Friday 21st January 2022

Three weeks into the no-longer-new year. No time to waste, it will be spring before we know it, and now is the time to get ahead. So, grab those gardening goggles and let’s go…

Chocks away!

Plant ident.

Helleborus argutifolius

A plant much enthused about at Garden House, the Corsican, or Holly-Leaved Hellebore is on the must-have list. It was one of Beth Chatto’s favourites too. This evergreen, herbaceous perennial is magnificent in shady borders, where bowl-shaped, pale green flowers hang above leathery, prickly-edged, glossy-green leaves from January to March and beyond. The foliage continues to look good long after the flowers have finished. Once established, this will happily self-seed to provide you with replacements for the future. Ht. 0.6 m. A.G.M.

Melianthus major

The Honey Bush. Odd, considering it smells of peanut butter! Gorgeous great glaucous leaves and stunningly architectural. Like things hot and dry (it comes from South Africa) and so may be cut down by frosts – but tends to grow back in the spring. Sometimes a little winter protection may be a good idea, so you can wrap with some horticultural fleece or add a covering of straw if temperatures are about to plummet. If it gets too leggy, it can be cut back to near ground level in springtime in order to keep it compact. Looks fab in a pot. Ht 1.5 – 2.5 m. A.G.M.

Brachyglottis compacta ‘Sunshine’

Grown mainly for its silvery-grey foliage, this easy, evergreen shrub used to be known as Senecio. Its slightly furred leaves catch the light and have a silvered edge, their reverse is matt silver. The yellow, daisy-like flowers divide opinion, but are not particularly beautiful. A good choice for a warm, sunny site and in coastal areas. Can make a good, low-growing hedge. Cut back after flowering to keep compact. Ht 1.5 m.

Arum italicum subsp. italicum ‘Marmoratum

This hardy Arum’s large, arrow-shaped, glossy green leaves are veined with creamy markings. In the spring, pale green spathes grow up through and above the leaves. Vivid orange-red berries are borne on them come the autumn. Likes moist, well-drained soil (particularly clay) in shade, and looks good below trees and shrubs as well as amongst Snowdrops and Hostas. Eventually forms a dense clump, so, although not an evergreen, it is good for ground cover. Ht. 0.3 m. A.G.M.

Jobs for the week

Prune Roses

Onwards and downwards with the pruning. There are 68 Roses to deal with here, and they all need to be checked for labels as well. Apply some nurturing compost and remember to feed them after pruning. Give them a good watering if it’s been dry.

Prune R. ‘Wollerton Old Hall’

Here, the leading stem of this wonderfully fragrant Climbing Rose has been cut back, and the side shoots (at the bottom) shortened to a few buds, pulled down and tied in. This will encourage more flowers.

That’s another one sorted

Continue pruning R. ‘Cecile Brunner’

Note how the shoots have been pulled horizontally to encourage floriferous flowering in the summer. Properly professional.

Prune R. ‘Albertine’ and R. ‘Veilchenblau’

Meanwhile, not far away, on another trellis, the cutting back continues. Note the beautifully arched stems.

Prune Floribunda Roses

Including R. ‘For Your Eyes Only’. Required: one Bond-type to fulfil the brief –

Perfect

Build a frame for Rosa ‘Meg’

Sounds simple enough. But those birch branches are not compliant nor very pliable… Basically, it’s a game of ‘Snap!’

Blast and double blast

Bravo! They tamed the dastardly thing

Prune Rosa ‘New Dawn’

And tie in onto the trellis

Watch out!

Mind the bird bath!

We will

Seed sowing

The lucky crew chosen for this job get to work in the greenhouse.

Seeds this week include these fantastic round Aubergines. Also, Padron Peppers. Hot stuff. Artichokes too.

All snugly tucked into compost in home-made seed trays. Purposely re-purposed plastic, possums.

It’s surprising how jolly the people working in the greenhouse can be on a really cold winter’s day. The rest of the group are always very pleased for them.

To be fair, they are very industrious

Construct an obelisk for Clematis Perle d’Azure

Prune the Clematis, which is a late, large-flowered variety in the Group 3 category. It requires hard-pruning before growth begins in the spring, right back to a pair of strong buds about 30 cms above ground level.

