppage’ and achieve better flowers later in the summer. This pruning method can be applied to complete clumps of plants to delay flowering, or just to some of them, to spread flowering over a longer period.

Phlox, Penstemons, Achilleas Asters and Sedums all respond well to this treatment. Using clean, sharp secateurs, make a sloping cut just above a leaf joint, removing about one third of the stem. Horticulturally-speaking, you are removing the apical dominance of the plant. Hem hem.

Jobs for the Week

Plant Tomatoes using the ring culture method

The ring culture pot is put into the ground in the greenhouse, flush with the soil. Tomato plants are planted deeply into the centre of the pot. Water can be poured into the reservoir surrounding the central pot. When applying dilute feed (once a week, when the first trusses develop), this can go directly onto the plant. This will encourage the plants to produce more feeder roots from their stems, resulting in vigorous, productive plants.

By wrapping twine around the base of each plant and then tying it onto a cane near the roof of the greenhouse, you have a ready-made twining/support system for your cordon Tomatoes. If you don’t know how to tie a slipknot, now is the time to learn.

Or, you can always talk to an expert…

Pinch out the ‘hairy armpits’ in each Tomato’s leaf axils, or you will have a jungly vine on your hands. Pinch out the tops of the plants once five or six trusses have set.

Work on the herb bed

Cut back Parsley

Plant Rainbow Chard

Weed and water

Make time for coffee and cake

Carrot cake for those concerned about their 5-a-day

Chocolate cake for those less concerned about their 5-a-day

And tea cake for everyone else

We’re thinking about entering The Great British Bake Off, although maybe The Great British Rake Off would be a better bet.

Pot on mini Pumpkins

These Tromboncino and Jill-Be-Little varieties will take over from the Sweet Peas once the latter have finished flowering. They’ll love clambering up the wigwam structures.

Plant Nerine Lilies for autumn flowering

Make sure the tops of the bulbs are visible; Nerines are from South Africa and they will need to bake in the summer sun. Some of these will be bright pink and some white.

Sow biennials

Foxgloves, Honesty, Angelica, Sweet Rocket – all can be sown now for flowers next year.

Work in the Pelargonium Palace

Feed Pelargoniums with a dilute seaweed solution; remove any damaged or dead plant material; tidy. Take the darlings out for an airing. Use a perambulator if necessary.

Plant out Beetroot ‘Chioggia’ seedlings

Can be planted out a handspan apart in small clumps. Plant in well-prepared beds. Water carefully; label. Let them grow on and pick when small.

Summer Containers

Plant up from now on to ensure a dramatic summer backdrop. Tender perennials and annuals in all sorts of combos. They’re going to be stunning.

Summer awaits

FRIDAY 14th MAY 2021

This may be our last session in mini groups. Is it really possible? Could there be cake and coffee on the horizon? Excitement mounts.

Any chance of sardines?

Full steam ahead in the garden to prepare for a magnificent opening on 18th June for the National Garden Scheme. 11.30 – 4.30. Pre-booking available, or just turn up on the day. Not to be missed!

Plant ident

Teucrium fruticans

Also known as Tree Germander. In the Lamiaceae (mint) family, Teucrium has lavender-blue, salvia-like flowers and small, soft, silver-grey leaves. A woody, evergreen shrub which spreads; it’s easy to take cuttings from. Best in a sunny spot in neutral to alkaline soil. Fab for bees and butterflies as it is long-flowering and pollen/nectar-rich.

Smyrnium perfoliatum

Sometimes mistaken for a Euphorbia, this hardy, biennial umbellifer is actually a member of the Apiaceae family and produces brilliant lime-green/ yellow flowers in late spring. Best in dappled shade, where it glows. Once established, it will seed itself around, but can be tricky to establish!

Geranium pyrenaicum

The clue is in the name – it’s originally from the Pyrenees. A marvellous self-seeder, and one which will be welcome all over the garden. Easily removed if it becomes overly keen on moving in with you. If you cut it down after flowering, it will regrow to flower again later in the season.

