Friday 13th July




Nearing the end of the Friday Group year, it was our last morning in the garden until September.  Next week we’ll be at Parham House and Gardens to relax and spend time in the beautiful garden and nursery before sharing a picnic lunch.

The Plant I.D. this week concentrated on plants we’re using to fill the gaps left by late spring plants and those that have suffered in this hot weather:

Begonia ‘Renoir’ (Impressionist series)


This striking architectural plant is often grown just for its foliage (although it sometimes produces small pink flowers above its leaves).  It loves the shade and should be grown in free-draining soil and watered and fed regularly. However, it does benefit from a good mulch, eg. a mixture of mushroom and standard compost.  If grown in full sun, it should be watered in the evening to avoid scorching the leaves.

Lemon verbena


Often confused with lemon balm (which can be very invasive), lemon verbena is a sweet smelling tender perennial and is often used for making herbal tea.  It is best grown in a container in full sun and kept under cover during the winter months.

Senecio cineraria ‘Cirrus’


This is an evergreen sub-shrub which is often grown as an annual in full sun.  It has silvery-grey furry leaves with clusters of daisy-like flowers in summer.

Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’


This clump-forming perennial grows to about 1m and has dark green/purple lance-shaped leaves. The yellow-orange funnel-shaped flowers appear from summer through to autumn.  They have red markings and brown streaks on the inner petals.

Streptocarpus saxorum ‘Concord Blue’


This indoor (in this country) plant originates from South Africa and has dark green fleshy leaves and delicate violet pansy-like flowers.  It should be kept in shade or semi-shade and will flower all summer if kept moderately watered.

Jobs this week:

  • Removing the sweet peas as they are dried out and putting them on the compost. We will save the sweet pea seed pods for next year and squashes will be planted in their place.


  • Tidying the herb bed, dead-heading and clipping the box hedging which surrounds it.  Cuttings were taken from some of the herbs, eg. rosemary and sage.


  • Planting out exotic containers with Tibouchina urvilleana, gingers and cannas.


  • Cutting back and watering in the Top Garden.
  • General dead-heading around the garden.
  • Weeding and watering Lil’s Bed.
  • Cutting back and dead-heading under the arches.



It feels strange to be leaving the garden for the summer but we’ll be back in the autumn, fresh from our holidays and with renewed enthusiasm for the challenges and creativity which lie ahead.

Friday 6th July


As we reach the height of summer, the garden is looking amazing with colour everywhere.  The pots in particular are looking great, benefitting from the long sunny days and plenty of feed.

Other plants are coming on well, including the dahlias which were left to overwinter in the ground.  We made sure that they were mulched well and they seem to be all the better for being left undisturbed – they are growing into big, strong plants and promise to be a highlight in the late summer garden.

The plant I.D. today featured some of the stars of our containers:

Heliotrope ‘Cherry Pie’


This half hardy annual has dark green, deep-veined leaves and tiny purple flowers with the most delicious scent – just like cherry pie.  In warmer areas it can be grown as a perennial but is best grown as an annual as it can become very leggy and straggly in later years.  It is at its best planted in a container on the patio where its scent can be enjoyed on a hot summer day.

Plectranthus argentatus


This sun-loving member of the mint family from Australia is fantasic in containers.  Its velvet-textured silvery foliage looks great with our Heliotropes and Pelargoniums, being a great foil to their rich colours.  Our Plectranthus have been grown from cuttings taken from plants bought by Bridge from the shop at East Ruston Old Vicarage in Norfolk.  Its insignificant pale lavender blooms are often pinched out but if left, they are a great pollinator.

Pelargonium ‘Tip Top Duet’


This compact Pelargonium has pale pink flowers, the upper petals being edged in wine-red and the lower petals veined with violet.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’


This stunning violet-blue Geranium can grow to 60cm and will spread vigorously if given free reign.  Its white-centred flowers can reach 5cm across and will bloom right the way through the summer.  It was short-listed for the Plant of the Centenary for the decade 1993-2002 and won the peoples’ vote.

Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’


This half hardy annual has fiery red flowers, tinged with a yellow edge.  It will grow right up until the first frosts in well-drained soil in sun or part shade.

Ipomea – Morning Glory


This tender climbing annual can be tricky to grow and is very sensitive to the cold.  It can look lovely scrambling through other plants in a border but at the Garden House we grow it in a terracotta pot.  It needs heat to germinate and is unlikely to flower in a poor summer.  It needs to be established to flower and so it is a good idea to sow the seeds in March and keep them in a a heated greenhouse or on a warm window sill.

