Friday 17th September 2021

We’ve only just started our autumn sessions, and already we’re thinking about next year’s plantings. These are some fantastic Stocks, with cool evergrey-silver foliage, whose blissful scent we’ll enjoy in 2022.

Plant ident.

This week it’s all about half-hardy, annual climbers. Useful, exciting, dramatic and well worth a go. These begin and end their life-cycle over a twelve-month period; being half-hardy, means they can’t be planted out in the garden until all danger of frost has passed. They are generally sown in the spring and the pots are placed on heat to germinate.

Thunbergia alata ‘Sunny Suzy Brownie’

The Black-Eyed Susan Vine is a great choice if you need to cover an ugly fence or wall quickly; a twining climber, it will need support. In the summer months it produces very pretty dark orange-red flowers. Grow in a sunny position for best results, remembering to water and feed regularly. H. 2m

Rhodochiton atrosanguineus ‘Purple Bells’

Sow seeds very early (in February) on heat. (Rhodochiton needs a long growing season.) A glamorous climber, which excites a lot of interest both for its bell-like flowers and its tendril-like stems with heart-shaped foliage. Originating from Mexico, it can hang downwards from a balcony, or clamber upwards from pots. Treated as a half-hardy, acrobatic annual in this country (for obvious reasons), it could be considered a tender perennial if kept somewhere sheltered and warm over winter. The obvious answer is to build an orangery. A.G.M. Full sun, any soil. H. 3m

Something like this would do

The Rhodochitons currently performing at Garden House came from seeds collected from last year’s plants. Just saying.

Cobaea scandens

Another one from Mexico which also needs sowing very early in the year – in fact those at Garden House were sown in January. Sow the seeds on their sides to discourage rotting off. They start off their lives growing with quiet innocence, looking so encouraging in their green lushness. By the end of the autumn, they are a chaotic mess, unless trained by a strict disciplinarian. Sarah Raven grows hers over arches at the entrance to Perch Hill, where the white or purple bells of the Cup and Saucer plant dangle down to welcome visitors. However they are grown they are wonderful, as they are fabulously tendrilled creatures with surreal, exotic flowers. A.G.M. Full sun, any soil. H. 10m!

Ipomoea lobata

Spanish flag (its flowers are red and creamy yellow) is a terrific climber and another which will provoke envious glances. Related to bindweed (although its flowers don’t resemble those of that blasted Morning Glory we all know and hate) and to the Sweet Potato, it is in the Convolvulaceae family. Grow in full sun, either in a border or up a teepee of canes in a large pot. H. 5m. Stunning.

Sowing Seeds

Now is the time to get on with sowing hardy annuals, which we’ll be doing over the next few weeks at Garden House. They can also be sown next year in the spring, but by starting now we’ll get stronger plants which will flower earlier.

Hardy annuals are plants which begin and end their life cycle over one growing season – i.e. within a twelve month period. They can withstand the cold temperatures of winter, and can survive outside over the winter months. However, it’s a good idea to give them some protection from storms, winds and torrential rain, so they’re best kept in an unheated greenhouse or coldframe where possible.

Examples of hardy annuals are: Ammi majus, Calendula ‘Indian Prince’, Orlaya grandiflora, Nigella ‘African Bride’, Eschscholzia ‘Strawberry Fields’, Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’, Consolida and Papaver ‘Beth’s Poppy’. Cheap and easy to grow, they are a no-brainer for the keen Friday Group member.


Fill an FP9 pot full of compost and strike off the residue. Sow seeds on top, gently pressing into the compost. Cover with horticultural grit and label. Where seeds are tiny, sow them with a small amount of silver sand mixed in; move the mix across the pot diagonally; turn the pot and sow again. This enables you to see exactly where the seeds have been sown and ensures that germination will be fairly even. Cover with a shallow layer of vermiculite, an inert material which improves drainage and allows light to penetrate. That’s vermiculite. Not cellulite. Label.

Place pots in a water bath so that the seeds won’t be disturbed; water will be taken up by capillary action. Putting pots in the greenhouse on a heated mat will facilitate germination.

Jobs for the Week

Now, who’s on Quality Control this week?

Sorry. Not me. Far too busy looking gorgeous



Just resting my eyes. Keep your hair on

Work on Little Dixter

Using some very precious pots. No pressure there then.

Pot up Viola ‘Bunny Ears’. And no rabbiting on. Pot up other autumn-flowering shrubs and grasses to create interest and theatricality at the entrance to the lower part of the garden. Pennisetum and Hylotelephium spectabile will feature spectacularly.

Sow hardy annual seeds

As per instructions (see above). Label the pots. Remove from water tray and place on heated mat in greenhouse for speedier germination.

Pots – 9/10. Quality control – 0/10

Iris unguicularis

Such beautiful flowers, and now is the time to propagate them. Remove the Irises from the under-arch bed and divide them, ensuring that some roots remain on each division.

Some detangling is involved

And then some splitting

Plant up in pots; water; label; place in greenhouse until rooted.

Vegetable beds

Plant out Beetroot, Spring Onions, Radishes, Spinach and Leeks. Rake the beds first; they have already been given some lovely home-made compost.