Anisodontea capensis

From the Malvaceae family, an attractive and very long-flowering evergreen sub-shrub. Upright in habit, it has vivid pink flowers which can last from spring right through to the first frosts. The flowers have magenta centres and delicately-veined markings. Butterflies and bees love this plant, as does the gardener who has it, because it is drought and heat tolerant, and requires little maintenance. Full sun or very light shade suit it best. Grows to 0.6 – 0.9 m. A.G.M. Surely it must be a solid contender for the planned dry garden here at Garden House?

Today’s tasks

Following discussions about the proposed design for the dry garden, it was decided that paths should be widened from 1 m to 1.2 m to allow for ‘floppage’. (A technical term, probably requiring little, if any, explanation.) The seating areas will be similarly enlarged.

Euphorbia demonstrating extreme floppage

One job for today was to use canes and string to mark out the entrances/exits to the dry garden, and also the circles, to get a 3D view of the plan.

The team sprang into action

Creating holes deep enough for the canes

Take copious notes

Jobs for the week

Direct sow seeds

Now that we have nearly reached the magic date of 15th May, when all danger of frost has gone, (has it?), seeds can now be sown directly into the soil. (Possibly not quite yet warm enough for Tomatoes to be outside.) Half-hardy annuals can be planted out once they have been hardened off, and there is a break in the rain. Beds need to be really well prepared. To ensure success, it’s a case of tilth the filth, squirt the dirt, sow and hoe. Simples.

Replace winter/spring pot displays with summer plantings

They’ve been wonderful,

but time moves on…

Pot on those pellies; grow-on those Argyranthemums; find fillers, thrillers and spillers. It’s all hands to the deck, emptying out pots whose displays are now past their best. Plant flowered bulbs out into the garden, save anything which can be re-used and gird your loins for next season’s show. Hopefully it will look something like this:

That’s if it ever decides to stop raining

Friday 7th May 2021

The April/May flower show continues…

Prim perfection from Primula auricula

Plant ident.

Saxifraga x urbium

We know it better by its common name – London Pride – it comes from the same family as Heucheras and Bergenias, Saxifragaceae. A delightful little evergreen perennial, forming a spreading carpet of crinkle-edged rosettes, making it a good choice for ground cover. Best described by The Pink Wheelbarrow in this hyphenated masterpiece: ‘One of the most ground-hugging, low-growing, weed-smothering, bomb-proof plants you could have in the garden’. Fair enough. Pink/white flower panicles emerge from mid spring to summer, carried on long stems. Full sun to partial shade. Propagates easily; just pull up a rosette or two with a bit of root, and plant immediately. Garden House rating: Top Stuff.

Hesperis matronalis

Check out the frothy beauty of this biennial. Sweet Rocket smells as good as its name implies (especially in the evenings), and looks just gorgeous shimmering in dappled sunlight. It’s enough to make you go all poetic. Its white or purple flowers look very similar to those of Honesty. Deadheading will prolong the flowering period, but do let some plants go to seed as they will self-sow around the garden, choosing better places to grow than any mere mortal would think of. Any aspect will do; prefers lighter, well-drained soils.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’

Another member of the Brassicaceae family – evidenced by the 4-petalled flowers. And this cultivar of Honesty is a real wowser. Deep, dark purple, almost chocolate coloured leaves contrast with luminous lilac flowers. Biennial. Come autumn, they will produce attractive translucent seed-heads, which look wonderful in the garden as well as in indoor arrangements. Will self-seed happily. Likes moist, well-drained soil in part shade. Good for bees, butterflies and moths.

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

From the Borage family, this cultivar of Brunnera has frosted heart-shaped leaves and small bright blue flowers reminiscent of Forget-me- Nots. (That’s Myosotis, in case you had actually forgotten, which is also in the Borage family.) An evergreen perennial, it flowers from April to May. Likes moisture-retentive soil and once it is established, it will spread to provide beautiful ground cover. Partial to full shade. Brilliant in a woodland setting, so start planting trees now.