Then use birch and pea sticks to make a climbing frame for this spectacular Clematis to romp up. Diamond-shaped weaving may feature.

It helps if one of you is a Fine Arts graduate

She couldn’t possibly comment

Prune the Wisteria

Work on ‘Little Dixter’

Create an oasis of order and calm. It’s a process.

Ooh! Spot the difference. The tiered shelving has disappeared! How orderly and calm it all looks.

Work on veg beds

Take cuttings from prunings

For example, from Verbena bonariensis – before

– and after pruning

– and then the cuttings taken are potted up in the greenhouse

It would be madness not to

And the Crocuses?

They just keep on coming

Friday 14th January 2022

A cold January day, but there are blue skies and bright golden sunshine. Colours echoed by these beautiful Iris unguicularis

Plant ident.

Daphne

Evergreen. Beautiful. And possesses one of the most exquisite garden scents you’ll ever sniff. Most varieties are happy in partial shade in a neutral or slightly alkaline soil which is moist and free draining. They like a warm and sheltered location. The winter flowering cultivars are a particularly valuable source of nectar for pollinators when little else is in flower. Daphnes are difficult to propagate and slow-growing, hence the price tag. But, since even one will transport you to paradise, start saving those pennies now. Alternatively, sell off some of your hardwood cuttings once they have rooted and been potted on. Ker-ching!

Sarcococca confusa

Another scented, evergreen delight, Christmas Box is an essential in the winter garden. Grow in moist, well-drained conditions, in any soil, sun or shade – it’s particularly tolerant of shade, so ideal in a woodland area. When grown in groups, the scent is remarkable and can waft over hedges to surprise you before you even see the the plants themselves. The small, white flowers pack a punch beyond their weight and, as they begin to fade, are succeeded by shiny, black berries. Ht. 1.5 m

Abelia grandiflora

Such a good doer, the Abelia is a largely evergreen shrub with a pleasingly loose habit which can easily be clipped back to be kept in shape. Likes dappled shade and full sun and is best planted in a south or west facing position. At this time of year it displays very pretty light pink flowers which attract birds, bees and beneficial insects. A good Goldilocks plant – not too big, not too small, just right!

Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’

A spectacular, climbing Clematis, flowering in winter/early spring. The flowers are delightfully speckled on the inside with maroon/pink markings and followed by silky seed heads. The green leaves are lobed and toothed, and contrast well with the purple stems. A sheltered sunny position suits this best. Pruning group 1 – requires only minimal pruning to keep in shape/restrict growth, in which case cut back unwanted shoots after flowering. Ht. 2.5 – 4.0 m. A.G.M.

Calendula ‘Tarifa Gold’

A perennial Marigold. Makes good ground cover and is drought tolerant. A bright addition to the garden at this time of year, the vivid golden yellow flowers shining out against silvery/glaucous foliage. It flowers for absolutely ages and is hardy to -5 degrees centigrade.

January jobs

Tools and equipment

Now is the time to check over all tools and equipment, especially those lurking in the depths of your shed which haven’t seen the light of day for ages. It’s well worth learning how to sharpen and clean secateurs and loppers – they are used so often and to be properly effective they need to keep their edge. As do we all.

Secateurs and loppers can be cleaned up with iron wool or with a product such as Crean Mate. This will remove any dirt or rust as well as any plant or sap residue.

Blades can be sharpened with a whetstone or a sharpening file

Follow the manufacturers’ instructions to sharpen the cutting edges – Felco are precise in giving a 23 degree angle! Basically, you need to move the sharpening tool along the edge of the cutting blade in small circles, then remove the burr on the back of the blade. Once nice and sharp (they should be able to cut paper easily) oil with 3-in-1 or WD 40; this keeps the tool lubricated and and operating smoothly and inhibits rust.

Then you can rest on your laurels with gleaming tools laid out thus –

Wowser

Cuts should be clean with no ripping of stems or branches. Regular maintenance of tools will ensure blades remain sharp and clean, preventing damage and the spread of disease. Make it a New Year’s resolution! Clean up, sharpen up and get well oiled.