Leeks in


But of course!

And a little something to deter those slimy things?

Ah, yes!

But – oh dear!

Look what the team found inside the bag!

Hmm. Disposed of carefully, thoughtfully,

and ecologically

Plant out Wallflowers

These Erysimum ‘Sugar Rush’ have been grown from seed and now need to be set out in the garden. One hand-span apart and planted deeply.

Nicely watered in

Work in the greenhouse

Pot on Florence Fennel and Robert de Niro. Sorry, that should be Cavolo Nero, or Black Kale. The latter is very ornamental in the winter border – especially when there’s a touch of frost to decorate the edges of its leaves. It’s a cut-and-come-again vegetable, useful in stir-fries and salads. Who knows, in time the seedlings may become as statuesque and architectural as this –

Plant out Chrysanthemums for autumn flowering

Keep colour in the garden going throughout late summer/early autumn. A wide variety of Chrysanthemums are now available, and they are coming back into fashion fast. Get ahead of the curve.

Pinch out the tops of the plants to promote more flower heads.

Plant out Foxgloves

In the bed underneath the arches. (Please, no singing.) Foxgloves are hardy biennials, and strong seedlings/plug plants can be planted out in the garden now for overwintering so they will be ready to flower next summer. They are versatile plants, coping with both sun and shade.

And so, Friday Group finish until another Friday. Bidding a fond farewell with a fabulous Fuchsia Finale –


Friday 10th September 2021

Whisk out your wheelbarrows! Stand by your spades! Unearth your trowels! Friday Group are back! Now in Year 16.

And somebody is very pleased to see us…

“You may stroke one’s neck very gently.”

First we shared info. about our various summers – discoveries, visits, excitements. Sussex Prairies Garden, Great Dixter, Oxford Botanical Gardens, the roses at Regent’s Park, Sissinghurst, Rousham Gardens, One Garden at Stanmer Park, the Yeo Valley Organic Garden and Pelham Plants were all mentioned. The importance of having a shed to hide in was discussed and approved. Growing vegetables for the first time was a highlight for some as was experimenting with ‘going wild’. Sort of not-gardening gardening, if you will. Some had realised their dreams of growing annuals –

That’s one hell of a Helianthus

Others had planted up super-duper summer containers. One person was maintaining a watching brief over a newly acquired garden and another had grown their first Cucamelon. Cripes!

Plant ident.

It’s autumn, and the grasses are coming into their own. This week we looked at Pennisetum; all from the same genus of plants, but all very different.

Pennisetum macrourum

Looking absolutely stunning at the moment at Garden House, growing with Verbena bonariensis. This African Feather Grass was grown from seed obtained from Gravetye Manor, a fantastic hotel and garden in West Hoathly, Sussex. It makes a loose, spreading clump of narrow leaves which turn yellow in autumn. The grass heads are long, slender and cylindrical, starting light green and turning a pale oat-yellow as they age. Wonderful waftiness. H. 0.5 – 1 m

Pennisetum is the genus and macrourum is the species. This one will come true from seed and is hardy at Garden House.

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’

Pennisetum (=genus); alopecuroides (= species); ‘Little Bunny’ (= the cultivar name, meaning that it is a hybrid). Because this is a hybrid, it needs to be divided for propagation purposes; it won’t come true from seed. This variety loves clay soils, but may not be fully hardy through the winter. H. 0.1 – 0.5 m

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’

If you are on a chalky soil, this cultivar is a better option for you. It performs best in a well-drained soil, and, as it is semi-evergreen, it may lose some of its foliage in winter, but will produce fresh new growth in spring. Again, it won’t come true from seed, so divide in the spring to make new (and free) plants. H. 0.5 – 1 m

Pennisetum orientale ‘Shogun’

Genus? Species? (Good this, isn’t it?) And, the cultivar name is ‘Shogun’. Note that the cultivar name always starts with a capital letter and is placed within apostrophes. Like ‘Hameln’, ‘Shogun’ is also good on chalk. It produces mounds of upright, narrow leaves with silver-pink panicles in summer, growing to around 1.2 m. Good in a group in a gravel garden. A deciduous perennial.

The four different Pennisetum above, highlight the fact that although plants may be from the same genus, they can be quite different. Pennisetum can be annual or perennial, evergreen or deciduous grasses, clump-forming or spreading in habit. In order to identify them exactly, we need their species name and a cultivar name if there is one. Hence, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Black Beauty’ is this one:

H. 1 – 1.5 m

And Pennisetum setaceum ‘Sky Rocket’ , H. 0.9 m. (note the variegated leaves) is this one:

Here endeth the first lesson in binomial nomenclature. All thanks to the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. Eighteenth century. (No television.)

It’s a serious business and was given our full attention

Only one in five fell asleep. You know who you are.


In view of the need to name our plants accurately, labelling is a skill to be learned early on in a gardening life – and one which should become a habit. Date the end of the label; write the genus name of the plant, beginning with a capital letter; write the species name in lower case; write the cultivar name within quotation marks, using a capital letter for each word. Write using an indelible pen such as an ultra-fine Sharpie. Other felt tips are available.

