Friday 15th October

This week we spent time getting the garden in order before our time away working in each other’s gardens next week followed by the Half Term break.

We had a brief re-cap on the sowing of hardy annuals and we were pleased to learn that some of the seeds sown last week have already germinated.  Bridge had carried out a small experiment and put some of the seed modules on the heat and some of them off the heat.  The ones off the heat germinated first, namely the calendulars.  Bridge explained that it is preferable to sow hardy annuals now as opposed to next spring as they will be stronger with more developed root systems.  They also have a tendency to flower earlier if sown in the autumn.

When two sets of leaves have appeared, the seedlings will need to be transferred into FP7’s.  This will prevent them from becoming too spindly and leggy.  (If planted in large pots to begin with, there is a risk of the seedlings rotting off and so modules are the perfect size in which to sow first of all).

One of the main activities in the garden this week involved sowing onion sets directly into the garden.  In order to deter squirrels and birds, string was stretched across in a rectangle from one end of the onion rows to another.  It was decided not to cover the onion sets with a cloche this year and so we will see how the onions get on.

Two varieties of onion were planted:

Onion ‘Radar’


These long-necked bulbs have dark skin and very white flesh.  They are said to have a good resistance to bolting and will be harvested in late May – June.

Onion ‘Electric’


These have shiny red skins and are semi-globe shaped.  Their flesh is crisp with a slight pink tinge and they will be harvested in June.  Recommended uses are for salad and stir fries.

Other vegetables sown this week were dwarf broad beans, including:

Broad Bean ‘De Monica’


Broad Bean ‘The Sutton’ (Ideal for small gardens and containers).


The broad beans will be grown under cloches and as they grow will need to be protected from the wind.  They will need regular watering, particularly as the flowers begin to set.  It is advisable to pinch out the first set of flowers to encourage further flowers/pods and to deter blackfly.

Peas can also be sown  now, eg. Pea ‘Meteor’.


This is a dwarf variety which is great for growing in containers and in exposed areas.  In the garden we sow them in half gutters and  cover them with holly stems to deter mice.  Some people soak their pea pods in a small amount of liquid seaweed before planting as this has also been found to deter mice.

Both broad beans and peas are hardy annuals.

Other activities in the garden this week included:

  • Bulb sorting in readiness for planting over the next few weeks.


  • Planting of alliums, apricot foxgloves and sweet williams (‘Sooty’) in Lil’s Bed.



Before planting the bulbs we forked over and spread compost over the bed.

  • We continued to sort out and clear the herbaceous border in readiness for new planting over the next few weeks.
  • Planting Narcissus ‘Minnow’and Russian Sage under the arches.


  • Pruning the olive tree into more of a lollipop shape.


Red hot pokers and Crocosmia ‘Harlequin’ were planted underneath.

  • Pruning the rambling rose and honeysuckle.
  • Pruning the lonicera in the top garden.
  • Planting out the wall flowers.
  • Tidying the greenhouse.

Friday 7th October

It really felt like Autumn in the garden today and our thoughts turned to what we’ll be growing in the garden next spring/summer.

Our discussion centred mainly on which hardy annuals we were going to grow and Bridge started off by reminding us of the difference between hardy and half hardy annuals.  Hardy annuals are those which can be sown in the autumn, either in situ or in modules and which will survive the cold.  Half-hardy annuals are those which should be sown in the spring and kept under glass, ie. in a cold frame or green house and then planted out when the risk of frost has passed in late spring/early summer.

Hardy annuals are frost hardy and will grow from seed, flower, produce more seed and then die in one growing season.  If left to grow from seed which has been scattered naturally by the parent plant, seedlings won’t necessarily come up where you want them to and will become more like weeds.  Instead, Bridge recommended sowing seeds in modules as these will grow more reliably and can be planted where required when they are big enough.  This needs to be done in the next week or so as although these seeds do not need heat to germinate, light levels are fading and without adequate natural light, they will not germinate.

