Friday 23rd June

Last week a large group of us travelled to visit the lovely gardens of Norfolk.  While we were away, the remaining Friday Groupers helped Lil in her garden and a good job they made of it too.

Back at the Garden House, we were amazed at how much everything had grown in our absence.  Needless to say we were all on watering duty today after all the hot weather.

We didn’t have a plant ID today but we looked more closely at a couple of annuals commonly used as summer bedding in pots.

Helioptrope – Cherry Pie Plant


This has compact dark green leaves and deliciously-scented small custers of purple flowers.  These are said to smell like cherries and vanilla – hence its common name.



This is grown for its foliage and is used mainly in this country in containers and hanging baskets or grown at the front of borders.  It is best grown in semi-shade with protection from hot sun.

Jobs this week

  • Staking hardy annuals by the greenhouse and planting Ammi and Larkspur.



  • Planting Salvias and annual Cosmos in the Hot Bed behind the greenhouse and staking the Dahlias.


  • Planting lettuces under cloches, weeding and generally tidying up the veg bed.


  • Cutting back the Alpines in the sinks and Rockery, feeding and watering well. Euphorbias and Sisyrinciums were also planted in the Rockery.


  • Deadheading, feeding with liquid seaweed and watering the hanging baskets.  
  • Tidying and sorting through the plants in the cold frame, deadheading and watering as we went.
  • Little Dixter was given a makeover – sorting through plants and making sure they were positioned correctly according to light and shade. Argyranthemums and Plectranthus were planted in pots along with Heliotrope and Lobelia.


Friday 9th June


It was good to be back in the garden after the Half Term break.  The plants seem to have gone mad with so much growth after all the heavy rain and periods of hot sunshine we’ve had.

We talked about future plans for the garden and Bridge revealed that the purple-leaved plum tree in the Top Garden Garden is to be removed and a line of Silver Birch trees put in its place – all very exciting.

Plant I.D.

As the roses are looking so beautiful at the moment, we looked at some of them in more detail.  We have around 64 different varieties growing in the garden and we’re rather proud of them.   After our discussion, we had a vote to see whether there is a clear favourite.

Rosa ‘Compassion’


This is a climbing hybrid Tea rose with glossy dark green leaves and coppery-pink fragrant flowers.  It has lovely dark red stems which are quite stiff as opposed to bendy.  As the stems can snap fairly easily, is more suited to growing up a wall or trellis as opposed to an arch.

Rosa ‘Francis E. Lester’


This vigorous rambler looks great growing over arches.  It has quite a simple flower and as is the habit of most ramblers, it doesn’t repeat flower.  It produces lovely little orange hips in the autumn.

Rosa ‘Highgrove’


This beautiful rose can be grown as a short climber or large shrub.  It will repeat flower and has a lovely light fragrance.

Rosa Harlow Carr


This old fashioned-style bushy shrub rose has very fragrant double pink blooms.  It flowers well from summer to autumn and has been proven to be particularly disease-resistant.

Rosa Gertrude Gekyll


This is an upright small shrub rose with lovely double pink flowers which are very scented.  It flowers prolifically from summer to autumn.

Rosa James Galway


Another very scented pink rose with rosette-shaped flowers with densely-packed petals.  This rose is almost thornless and does well in shade.

Rosa ‘William Lobb’


This medium-sized shrub rose has magenta, almost purple blooms through midsummer. The buds and arching stems are covered in an almost moss-like growth and its habit is very open.

Rosa ‘Chevy Chase’


This rambler is ideal grown against a house, pergola or trellis and flowers through until autumn with highly-scented blooms.

Rosa ‘Albertine’


This vigorous rambler blooms during midsummer on attractive thorny red stems with dark glossy leaves.  Its flowers are a salmon-pink colour and the scent is captivating.

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’


This is a small open shrub rose with almost thornless stems.  The single flowers start off as a soft yellow and then turn to pink and crimson.  Again, the stems of this pretty rose are almost thornless.

I have to say that there was no stand out winner in our pole as opinions were divided.  Which is your favourite?

Jobs this week:


  • Tidying up the veg patch and planting beans.


  • Sorting out the compost heap and implementing a red/amber/green system to the order of each bin.  This is to make it easier to know which bin to throw fresh waste into and which bin ‘mature’ compost should be taken from.


  • Revamping ‘Little Dixter’ by planting Gladioli ‘Muriale’ in pots and adding to the display.  These will bring beautiful interest and scent in late summer.
  • Tying in the Clematis after the strong winds last week.
  • Adding to the Exotic Bed by planting Gladioli, Crocosmia and Cannas.  The area was then protected from slugs and snails by spreading Strulch.


  • Planting Ammis and Orlayas into the Garden Room bed.
  • Clearing weed and debris off the pond.
  • Pricking out and tying up tomato plants in the greenhouse.  Also in the green house, Streptocarpus were brought out and placed where they would be protected by the shade of a shelf.


  • Potting on Zinnia, Cosmos and Cleome in readiness for planting in Lil’s Bed. These will replace the Lychnis which will be taken out in a couple of weeks.


Lots of cake and homegrown strawberries were our reward today…..


Friday 26th May

Today we had a good discussion about the plants and flowers in our gardens which are particularly attractive to bees and other pollinators.  Hilary came up with this great list of plants in her garden which demonstrates the variety of plants we can grow which are beneficial to bees:

Geranium macrorrihizum which performs well in most soils and is happy in full sun to almost full shade.

Geranium pratense ‘Mrs. Kendall Clark’ – this variety with pale violet flowers loves the sun in Hilary’s garden.

Geranium phaeum – again this is happy almost anywhere with its upright habit and delicate flowers ranging from purple through to white.

Antirrhinums – these annuals are very easy to grow and will flower from the beginning of summer right the way through to autumn.

Iris sibirica – this flowers from late spring to early summer with its striking purple blooms veined with yellow and white.

Alliums – these are grown for their showy flower heads with lots of tiny star-shaped  blooms which form to make the main flower head.  They range from white through to vivid blue and are a stunning addition to the late spring garden.

Iris pseudocorus – these are useful pond plants.  Another variety of Iris which thrive in completely dufferent growing conditions but which are great for attracting bees.

Alstroemeria – these lily-shaped flowers are a great edition to the summer border with their bright colours.  They are herbaceous perennials and flower from June through to the first frosts. They make useful cut flowers.









We also talked about many so-called weeds we have in our gardens which the bees absulutely love, eg. herb robert (native geranium) and speedwell.

Nectar and pollen from flowering plants are bees’ only food source (unlike other insects) while flowers need bees to pollinate.  By including a few bee-attractive flowers in our own gardens we are doing our bit to help this most essential of insects.

Jobs in the garden this week:

  • Making a trellis support for the tomatoes outside the greenhouse.


  • Weeding and clearing underneath the large obelisk, followed by planting of courgettes, nasturtiums and gourds at the base.  We covered the area with a layer of bark and slug pellets to protect the young plants.
  • Staking and weeding the tomato bed in the greenhouse.  We also planted Tagetes and watered everything well.
  • Removing the Crocosmias from the bed ouside the Garden Room.  These were stored in trugs with soil to be replanted elsewhere soon.  Sweet peas were planted in their place with the addition of plenty of slug pellets.


  • Planting Scabious and Cleome in large pots – these were then placed outside the entrance to the greenhouse.


  • Tidying up Little Dixter – including deadheading and removing bulbs from pots.
  • Planting out sweetcorn and lettuce in blocks.
  • Removing plants from the greenhouse to harden off outside.

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!



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