Homework: Produce a label for a plant of your choice. No pressure.

Jobs for the week

This week it’s about looking carefully at what’s growing, what needs hoicking out and what needs cutting back. Hardy Geraniums, for instance, have become lush and overgrown after flowering, and will benefit from a severe haircut.

We collect tools and trugs (green for ‘good’ waste, which can be put on the compost heap; black for ‘bad’ waste, weeds etc., which need to be put in the recycling bins at the front of the house). Then heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go.

Work on the Herb bed

Trimming, clipping, clearing, composting

Work in beds underneath the Rose arches


Dry Bed Project

Bottom Terrace bed

Rhubarb bed

It’s all Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

The Cake Break

Still an essential part of the session. Thank goodness.

It’s good to be back!

Friday 23rd July 2021

The last Friday Group of the year 2020 – 2021. And what a year it’s been! Zoom has been a boon, we’ve all become vaguely I.T. literate and our Latin is coming on apace. By this stage, using Latin phrases to look smart is our modus operandi.

Oh, ita quidem, my dear!

However, it’s not merely a party-session for us. By no means. Today we need to ensure the garden is going to look at its best for the Macmillan Garden Trail (Brighton), which it is participating in over the weekend of 24th-25th July. Cakes have been made, volunteers have signed up to help with refreshments, rain-dancing is due to take place later on (making sure to use the deterrent version of the choreographic score)

Paul Seaborne, of Pelham Plants fame, has brought in a variety of delectable things for sale, thus providing us with the opportunity to lighten our purses and, of course, do the

Plant Ident.

Fuchsia ‘Hawkshead’

A hardy Fuchsia with delicate, dangling flowers in quantity, which are white with a faint green wash to the tips. A seriously classy plant. Tasteful even. A true example of haughtyculture. 90 cms tall.

Dianthus deltoides’Erectus’

Aka the ‘Maiden Pink’. Has small, vivid red/cerise flowers held high over a mat of deep green foliage. Delicate and wafty. Nice in a pot – and easy from cuttings. 15cms tall. Very desirable.

Hylotelephium ‘Black Grape’

Hyloyouwhat? A Sedum by any other name is still a Sedum. Except, admittedly, this one is rather special, as it’s a very dark seedling from Pelham Plants. Rich, black-purple foliage and stems, the flowers emerge as deep purple, fading to an attractive old rose colour. 40 cms tall. Be odd: get 3, 5 or 7. Good in growth, in flower and dies well.

Scabiosa columbaria

Scabious are cracking herbaceous perennials for use in summer to early autumn. They may be comparatively short-lived, but they flower well, are attractive to pollinators and add so much to a border. This variety’s pale lilac-blue pincushion flowers dance above the filigree foliage. Given a position in the sun with good drainage, they will seed around, and especially so in a gravel garden. Upright in habit, they grow to about 60 cms.

There are also many other types of Scabiosa available now, of which ‘Moondance’ is one. Pelham Plants says of this cultivar that it has “clouds of palest yellow pincushion flowers for a sunny well-drained spot. Outstanding compact hybrid with prolific flowering performance.” Sold! H. 50 cms and loves chalky soils.

Cosmos sulphureus ‘Bright Lights’

A half-hardy annual – so remember to collect its seed at the end of the season, so that you can re-sow it and enjoy its bright lights once again next year. Attractive to pollinators. Keep it going for longer by continually dead-heading. And don’t be lazy! Time taken doing this properly will be well repaid. Cut the dead flower head off right down at the next leaf joint. “A zesty orange gap-filler”. Wear sunglasses.

Jobs for the week

Dead-head flowers in the Top Garden. See instructions above.

Continue planting in the Dry Bed

Scabious and Verbena bonariensis to be dotted through the border. Dead-head, weed, water. As per. For more information about gardening in dry conditions, read Beth Chatto on the subject. On which note, here is a recent newsletter from the Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex :-

Rainfall! Beth always paid very close attention to rainfall, and we have continued her tradition of monitoring the rainfall at the Gardens. This year has felt wetter than others, but what is the reality? 

According to our measurements, annual rainfall in Elmstead Market, known as one of the driest areas of the country, has averaged 54cm a year for the last 5 years. Even though we saw an intense heatwave in 2019, rainfall still reached 56cm for the year. 

In April this year, we recorded no rainfall at all – last year it was only 0.2cm. But this year we have had more rain in May, June and July (17.1cm compared with 7.6cm last year). Is there no longer such a thing as April Showers?!

What does this mean for planting and plants? In some ways it means the planting season is extended – more rainfall in warmer months lends itself to planting outside the ‘spring’ planting window. But it also means that you must be prepared to water your plants frequently when you first plant them, even if you plant in spring – they need good soakings (not the occasional sprinkling) to allow their roots to go deep and establish; this is one of their mechanisms for drought survival.