Allium neapolitanum ‘Cowanii

Another clever filler to bridge the gap between spring and summer perennials. Bride’s Garlic / Naples Garlic is a bulbous, herbaceous perennial which will tolerate poor and dry soils and has distinctive white umbels with star-shaped flowers. Sweetly scented, even though it’s a member of the Onion family, attractive to bees and lasts for ages when cut. Good in pots. Looks good grown with purple or blue Dutch Irises in a hot, dry border.

I’m glad that’s over with. Can we get on to the practical stuff now?

Now really, Puss. Have you been paying attention? What was that white flower, for instance?

What, this white one here?

I think you’ll find that is ‘Allium Cowanii’

Perfect, Puss!

The Dry Garden

Gradually, gradually things are coming together, falling apart, then coming together again. Measurements taken; plants schemed of, dreamed of; functions of areas established; flow considered; seating and tables – hmmm; landscaping materials chosen, discarded, reconsidered. It’s a process. The design progresses and the next rough drawing has been done by Liz.

And it looks like this –

Looking good

Hosepipes laid out on the ground are a good way to assess the general layout of beds and seating areas. That’s hosepipes, not hornpipes.

First, wrestle your hosepipe to the ground

I think the hosepipe’s winning…

Jobs for the week

The focus is on sowing seeds, pricking out and potting on. It’s all go. Don’t forget to water your babies. Harden them off gradually. It’s still cold out there, so don’t be in too much of a hurry to plant out half-hardy annuals.

Pot on Stipa tenuissima plants

Prick out rooted cuttings of Santolinas

These rooted very quickly. Remove any flowers which have formed, and cut back by about one third. Prick out into small individual pots.

Dead-head Tulips once flowering is over

They will benefit from a liquid seaweed feed at this stage, before the foliage dies back.

Summer pots

Start to prepare pots for their summer plantings. Remove bulbs which have finished flowering and plant into grass, borders or under hedges.

Keep going

It’s worth it

Friday 30th April 2021

We’re gradually moving out of lockdown. Won’t be long before hotels will be able to welcome back visitors…

This hotel can’t wait

And, with May around the corner, the time of blossom is upon us

Even the espaliered fruit is in flower

It’s a zingy, springy thingy

Plant ident.

NemesiaSundae Blueberry Ice’

A top tender perennial, usually grown as an annual, particularly brilliant to use in containers. Buy one and get loads free by taking plenty of cuttings (cut below a leaf joint). Takes root easily. The blueberry-coloured snapdragon-like flowers are scented. Full sun and well-drained soil. Pinching out the growing tips will encourage a bushy habit.

There are plenty of Nemesia cultivars – there’s a particularly good white variety which smells of vanilla. Delicious, delightful, delovely. We call it Nemesia ‘Lizii’, because our Friday Friend Liz introduced it to Garden House, but it’s probably Nemesia ‘Wisley Vanilla’.

Pulsatilla rubra

The Red Pasque Flower is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial which flowers in early to mid-spring. It produces beautiful, wine-coloured flowers on short stems, at the centre of which is a circle of bright golden-yellow stamens. Good in alpine sinks, where its feathery filigree delicacy can really be appreciated up close, and also in rockeries. Spreads happily. Likes full sun or partial shade.

Aubrieta ‘Hamburger Stadtpark’

There’s nothing wrong in giving time and space to some of these rather old-fashioned plants; they have been popular for decades for good reason. Great ground cover, and reliable and prolific flowering from early to late spring make these great garden stalwarts. Members of the Brassicaceae family, as indicated by their cruciferae flowers with 4 petals, they are evergreen and mat-forming. This one is Aubrieta ‘Hamburger Stadtpark’, a gorgeous purple/deep mauve. Cut back after flowering to encourage dense, compact growth. Suitable for rock gardens, containers and for trailing down walls and banks. Height and spread around 10 x 30 cms

Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Valerie Finnis’

Named by Beth Chatto after the remarkable Valerie Finnis, who taught at Waterperry Horticultural School for Women and helped to make it a highly respected and prestigious establishment. She was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1975 by the RHS.

