Friday 8th June


Apart from a select few, we spent another awayday from the Garden House on Friday.  We split up into small groups and worked hard to make a difference to individual members’ gardens.

The first group visited Rachel in her lovely garden in Newhaven and sorted out her herbaceous borders.

And time for coffee and cake…


Meanwhile, over at Lil’s in Brighton…One of the jobs was planting up seedlings grown from Bridge’s Dad’s prized runner bean seeds.


In Hilary’s garden a group helped clear the area around the raised beds and started work on putting up a pergola.  Hilary then went on to make real headway over the weekend and made tremendous progress.  Some large plants were also divided and re-planted into individual pots.  Ammi majus seedlings were also planted in one of the herbaceous borders…and then time for a delicious lunch.

It was a quiet morning at the Garden House but we’re looking forward to getting back there next Friday.














Friday 1st June

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A reduced number at The Garden House this Friday due to half-term.  The garden is relishing the sun and rain and, as the alliums tip over their peak, the roses pick up the action and start to perform in earnest.  So, naturally, our plant ident. this week had to focus on them.

Much recommended by Bridge, the rambler Paul’s Himalayan Musk, is a real beauty; it greets visitors as they come down the alleyway into the garden.  Rampant in habit, it has small, pale pink rosette blooms with a delightful musky fragrance.  The flowers, which bloom only once, are held in large, open sprays which create an airy, delicate effect.  It can grow up to 12 metres, so is ideal for growing up trees or pergolas.


The difference between climbers and ramblers is that the latter are more rampant in growth, rather more lax in habit and usually flower only once a year, producing quantities of small flowers.  They need to be pruned immediately after flowering.  Climbers, on the other hand, have stiffer stems, flower on new wood and most repeat flower through summer and autumn (although there are exceptions to this).  They can be pruned when dormant in mid to late winter.

Rosa Banksia (on the chicken hutch at Garden House) is another example of a rambler, although this flowers very early – usually in May. It likes a sunny site away from cold winds and has slender stems with few thorns.

Rosa “Harlow Carr”


This lovely pink David Austin shrub rose has a wonderful “old rose” scent.  Robust and free-flowering, it has healthy disease- resistant foliage.  Height and spread: 1m x 1m.

Another well-known and much-loved David Austin creation is Rosa “Gertrude Jekyll” 

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Miss Jekyll was an author, painter, horticulturalist and garden designer working in the late 19th/ early 20th centuries who dramatically affected the style of English gardens.  Using colour and texture in her designs, she developed “warm” and “cool” areas of planting and understood the need for plants to be set in their right place.  She advocated the inclusion of roses within mixed borders.  The rose named for her has won many accolades over the years, including an A.G.M.  Strongly fragrant, it is one of the earliest to come into flower.

There was a link from this to Bridge’s next choice: Rosa “Munstead Wood”, as this was the name of Gertrude’s Surrey home.  The garden was designed by her, and the house by the young Edwin Lutyens with whom she collaborated professionally.

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Always on trend at Garden House, we had to check out a couple of roses with royal connections.  This is Rosa “Highgrove” 


A relatively short climber (to about 2.4 m), which is lightly scented and disease-free.  This rose flowers prolifically and has the most wonderful deep red colour, which contrasts well with its dark green, glossy foliage.

Rosa “Clarence House”, a Peter Beales rose, is a creamy white double rose with a strong citrus fragrance.  A modern climber, it is vigorous in growth (to about 3.6m).


Jobs for the week:

  • Planting up the cup and saucer vine (Cobaea scandens) to grow up an obelisk.   This half-hardy annual climber is rampant in growth and can also be grown on garden walls with a little support.
  • Clearing the allium bed of dead leaves and self-sown poppies.  Planting cosmos and more for a glorious summer display.


  • Planting annual morning glory plants (Ipomoea) to climb up a tripod of stakes in pots. The stunning violet-purple Grandpa Otts is good in our climate.  This can be grown inside around a kitchen window or on a sheltered patio. We’ll also be growing Scarlett O’Hara, a magnificent red morning glory.  Soaking the seeds in tepid water can help with germination, whilst dead-heading the fully grown plants encourages repeat flowering.
  • Checking over the veg patch and adding courgettes, gourds and mini pumpkins, together with outdoor tomatoes.  (Last year, Bridge’s dad grew lots of “Harbinger” tomatoes outside.)