It also means that if you live in a drier area, you would do well to consider plants that cope well with drought
Sustainable planting is at the forefront of everything we do and we are delighted to announce that 30 years after it was first published, Beth’s popular book, the Green Tapestry has been updated with beautiful new images and information.
 Garden and Nursery Director David Ward and Head Gardener Åsa Gregers-Warg have contributed to this new edition and we are very much looking forward to holding a launch here on 27th September; more details to follow!July and August are wonderful in the Gardens – when hot, the Water Garden often feels a few degrees cooler than elsewhere and there is an incredible summer stillness and calm that is so rejuvenating. 

Rejuvenate alpine troughs

Plant alpines in a well-drained, gritty compost. Add horticultural grit to the surface as a finishing touch. Discourages slugs and snails, aids drainage, keeps the plants’ foliage away from any dampness and stops compost being washed about when watering. Oh, it looks properly posh too. Bonus.

Seed sowing

What’s being sown? Beetroots, Carrots, Radishes, Cavolo nero, Salads. Keep ’em coming.

Work on Little Dixter

Think about using more shade-loving plants in that area; the pansies and violas have been fantastic. Maybe Hydrangeas would be good? Perhaps Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ ? Or maybe the wowser that is Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’?

She’s very belle indeed

Meanwhile, Bridge has forged ahead with the peat-free compost trial. Not one to do things by half, she’s trialling 19 (!) different composts. Some have also had a dollop of magical G/H compost added. Echinacea ‘Primadonna’ and Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’ plug plants have been potted up. Monitoring is ongoing. With clipboards and everything.

Time for a break, to celebrate the Friday Group year 2020-2021.

By gad, this gazpacho’s good!

So, everything in the garden’s lovely.

Now, are we on target for the weekend’s visitors?

Very much so

So, until we meet again….

May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back;

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rains fall soft upon your fields.

Friday 16th July 2021

This week, we dished the dirt on compost. Keen to adopt the peat-free route, there are many options out there on the market. Which to opt for?

We brought samples from bags we are using at home and compared texture/formulation/success rates/cost. Some came from nurseries and garden centres, some from supermarkets, some from community compost schemes or home-made compost. And one was from home-produced well-rotted horse manure. Very literally, The Business.

But it’s no good just discussing the theory – we decided that a proper, practical experiment should be carried out. To be continued….

Plant ident.

Identification – not just of the plant concerned – but also its life-cycle. Thankfully, there are people in F/G who really know their Onions – and can tell their Ammis from their Alliums.

So, this bit was a breeze…

Ammi majus

Ammi = the genus; majus= the species name. Apiaceae family (the Carrot or Umbellifer family). Life cycle? A hardy annual. A plant which goes through its entire life cycle in one growing season. Can be sown in the autumn for planting out in March the following year (this gives stronger, more robust plants), Will successfully overwinter outside, unless floods and arctic conditions deem otherwise. Alternatively, sow in the spring of the same year. They may even self-seed if they feel like it.

Comos bipinnatus

Cosmos = the genus; bipinnatus = the species. Family? The Daisy family, Asteraceae. Life cycle? Half-hardy annual. This is one that you can’t leave out over the winter months. No, no, no. This type of plant needs a little coddling and cuddling. Heat to germinate, please. And, absolutely no frosts. The reward? Fab flowers forever and a day. Well, for quite a long time. Many different cultivars are available nowadays – from the sumptuous ‘Antiquity’ to the cool ‘Kiko’ and on to the sweet ‘Candystripe’ (above). Difficult to choose which to grow, but they are easy.

Allium sphaerocephalon

Called the Drumstick Allium, for obvious reasons. People bang on about how good it is. Genus = Allium; species name = sphaerocephalon. Life cycle? A bulbous herbaceous perennial – it returns every year. A favourite with garden designers as it is one of the last Alliums to flower, and brings new energy and interest to late summer borders as they begin to gasp and fade a little. Fantastic with grasses woven through borders, brilliant as cut flowers, cheap to buy. It’s a no-brainer: you need hundreds of these.

Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’

Geranium = the genus. The cultivar name is ‘Ann Folkard’, and this Cranesbill is a vigorous hybrid of Geranium procurrens and Geranium psilostemon, with a strong spreading habit and a wonderfully punchy magenta colour. Family: Geraniaceae. A very useful herbaceous perennial, which contrasts well with golden plants, evergreens, glaucous blues and even dark burgundies and blacks. Lasts for ages. When it goes leggy, just cut it back to near the base of the plant, feed and water, and it should regrow and maybe even flower again before heading back underground for a well-earned winter sleep.

Escallonia ‘Iveyi

Genus? (Insert your answer here……………) Species? (……………..). The Escallonia is a great plant for coastal locations. Lifecycle? An evergreen shrub, which means it keeps its leaves all the year round and is one of those plants which can be the backbone of a garden, providing structure and year-round interest. Very versatile, this can be used in a hedge, as a windbreak, on its own or as part of a border scheme. E. ‘Iveyi’ is particularly striking as it produces long panicles of scented, white flowers from June to September. Small, dark green leaves shine underneath the flower spikes. Deadheading will prolong the flowering period. This one likes full sun and a sheltered location. Frost hardy – but mulch well over the winter.