This is a semi-eversilver perennial grown for its fantastic aromatic foliage. Much used in dry garden plantings, as it likes a light well-drained soil in full sun. 70 x 60 cms. A.G.M.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

Another very attractive Artemisia, which can get leggy if not clipped back regularly. Its foliage is finer and more feathery than A. ludoviciana, but it is also aromatic and equally good in a hot sunny border – or even in a container. Cut back hard in the autumn.

Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’

A Marmite plant. You either love it or you hate it. Grown for its leaves, which are maroon with darker maroon and white markings and held on bright red stems. Looks particularly good when grown next to plants with a contrasting colour – perhaps one of the Artemisias above. Its foliage looks good in late spring/early summer, provided the soil doesn’t dry out. Then it can just look messy and dessicated. Great name though. Roots very easily – even in a glass of water.

Progressing the Dry Garden

Liz brought us up to speed on what’s happening. The area has been measured carefully and the plants which are to remain have been mapped. Discussions as to the final shape are ongoing, but this is one of the possibilities –

There’s a lot to think about: the functions of different areas, shapes, destinations, path surface materials… A list of suitable plants has been compiled, and Liz has checked heights/colour/flowering period. Check this out for painstaking work!

There are three pages of this, no less. Let’s hope it’s not too breezy today, or she’ll be three sheets to the wind.

Today’s job is to check and note down how many plants we already have for the dry garden – and of which type.

There are quite a few, and this is just the tip of the iceberg

Topic for the week

There are many seedlings and plants which need potting on; Bridge gave us a Masterclass in exactly how to go about this.

Not a magic wand. A dibber.

Fill your chosen pot or tray right up to the top with peat-free compost. Make sure it is only a little larger than the container your plant is currently occupying. Strike off any overflowing compost with your hand. Remove the plant or seedling carefully, holding it by a leaf, not by its stem. (It has several leaves, but only 1 stem!) Using a dibber, make a hole in the centre of the pot, big enough to take the plant, and gently settle it into its new home. Make certain the roots have room to drop into the hole, and be sure to plant deeply – right up to the first set of true leaves. Tap the pot to settle the compost carefully around the transplanted seedling – there’s no need to press hard down on the surface!

Don’t forget to water (very gently) and remember to add that label!

Sometimes seedlings get rather leggy. What to do? Lay the seedling on the surface of the compost with the root out behind; lift the plant up by a leaf

then fold the stem of the seedling gently into the prepared hole.

Tuck the roots in behind, and push them down carefully. Again, plant deeply. Essentially, you are ‘folding’ the seedling. Sounds harsh, but it should grow on perfectly well.

Hey presto!

Jobs for the week

Prick out seedlings and pot on plants as necessary. We potted on Nasturtium ‘Tip Top Rose’, as the seedlings are jostling for more living space

And, of course, we did a ‘Tip Top’ job!

Quality control this week was provided by…..


Replant alpine sinks

The utmost delicacy is required for this kind of work

Planting herbs

Check all is shipshape in the greenhouse

Aye, aye Captain

Work in the veg garden

Stake Broad Beans

Oooh! Crimson-Flowered Broad Beans?

Plant out lettuces

No sign that Peter Rabbit has been in this garden

Let’s zoom in on those Radishes

One does relish a good Radish

Harvesting. The best bit!

Fabulous Tulips, in fruit salad colours


Friday 23rd April 2021

Narcissi and Primula vulgaris simply sing of spring.

Plant ident.

