Friday 2nd December

We started off by having a general discussion about events and courses happening at the Garden House over the next few months.

After having an interesting demonstration by Bridge on how to make Begonia leaf cuttings, we went on to look at plants which are a good addition to the winter garden:

Plant I.D.

Sarcoccoca confusa – sweet box  or Christmas box – these are compact evergreen shrubs with leathery leaves and scented white flowers in the winter.  The flowers are followed by shiny black berries which can sometimes last through to the following winter.  They do well in shade and look good in patio containers.


Sarcoccoca hookeriana ‘Winter Gem’– these have larger leaves and their fragrant white flowers are followed by glossy red berries.


Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’or Siberian dogwood – these shrubs are grown for their red winter stems and produce small white flowers in late spring/early summer.  They prefer damp soil and do well beside ponds and streams.  If a third of the stems are cut down to the ground in spring, they are more likely to produce more colourful stems the following winter.


Skimmia – these are bushy evergreen shrubs with shiny black leaves and small clusters of fragrant white  flowers. On fertilised female plants, these are followed by bright red berries.  On most varieties, there are male and female flowers on separate plants.  It prefers moist but well drained soil which would benefit from the addition of leaf mould. There is a good collection of these at Wakehurst Place.


Cyclamen hederifolium or ivy-leaved cyclamen – these are outdoor plants which prefer to be in damp shade.  Again they would benefit from the addition of leaf mould to the soil.  They are perennials and have dark green, quite mottled leaves and pink fragrant flowers.  Mary mentioned that there are many growing under trees at Farley Farm.


Helleborus niger or Christmas rose – these are semi-evergreen perennials with leathery dark green leaves.  They have white bowl-shaped flowers which appear in late winter/early spring.  They do very well in containers.


Jobs this week:

  • Iris Reticulata ‘Purple Gem’ were planted in the hosta pots.  These will emerge in February before the hostas get going.


  • Snowdrops, black grass and anemone blanda were planted together in containers where they will make a stunning display next spring.
  • Anemone blanda and snowdrops were planted in the Winter Bed.
  • Work was done to keep the compost in order.


  • The Pawlonia tree bed was tidied and red tulip bulbs and ferns were planted.
  • We continued to make sure ‘Little Dixter’ is looking its best through the winter months.
  • Work carried on in the greenhouse pricking out the Euphorbia oblongata.
  • Ricinus was cleared out of the main tulip bed.
  • Leaf mould was relocated to a new home.





Friday 25th November

A beautiful sunny day today and we got lots done in the garden.

Plant I.D.

This week there was a mostly silver theme to the plant I.D.

Calocephalus is an Australian plant from the Asteraceae family – a tender perennial also known as Cushion bush. A wonderful ever green perennial with a very unusual texture. Last week it was planted in hanging baskets at Garden House.


Cineraria Silver Dust – as recommended by Alys Fowler, who suggested they look good planted on their own in hanging baskets. A half-hardy perennial best treated as an annual; a showy bedding plant producing a mound of finely divided silvery white foliage.


Asarum splendens – also known as Chinese Wild Ginger. A variegated shade-lover, suitable for ground cover.


Helichrysum italicum is sometimes known as the curry plant because of the strong smell of its leaves. Bridge rates this plant but it needs planting deeply or it will get leggy/wobbly.


Festuca glauca ‘Intense Blue’ – a compact evergreen grass which is good for adding texture and interest to containers or the front of a border/rockery. It has spiky silvery-blue leaves topped with blue-green flowers in summer which gradually fade in colour. Would look good in a pot.


Helianthemum ‘The Bride’ – a rock rose with good white foliage. Rock roses are wonderful plants for a sunny rock garden or the front of a small mixed border, producing a mass of flowers over a long period in early summer and often again later in the year. They like free-draining soil in full sun and are mat-forming, semi-woody evergreen perennials. They benefit from trimming after flowering to maintain a good bushy shape and then trimming hard again in early spring if necessary.


Myrtus communis subsp ‘tarentina’ – a useful, compact and aromatic evergreen myrtle. Can be grown from cuttings.


Salvia officinalis Icterina – a variegated form of the culinary sage. Its fragrant evergreen foliage is marbled with gold/yellow and it forms a low evergreen mound. Best planted in a warm free-draining position.


Jobs for the week:

  • The dahlias and gladioli were lifted and stored away for the winter.


  • Tulips were planted in the main tulip bed.


  • Tulips were planted in the bed outside the greenhouse.


  • Pink forget-me-nots, primulas, curry plants and bulbs were planted in pots on display at ‘Little Dixter’.

Friday 18th November

We had planned a busy day in the garden today but were somewhat hampered by the rain!

We started off the day with a plant I.D. and looked at plants which are particularly lovely in the garden at the moment:

Bridgette drew our attention to the rose hips looking glorious in the garden now, particularly those belonging to the unknown rambler over the apple tree, Rose Frances Lester (pergola by potting shed) and Rosa glauca.

Plant I.D.