Plant of the Week

This week the focus is on Clematis. Plants which can provide year-round colour in the garden, if chosen with care. Not only are the flowers exquisite, the seed pods are ethereal.

They like to be planted deep, which helps to avoid the dreaded problem of ‘Clematis wilt’. Cool bottoms and hot tops is the ideal arrangement.

When it comes to Clematis, there are three different pruning groups. They are fiendishly named: Group 1, Group 2, Group 3. Roughly speaking, don’t prune your Clematis if it flowers before early summer; if it flowers from late June onwards, then prune in mid to late February.

Group 1 The early-bloomers

E.g. C. alpina and C. macropetala. These are the spring-flowering Clematis, which flower on shoots produced in the previous season. They require little in the way of pruning – perhaps a light trim after flowering once the risk of frost has past, and maybe a little thinning out in some years.

Group 2 The summer flowerers

These are the spectacular large-flowered types, which bloom from May to June, on shoots developed from the previous year’s growth. Some may flower once again in late summer. Cut dead flowers off after flowering, back to a large bud. In spring, remove any dead shoots. Otherwise, nothing drastic is required.

Group 3 The mid- to late-summer varieties

These flower on the last 60 cms of their current year’s growth. To prevent a tangled mass from developing and a lot of bare lower stems, these are the ones which need a firm hand. They should be cut back hard each February, right back to the lowest pair of healthy buds – at the same time as we normally prune Roses.

Here are three late-summer varieties of Clematis currently performing at Garden House. Gorgeousness in flower-form.

C. ‘Ernest Markham’

C. texensis ‘Princess Diana’

C. ‘Perle d’Azur’

Jobs for the Week

Check progress on the new Dry Bed

Sort out the compost bins

A mucky but essential job. Empty out the bins and turn the compost heaps. Applications only from strong-armed people. And we have exactly the right applicants…

Although, one of them seems to be using the bins as a platform for yoga practice. Still, good for the back.

Work on the vegetable beds

Use compost provided by the yogis to add to the beds, filling them to the top.

Create an obelisk for vegetarian climbers. Useful and designery.

Work on the herb beds

Cut back Mints, Salvias etc. to harvest the herbs and encourage fresh growth. Perennial herbs can be used fresh, dried or can even be frozen. Jekka McVicar is the doyenne of all things herbal and a wonderful source of advice.

Cut back the chives to about 2 cms from the ground. Make hundreds of cheese and chive sandwiches. Check over the Rhubarb and harvest any remaining stalks. Weed; water.

Jolly up Little Dixter

The theatre of pots in this area.


All Health and Safety checks completed, natch.

Cut back and divide Irises

Creates new stock for free and tidies up the flowered stems.

Say a sad but very fond farewell to a wonderful colleague

We’ll miss her greatly

Friday 9th July 2021

Fresh from our successes transforming areas of our colleagues gardens, we returned to Garden House this week. And floriferousness abounds.

The G/H opening for the National Garden Scheme on 18th June put the fun into fund-raising and raised over £1500.00 for charities. Many thanks to all who baked cakes and even more to those who stayed to help out for the afternoon. And people just loved the garden! Why wouldn’t they?

With the arrival of these long, hot summer days, someone (undisclosed) has been getting slower and slower in producing the blogs on time.

But, after all, doesn’t slow and steady win the race?


‘Hakuna matata’ is my motto

Just put one word steadily after another

But, do try to keep up, dear

Plant Ident.

This week we are focusing on scent. It adds so much to the atmosphere of a garden, and of course plays an essential role in attracting pollinators to different plants at various times. Bees and butterflies during the day and bats and moths at dusk and night. Clever things, these plants.

Rosa ‘Compassion’

A favourite of Geoff Hamilton’s, and therefore a favourite at Garden House too. A repeat-flowering climbing Rose with good scent and real presence. Dark green, glossy leaves show off the large, fully double apricot/pink flowers. Likes full sun, fertile and well-drained soil. Good on a wall or pergola. Water lots, feed and dead-head and this plant will be compassionate to you, giving weeks and weeks of pleasure. 3.0 x 1.8 m. A.G.M.

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’

More compact than many Philadelphus varieties, this single-flowered Mock Orange has a gorgeous orange blossom scent and is very attractive to pollinators. Very low-maintenance (always an excellent selling point), it is a good choice for a sunny mixed border. Prune as soon as it has finished flowering and cut back one in four of the oldest stems to the base. Remove any dead, diseased and damaged wood. 1.2 x 2.5 m A.G.M.

Trachelospermum jasminoides

A must for its perfume alone, although its glossy evergreen foliage is also highly desirable, as are the small, white, star-shaped flowers which emerge in the summer. The foliage turns a warm scarlet/bronze over the winter months. Star Jasmine needs full sun, feeding and watering to thrive. As do we all. Good drainage is also essential. Pollinated at night by moths when its scent is at its most tantalising, carried on the warm air. How romantic! Hardy in the south-east, but ensure it is kept as frost free as possible. 9.0 x 6.0 m. A.G.M.