Take hardwood cuttings

Many deciduous shrubs can be propagated from hardwood cuttings taken now: Sambucus, Buddleia, Hydrangea, Willow, Cornus, Forsythia are all candidates, as are Ribes, Viburnum, Roses, Gooseberries and Blackcurrants. Of course, you can nip out and just buy more plants for an immediate result, but why not practise mindfulness and slow-gardening and get free shrubs at the same time?

Sambucus ‘Black Lace’ with sloping cut above a pair of buds

Bridge demonstrated how to take a cutting. Select a vigorous, healthy shoot that has grown in the current year. Make a sloping cut above a bud or pair of buds (helps to shed water and is also a reminder of which end is the top). Cut straight across the base below a bud. The cutting should be about 20 – 30 cms long. Insert each one two-thirds into the ground or a pot of prepared compost. They can also be rolled up in plastic (see jobs for the week, below).

Jobs for the week

Clean and sharpen secateurs

As detailed above. Let’s see how the team got on…

Looking sharp

We always do

Start to prune Roses, Vines, late-flowering Clematis (Pruning group 3)

Look up each plant to learn about its habit and when/how it flowers. This will determine how to prune them.

Group 3 Clematis

These include the viticellas, orientalis and tanguticas; they are hardy plants typified by their small heads and vigorous, free-flowering growth. Often grown to clamber through other shrubs, climbing roses or small trees, they also love trellises and fences. Flowering over a long period from midsummer through to autumn, they are easy to care for in that they should be pruned in late winter or early spring and need to be cut hard back. Take the stems back to a pair of strong buds, about 30 – 45 cms from the ground, before growth recommences.

Prune Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’

It’s going berserk! And is muddled up with a Rose too. Good luck.

Neat!

Job done

Roses

This is a good time to begin Rose pruning, especially if you have lots of them and the method will depend on the particular type of Rose. Initially, remove any dead, diseased or damaged material and then don’t be scared to prune with confidence. With Shrub and Hybrid Tea Roses, cut stems back (varying the length of the stems), making a sloping cut about 5mm above an outward-facing bud, to encourage an open-centred shape.

When pruning Rambling Roses, it depends how much you wish to control their growth. Young plants can be left to frolic through trees and along pergolas, but with established plants, you may wish to cut some of the old woody stems back to the ground, or take out around one-third of them to restrict growth. With Climbing Roses, cut out old wood from the base to promote new growth, prune flowered side-shoots back by two-thirds and tie in any new shoots with flexi-tie.

Prune Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’

No pressure, but it’s one of the favourite Roses in the garden. This is the climbing version of its bush parent. Abundant, sweetly scented, light pink flowers are offset by disease-resistant foliage. Vigorous in growth. A.G.M.

Prune Rosa ‘Frances E. Lester

Another beloved climber., but it needs taking in hand. One person up a ladder…

another down below, directing operations

Quality Control in operation

Keeping an eye on things

Flex-tie is a good choice for tying in new shoots. Pliable, easy to use, recyclable and it doesn’t cut into stems. Let’s treat those plants gently!

Quod erat demonstrandum, as they say

And here, Rosa Frances E. Lester has been beautifully pruned and tied in.

A picture

Prune Sambucus nigra (below), Buddleia, Vitis coignetiae

And, of course, you can use the prunings to create hardwood cuttings. We love a holistic approach.

After pruning, feed the plants. A handful of organic, slow-release fertiliser is perfect. Water if necessary.

If using pelleted chicken manure, please do avoid the elementary mistake of mixing them up with chicken food pellets. The latter do very little for plants, although next door’s chickens will be thrilled.

Make rolls of hardwood cuttings

To make the largest number of new plants in the smallest amount of space, hardwood cuttings can be rolled up in plastic sheets. Cut a piece of an old compost bag 90 cms long x 30 cms wide. Put several handfuls of moist compost along its length, then line up the cuttings about 3-4 cms apart on top of the soil.

Fold in the base of the plastic to cover the bottom 7 cms or so of the cuttings

Then roll up the entire sheet. Secure roll with string and make drainage holes in the bottom.

