Friday 19th May

We had an away day from the Garden House today and went to work  in a lovely garden in Lindfield.  Liz bid for our services in Last year’s Charity Day auction and so we all went armed with all manner of garden equipment to transform her garden.  A good time was had by all and we were so pleased with the end results – as was Liz.

Great work everyone!


Friday 12th May


With Bridge away on the Emerald Isle, various mischievous suggestions were made along the lines of having a reading/rest day – but then Julia and Vicky cracked the whip and brought the meeting to order….

Plant I.D.

Paulownia tomentosa – otherwise known as the Foxglove Tree.  



There is one in flower at the bottom of the garden at present, looking magnificent with its erect panicles of mauve foxglove-shaped flowers.  A deciduous tree which is tolerant of atmospheric pollution. This can be coppiced at the end of the season to produce beautiful extra- large leaves the next year (but at the expense of flowers).

Cercis siliquastrum 


This is a bushy, deciduous small tree – see the one in Bridge’s front garden – also known as the Judas Tree. Deep rose-pink, pea-shaped flowers cluster along the branches before the leaves emerge. It is related to Cercis Canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’.

Lunaria annua – honesty.



 A hardy annual or biennial with toothed, heart-shaped leaves and large open clusters of purple flowers in late spring and early summer which are followed by flat, round, silvery seed pods.  There is a white variety Lunaria annua var. albiflora as well as a variegated one – ‘Alba Variegata’.  

Valeriana officinalis


This is an upright herbaceous perennial growing to 1.5m tall with curiously scented pinnate leaves and rounded clusters of small pink or white flowers in the summer. This is the true valerian, as opposed to Centranthus ruber or Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’ with which it is sometimes confused.

Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’


This is a clump-forming herbaceous variety of clematis with reddish-purple leaves/stems and small fragrant white flowers in the summer and early autumn. It should be pruned to near ground level in early spring or late autumn. It has a scrambling habit and can be grown through other shrubs.

Jobs in the garden this week.

  • Potting up the gladioli corms in trays and top-dressing with bark.IMG_0144
  • Staking the clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ using hazel poles and birch twigs.


  • Staking Rosa ‘Meg’.


  • Moving hostas off the steps, grouping according to type and re-potting as required.
  • Removing bluebells in the Top Garden and then removing the low hedge along the railway sleeper bed.


  • Clipping the Santolina hedge at the bottom of the steps, weeding around and clipping the Box and Phygelius.

IMG_0139 (1)

  • In the greenhouse – pricking out hibiscus, lettuce, scabious and chard seedlings.
  • Sorting out the labels in the potting shed.
  • Moving plants as necessary from inside the greenhouse to create room.
  • Removing  the alstroemeria from under the arches near the water feature.
  • Removing Tulipa ‘La Belle Epoque’ from Lil’s Bed, tying them up and labelling.  Daucus carota (wild carrot or Queen Anne’s lace) were planted in their place amongst lychnis and alliums.


Friday 5th May


What a gorgeous painting by Mary of some of our tulips in the Tulip Garden – they will live long in the memory after they have been blown away by this weekend’s winds.

Luckily they held on long enough for our NGS weekend last week.  Thank you to everyone who helped out – from those who lent a hand on both days and to all our fabulous cake makers.  And thank you to everyone who came along to support us.  We had 500 visitors and raised a record amount of money for all the charities supported by the NGS.  Always a pleasure to show the garden off for such a worthy cause.

Today we were very pleased to welcome Chris and Jackie who came along to represent the Lewes Saturday Circle, our chosen charity for this summer’s Garden House Open Day.  The Lewes Saturday Circle is a recreational group for adults with various levels of learning difficulties and meets every other Saturday in Lewes.  It is entirely self-funding and our efforts in July will go a long way towards the continued running of the group.

No plant I.D. as such today but we did talk about the various genuses in the Geraniaceae family.



These are a large group of mostly evergreen and tender bedding plants.  These are often referred to as Geraniums but this is not correct as Geraniums are hardy herbaceous plants.



These can be annual, biennial or perennial and are commonly known as cranesbills.



These can be annuals, perennials or subshrubs and are commonly known as storksbills. Some are evergreen and have lobed or pinnately-divided leaves.  They produce five-petalled flowers in the summer.

The dahlias are starting to grown in pots indoors.  These will eventually replace the tulips to create a ‘hot’ border along with other vibrant summer blooms and foliage.

When discussing the success or not of tulips in our own gardens, Katy related a tip she’d had from someone at the garden centre: if you want to avoid your tulip bulbs being dug up by squirrels, buy the red ones.  Squirrels don’t like red tulips apparently!

Jobs this week.

  • Removing the Spanish blubells from underneath the arches.  Hardy annuals will be planted in their place.


  • Planting out Geranium Pheum ‘Lisa’ – these are particularly noted for their interesting leaf markings.