Phygelius capensis – Cape fuchsia


  • This semi-evergreen small shrub has triangular ovate leaves with tubular orange-red flowers.  It grows well in most soils in a sheltered sunny position but may need to be protected during the winter in colder areas.  It can also be quite invasive so must be kept in check in restricted areas.

Jobs this week:

  • Sorting out the compost and spreading it on the hedge border, ready for new planting.


  • Refreshing the hedge border with new plants and cutting down early summer seed heads.


  • Removing the allium heads from the bed by the greenhouse, storing them for Christmas.


  • Pruning the espaliered fruit trees in Lil’s Bed.


  • Picking the blueberries and red currants and weeding and feeding the blueberry pots.
  • Pruning the Rosa banksiae on the terraces.  As it is an early-flowering rose in May, it really needs to be pruned now in order to produce blooms nest year.



  • Sowing biennials.


  • Clearing the weed from the pond.


Friday 29th June


Another beautiful morning in the garden today.  Although the weather has been so amazing lately and we have been enjoying one of the hottest prolonged spells in years, this obviously has a great impact on the plants, particularly if newly-planted.  Bridge reminded us to keep a look out for the smaller plants which should be watered thoroughly, at least once a day.  Take care when watering that the water is directed towards the roots of the plants and not just at the leaves as this would lead to water evaporation; another tip is to water in the cool of the early morning or evening.  Try and use water from a butt if you have on as this will be warmer and less of a shock to plants than cold water from the mains supply; use water which you have collected from washing fruit and veg, as well as from showers and baths.  However, avoid using water containing harmful cleaning agents as these will be detrimental to the garden.

Bridge advised against planting too much at the moment as the ground is so dry.  And remember to mulch in the spring and summer as this will help to keep the moisture under the surface, nearer to the roots of the plants.

Jane has a flexihose which she recommends as they are lighter to carry around the garden and less likely to harm plants if they are draped across them in the watering  process.

No plant I.D. this week but we wasted no time in going outside and getting down to business:

Jobs this week:

  • Pruning the Kerria japonica in the Top Garden, taking care not to harm the Clematis alpina climbing through it.
  • Cutting back (almost to the ground) the hardy geraniums in the border by the hedge  to encourage the growth of new foliage and hopefully flowers.  This encourages neater, tighter foliage.  These were watered and fed well to encorage new growth.
  • Cutting back the Alpines, eg. Cistus in the Rock Garden and water/feed well. Make sure you don’t cut into the old wood as new growth is unlikely to grow from the old wood.  Cut back to just above a node to avoid pests and diseases.


  • Planting up the large tub in the front garden with begonias.
  • Pruning the euphorbias, taking care to wear gloves and covering up arms to avoid the sap touching the skin and causing irritation.
  • Planting out ornamental lettuces in bowls using paper templates to make a decorative pattern.

Friday 22nd June


A small but select group of us met this week whilst the Garden House trip to Somerset took place.  We basked in Brighton’s sunshine.  Lucila took responsibility for the plant identification, and did a magnificent job – revealing the ways in which many ordinary plants have been used as remedies over the generations.

Warning: This article is for information only.  Garden House is not advocating the use of any of these plants for medicinal purposes.  Always seek advice from a G.P.

Alchemilla mollis, also known as Lady’s Mantle, is a common herbaceous perennial with frothy greenish-yellow flowers and attractive scalloped leaves on which dewdrops shimmer.  It self-seeds throughout the garden and although it can be invasive, it is useful as a cut flower.  There is also an alpine form: Alchemilla alpina, with a distinctive silvery margin around the leaves.  The name relates to the word “alchemy”, and in the past, it was thought that the mercurial droplets which lie on the foliage were the purest form of water and had magical powers.


Chiefly regarded as a herb for women, it has traditionally been used as an infusion to treat uterine problems – such as menstrual / menopausal disorders.  Herbalists also rate it for its anti-inflammatory properties.  Cut back hard after flowering and it will flower again in September.

Valeriana officinalis


The name may either derive from the Latin “valere” – to be healthy, or possibly from an early herbalist called Valeris.  It was used in ancient times as a cure for insomnia and much scientific research has been carried out on the plant because of its historical use as a sedative, antiseptic and  anticonvulsant.  Herbalists use the root as a traditional herbal medicine to treat mild nervous tension and to aid sleep.

 Crataegus monogyna

Hawthorn white flowers in bloom

The common hawthorn is also known as the May tree, because it flowers in that month. A deciduous native, the hawthorn is hermaphrodite since both male and female reproductive parts are contained within each flower.  Red haws (berries) develop following pollination and these are a valuable food source for many birds – one of the reasons this tree is a popular choice in gardens.  Often used as a hedging plant and in woodland settings, it is of great importance in supporting wildlife. In traditional medicine, hawthorn was used for its calming properties, and it may be useful in treating cardiovascular disease, though further study is still needed.