Leave in a cold frame or a sheltered place until the autumn, making sure they do not dry out. Hey presto, lots of new rooted cuttings!

Work on the vegetable bed

Weed. Add more delicious home-made compost as required. It may be that vegetables will take a back seat this year and be replaced by a cutting garden in these beds. Don’t tell the vegetables.

The Christmas Roses are in their element now –

We’ll enjoy every bit of the winter, but spring is not far away…

Friday 7th January 2022

Happy New Year! And a happy new gardening year. The first Friday Group meeting for 2022; it’s bright but cold. So an especially warm welcome is laid on.

Most agreeable

Plant ident.

Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Variegata’

Look at that burst of yellow against a dazzling blue sky! Guaranteed to evoke envy in the hearts of your neighbours and joy in yours. A beautiful evergreen shrub with glaucous leaves edged in creamy-white. Fragrant, yellow, pea-like flowers decorate it from November to March. Good in sunny, sheltered gardens and will cope with most soils. Prune after flowering to keep it from becoming leggy. Altogether delectable. Ht 1 – 1.5 m

Mahonia eurybracteata subsp. ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’

Practise pronouncing this name at least a dozen times before asking for it at your nearest nursery. Or maybe just say – ‘I’d like a Soft Caress, please’. Maybe not. ‘One of those non-prickly Mahonias’ should do the trick. This was Plant of the Year at Chelsea in 2013. A compact, evergreen shrub with narrow, soft leaves and yellow scented flowers in the summer. Clusters of blue berries follow in the autumn. Great in a border, where it provides good ground cover, but would also make a fine potted specimen plant. Happy in most soils, unless very dry or waterlogged, and performs well in full sun or shade. Slow-growing and will provide year-round interest. Benefits from an occasional soft caress. 0.9 x 0.9 m

Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’

Is it a Grass? A Rush? No! Remember the adage, ‘Sedges have edges’, and that’s exactly what this has. This is a fairly new variety with slim, evergreen foliage which gradually deepens from fresh lime green to a darker golden yellow as the season progresses. Adds a welcome splash of colour and pleasing texture to winter beds and looks great planted next to anything purple or red-leaved, like some Bergenias and Epimediums. Likes light shade and soil that isn’t too dry – but not waterlogged. Drought tolerant once it has become established. Evergreen and hardy down to -5 degrees. Ht. 0.4 – 0.6 m

Galanthus nivalis

The Snowdrop. Appearing anytime now! Watch out for these delicate harbingers of the new gardening year.

Jobs for the week

Make a wreath using flowers from the garden

Absolutely stunning! And all in flower in the garden now

Make circlets of Ivy for the wassail revels

Check the circumference using a model

Perfect!

Plant up two winter pots

Between them, they will feature the Coronilla, Mahonia and Carex, together with blue Pansies, yellow primroses and Ivy ‘Goldheart’.

Winter wonders

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta

Remove some of the lower twigs and branches of the Twisted Hazel. This will keep the area underneath the shrub clearer. Take out any of the twigs which have reverted to growing straight as opposed to contorted. We are looking for curly-wurliness (academic horticultural term).

They’re in contortions

The Corkscrew Hazel is a large deciduous shrub with twisted branches – sometimes known as Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick’. Its showy time is during the winter, when its twisty-twirly silhouette can best be seen and appreciated. It bears pendant male catkins from late winter to early spring which are followed by edible nuts. Likes a chalky, alkaline soil best and can only be propagated by grafting. The twigs are lovely when used in flower arrangements or as supports to flowering bulbs in pots, adding an apparently careless touch of je ne sais quoi.

Make and fill bird feeders

Mix birdseed, dry porridge oats, cake crumbs and/or crushed peanuts with melted lard and leave to set. Make fat balls from the mixture or fill scooped out orange skins. Enjoy the avian acrobatic display which will ensue.

Filling bird feeders

The first customer arrives

Sow seeds

It begins! Now is the time to sow things which take a long time to develop – Cobaea scandens, Chillies and Aubergines to name but a few. Put the seed trays on a heated mat to germinate.