Hesperantha (previously known as Schizostylis) is a beautiful Autumn flowering perennial which prefers mild, moist conditions. A member of the family Iridaceae and native to South Africa, its flowers are white, pink or red and are made up of three petals and three sepals. Bridge also showed us dried seed pods of an iris (perhaps sibirica) belonging to the same family that clearly showed this characteristic with its three seed chambers.



Grevillea robusta is an acid loving tender evergreen which is grown in a pot at the Garden House. Its leaves resemble rosemary and it has red flowers.


Yucca gloriosa ‘Variegata’ is a handsome evergreen that comes with a health warning owing to its very sharp leaves. It grows well in a pot or in open ground, likes full sun and has edible white flowers.



The deciduous shrub Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ is grown for the brilliant, flame-coloured stems that are revealed when the leaves, which turn orange-yellow in autumn, fall. Best in full sun, once established it can be cut to within 5-7 cm of the ground in March. It is non-suckering, unlike some other dogwoods.



Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ is grown primarily for its almost black dissected foliage. To achieve the best effect it should be grown in sun and cut back hard now rather than in the spring so that it is more likely to produce its pale pink flowers in the summer.


Bridge then showed us how to take hardwood cuttings from a stem of the Sambucus. The same technique can be used at this time of year for other deciduous shrubs including Philadelphus, Forsythia, Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn’ etc.

A strong stem is chosen from the current season’s growth and any leaves removed. A horizontal cut is made below a leaf joint. An angled cut is then made above one of the next leaf nodes, depending on the length of cutting required. The cuttings may then be inserted either into a pot of compost or into the open ground in a sheltered spot, however a method that takes up less space uses a length of plastic.

Bridgette showed us some rooted hardwood cuttings of a Cornus that members of the group had taken last year using this method. A plastic polythene strip is folded up at the bottom and the resulting ‘hem’ is filled with compost/grit or perlite mix. The prepared cuttings are placed along the roll, horizontal cut resting on the fold and the strip is rolled up. After drainage holes have been made in the bottom, the roll is placed in a cold frame. Roots should form by the following autumn.

Jobs this week:

  • ‘Little Dixter’ – Tender plants were moved under cover for the winter and more bulbs were planted in pots for a spring display.
  • Succulents were protected in preparation for the winter months ahead.
  • Bulb planting was continued in earnest.
  • The topiary bay was tidied  and more work continued in the top garden to sort out the beds.
  • Cornus was potted up from hard wood cuttings.
  • We continued to lift and sort out the pelargoniums. 
  • Wallflowers were planted outside the greenhouse.


  • Curry plants and heucheras were planted on top of the large tulip bulb pots.


  • Hanging baskets were planted with silver-leaved plants.

At least the chickens were warm and dry today!


Friday 11th November


We had a lovely sunny morning in the garden today.

We started off by talking about planting indoor bulbs for Christmas and early spring displays.  Bridge has planted three varieties of narcissus: ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’, ‘Paperwhites’ and ‘Avalanche’.  Sit the bulbs on the soil and cover with grit or bun moss (available from some florists).  They should be started off in a cool place such as a shed or unheated room and then placed in a warmer location when the shoots are around three inches high.  They will take about six weeks to flower and so should be planted now if wanted in time for Christmas.

The plant ID this week featured plants that are still putting on a good display in the garden:

Euonymus europaeus – Spindle Tree


These deciduous shrubs have an upright habit and grow to around 8ft.  They are happy on chalk and make a good addition to native hedges.  The leaves are quite dull during the summer but turn a beautiful red before they drop in the autumn.  They produce small white flowers followed by lovely orange-pink fruit later in the year.  The wood from these shrubs was traditionally used to make spindles.

Clerodendron trichotomum var fargesii


The leaves of this plant are sometime said to smell like peanut butter.  They grow to around 8ft. and have unremarkable leaves.  However, from late summer onwards, its pink buds open into small white star-shaped flowers which are then followed by bright blue berries, each surrounded by pink/red calyces.

Bidens aurea ‘Hannay’s Lemon Drop’


These are herbaceous perennials which can grow to around 1m.  They have a long season from late summer to late autumn.  However, they should be kept in check as they have a habit of running away.

Chrysanthemum ‘Ruby Mound’


These can last late into the autumn when it is possible to take basel cuttings from them.

Solanum jasminoides – Potato Vine


This shrub is a member of the potato family and is still flowering strongly in the garden.

Jobs for this week included:

  • Bringing the pelargoniums into the greenhouse where they were removed from their pots, tidied up and wraped in newspaper.  They were then placed in layers under the benches.


  • Tidying up ‘Little Dixter’. Turkestanica tulips and crocus bulbs were planted up in pots ready for the spring.


  • The Top Garden was tidied and bulbs were planted up in pots.


  • Bulb ‘lasagnes’ were created in the big pots by layering Tulip ‘China Town’ and ‘Angelique’, followed by Narcissus ‘Segovia’ and finally crocus.  These were then covered by a layer of grit to protect them  from squirrels.


  • Pricking out Euphorbia oblongata in the greenhouse.  Care was taken to bury the stems right up to the first set of leaves to prevent the plants from becoming too leggy.