Narcissus ‘Actaea

Loved passionately at Garden House. This is an old-fashioned variety with large, white, outer petals and a small yellow cup fringed with bright orange. Known also as Pheasant’s Eye or Poet’s Daffodil. Simple, pretty, and comes with the most delicious scent. A.G.M.

Narcissus ‘Thalia’

Shown here at the top of the photo

A pure white Narcissus, ‘Thalia’ features two flowers per stem. Looks beautiful alongside blue Muscari and blue Wood Anemones, and stunning when planted in grass with Tulips. It’s vigorous, and is therefore a good bulb for naturalizing, and will multiply quickly. Very fragrant.

Iberis sempervirens

The perennial or evergreen Candytuft. A fresh and vivid display in white and green, just perfect for spring. Clusters of 4-petalled white flowers form each flower head, making for a striking contrast with the dark green leaves. Low-growing and spreading, it is a good plant to use for edging paths, as ground cover, or in rockeries. Grow in full sun for best results, and cut back by about one third after flowering. Apparently, it is drought, deer and rabbit tolerant!

Tulipa ‘Little Princess’

An excellent, miniature, rock garden Tulip. The yellow centres of this species Tulip complement its red / orange petals. Resilient and long-lived, it’s a good choice for rockeries or in spring containers.

Ipheion uniflorum ‘White Star’

A pretty, bulbous perennial with narrow, light green foliage. A single, white, star-shaped flower is borne on each upright stem – hence, ‘uniflorum’. Each petal is striped with a slim purple line. Easy and requires little in the way of maintenance as it doesn’t need deadheading. Resistant to deer and rabbits – but keep an eye out for slugs and snails. No mention is given to its reaction to puppy-dogs’ tails.

Ribes speciosum

Aka the Fuchsia-flowered Gooseberry. This deciduous, spiny, medium-sized shrub has small, glossy, gooseberry-like leaves. The bright red flowers look like tiny fuchsias with extended stamens, and hang down along the stems from mid to late spring. Good against a wall in full sun and copes with most well-drained soils.

Activities for the Groups

As we are currently meeting in small groups, each set is assigned a different job in the garden.

This might involve working on the area which will be the Dry Garden

Or seed sowing

Or designing a new planting scheme for another bed, using grasses such as Anemanthele lessoniana (Pheasant’s Tail Grass) – a terrific ornamental grass which provides year-round colour, structure and movement.

Ah. Must have a word with the picture researcher. Yes, you’re a pheasant. Yes, you have a very lovely tail. Yes, there’s grass. But – not quite what we were after, I’m afraid.

Some might be set to weeding and clearing a raised bed underneath the arches (below). Here the challenge is to remove clumps of Spanish Bluebells, which tend to spread and dominate other plants. Best keep those bulbs out of the compost heap.

The Herb Bed needs attention too. Everything is gradually being removed, including the blighted box edging. The soil can then be thoroughly weeded and revitalised before a new Myrtle hedge is planted along with a myriad of herbal delights

The greenhouse always needs checking, of course.

To see what is happening to seeds and seedlings

and pussy cats

There’s always plenty to do at this time of year

Jobs for the Week

Check out gardens to visit in the county. Get hold of the National Gardens Scheme Yellow Book, and you will never be short of ideas.

Deadhead Narcissi

Once they have finished flowering. Don’t remove the foliage though – the plant uses it to feed the bulb, helping to promote good flowering the following year.

Above all, make time to enjoy the fruits of your labours. If not now, when?

You know it makes sense

Friday 16th April 2021

Plant ident.

This week, it’s all about Tulips. Look at these beauties –

‘Exotic Emperor’ and ‘Orange Emperor’ in all their glory. Early-flowering and perennial. Simply sumptuous.

Species Tulips, such as Tulipa acuminata, are especially exquisite. They are smaller and seemingly more delicate than some of their cultivated cousins – but actually, being wild, they are tough and vigorous. Needing little attention, they will reappear every spring. Plant in full sun. They look great in rockeries or borders – as well as in pots. Feed well after flowering and apply a mulch of organic material to sustain them.