And please remember, it’s not very nice to gloat if you happen to win a ticket to work in the greenhouse…

Sow larger seeds on their sides to prevent rotting off

Move hardy annuals to shelves and coldframe

Check them over for dead and diseased material. Also, check condition of protected overwintering plants like Chrysanthemums.

She looks as if she’s about to jump into the cold frame to keep warm. Quick! Let’s start wassailing…

Hang bread in the Apple tree

Get your Ivy crowns on

Heat the cider, spice and apple juice

Keep the home fires burning

Bang saucepans with spoons to ward away the evil spirits

Chant the Wassail Chant

Well, that should ensure a good harvest!

Imbibe the warming drink and consume the scrumptious cake

What a marvellous way to start the new gardening year of 2022

Here’s to a productive and fruitful twelve months

Friday 17th December 2021

It’s the last Friday Group meeting of 2021, and, somewhat appropriately, we are back to a virtual get-together. These years of pandemic will certainly go down in history, but thanks to Zoom we can at least celebrate online and raise a cup of tea or a glass to toast each other’s health and happiness.

And we do

Of course, Christmas outfits are de rigueur: Xmas hats, jumpers, antlers, flashing earrings, a pair of ice-skates worn as a necklace. A Santa lookalike was declared the outright winner, resplendent in a magnificent white-trimmed red onesie plus full beard artistically combed over and woven from the owner’s very own hair.

Plant ident.

So, what’s good in the Garden House garden with Christmas only just around the corner?

Laurus nobilis

The noble Bay tree. This lovely, aromatic evergreen can be clipped into shapes or left to go a little wild and woolly. Cones, balls, lollipops and umbrellas provide a formal look, useful in large pots at either side of a front door – and easy to access when a couple of leaves are required in a recipe. There are male and female varieties and, at this time of year, the latter bear flowers. Salt resistant. There is a narrow-leaved version too, which Architectural Plants claim is prettier and hardier than the common version.

Rosa ‘Frances E. Lester’

One of those Roses which are indispensable at Garden House. A beautiful rambling Rose, covered in small single blooms; the blush white petals with pink edges later turn white. A musky fragrance adds to its charms. Elegant, glossy dark green leaves contrast nicely with the masses of small orange-red hips which appear in the autumn and which will last into winter. On the must-have list .

Helleborus niger

The Christmas rose; ‘niger’ references the black seeds it produces. Such a beautiful thing, either planted in groups in the border, or displayed in pots or wine boxes. Gorgeous with white Cyclamen. Sometimes tricky to keep from year to year, but it’s an iconic plant to have during the festive season.

Hedera helix ‘Goldheart’

Ivies are hardy, evergreen, clinging, climbing plants. They can be grown anywhere, but are useful on walls, over tree stumps and as ground cover. They are one of the most useful plants that a gardener can grow, giving year-round colour, shape and structure – and are a wonderful resource for wildlife. Professor Dave Goulson stresses the importance of the Hedera helix varieties in particular – they are hugely attractive to butterflies, bees, hoverflies and wasps in early autumn, and the dark berries provide food for birds through the winter. Ivy ‘Goldheart’ is a much-loved plant at Garden House; in December it looks stunning clambering over the shelter outside the Garden Room, its red stems and deep green leaves splashed with creamy-yellow centres.

Another Ivy worth mentioning, because of its unusual upright growth, is Hedera helix ‘Erecta’. This is more of a shrubby Ivy, and does not climb. Very hardy, it is a useful vertical presence in the border and requires little in the way of maintenance.

Fibrex Nurseries are a good place from which to purchase a wide variety of Hederas. Do be careful though, they also specialise in Ferns and Pelargoniums. Temptations abound. Especially for Friday Groupers.

Viscum album

Mistletoe. Available from all good greengrocers, unless you’re lucky enough to have a tree with some growing on it. An evergreen with distinctive forked branches and pairs of symmetrical leaves, it is hemiparasitic. This means that it grows on the branches of a host plant from which it takes water and nutrients, but, in addition, its leaves can also photosynthesise. Often it grows in Apple trees, but is also to be found in Hawthorns , Poplars and Limes. Birds love the white berries which are produced in the winter, particularly mistle thrushes and blackcaps, and seeds are spread when they wipe their beaks on tree branches and deposit seeds there which may germinate later.