  • Pricking out lettuces and Cosmos – these will need to be hardened off for another couple of weeks to avoid any unexpected frosts and cold nights.
  • Planting up hardy annuals into larger pots.



  • Pruning the Kerria and removing Spanish bluebells from underneath.
  • Replanting the Hostas and then moving them to a more shady location.


  • Filling the strawberry pots with succulents.
  • Sorting out the Alpine roof on the shed.  The sedums were cleared away as they haven’t proven to be that successful.  The roof was then replanted with Alpines.


  • Clearing away the tulips from the Top Garden to make room for more plants.  They were then tied up in bunches with coloured string and labelled.


  • Staking the espaliers on the side of the Cut Flower bed.IMG_0293

Friday 28th April



It was great to be back in the garden this week after the Easter break.  The garden has come on in leaps and bounds since we were last here although we were relieved to see that most of the tulips were still hanging on for our NGS Open Day this weekend.

Plant ID

Cydonia – Quince.


This small two year old tree in the garden is already doing very well.  It has exquisite pink blossom and grew a couple of fruits last year.  Quinces cannot be eaten raw but are excellent when turned into jellies or jams.  They are easy to grow and do not suffer from many of the common fruit problems.

Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’


This cultivar is noted for its long growing season from late spring to autumn.  It reaches about 90cm in height and will grow well in full sun.

Tulipa ‘Evergreen’


This late flowering Tulip can be in bloom well into June.  It is almost completely green although the only variation in the colour of its petals may be along the edges which can turn a yellowish-green.

Myrrhis odorata – Sweet cicely.



This hardy plant is thought to be native to Scotland and the north of England and is part of the carrot/celery/parsley family.  It will tolerate shade but should be kept in check as it can be quite invasive.  It is traditionally used for sweetening tart fruit such as rhubarb or the seeds may be ground to produce an aniseed-like spice.

Cynara cardunculus – Cardoon.

These majestic, architectural plants have thistle-like flowers which are sometimes mistaken for globe artichoke.  They can reach a height of 2.4m with leaves up to 1.2m in length.  Before they reach full height, they must be staked to prevent them from flopping over.  The Victorians liked to cook the stalks which have an artichoke flavour.

 Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Isparta’


This variety is very long-flowering and will grow in sun or light shade from April onwards.  It is great for ground cover and grows best in free-draining soil which has been enriched.

Jobs this week:

We spent most of this morning tidying for the weekend.

  • Top Garden.  The Hostas needed a bit of tlc and we also cut back the Clematis armandii which was getting a bit out of control.
  • The vegetable patch was tidied in readiness for the weekend and planting replenished with supplies from the greenhouse.
  • The Tulip beds were weeded and tidied up, dead-heading if needed.



  • Smart black labels (paint stirrers) were painted for the Dahlias.  
  • We planted Rosa Zephirine Drouhin along with honeysuckle and Leycesteria.
  • Little Dixter was tidied up and large pots of tulips were emptied to free up space for new plants.


  • The mosaic path was weeded and pots along the edge were weeded and dead-headed.  We did the same along the path underneath the arches.


  • The compost heap was turned and sorted out.


  • The bottom path opposite the Winter Garden was weeded.


Everything looked fantastic by the end of the morning – well done to everyone!




Bridge expressed her delight in the garden at the moment – the Tulips are nearly all out (too early for the NGS opening!);  ‘Rem’s Favourite’ and ‘Ronaldo’ are especially beautiful.  The pond looks amazing (respect to Katie the Pond), with the marsh marigold in a starring role.  Appreciation to one and all.

Richard underlined how gardening, and especially gardening in groups, improved positivity and wellbeing.  His daughter’s MA in Environmental Anthropology demonstrated that vulnerable groups benefit hugely from horticultural involvement.  Her research found that outcomes in terms of both social skills and mental health were very positive.  Amanda shared her experience of working in the Garden House garden with her dementia group and described the ripple effect of the benefits.  Friday Group agreed that being “earthed” was good for everyone’s soul.

Plant ID

Caltha palustris – the marsh marigold or kingcup.  (Caltha is derived from the Greek for “goblet”).    

Marsh marigold Zsuzsanna Bird compressed.jpg

Part of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), it is a feature in the pond area at present where it is blooming happily on the newly levelled marginal shelf.  A British native pond plant, it is a small to medium size perennial herbaceous plant, native to marshes, fens, ditches and wet woodland in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. 

Narcissus ‘Segovia’


Exquisite, open-faced, highly scented Narcissi with white petals and a small flat lemon cup. Award of Garden Merit from the RHS

Tulipa ‘West Point’


stunning yellow lily-flowered tulip which has slender urn-shaped flowers with pointed tips.  They are quite tall and known to be long-lasting and perfect for cutting.  Awarded AGM.

Tulipa ‘Paul Scherer’.


This has fantastic almost black petals with large oval flower heads on tall stems.  The darkest tulip you can grow.  Awarded AGM.