Bridge demonstrated how to sow hardy annual seeds in modules:

Firstly, make a shallow dent in the compost and put 2-3 seeds in each module.  Then cover thinly with some compost and sprinkle some vermiculite over them them.  Water them or lightly spray, making sure the seedlings are kept moist but not too wet.  After a while, the seedlings will need to be thinned out into larger pots until they are big enough to plant in the ground.

The module trays should be labelled carefully, writing the genus first with a capital letter, then the species name starting in a lower case and then the cultivar name in inverted comas and starting with capital letters.

Place the modules outside in a sheltered location.


Hardy annuals we will be growing for next year include:

  • Love-in-a-mist – Nigella.  These also make attractive dried flowers.


  • Centaurea – these bright blue flowers are thistle-like in appearance.


  • Corn cockle – Agrostemma githago. These grow up to 75cm and have narrow grey-green leaves.


  • Ammi majus – these are early summer-flowering umbels.  If left, the seed heads are attractive in autumn.


  • Californian Poppy – Eschscholzia californica.  This is lovely planted along the side of paths and has light airy foliage.


  • Orlaya – similar to ammi, these must be sown fresh as seeds kept for longer than a year will not germinate.


  • Euphorbia oblongata – a good doer, this is a beautiful foliage plant with acid yellow flowers and lime green leaves  It will last in the garden from early spring right through to late autumn.


  • Opium Poppy – Papaver somniferum.  These grow up to 120cm high with fleshy, grey-green leaves, large blousy flowers and attractive seed heads.


Jobs in the garden this week included:

  • Pruning summer-fruiting raspberries by taking out the weak shoots to leave only the strong stems.  These will than be underplanted with bulbs.img_4635
  • Continuing to clear Lil’s Bed in readiness for the foxgloves and alliums.


  • The box balls in pots were lifted and will be planted out in the beds later.


  • Continuing to sort out the herbaceous bed behind the hedge.
  • Continuing to sort out and clear the beds under the arches.


  • Tidying up ‘Little Dixter’.
  • Sorting out the herbs in the top garden.
  • Continuing to clear out the pond.  Plants which we want to keep were put into a paddling pool temporarily…..


While Katy had fun sucking the water out of the pond.  Next time we will be using a pump, you’ll be relieved to know Katy!


  • Sorting out the compost heaps.  It was decided that the pumpkins that were growing on one of the heaps hadn’t really worked and so these were cleared and the compost which is ready to use was put into one bin and the rubbish cleared from the rest of the rotting foliage, etc.


Richard and Sarah found a lot of rubbish in the bins which shouldn’t be there, particularly bits of plastic and plastic plant labels.  Please take care to only put compostable items in the bins.


The compost heaps are now sorted and Richard will be keeping a close eye out to make sure they stay that way.




Friday 30th September

Today we helped to organise a coffee morning at the Garden House, the proceeds of which will go to MacMillan Cancer Support.  Despite the dreary weather, there was a steady stream of visitors and it was good to chat to people and answer any questions about the garden while we carried on with our normal gardening activities.


We started off the morning with a discussion on bulbs which we would be planting over the next few weeks.  We will be planting a lot of tulips, particularly spaecies tulips, for instance Tulipa ‘humilis’ which although smaller than hybrid varieties, are often more reliable at coming back in future years.  They are sun-loving and originate from countries such as Turkey and Kurdistan.  The theme for this year will be pink tulips in the large pots with silver-coloured foliage.  We also talked about planting tulips in blocks alongside euphorbia oblongata.  In addition we will be planting red tulips to go with Rosa ‘Bengal Fire’ which is a rich scarlet rose recommended by Helen Dillon.

We will also be planting crocus bulbs, for instance Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’.  These are of the tommasinianus variety which are smaller and more delicate than so-called ‘Dutch’ crocus and flower early, usually at the beginning of February.

Amongst the narcissi we will be planting is Narcissus ‘Minnow’ which is a pale yellow dwarf variety with a lovely scent.

We also talked bout planting mixed alliums along with apricot-coloured foxgloves, once we have removed all the annuals from ‘Lil’s Bed’.