Gardening Highlights

This year we’ve enjoyed so many things horticultural, both in and out of our gardens. At Garden House, the arrival of a new greenhouse has topped the list – a.k.a. St Derek’s Cathedral.

For others, pleasures have included: re-planning parts of a garden; replacing a balcony overlooking their plot; enjoying garden visits and garden tours; removing a neglected lawn and replacing it with plants and shale paths; learning to cope with the highs and lows of allotment gardening (so called because there are a lot of both).

Another highlight has been learning propagation techniques and applying them at home. Environmental awareness and eco-friendly gardening methods featured too; strangely, we all seem terribly keen to grasp the edict of ‘doing less’ in the garden. We have embraced no-digging, reduced lawn-mowing and the leaving of seed heads and plant material as far as possible.

As for re-purposing and upcycling – well, be impressed.

Very impressed

Some experienced the benefit of a Friday Group team visit and acquired either a) a pond

or b) newly dug beds or c) a grand clearance. Truly transformative.

From this

to this

And always via the medium of cake

The Traditional Christmas Quiz

Ghastly. Terribly difficult. Apply to Garden House for copies of the exam papers. The winner was enthusiastically applauded and awarded an immediate doctorate in Horticultural Cognisance. The blighter.

And so we bid 2021 farewell

And extend a cautious welcome to 2022

Happy Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Friday 10th December 2021

December. And the karma of Camellias

And there are changes afoot… something’s standing on the standing-out area.

The cold frames have been lifted, separated and now stand facing each other, awaiting a refurb. They look good here though.

And, of course, they have left a space! Something every gardener relishes.

Although it doesn’t look too exciting, does it? What to do?

Maybe somewhere for the watering cans to sit? Or what about using those two pots of Hamamelis in the background? Thinking hats on

Plant ident

Some herbs can be planted out now.

Curly-leaved Parsley

Parsley is actually a biennial, but usually treated as an annual. Often used as an attractive edging for herb beds and vegetable plots. There are several cultivars of curled leaf Parsley – Petroselinum crispum ‘Bravour’, ‘Envy’ and ‘Moss Curled’ being three of them. The latter has dark green rosettes on short stems – and is very curly! Makes an excellent garnish (if you’re a garnishing kind of person).

Flat-leaved parsley

An easy to grow herb that has a stronger flavour than its curly-leaved counterpart. There are two varieties: Petroselinum crispum ‘French’ and Petroselinum crispum ‘Italian Giant’. The former has dark green, flat leaves and is the shorter of the two, growing to around 30-45 cms. ‘Italian Giant’ is, unsurprisingly, the larger plant, at 60-75 cms. It’s hardier and high yielding – check out the trugful below! The one to go for if you’re a Parsley lover; use in dressings, sauces, butters and stuffings.

Chervil

Strangely, this pretty herb looks rather like a cross between curly and flat-leaved Parsley – they are members of the same family (Apiaceae). Its leaves are delicate and frilly and it has a faint flavour of aniseed. One of the four traditional French fines herbes, the others being Tarragon, Chives and Parsley, it’s frequently added to omelettes, soups, stews and salads. Like Parsley, it prefers to grow in a moist and cool location.

Calendula

Such an attractive and easy hardy annual, Calendula officinalis (the Common or Pot Marigold) is a long-flowering, hard-working plant with bright orange, daisy-like flowers. Traditionally used as a herbal remedy, its flowers are still picked today to make oils and salves to calm irritated skin. The edible petals can be sprinkled over salads to zhoosh them up, essential on those occasions when the Cholmondley-Thomases come over for a ham tea. What’s more, they can be grown as ‘companion plants’, to repel whitefly from Tomatoes and aphids from Beans. They also attract beneficial insects such as ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies.