Aloysia citrodora

This may not look much like a scented plant, but, by jove, when you rub those slender, elongated leaves and breathe in, you get a sensational sensory surprise: lemon sorbet! Simply gorgeous, and much more zingy than that old stalwart, Lemon Balm. Grow in a sheltered spot in front of a sunny wall and your Lemon Verbena may make it through the winter months. If cut down by frost, they often regenerate from the base in late spring. Take cuttings to be on the safe side. Don’t be without it. 2.0 x 2.0 m. A.G.M.

Dianthus ‘Old Square Eyes’

Dianthus, or ‘Pinks’ are best grown on very free-draining soils such as chalk. Flowers tend to be white and various shades of pink through to magenta and red. Cut stems back after flowering, or the plant becomes leggy and looks grim. Gorgeously perfumed, they have a clove-based scent. The cultivar ‘Old Square Eyes’ was discovered as a chance seedling in about 1980. It grows to around 30 -40 cms and looks good at the front of a sunny border. Increase your stock of Pinks by propagating from pipings (effectively, these are Dianthus cuttings). They can be taken now and put into an open compost mix. In fact, this is one of our –

Jobs for the Week

Take Pipings from Dianthus

Pipings can easily be pulled from the main plant. After removing the lower leaves, the piping can then be potted into a good open mix of compost and horticultural grit.

Never forgetting…?

The all-important label

If you can’t find the name of the plant, then a description is helpful

Stand back. Allow time to pass and nature to take its course, and…

Look what happens!

Work on the Rockery

By July many plants need a bit of a tidy-up. Helianthemums, for example, really do need taking in hand; H. ‘Wisley Pink’ and H. ‘Henfield Brilliant’ in particular. They are free-flowering and low, spreading Rock Roses. Cut the straggly growth back to give a mounded shape to the plants; whilst doing so, use the opportunity to take cuttings. Plants from cuttings are Always A Good Thing.

Pot up Sempervirens and Succulent plantlets

Sempervirens, or House Leeks, are hardy evergreens. They are sometimes used in the making of ‘green roofs’, and when planted in groups, look like little jewel-boxes. They can be appreciated throughout the year, with fairly minimal input required. They don’t like being soggy, however, so it’s a good idea to give them some protection from prolonged rainfall.

Carefully remove any ‘babies’ by pulling the little rosettes away from the mother plant, together with a piece of root. Push gently into a gritty compost with good drainage. Water. Label. Done.

Below, a pink/burgundy colour palette made up of hardy Sempervirens

Tasteful. NOT tasty.

Succulents, on the other hand, are not hardy. They need a hot, dry situation and shelter from the wind. And the rain. And the frost. Ideally, they need to be undercover in the winter and definitely protected from the wet.

Echeverias are Succulents. Beautiful things, which can be propagated in the same way as House Leeks. Their rosettes are altogether fleshier, meaning that they have thicker leaves. More plumptious, if you will.

Cut back Geraniums

Many have almost finished flowering, but if cut back now, and then fed and watered, the regrowth will be virtually immediate. And often, there will be another flush of flowers too. Worth doing!

Although it does entail a lot of bending

Go On The Offensive On Lil’s Bed

We’re all for wildlife at Garden House, but there are exceptions. We don’t relish slugs. Nor snails. Nor resident foxes on a mission to dig to New Zealand. This bed needs some TLC after these critters have wreaked havoc. Stake Sunflowers, Salvias and Ammi. Pull out anything dead, dying, half-eaten. Plant some more mature annuals, stake and grit them. Water in well. Pray. And mount a 24-hour watch with a flame thrower to hand. Other weaponry is available.

Praying and gardening go hand-in-hand

Time to get up onto two feet now.

Upsy daisy

Friday 2nd July 2021

Week Two of Friday Group’s Transformation Challenge.

What’s in store for them this week?

They don’t look exactly focused, do they? 10.35 and still discussing what to do.

This is more like it.


And after


And after


My goodness, it’s all action

They obviously needed that coffee. This work is all caffeine-fuelled.

Some must have had two cups

Oh. Now, that what I call a transformation!

Congratulations. A job well dug.

Well-deserved, team.

Literally, the icing on the cake.

Meanwhile, in another corner of Brighton….

There are people in that shrubbery!

Are they playing hide-and-seek?

Good heavens, no! They’re pruning the Griselinia. Do they look the type to muck about?

Well, yes they do, actually

The snails, which were carefully coralled together, appear to be making a break for it.

Although, someone’s keeping a beady eye on them…


Back to base next week. Who knows, The Garden House may have become The Garden Jungle by now.

Friday 25th June 2021

It’s that time of year where we divide into sub-groups and head off to colleagues’ gardens to effect totally top-notch transformations.

We may have dreams of turning this situation…

…into something approaching this

Maybe a little showy?

Or this

into this

Possibly a little fussy for our tastes; we prefer a simpler look. And a lot less bedding, for goodness sake.

But how about this

into this?

A wildlife pond? In Horsham? An area with notoriously heavy clay? Are you joking? And the weather forecast is dire.

Well, it’s a big ask, but these are big-hearted types, full of vision and enthusiasm. Give them a challenge, and they’ll dig deep. Quite literally in this case.