  • Skimming duckweed off the pond and cutting back the marsh marigold.  (This takes some doing!)

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  • Planting up begonias in pots held in the macrame plant hangers seen below.

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  • Filling containers with plants for summer display.  Someone’s happy.




Friday 25th May



Friday Group divided into small teams this week and most spent time transforming gardens away from Garden House.  One group, however, remained at home base and instead of our usual plant ident., we took a walk around the garden to enjoy what was in bloom.

Pelargonium “Attar of Roses”– the leaves give a distinctive rose scent when rubbed gently between the fingers.

Pale yellow irises keeping cool in the pond.


Proving its worth in the May sunshine is the mauve beauty Geranium pyrenaicum.  Tall branching stems of self-sown Valeriana officinalis hold their clusters of white flowers above attractive, finely divided foliage









….whilst the rock rose Helianthemum “Wisley Pink” looks terrific in the rockery, demonstrating why it thoroughly deserves its R.H.S. Award of Garden Merit status.

Alliums stand to attention outside the greenhouse


Also out is the invaluable long-flowering shrub rose Rosa x odorata “Bengal Crimson” with its relaxed, deep crimson single flowers and dark green leaves. It thrives in fertile soil in sun or light shade.

Jobs this week:

  • Pot on courgettes, gourds and pumpkins
  • Take out tulips and replant with agrostemmas, antirrhinums and annual pennisetums.  Stake taller plants as necessary using a figure of 8 tie so as not to damage the plant stems
  • Plant out black peony poppies, white cosmos and pink nicotianas.  The poppies need to be planted deeply and spaced about 1 foot apart
  • Plant purple fennel, Ammi majus and escholtzia



















Meanwhile, in gardens not too far away…..







Happy days.

Friday 18th May



We had a good discussion this morning about plants in the geraniaceae family, including the genera Pelargonium, Geranium and Erodium.  The common characteristic of these plants is that their fruit are said to all resemble long birds’ beaks.  Pelargoniums are named after the Greek word for stork (pelargos) and have seven anthers;  Geraniums are named after the Greek word for crane (geranos) and have ten anthers and the genus Erodium is made up of around 60 species which are commonly known as heronsbills and have five anthers.

Pelargonium tomentosum – peppermint geranium


This storksbill has furry leaves which are delicately scented like peppermint.  It prefers the shade and does well from cuttings.  Although this plant is mainly evergreen, and grows well outside during the summer, it must be protected from frost during the colder months and we always brings ours undercover at the Garden House.

Another lovely example of a storksbill is the oakleaf Scented Pelargonium with its oak tree shaped leaves and black shading up the centre of the leaf.  It has strongly scented mauve flowers and unlike P. tomentosum, it prefers a sunny position.


The genus Geranium is made up of 422 annual, biennial and perennial plants which are commonly knowns as cranesbills, eg. Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’.


This sprawling perennial grows to 30cm tall with vivid purple flowers from late spring to late autumn.  They prefer full sun or partial shade and it is recommended to cut them back hard after flowering to encourage a fresh growth of leaves and blooms. (It is essential to feed and water them after cutting back to get the best new growth).

Erodiums are commonly grown in rockeries or Alpine gardens and they require good drainage and a sunny position, eg. Erodium ‘Spanish Eyes’.


This evergreen perennial grows to 25cm high and looks great in an Alpine trough or sink.

Jobs this week:

  • Emptying the small urns on the steps and replacing the libertias with miniature roses.
  • Planting tomato plants in hanging baskets and pots, making sure they are adequately staked.
  • Planting up old wooden wine boxes with summer annuals.


  • Planting up the window boxes with summer-flowering blooms, including Pelargonium tomentosum.
  • Planting up large terracota pots with annuals.


For all the containers, we made up a planting mix of 30% manure, 30% garden compost and 30% bought compost along with a handful of chicken poo (not too much).

  • Weeding around the fruit bushes and then watering and feeding well.
  • Generally weeding and tying in on the veg beds, particularly the mint which has got quite out of hand.
  • Planting ammis, corncockle and cornflowers on the Garden Room bed.


  • Planting tagetes, sweet peas, cosmos and tithonia to replace the sea kale.