Bronze Fennel

A marvellous perennial to write about as one can use the word ‘fronds’ with gay abandon. Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ is an ornamental, culinary herb; bronze, feathery leaves complement its yellow flowers. Another useful companion plant because the umbelliferous flowers attract hoverflies, which prey on aphids. Birds enjoy the seedheads. Looks great in a sunny border as it grows to 1.5 m and wafts about very effectively. Use the leaves in soups and salads and as a garnish with meat and fish. After rain, consider how the raindrops illuminate those feathery fronds, then go and write poetry.

Jobs for the week

Plant up a hanging basket with Succulents.

This can work well even in winter, provided you ensure that the soil in the basket is very well-drained.

Using just one type of Echeveria gives the whole thing an air of simple sophistication.

Refresh the urns containing Libertia grasses

These Libertias are hardy, evergreen, perennial grasses with attractive, variegated, green and golden orange/yellow leaves.

Remove some of the old, spent compost, replace with a fresh mix of the home-made stuff plus some bought-in material. Grit the tops.

Now stand back and admire the effect when the sun hits them. No wonder they are called Libertia ‘Goldfinger’

In the cold months of December and January when the sun is low in the sky, they look like torches.

Create something snazzy where the cold frames were

First undertake an archaeological dig.

Unearth edgings

Edgings unearthed. Or could they be the start of a Roman road?

Level up the wonky paving slab

Levelled

Move the pots to stand on either side of the shed. We love a bit of symmetry. Finally, the pièce de résistance: The Trolley!

Splendid!

Introducing….. The Hostess Trolley

Complete with Hostess

So, obviously, it has to be the Cake Break

And time for a spot of hat chat

We’re very pro a natty hat

Pricking out, potting on

Poppies

Cornflowers

Nigella

and, who knows, there may even be another bulb or two to go in…

Is she joking?

It would appear not.

It’s a never-ending cycle. Now begins the rush for a space to work in the new greenhouse!

No room at the inn!

Come off it, there’s plenty of room! Move along inside, please

Cut back Asters

Withered, black stems aren’t a good look, so it’s time to remove them

Secateurs and hand forks to the fore

A clean sweep

makes all the difference

Don’t forget to close the cold frame at night

Winter draws on and temperatures are dropping

Friday 3rd December 2021

Bad weather predicted. Everyone’s gloved, booted, wrapped, masked and sanitised. We’re green and clean.

And planning the next heist.

We’ve always said that it’s daylight robbery at those garden centres.

Plant ident.

In the winter garden it’s the evergreens, evergreys, eversoblues which provide structure when there’s not much else to look at. They are often referred to by designers as the bones of a garden, and should, perhaps, be some of the first things to be considered in a plan.

Arbutus unedo

The Kilarney Strawberry Tree. A shrubby, evergreen tree in the Ericaceae family, with attractive red-brown bark, green leathery leaves and lots of urn-shaped, small, white flowers. The fruit looks very much like a Strawberry, but is nowhere near as tasty. In fact, Architectural Plants comments, ‘The curious Latin name ‘unedo‘ is said to derive from a comment made by the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder – translated as ‘I only eat one’. Undoubtedly referring to its insipid taste, you’d have to be bloody hungry to eat more than one.’ Needs shelter and plenty of of light. Clip to shape. Ht. 8 m

Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’

A hardy, compact, male form of Skimmia; its attractive, glossy green leaves have a prominent central rib. Dark red flower heads form in the autumn and last through the winter, making it a perfect shrub to use in containers or pots at this time of year. Very effective when planted alongside the dramatic leaves of coleus. Can also be successfully grown in a border, in moist, well-drained soil in part- full shade. Any aspect and most soil types. Ht. 0.75 m

Griselinia littoralis

Ubiquitous it may be, but it’s seen everywhere for good reason. It’s a good ‘un. Fast growing, with lovely, fresh green foliage. Tough. Salt resistant (so it’s often seen by the coast). Frequently used in local authority/public planting schemes as a barrier or hedge. Likes a well-drained soil in full sun, and will tolerate most aspects and soils. Hardy. A.G.M. Ht. 4 – 8 m

Pittosporum tobira

The Japanese Mock Orange. Neat, shiny, evergreen shrubs with sweetly scented, creamy flowers in June. Good in a coastal situation. Full sun suits them best as does a well-drained soil. Requires minimal pruning, but can be shaped into domes. Drought resistant. Try it (well-mulched) in a container on a patio in the winter. A.G.M. Ht 2 – 3 m

Jobs for the Week

Build a standing out area

And make it outstanding. But for whom? Friday Group? Is it a kind of giant naughty step?