First lay out the shape of the pond with a hose. Discuss with team. Re-lay hose. Consider aspect. Re-lay hose. Think about orientation. Re-lay hose. Stop for coffee.

Re-lay hose. Stop for downpour. You get the picture.

And they’re off!

Turf off. Turf stacked.

Mountains of earth appear from the depths

Once they started there was just no stopping them. Even when the weather took a turn for the worse

While some dug, others were on border control.

The obligatory cake-stop

Brilliant work, team! Underlay now in place. Just waiting for the rain to stop so the butyl liner can be positioned. Once that’s happened, you can guarantee there will be a drought.

There will be updates

Next week, fearless Friday Group fettle a new set of challenges

Friday 18th June 2021

There’s a pattern to these N.G.S. Open Days. Friday Group still meets to discuss all things horticultural, do a plant ident., get on with jobs in the garden, eat cake….but, from 11.00 am, we are joined by visitors. So there is an extra element to proceedings. Our aim is to provide a tip-top Visitor Experience, so it’s all hands to the pump – or hose.

Anyone seen the hose?

First, though, the Plant Ident.

This week brought to us courtesy of Paul Seaborne, from Pelham Plants. Nurseryman extraordinaire and all-round nice guy, he brought in some fabulous plants to sell at the Open Day

Iris sibirica ‘Red Flare’

A rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial. A beautiful Iris which clumps up well and grows to around 80 cms . Gold patches shine from the centre. Likes moist soil and a partially shaded or sunny position. Apparently, rabbit and deer proof, although Thumper and Bambi declined to comment.

Geranium ‘Red Admiral’

A robust, long-flowering Cranesbill, with magenta-pink colouring and a black eye and dark veining to each flower. Forms a compact dome, rising to around 60 cms, so fits in well in a border with other herbaceous perennials like Penstemons, Salvias and Alchemilla mollis. The deeply cut green foliage turns red in the autumn. A showstopper.

Linaria ‘Peachy’

A real peach of a plant, this Linaria. Pelham Plants describes it thus: ‘Excellent hybrid with fruity toned small flowers that seem to mix well in any colour scheme. Sun and drainage is preferred. 60 – 90 cms depending on moisture.’ The peachy colour is indeed reminiscent of those fruit salad chews we spent our pocket money on, back in the day.

Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’

Know as the Pineapple Lily, this bulbous plant provides an exotic feel to a pot or in the border. Rich purple-bronze strap-like leaves are topped with spires of pale pink flowers on dark stems. The flowers last for months and their seed heads are also good. Grows to around 45 cms in full sun in most well-drained soils. Mulch well to overwinter successfully in mild areas, or treat as tender

Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’

Wine-coloured flowers with striking dark calyces and stems. Tender, but such a great plant that it’s worth growing and enjoying it over the summer, then protecting from frosts over the winter months. Cuttings are easy to take, so you can increase your stock. Grows to about 70 cms.

Dry Garden Update

Liz took us through the final (?) version of the design for the latest Garden House project. Such a lot of careful work, enthusiasm and thought has gone into this design. We can’t wait to see it come to life in future months.

A Look Round the Garden

Prior to our visitors arriving, we took time to remind ourselves of what’s going on in the garden at the moment. There’s plenty!


They are the star performers this month and are benefitting from all the rain. Dead-heading encourages more flowers, and is really worth doing. Feed weekly with an organic fertiliser like Maxicrop.

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis

An unusual China Rose with a prolonged flowering season, the single flowers change colour as they age – from honey-yellow to apricot through to cerise red. Healthy, scented, repeat flowering and glorious.

Single Roses are attractive to pollinators as they are easy for bees and other insects to access.

Rosa ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’

There are over 70 Roses at Garden House: shrubs, climbers, ramblers. hybrid teas… this one (above) is a repeat-flowering rambler. Starts off as apricot, then fades to peach, pink and ends as white. Almost thornless, very vigorous and healthy with a sweet musky scent. Delicious for its name alone.


They’re looking splendid. ‘Verticality’ is the word you’re looking for.

One or two early visitors were seen really getting into into the Digitalis species

They created quite a buzz


What’s the point of Papavers? Well, Poppies may be brief, but they are stunning –

whether prettily pink

or perfectly poised and purple

or deepest-darkest purple-black

Herbs and salads

Look delicious… as do

The Cakes

And who could refuse a slice of Persian Love Cake?

The visitors arrived and by then Friday Group were all beavering away looking busy and knowledgeable. Ready to answer any questions thrown at us…

“Oh, that plant? Ah, yes, that’s a Salvia. Sage Family, don’t y’know. It’s called ‘Krystle Pink’, and we think it’s kwite klassy.”

Tasks for the week

Carry on Weeding

The combination of warmth and wet means that those weeds will wend and wind wilfully. Hoick them out.

Pick Sweet Peas

The more you pick, the more they grow

Stake plants

Such as Dahlias. This protects them from the hazards of the British Summer. Monsoons, hurricanes, floods. Typical June weather. Check them every so often. Annuals may also need staking as they reach for the stars and…… keel over.