Tulipa acuminata

Tulipa ‘Shogun’

Perennial and multi-stemmed, the pale orange T. ‘Shogun’ is reliably perennial and a good choice for naturalising in grass, where it will multiply. Early to flower – in March/April. Attractive, spear-shaped leaves.

Tulipa sylvestris

This wild Tulip is gorgeous. A bright yellow, lemon-scented flower which appears in early spring. Contrasts beautifully with vivid blue Muscari, or even Myositis. (If you have forgotten what the latter are, shame on you! They are Forget-Me-Nots.)

Tulipa clusiana ‘Cynthia’

A miniature, slender, scented, pale-yellow Tulip, with rose-red outer petals. Naturalises well. A.G.M.

Tulipa saxatilis (Bakeri) ‘Lilac Wonder’

Originally discovered in Crete, a delicious mauve-pink Tulip with a blotch of yellow at the centre. Broad and glossy green leaves. Distinctive and wonderful; will naturalise.

Tulipa ‘Annika’

A new variety of the clusiana Tulip. Salmon-pink petals are edged with pale yellow. A splosh of deep purple marks the centre of each flower. 3 to 5 flowers are produced by each bulb. Bargainous!

Tasks for the week

Charting the development of The Dry Garden

Plants are gradually being moved out of the lower garden around the lawn to make way for a transformation. Here is an artist’s impression of the dream to come – with thanks and respect to Vicky.

And, a (long) list of plants which might be included in the scheme

All plants suited to a dry environment

Before anything else, proper measurements of the site need to be taken. This takes patience, care, a measured approach – and a good, long measuring tape.

And a willing assistant

Hold very tight, please

This work provides the basis for an initial drawing. Provides dimensions/shape/area/. Significant trees and shrubs can be triangulated by measuring angles to them from known points on a fixed baseline. It’s time-consuming, but worthwhile, and will be the first rough draft of the survey for the dry garden.

First measurements completed. Note the Victory Dance.

In time, the plants which are to remain will be added to the initial rough draft (above) in order to create a template on which the design for the new scheme will be drawn.

We started to think about Garden House’s specific requirements and needs for the area. What will be the best way to move around the space? (The flow.) What will the function of different areas be?

Take cuttings of Chrysanthemums

Remove ‘mums’ from the greenhouse; tidy them up; take cuttings. Place these on gentle heat or in a warm, bright place indoors – and they should take. Pot on when the young plants have developed a good root system. All being well, they should be in flower by the end of the summer/ beginning of autumn.

If your boots, coat and hat are colour-coordinated, this will help

Take cuttings of Cotton Lavender

That’s Santolina pinnata subsp. neapolitana ‘Bowles Lemon’ to you. You could take 5 cuttings by the time you get your tongue round that name!

Construct an obelisk in the new herb garden

It will support a Rose. This job is rather a tall order. But still, nothing ventured…

Dig up and divide Chives

With gusto

Re-plant and re-pot

Jobs for the week

Grit around Sweet Peas

Helps keep the Slimy Ones at bay

Pot on Tomato seedlings as they develop true leaves

Label and water. Watch them tenderly.

Create frameworks for espalier or cordon fruits

Done correctly, you could achieve something like this! This is an espaliered Pear, looking just peachy.

Take cuttings of hardy and half-hardy annuals

Free plants. Say no more.

Check the vegetable plot

Before the plot thickens, so to speak.

Add a posh cloche or two.

If your Violas are vying for some attention, do give them some.

Friday 9th April 2021

What, no Zoom session? Small groups actually meeting in real life?? At Garden House???

So it seems. And the residents are absolutely delighted to see us.