Plantago major 


Traditionally known as a “cure-all”, plantain is a perennial which is generally regarded as a weed.  However, numerous herbals mention its use as a remedy, and in Anglo Saxon times it was one of nine “sacred” herbs.  Historically, it has been used for wounds and  skin conditions (such as eczema) and as an antidote to venom. (Luckily there aren’t too many poisonous snakes at Garden House.)  Herbalists use it for blisters, insect bites  and rashes.

Chamaemelum nobile

Shallow Focus Photography of Yellow and White Flowers during Daytime

Peter Rabbit was given chamomile tea by his mother after he had overindulged in Mr McGregor’s garden – and its flowers are still used to make tea today.  It is said to have calming properties.  It can also be planted as a small lawn, but is tricky to maintain; perhaps a chamomile seat is the best solution……

Lucila introduced us to “Herbarium”, a box of 100 illustrated reference cards, each featuring a herb for growing, cooking with and healing.  Author: Caz Hildebrand; publisher, Thames and Hudson.  

One of the best-known contemporary experts on herbs and their uses is Jekka McVicar, with many publications to her name.

Jobs for the week

  • The ongoing compost development project


  • Planting, staking and tying-in dahlias using big stakes


Now, make sure to do a good job, and keep those stakes at the same height!

  • Plant out white sunflowers and the climbing annual thunbergia around the “Brighton Dome” obelisk


  • Pull out all the forget-me-nots as they have now gone to seed; water all pots in the greenhouse


  • Take all plants out from the cold frames; weed and give them a good drink; leave to enjoy the sun


And they did.

Friday 15th June


Blue skies. Sunshine. Everything’s coming up roses at Garden House.


Our plant identification this week continued the rose-y theme.  We looked at the beautiful Rosa “Albertine”, a richly-fragrant rambler, which can reach up to 6 metres in height. Its fabulous coral buds open to stunning soft pink blooms, developing a rather shaggy look as they reach full maturity.  We know the feeling.


The shrub rose, R. “William Lobb”, 1.8m x 1.8m, has the most delicious perfume.  Arguably the healthiest of the moss roses, it is robust and vigorous. (Its prickles give the appearance of moss covering the stems.)  A double rose, its intense deep magenta/purple colour contrasts well with its dark green foliage.  Can be grown as a climber.

20180615_120752 (2).jpg

David Austin’s R. “Alan Titchmarsh” is a repeat-flowering English shrub rose which produces beautiful deeply-cupped pink flowers with a strong Old Rose fragrance.  Good in a mixed border in full sun.  About 1.2 m x 1.2 m


Rosa “Red Letter Day” is a wonderful Peter Beales shrub rose.  Fully double, its quartered, clear red flowers are carried in clusters over dark green leaves.  A healthy and reliable plant.

Rosa “Parkdirektor Riggers” is a climbing rose with almost single flowers.  Another David Austin creation, the clusters of deep velvety-red/crimson blooms have only a slight fragrance; nonetheless, it is a beautiful plant which repeat flowers and can grow to around 5.5 metres.


Jobs for the week

  • In the cutting bed: stake cut flowers using twine and twist ties. 


  • Pot on pelargoniums
  • Lil’s bed is to be planted in a prairie-themed style.  Clear the beds and prepare for planting with echinaceas, Nicotiana “Whisper Mixed” and dahlias.



  • Clear the vegetable plot, then plant courgettes and harvest broad beans.

IMG-20180526-WA0004 (1).jpg

  • General garden maintenance: weed; cut down dead material; dead-head roses


  • Tie – in clematis growing over the arches using tie-twists


And still the sun shines……….


Friday 8th June


Apart from a select few, we spent another awayday from the Garden House on Friday.  We split up into small groups and worked hard to make a difference to individual members’ gardens.

The first group visited Rachel in her lovely garden in Newhaven and sorted out her herbaceous borders.

And time for coffee and cake…


Meanwhile, over at Lil’s in Brighton…One of the jobs was planting up seedlings grown from Bridge’s Dad’s prized runner bean seeds.


In Hilary’s garden a group helped clear the area around the raised beds and started work on putting up a pergola.  Hilary then went on to make real headway over the weekend and made tremendous progress.  Some large plants were also divided and re-planted into individual pots.  Ammi majus seedlings were also planted in one of the herbaceous borders…and then time for a delicious lunch.

It was a quiet morning at the Garden House but we’re looking forward to getting back there next Friday.














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