Learn acronyms

V.E. Visitor Experience

A.G.M. Award of Garden Merit

P.B.R. Plant Breeders’ Rights

R.I.P. Label to put on an ex-plant

D. I. P. T. Label for unknown plants (Did I Plant This?)

Enjoy the Roses

Friday 11th June 2021

The Roses rise up

There’s so much to do in the garden at this time of year. Especially when one is opening for the National Garden Scheme in a week’s time. Weeding, watering, feeding, no faltering… It’s all go.

But, sometimes, it’s important to slow down and smell the Roses

Oh, I do so agree

Plant ident.

It had to be Roses. Of course!

With over seventy of them at Garden House, there are a lot to observe and study. Species, shrub, hybrid, rambling, climbing – they’re all over the place. The essential thing to remember is that they are hard to kill, so don’t be intimidated by these prickly characters – show them who’s boss. Dig a generous planting hole and mix in plenty of organic matter together with some organic chicken manure pellets; plant deeply (ensure the graft is beneath the ground); water in well and regularly thereafter; feed weekly (a liquid seaweed like Maxicrop is good – or Uncle Tom’s Tonic). Mulch with more organic matter.

And don’t forget to label. Important when you have 70+ Roses. They may be needy and greedy, but they will repay your devotion.

If you choose the Right Rose for the Right Place, you’ll be able to enjoy them in a whole variety of locations and designs. From formal settings to wild meadow planting; from pots and patios to pillars and pergolas; from borders to clamberers through trees. What a plant.

Rosa ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’

A favourite of Christopher Lloyd’s – and no wonder. Single-flowered, clear apricot in colour and highly scented, this also has dark bronzed green leaves. A hybrid tea bush variety with a short, upright habit, it has few thorns and is repeat flowering. As the blooms are single and simple/open in shape, they are wildlife friendly too. Suitable for containers as well as in the border. Can flower for up to six months. Full sun. 0.8 m (h) x 0.6 m (w)

Rosa ‘Eye of the Tiger’

A recent introduction, this vigorous, disease-resistant floribunda has semi-double, pale yellow flowers with a red central ‘eye’. It has glossy green foliage and is compact in habit – so would be good in a container or perhaps as a low hedge. Fragrant. Has won all sorts of awards! (We’re suckers for prizes at Friday Group – but not so keen on rose suckers.) 0.9 m (h) x 0.6 m (w)

Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’

A Gallica Rose, upright and arching in habit. Flowering only once, it nonetheless has great presence in the summer garden. Intensely fragrant, fully double magenta blooms showcase this old shrub Rose. Suitable for all soil types and all aspects, except deep shade, it’s best grown in full sun. 1.5 m (h) x 1,25 m (w)

Rosa ‘Richardii’

A small, bushy, shrub Rose with arching stems, it produces large, beautiful, single, pale pink flowers with golden stamens in the centre. 1 m (h) x 1.5 m (w). All soils; sheltered or in full sun. A good choice for cottage, wildlife or informal gardens. Friday Group has a special fondness for this one. You know who you are.

Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’

This is right up there with other Garden House Desert Island plants. A much-loved, vigorous climber (it can reach 7.5 m), with small pale pink flowers. Plentiful and good foliage. Scented, and not too many thorns. An absolute sweetheart. East, south and west-facing; suitable for all soil types and needs full sun.

Rosa ‘Crepuscule’

The name means twilight; that softly-lit period between light and shadow, just before sunset. Cocktail hour, if you will. A rich apricot-yellow climbing Rose which flowers almost continuously. It has a delicious Tea Rose fragrance, and a name which encourages your pronunciation to go all Marie Antoinette. East, south or west-facing; full sun; all soil conditions. Climbs to around 3.75 m

Tasks in the garden

Preparing for N,G.S. visitors and their Visitor Experience. So, this week involved a lot of concentrated, back-breaking work…

Gardening or yoga?

Either way, she’s stuck

Some find this amusing

Her time will come

Phew. Someone’s upright again

Plant up summer pots

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Refresh with a little new compost, and choose annuals and tender perennials with a wow factor for this year’s summer show. Cosmos, Arctotis, Calibrachoa, Pelargoniums, Osteospermum… and that’s just the first four pots

Acidanthera murielae bulbs and Gaura will go into three large blue pots, to flower in July/August. Space out the planting times to provide a continuous display over a longer period.

Work on plans for the dry garden

Using a hosepipe, mark out the proposed location of a wave-shaped seating platform

Watch the Poppies popping

from this…

to this

Stake annuals as necessary

Wire twists covered in brown paper are a few of our favourite things for this kind of work.

Plant up the Exotic Border

Using Gingers, Dahlias, Bananas etc. Add Nasturtiums and Persicaria. Feel that tropical sunshine vibe.

Plant up the metal trough

Remember the mantra: thrillers, fillers and spillers

Ooh, tasteful!

Weed, water and feed

Plant up pots in the top garden

It’s all about impact up here. Purple and orange. Very right on. They’ll be drinking green tea next.

She wouldn’t

Would she?

Oh, she certainly would!

Time to make our escape

A symphony in blue and mauve

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?

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