Bridge talked about planting paperwhites and other indoor narcissi, such as ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ and ‘Avalanche’.  Unlike outdoor narcissi, these do not need a period of chill and will start growing as soon as they are planted.  They need a period of 6-10 weeks to flower and so need to be planted now if you want them to flower in time for Christmas.

Amarylis, for example ‘Mont Blanc’ should also be planted in October to ensure Christmas flowers.

We touched on growing indoor hyacinths again, for example H. orientalist ‘Woodstock’ – see last week for more advice on how to plant.

As the weather has been so warm, we have not planted out the wallflowers yet as the beds are full of late summer-flowering plants which are still putting on a great display – it seems a shame to cut them back while they are looking so good.

The plant ID this week concentrated on evergreens.

  • Astelia or Silver Spear are clump-forming evergreen perennials with arching silver leaves and greenish-yellow flowers in the spring, followed by orange berries.  They are from New Zealand and benefit from a sunny being in a sunny position.


  • Pittosporum.  We discussed both P. tenuifolium and P’ tobira.  P. tenuifolium has evergreen glossy leaves with wavy margins and small honey-scented flowers in spring.


  • P. tobira is also known as Japanese pittosporum or Australian Laurel and is similar to P. tenuifolium but with narrower, more ovate leaves.


  • Eucalyptus is a fast growing evergreen tree and its scented foliage is often used for flower arranging.  It can be cut back quite hard but should be placed in a sunny sheltered position, away from cold drying winds.


  • Libertia ixioides ‘Goldfinger’ is a herbaceous evergreen plant which despite its appearance is not a grass.  It has green leaves which are slightly fringed with bronze and a yellow stripe down the middle.  They are of both winter and summer interest and produce white flowers from late spring through summer.


  • Fatsia japonica  (False Castor Oil Plant) These are pollinated by flies and do very well in shade.  They produce lovely white flowers in winter, followed by small black fruits.  They have large leathery leaves which are able to absorb as much sun as possible.



The main tasks this week included:

  • Removing and sorting out plants in the cold frame.
  • Taking out summer annuals from Lil’s Bed in readiness for planting out alliums and foxgloves.


  • Planting out a santolina hedge on one side of the terraces.
  • Continuing to sort out the herbaceous border behind the hedge.


  • Cutting back hard the Rosa banksiae on the top bank.


  • More work in the pond, sorting out and chopping back the water lily.
  • Weeding out the plants around the sundial in readiness for the mints which will be planted in their place.
  • Pruning and weeding out the Winter Bed in readiness for bulb planting.
  • Cutting back and clearing of the borders under the arches to make way for planting of more bulbs.img_4562



Friday 23rd September

It was a beautiful day in the garden this week.  We began the morning by having a quick reminder of everybody’s names. Everyone then named their favourite plant for this time of year.  Particular recommendations for late summer/early autumn interest are as follows:

Cyclamen hederifolium

Anemone hybrida (Japanese anemones)

Hesperantha (Kaffir Lilies) – used to be called Schizostylis

Gaura lindheimeri

Aster – many types

Salvia ‘Love & Wishes’ and S. ‘Amistadt’

Caryopteris ‘Sterling Silver’

Annual climbers including Cobaea scandens (Cup and Saucer Vine), Ipomoea (Spanish Flag) and Ipomoea ‘Grandpa Otts’ (Morning Glory), Rhodochiton, Thunbergia

Half-hardy annuals including Cosmos ‘Antiquity’, Nicotiana mutabilis ‘Marshmallow’, Phlox ’21st Century Blue’

Canna ‘Dunbar’ (these are tender and should be treated in the same way as dahlias)

Helianthus (Sunflowers)

Grasses including Stipa gigantea, Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’, Carex ‘Ice Dance’

Acers for autumn colour

Ivy which is in flower at this time of year and is a good source of late nectar for bees and butterflies

Hawthorn for attractive berries

In the plant ID this week we looked at common weeds.  It is important to get to know the young and mature stages of weeds so that they can be easily recognised and removed early on.