Correction – Last week I mentioned that hardy annuals sown in the autumn would be weaker than those sown in the spring.  In fact it is the other way round and plants which have time to harden up over the winter usually put on the strongest growth.

Friday 11th May

We started off today by doing a quiz to see who knows their HAs (Hardy Annuals) from their HHAs (Half Hardy Annuals) from their HBs (Biennials).  On the whole we did quite well although it never hurts to go over these again to avoid confusion.

Hardy Annualscan be sown outdoors from March – May and they will germinate as soon as the soil is warm enough.  The seeds can be sown in the autumn although spring-sown plants will be bushier and stronger.  The plants will last for only one season and will either die after setting seed or can be thrown away – ie. bedding plants.




Nigella damascena ‘Miss Jekyll Alba’

Ammi majus

Eschscholzia californica ‘Appleblossom Bush’

Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’

Lathyrus odoratus ‘High Scent’

Half Hardy Annuals –  These will be killed by the frost and their growth will be inhibited by the cold.  Therefore, they must only be planted out once the threat of frost has passed.  Again, these will last for one season only.



Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Antiquity’ – these should be sown late as they grow quickly and will become leggy if sown too early.

Zinnia ‘Giant Lilac’

Petunia ‘Easy Wave’

Begonia semperflorens

Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’

The last three in this group should be sown early as they take a long time to germinate and establish.

Biennialsare sown in the spring/early summer of one year and will flower during the summer of the following year.  However, some can be grown as short-lived perennials and they may live for a few years.



Myosotis sylvatica

Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora

Hesperis matronalis

Lunaria annua

Erysimum cheiri

Jobs this week:

  • Taking tulips out of beds and containers to free up space for summer planting.


  • Removing libertias from the urns and replacing them with ivy, adding new compost and chicken pellets.
  • Potting up a banana plant.
  • Taking the dahlias out of the greenhouse and planting them in pots outside.


  • Weeding the veg plot and tying in the sweet peas with plant rings.


  • Planting up chrysanthemums in pots.
  • Sowing lettuces, runner beans and tagetes in the greenhouse.


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Friday 4th May


What a beautiful day in the garden.   It really felt as if summer was here early – what a difference from a week ago!

We began our morning looking at the life cycle of biennials and some good examples.   As a rule, biennials are sown May – July and by the winter, the plants have formed quite sizeable rosettes.  They remain dormant over the winter months but start growing strongly again in early spring of the following year, ready to flower late spring/early summer.  Sometimes the plants will flower again the following year as perennials but the flowering plant usually self-seeds and then dies back.  Biennials are important plants in the garden at this time of year as they bridge the gap between the colourful profusion of tulips and the roses (of which we have many here).

Matthiola incarna – Garden stock


Spot the snail on this one…. This highly-scented hardy biennial will often come back the following year as a perennial and is good to grow outside a kitchen door or window or near a garden seat.  It also looks good planted in containers.

Erysimum cheiri – common wallflower 


This is a short-lived evergreen perennial, grown as a biennial.  It has dark green narrow leaves and four-petalled sweet-scented flowers which can range from yellow-orange to dark red.  They have a habit of becoming leggy but some group members have had success from cutting them back quite hard after flowering to produce plenty of blooms the following spring.

Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’ – Bowles’ perennial wallflower


These woody-stemmed sub-shrubs are highly floriferous but are often short-lived.  However, they can be easily replaced by young plants grown from cuttings.

Lunaria annua – honesty


This biennial belonging to the brassica family doesn’t have any scent and is better known for its seed cases than for its flowers.  The flat, papery, round seed heads are produced in the early autumn eventually turning into half moons if pollinated.  The flat seed heads can be used in flower arrangements.

Hesperis matronalis – Sweet rocket


The flowers of the beautifully-scented sweet rocket range in colour from deep rich purple, through to paler lilac and white.  If left to seed themselves, they will gradually naturalise and are an ideal cottage garden plant.  They smell particularly lovely at night when they are pollinated by moths.  They are a good shade-loving plant.

Mytosis scorpioides – Forget-Me-Not


These tiny bright blue flowers are prolific self-seeders and grow best in damp shade.  However, they will adapt well to drier conditions in full sun.  Once they have flowered, they can become a bit mildewy and so it is best to pull them out once they have passed their best.