Well, moderately pleased, anyway

How wonderful to be back in the garden again, albeit in teeny-tiny groups and for a shorter session. It’s looking marvellous – full of Tulips, Euphorbias, Amelanchier buds, Prunus ‘Tai Haku’ blossom, Narcissi and sunshine. We got somewhat blissed out on it all.

After a little catch-up, we had time to have a wander round to see what’s been going on. There’s a lot to catch up on at Garden House.

There are big plans afoot for the creation of a dry garden; two openings over the weekend for the National Garden Scheme; G/H is shortly due to appear in the Telegraph, with Garden House friends Max and Henry demonstrating staking/support techniques using birch. It’s all going on.

Woven plant support cage



Looks deceptively simple, but when you start looking at the details…

it’s a little more complicated

Knit one, purl one…

…and, cast off

And how’s the greenhouse doing?


All neat. All labelled. All good.

Although the workforce seems a little laid back.

Are you being sarcatsic?

Jobs for the week

Think about providing plant supports

For the growing season ahead. Be prepared. One group practised birch twisting and twirling skills

In complete control

A little light weeding

Keep on top of emerging weeds. One group took on the challenge; nothing too stressful – we don’t want to overtax the compost bins on our first day back

Comb through evergreen grasses to remove dead growth

An unlikely piece of garden equipment is the best tool for the job – an Afro comb. Brilliantly effective. Invest in one now.

Short back and sides, with a Bobby Charlton comb-over

Forced Rhubarb should be ready to pick

Enjoy the Tulips

It’s good to be back

Friday 26th March 2021

We’re still zooming, while Garden House is blooming.

The Narcissi are having their moment

As are the Hyacinths. This one is ‘Woodstock’

Euphorbia euphoria

Plant ident.

There are changes afoot at the lower end of the Garden House garden (Box hedges removed due to blight; plans to remove part/all of the lawn; design for a new dry garden bed in process). So, this week’s focus was on plants suitable for dry gardens.

Dry, yes, but perhaps not quite as dramatic as this. We’re talking Sussex, not Arizona.

Beth Chatto’s ‘The Dry Garden’ and ‘The Gravel Garden’ are hugely informative on the topic. An award-winning plantswoman, author and lecturer, she spent years creating her renowned garden at Elmstead Market in Essex, an area known for low levels of rainfall. Her philosophy, ‘Right plant; right place’, is completely in tune with current thinking on sustainability and environmental concerns. Check out the website for loads of good information: And visit the gardens!

Cynara cardunculus

The Cardoon. What a splendidly architectural plant. A robust, herbaceous perennial whose glaucous foliage is a statement in itself, but the magnificent thistle-like purple flowers, which appear in late summer and autumn, are the icing on the cake. They resemble Globe Artichokes. Cuttings can be taken from side shoots. Can grow up to 2.5 m; attracts bees and, unfortunately, blackfly. Spectacular in a pot or in the border. A.G.M. – and no wonder.

Convolvulus cneorum

Evergrey, pretty and vigorous, this half-hardy Convolvulus is a good doer and a stalwart in the dry garden. Can be hacked back annually to keep it bushy and restrained, and cuttings are easy to take and root. Pruned to shape now, it will spread to provide good ground cover. Lovely leaves and delicate pollen-rich flowers which may look like bindweed, but, thankfully, are not! Attracts bees. Full sun. 60 cms h. x 90 cms w. A.G.M.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

Wormwood. It seems that absinthe is derived from Artemisia. A concept now being tested by Friday Group, solely in the name of reesearchhhshh, you unnershtand. An excellent plant, evergrey, silvery and soft. It needs cutting back now, as it grows quickly, and will become woody without pruning. Cut above the new, fresh buds, and avoid going back into the old wood. A.G.M.