Erysimum old school – perennial wallflower



These exhibit beautiful soft shades which fade gently  They are easy to take cuttings from

Perhaps even better is Erysimum parrish’s red



This is sweetly scented with neat green foliage.

Lunaria – honesty

This is in the brassica family and is biennial (a plant which flowers in its second year). This lovely mauve plant fills the gap left by tulips once they have finished flowering. Grown partly for its fragrant bright flowers in spring and early summer, it also has unique seed heads, oval and translucent, used widely in flower arranging.  It will seed freely around the garden.  There is a white variety too, Lunaria var. albiflora.

Jobs in the garden:

  • Pond – Bluebells were removed  from around the pond and we planted horsetail grasses.  Further planting was carried out on the marginal shelf.
  • Silver-leaved plants – were organised and planted.


  • Little Dixter was reorganised to look even more beautiful.
  • Salvias were cut back, fed and watered and made ready for the Exotic Hot Garden.  The Alstroemerias were taken out and cuttings were made from them.
  • Greenhouse – The tomato plants were planted into rings.
  • New Hazel and Birch arches were woven.  Sweet peas were planted around them in manure-enriched compost.  Grit was added at the base of the plants and after watering, they were sprayed to protect from slugs and snails.
  • Supports for crab apples and Rosa ‘Meg’ were constructed.
  • Blueberries and fruit bushes were potted up.


Hardy annuals were planted in the Tulip Bed.  More hardy annuals were potted on from FP7s into FP9s.

Such a beautiful spring day in the garden…



Friday 31st March

Spring has really got going in the garden and throughout the rest of Brighton and Hove.  Blossoms and even early Tulips are out in many places and we talked about how lovely Tulipa ‘Rems Favourite’ is looking in the garden at the moment.


We discussed the different Clematis groups and when to prune them.

Group 1 – These Clematis flower in spring on shoots produced the previous season.  They should be pruned immediately after flowering in mid to late spring, eg. Clematis alpina, Clematis armandii.

Group 2 – This group generally has the largest flowers and bloom either all summer or twice a year in early and late summer.  They can be cut back lightly after their first flowering and then during early spring the following year, eg. Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ AGM, Clematis ‘Jackmanii Alba’.

Group 3 – This group flowers on the new season’s growth and should be cut back in February above a healthy bud approximately 30cm above the ground, eg. Viticella-type Clematis such as C. ‘Bill Mackenzie’.  They are good to grow with Roses and can exhibit attractive seed-heads.

Plant ID

Amelanchier canadensis ‘Ballerina’


This is a small deciduous tree or large shrub which has snowy-white flowers in spring, followed by small red berries, turning to purple.  It has good autumn interest as well as its leaves turn orange to purple-brown.

Prunus ‘Tai-haku’ – Great White Cherry


This medium-sized decidous tree has a broad spreading crown and its leaves turn a deep bronze-red in the autumn.  During spring it bares large single white flowers which can measure 6cm in length.

We talked about Prunus triloba which are much smaller and may be grown in large pots.  In spring it is covered in clear pink flowers.  Starting off as a shrub, in time it can be trained as a tree and even a wall shrub if pruned correctly.


Among the spring flowers we have in the garden are:

Narcissus ‘Minnow’ – see last week.

Narcissus ‘Thalia’


This multi-headed variety is scented and almost pure white – so elegant and refined.

The following species Tulips are generally reliable and often come back year after year.

Tulipa ‘Little Girl’ with its attractive foliage.


Tulipa saxatilis (Bakeri Group) ‘Lilac Wonder’ 


This is one of the first Tulips to appear and grows to about 25cm.

Tulipa humilis


Primula denticulata (De)- drumstick primula


These distintive Primulas are easy to take cuttings from.

Jobs this week:

  • We planted Clematis ‘Frankie’ near Kerria japonica ‘Golden Guinea’ in the Top Garden and also one over the wall near the top of the steps.  We placed plenty of grit around them and sprayed them with organic slug and snail deterrent.
  • Work on the pond continued in earnest.  Keith helped to remove the old liner and the base was reshaped and levelled out.  By the end of the morning it was good to see the pond being refilled with fresh water.
  • Protective covers were removed from the Salvias and they were tidied up and place in a sunny position.  These will be planted later in new “hot” borders which will be developed in a few weeks.
  • We continued to label the Roses and gave some of them a good feed.
  • Seeds of Half Hardy Annuals were sown, eg. Lettuce, Cosmos.
  • Erigerons and Santolina were cut back to improve their shape and fed well.  We have noticed that increased feeding of plants in the garden has made a huge difference over the last year or so.  Chicken pellet fertiliser was scattered around the base of the plants and worked into the soil.
  • The willow arch was trimmed back and tied in.  Any stray branches were weaved in and tidied up.


  • Structures were made inside the greenhouse for tomatoes.  The greenhouse beds were cleared and dug over and a frame was constructed from canes and birch twigs.  Tagetes were kept in place to deter white fly.


  • Narcissi which had gone over were dead-headed.


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

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