Bindweed are trumpet-flowered weeds which wind themselves around the stems of plants and plant supports.  They spread rapidly by creeping underground stems or rhizomes and will choke and smother plants in the process.  It is important to make sure that you do not carry even the smallest piece of root back to your own garden in order to prevent spreading.  Bindweed can be kept in check by the use of Glyphosate (not organic).


Annual Sowthistle are related to dandelions.  Their seeds are spread on the wind and they will accumulate rapidly if left unchecked.  As well as smothering other plants, they will take nitrogen and water from the soil.  Even though they have a spreading root system, they can be easily uprooted by hand.


Oxalis are small creeping weeds with yellow flowers and red clover-like leaves.  Even though they do root where the stems touch the ground, their main means of spread is by seed.  As well as removal by hand or by hoeing, one of the best methods of keeping oxalis in check is by spreading a good layer of mulch over the border.

Euphorbia peplus is an annual weed which seeds easily.  The sap can irritate the skin and so care should be taken when removing by hand.


Alkanet is a member of the boraginaceae family.  It has a deep tap root and is similar in appearance to the forget-me-not.  It is cultivated in Central and Southern Europe as a source for a red dye.  This is best removed by hand, making sure the whole of the tap root is taken away.


Borage is a herb and although it is loved by bees, it can be very invasive if left unchecked in the garden.  It is similar to alkanet with hairy, prickly leaves and stems and white or blue flowers.


Bridge demonstrated planting up forced hyacinths to be ready in time for Christmas.  To be in flower for December 25th, ideally they need to be planted by 25th September.  Choose a shallow container (no drainage holes needed) and half fill with compost.  Place each bulb on top of this and top-dress with grit or moss.  They should be kept damp and stored in a cool, dark place indoors or outside, covered to keep out the light.  When 2-4cm. of the shoots emerge, put them indoors in a cool, light place.

Activities in the garden this week included:

  • Pond clearing


  • Cutting back and weeding the rockery and taking cuttings


  • Pruning the bay tree and making a ‘window’


  • Tending to the sempervivums in containers


  • Thinning hardy geraniums and planting Verbena bonariensis in the Rose Walk


  • Weeding, cutting back and labelling perennials in the big herbaceous bed
  • Removing spent annuals from beds
  • Sowing Orlaya in modules
  • Removing annual climbers


The cat that got the cream this time!


Friday 16th September 2016



Welcome everybody to another year of gardening on Friday mornings.  The garden is still looking great after the summer and we’re looking forward to the months ahead.

As it was our first morning back after the summer break, we spent time introducing and getting to know new and returning members and going over the main aims and plans for the next few months.  We agreed that our principle aim is to get the garden looking good all year round and to learn off each other as we go along.  As well as our weekly activities, main projects will be to create a winter garden drawing inspiration from places like Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge; completely emptying and replanting the pond; being creative with some topiary as well as doing lots more container gardening.  Also, we will be carrying out research on a few mini projects which we will discuss over the coming weeks.

Many of us have been busy visiting other gardens over the summer and here are a few (many) of our recommendations:

Woolbeding Gardens near Midhurst

Sarah Raven’s garden at Perch Hill, East Sussex

Bryan’s Ground in Shropshire

Wollaton Old Hall in Shropshire

Pashley Manor Gardens in East Sussex

Parham House and Gardens in West Sussex

Monk’s House in Rodmell

RHS Wisley

East Lambrook Manor Gardens – the late Margery Fish’s garden in Somerset

Mottisfont Manor in Hampshire

Sussex Prairie Gardens

Nymans Gardens

The Botantical Gardens in Hobart, Tasmania

RHS Rosemoor

Gravetye Manor

Packwood House near Birmingham

Levens Hall in Cumbria

Monet’s garden at Giverny, France

Hill House Nursey and garden, Devon

Westdene Gardens in West Sussex

Kew Gardens

The garden at Charleston near Lewes

The garden at The Red House, Bexleyheath

Morville Hall in Shropshire

We talked about cutting back plants such as helianthemums (rock roses) and santolina (cotton lavender)  in order to rejuvenate them.  Care must be taken not to cut into the old wood of these plants and Santolina will make a good hedge in time if cut back in this way.  Cuttings can be taken from the offshoots of some of these to produce new plants.  Bridge advised us to plant them in multipurpose compost mixed in with a little grit or perlite, place in a shadey spot and to keep them lightly watered.