Erodium pelargonifolium

Another gorgeous asset to a dry border. Heronsbill belongs to the Geraniaceae family along with two other species, Pelargoniums (Storksbills) and Geraniums (Cranesbills). It’s a woody-based perennial and has pretty apple-green leaves on long stalks. The 5-petalled flowers are white with the two uppermost petals carrying purple markings. Often used in alpine troughs and rockeries, it prefers gritty, neutral/alkaline soils. Flowers forever and will seed around. Stunning! 30 x 30 cms

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’

A lovely thing, this compact, everblue, ornamental perennial grass. The needle-like leaves become more intensely silvery/blue-green in full sun. Low-growing, it forms neat mounds and produces spikes of blue-green flowers over the summer months. Comb through in the winter to remove dead foliage. Grows in most soils. 30 cms x 30 cms. A.G.M.

Topic for the week:

Planning a planting scheme for a dry garden

Many thanks, once again, to Liz McCullough for generously sharing her knowledge and work with us. Her handout helped us to think about the importance of how many plants might be necessary to make an impact in a planting scheme, and how they might be used to greatest effect. Odd numbers seem to work best.

We were tasked to select around 5 species of plants which would be good to include in a dry garden of about 1.2 x 2.4 m. Here are some of the ideas we came up with – we were quite generous with the plants!

First of all:

Featuring: Stipa tenuissima (see it billowing below), Ballota pseudodictamnus, Eschscholzia californica and Festuca glauca.

And here we have:

Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’, Hyssop officinalis f. albus, Erodium pelargonifolium and Geranium malviflorum. Respect to the artist.

The third group suggested:

Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ x 1  (h 1.2 x w 1.0); Achillea ‘Credo’ x 3 (1.2 x 0.5); Stipa gigantea  x 1 (2.5 x 1.2);  Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ x 20  (1.0 ) (see below);  Verbena bonariensis x 2  (0.45 x 0.2); Erodium pelargonifolium x 3  (0.3 x 0. 3)     

 And the fourth:

A purple, blue, grey and white colour scheme, featuring the lovely violet Verbena bonariensis together with Stipa tenuissima; Stachys byzantinus; Gaura lindheimeri; Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’

Group five presented:

Stipa tenuissima, Calamantha nepeta ‘Blue Cloud’, Dianthus carthusianorum, Sedum matrona (or similar)Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’. (And white iris at the back because they’re already there (see below), as well as a few random purple alliums…)

Number six was in favour of:

Olea europaea; Helictotrichon sempervirens x 3; Knautia macedonica x 3; Agastache ‘Blackadder’ x 3. Thymes and/or Oregano plants to be added at the front of the border. Extra house points awarded for coming up with the first two items…

The seventh and final contribution:

Stipa gigantea (see below); Verbena rigida; Lavendula; Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’; Allium ‘Globemeister’; Iris. Plus, possibly, Geraniums. This group clearly had their minds set on a bigger site and garden.

The plant shopping list just gets longer

Jobs for the week:

Sow Beetroot in modules in clumps; sow lettuces and salad leaves. Sow Courgettes.

Sow carrot seeds

Easier in raised beds. Try ‘Rainbow Mix’ for different coloured carrots. (It might even make eating the things more interesting.)

Sow Broad Beans under cloches

Them, not you. Unless you have a cloche hat. That would be natty.

Sadly, this is more likely…

Sow Tagetes ‘Burning Embers’ and Ricinus seeds (toxic!)

Start to plant out hardy annuals

Although, do keep an eye on the weather. Use canes to support plants as they grow away

Feed Snowdrops after flowering

This will help to feed the bulbs for next year’s performance. At Garden House, we use a liquid seaweed feed

Tiptoe through the Tulips

Take time to enjoy them

Cut down Cornus stems to promote strong coloured stems next year

– and for goodness sake, do be creative with the prunings. These Cornus plants are looking fabulous, emphasising the green theme and contrasting beautifully with the bright yellows.

Above all, remember where you hid those Easter eggs in the garden. Unless, of course, you’re purposely trying to save them for another day.

Under the Cornus mas?

Maybe in the watering can?

And now we March into April

Happy Easter

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