Jobs for the week

  • Planting out large metal containers for summer displays – using artichokes (grown from seed) for their architectural foliage; osteospermum (which are fine to plant out now due to our warmer climate); plectranthus (grown from cuttings in the greenhouse); helychrisum (for foliage); allysum; heliotrope (cherry pie plant, so-called as its flowers smell of cherry and vanilla) and salvia armistad.
  • Pulling the rhubarb and removing the hyacinths (which will be trimmed, cleaned off and stored to replant in the autumn) and replacing them with a frame for the runner beans.
  • Potting-on in the greenhouse and moving plants outside to harden off.


  • Sorting out the pelargoniums in the cold frames, tidying them up and feeding with liquid seaweed.
  • Planting out tomatoes in the greenhouse and some outside in pots.


  • Planting out salvias and sorting out the raspbery plants.
  • Earthing up the potatoes in the veg bed, adding new compost; weeding generally and tying in the sweet peas.
  • Pricking out in the greenhouse.


  • Planting chilli plants in clay pots.
  • Generally tiyding up the garden in readiness for visitors to our garden which is part of the the Fiveways Artists Open Houses trail this year.

Friday 27th April


Spring seems to be taking its time this year, but nothing deters the intrepid Friday Group other than lack of cake.  We were keen to know when dahlias and half-hardy annuals could be planted out, but Bridge urged caution as cold temperatures can be the kiss of death.  Plants can start to be hardened off on warmer days, but until all danger of frost is past, it’s better to hold off planting out these tenderlings.

The tulips at Garden House have been looking spectacular, but once they start going over we shall lift them to make room for our next plantings.  To keep bulbs from one season to another, you can let their leaves shrivel before lifting them, then remove the leaves, clean the bulbs and lay them in something like a vented mushroom box.  This can be kept in airy, cool, dark conditions.  Fat, healthy bulbs should be fine until the following November, when they can be planted out again.  Some bulbs survive successfully left in the ground, but they need to be planted deeply and in soil which does not get waterlogged.

Plans for the next few months at Garden House include planting a mini prairie garden and growing pink, purple and silver plants for beautiful summer pots.

Our Plant Ident. this Friday consisted of these spring-flowering beauties:

Ficaria verna “Brazen hussy”

Known also as Ranunculus ficaria “Brazen Hussy”, the lesser celandine is closely related to buttercups.  It is a tuberous perennial with deep black-bronze leaves which contrast well with its bright yellow flowers borne in spring.  Best in full or part shade.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Nature, Flower, Landscape, Plant, Tree

Flower, Bloom, Bluebell

In spring, under the emerging tree canopy, bluebells carpet woodland floors with an spectacularly intense shade of blue.  The nodding English bluebell, with its sweet fragrance and narrow bell-shaped flowers with rolled back tips, is not to be confused with the paler Spanish bluebell,  Hyacinthoides hispanica.  This is altogether larger, more upright,  and has flowers which are rather more conical in shape.  Cross breeding with non-native bluebells is one of the main threats to native bluebells.

Primula veris

Cowslip Spring Flower Pointed Flower Flowe

Related to the primrose, and closely associated with English folklore and tradition, the delicate common cowslip is an early spring flower found in meadows, woodlands and hedgerows.  As many of these habitats have been lost or put under pressure due to human intervention, cowslips have suffered a serious decline in their numbers.

Anthriscus sylvestris

Cow Parsley Blossom Bloom White Meadow Wil

Cow parsley is a common British wild plant found flowering on roadsides and hedgerows from spring to summer.  It has fern-like leaves and umbels of tiny white flowers.  There is a pretty form of cow parsley with deep purple-maroon leaves called Anthriscus sylvestris “Ravenswing” – perfect for a cottage garden scheme.  Likes well-drained soil in full sun or dappled shade.  A short-lived perennial, it seeds readily.

Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'


  • Jobs this week:

Preparing for the Fiveways Artists Open Houses month in May


Re-potting hardy annuals; clearing, cleaning and tidying Little Dixter

Planting astrantias and geraniums in the winter bed to provide summer colour.



Planting out pulmonarias and other perennials in “Paul’s bed”



Pricking out seedlings in the greenhouse, ensuring they are centred in the pot



Removing Spanish bluebells, weeding and tidying ready for planting.

Pond clearing


All done for another week!

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