Activities in the garden 

We had limited time for gardening this week but once the rain had stopped we got busy doing the following:

  • Cutting back, pruning and feeding the herbs, such as various mints in the top garden and the herb garden.
  • Removing  alstromerias in the sunk garden and planting a new rose up against the wall.
  • Investigating the pond and deciding what could be done with it in the coming months.
  • Sowing seeds of Euphorbia oblongata.
  • Clearing out the greenhouse and repotting some of the plants.
  • Tidying up the herbaceous border behind the hedge.
  • Planting up a new container.

And very importantly we ate Amanda’s delicious Ginger Polenta Cake….


Sunday 17th July 2016

The Friday group ended the year with a very successful charity day to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. It was a beautiful day – the garden looked amazing and we had our usual variety of interesting stalls, fantastic food and lovely music to enhance the atmosphere. The auction and raffle were great fundraisers as ever and everyone was very generous in their support for this charity. We finished the day with an end of year meal – thanks to Bridge for another year of inspirational teaching and an opportunity to spend time every week in her beautiful garden.

Friday 8th July 2016

Roses are the star of the show in the garden at the moment so we spent some time looking at a few of the 60 plus different roses that Bridge has at the Garden House.

  • Rosa ‘Chevy Chase’ is a particularly spectacular rambling rose that is growing up one of the arches. It is currently in full bloom with large clusters of small double  crimson flowers.


  • Rosa ‘William Lobb’ is an old moss shrub rose with beautiful blooms that open to various shades of purple, mauve and violet-grey. It has a rich perfume and the stems have dense thorns.


  • Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’ is a shrub rose which has large opulent rich crimson/purple flowers. It can be prone to mildew so needs to be pruned carefully to ensure that that the air can circulate well. It has a light fragrance and benefits from some support. Bush or hybrid tea roses generally don’t do so well on chalk so they do need lots of feeding.


  • Rosa ‘The Fairy’ is a little shrub with graceful, spreading and fan-like growth. It has sprays of tiny, soft pink pompon flowers. It is tough, reliable and disease-free.


  • Rosa ‘Dorothy Perkins’ is a rambling rose with cascades of pink flowers. It can be prone to mildew so needs to be cut back hard after flowering and fed regularly.


  •  Rosa ‘Francis E Lestor’ is one of the most reliable of all rambling roses. It has huge bunches of small, single white blooms, delicately tinted with soft pink and a strong fragrance. It has orange hips in the autumn. These are pictures of the rose at Wollerton Old Hall gardens from a recent Garden House trip.

Julia also read from The Morville Year by Katherine Swift as the Garden House trip had also included a trip to the Dower House garden at Morville Hall in Shropshire. It was a very appropriate piece about losing control in the garden which we could all relate to. Katherine Swift wrote “I admit that my garden is wilder that most supposedly formal gardens, especially this year, when everything has made yards of extra growth. The long grass has fountains of feathery seed-heads weeks earlier than usual. The roses are lolling forwards cascading on to the paths….Not what I had intended, but it’s too late now: disarrange a single shoot, attempt to prop things up, try to regain control, and the spell is broken. It is a beautiful tangle. My garden has a life of its own, independent of me. I like that.”

Activities in the garden this week:

  • Planting out in the cut flower bed
  • Taking cuttings of Erysimums
  • Feeding the pots
  • Planting pumpkins in the compost heap
  • Planting out in the veg bed – more mangetout, leeks and beetroot
  • Planting Dahlias in metal pots
  • Pulling up some of the Lysimachia punctata in the yellow bed which was taking over and planting out Coreopsis


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