  • Pruning the honeysuckle and rose under the arch.
  • Continuing to tidy the Tulip Tree bed by taking down the Thunbergia and planting a Stipa gigantea.  The ground was then made ready for bulbs. 


  • Writing beautiful labels for the big lasagne pots.


  • Tidying the Ginkgo bed.  The Prunus will eventually be cut down to make more room for the Ginkgo.
  • Clearing the bed next to the greenhouse.


  • Heaps of compost were added to the herbaceous bed behind the hedge.img_0032
  • Tulip ‘Copper Image’ bulbs were planted on the terraces.


Friday 4th November



It was good to be back in the garden today week after a few weeks away.  Everything  was looking beautiful with many of the trees and shrubs showing their striking autumn colours in the sunshine.

We spent a while catching up on everything we had been doing over the Half Term break,  the Garden House’s visit to Japan in particular. It all sounded wonderful and we look forward to seeing the photos soon.

We also talked about how much we enjoyed working in Lucilla’s, Katy’s and Helen’s gardens a couple of weeks ago and agreed that it is good to get experience in different spaces now and again.

For the plant ID this week we concentrated on trees that have lovely autumn colours and are good for small to medium gardens.

Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’


This is a multi-stemmed tree which has beautiful purple heart-shaped leaves which turn yellow in the autumn.  It produces small red leaves along the stems and is great grown in pots in small gardens.


Prunus ‘Taihaku’ – Great White Cherry.




This is growing in the Top Garden and is a mass of white in spring time.  It’s leaves are a bronze/red colour which turn to green as they mature.  It was thought to have become extinct in Japan until Collingwood (Cherry) Ingram discovered one growing in a Sussex garden and was able to reintroduce it back in Japan.

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ – Coral-bark maple




This is a good-looking tree all year round.  It’s leaves are pale green and deeply cut which turn a soft yellow in the autumn.  It has pink bark and petiols and its new shoots glow coral red in the winter sunlight.  It needs to be grown in a sheltered position as it suffers in strong winds.  You can see many of them growing at Wakehurst Place.

Acer campestre – Field Maple.


This tree is native to Britain and Europe and is slightly different from other acers in that it’s leaves are more rounded.  These turn buttery-yellow in the autumn.

(Sometimes people have difficulty in telling the difference between a Field Maple and a London Plane.  Bridge explained that the Maple has  opposite buds and the Plane has buds which are alternate).

Ginkgo Biloba.





These trees originate from one of the oldest tree species on earth and are unusual in that they are a deciduous conifer.  They are easy to grow from seed and are great city trees as they are very pollution and disease-resistant. The leaves are mid-green and they turn golden yellow in the autumn.  They are either male or female and examples of both can be seen at the Chelsea Physic Garden.

Jobs this week included:

  • Emptying and preparing pots in the Top Garden ready for bulbs.
  • Tidying the area around the sundial.
  • Tidying the Tulip Tree bed in readiness for bulb planting.
  • Hoeing the herbaceous border behind the hedge in readiness for bulbs and tidying up the dianthus around the edges of the beds.
  • Planting pink tulip bulbs and curry plants in the large pots.
  • Planting species tulips on the rockery and in the Alpine sinks.  These were labelled carefully to avoid confusion later.
  • Tidying the greenhouse.
  • Caring for the Euphorbia Oblongata seedlings which will be planted out in the main beds.



Friday 14th October

This week we split up into small groups and worked in various Friday Group members’ gardens.


Ann, Pat and Mary helped Helen in her garden in Warleigh Road.  It looks like they were pretty busy:


THANK YOU so so much for your hard work help guidance and enthusiasm today in my garden. You have giving it and me a new lease of life and inspiration!

I cant wait for all those beautiful bulbs to spring up. No doubt the red and white currents, raspberries and Bridge’s geraniums will be much happier too, now that they can spread their roots as far as they like!

After you left I carried on and feel like I am now well on the way to creating a little area where I can potter and enjoy gardening and growing.

I’ ve added a lavander hedge, more bulbs, curry plant at the begining of the path, golden sage, red and green cornus shrubs, several pots of different types of mint, a tiny baby gooseberry bush next to the currents, bay shrub and more brick boarders. Now I cant wait to get that greenhouse up too.

Hels x


Looks like they unearthed some special creatures besides the usual slugs and snails…


Any ideas, snake specialists?

The pruning team, lead by Hilary travelled to Hove and worked hard in Katy’s garden where they cleared away her neighbour’s wisteria which was choking her Fatsia japonica, pittosporum and sambuca:

And the outreach team helped out in Lusila’s garden in Kingston near Lewes where they cut back, pruned and weeded a pretty bed just outside her back door.


Hello! Thanks so so much for coming round! It was a lovely morning and so much done! Now that it is all cleared and tidied, I can’t wait to plant those bulbs ready for spring. Thanks for the inspiration and sharing your knowledge! Lucila xx

We’d like to reassure you that Amanda was there as well which can be shown by her very well swept path!


I think we’re all agreed that a good day was had by all and we’re looking forward to discussing our experiences back with the rest of our Friday Groupees after Half Term.



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.

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