Oh, for plants. Got it.

But that’s very literally hard landscaping, isn’t it?

Sure is

Sand, slabs, bricks, lifting, levelling. She must be joking

It would seem not

Here’s one of the two lead forewomen, leaning forward

And that reminds me, we must repair to The Builders’ Arms asap.

Well, many willing hands really do make light work, but, honestly, that’s a seriously impressive piece of work. Respect.

Much mulching

One of the most important things you can do for your garden going into the winter. And best of all if you can use your own delicious compost concoction.

Dealing with Dahlias

At Garden House, some Dahlia tubers may remain in the ground over the winter months, but most, particularly those in pots, are dug up, cleaned, dried and stored in a cool, dry place until the following year.

Potting on

There’s always some potting pottering to do

And there’s always someone there looking at others doing the work and providing a helpful commentary

Not sure what she’s supposed to be doing exactly, but she does a lot of it

Repotting Succulents

These need to be removed from the outside hanging baskets, split and given a new lease of life in fresh compost and pots. They’ll be kept somewhere dry and frost free for the winter. W-e-t spells d-e-a-t-h for these lovelies.

Work on the herb bed

Many herbs will withstand cold spells, especially in a sheltered garden like this. Mulching provides a layer of insulation to protect their roots.

Weed. Tidy up the plants. Cut back a little. Mulch

Organise the cold frame

Clean it and tidy it up. Check the pots and look really carefully at each individual plant. How’s it doing? Water if required. Remove dead, damaged, diseased material. Remove any leaves which have drifted in. Ditto cats.

Sempervivums

Although each individual plant will die after flowering, it produces offsets to continue the line, thereby keeping them ‘ever-living’.

Remove the dead Semervivums and pot on the offsets to bulk up. Grit the surface to finish off. They should grow on to become like these –

Do try to keep ’em dry.

Plant up Cyclamen and Hellebores

and create a gorgeous green and white themed winter display. Pack them in for luxuriant lushness.

Putting them into old wine boxes elevates these winter flowers to a whole different level. Smacks of connoisseurship, don’t y’know.

Not so much vintage rosé, more vintage Christmas Rose

Hello, Helleborus

Friday 26th November 2021

Cold and grey. Dismal, even. We press on regardless.

Oh, we are a cheery, chirpy bunch! No doubt about it.

And there are lots of lovely things to keep our spirits up –

The Protection Racket

Time to think about adding extra protection for some tender plants which can’t easily be moved. Mulching is one way to add a layer of insulation; dressing plants in warm, winter outfits is another.

But not this sort of jacket, obvs.

More like this sort of thing –

Plant ident.

Tetrapanex papyrifer ‘Rex’

Architectural Plants say this is ‘Fatsia japonica on steroids’. It has exotica in abundance. The Chinese Rice Paper plant is a beaut., a fast-growing shrub/small tree with enormous, deeply-lobed green leaves. Can be grown in a large pot, but is better in the ground where it will probably sucker, so you end up with a little thicket. Can be thinned out and cut down as necessary, but they have a powdery dust all over them, which can be irritating to some. Wear a mask and long sleeves when working amongst them, just to be cautious. Needs a sheltered position in full sun to partial shade; wrapping it in a winter jacket will help to ensure it gets through the winter unscathed. Ht. 4-8m

Canna

Cannas are vibrant, tender, rhizomatous perennials with bold, exotic leaves and showy-offy flowers from mid to late summer through to autumn. Great Dixter demonstrates how magnificent they can be, growing them in their Exotic Garden. They can be container-grown or placed in a border and need a fertile soil and full sun. Although tender, they can survive the winter in warmer parts of the U.K. if given a good covering of mulch. At Garden House, they’ll be cut in half (yoicks!) and wrapped in a covering of horticultural fleece. Ht 1.8m

Musa basjoo

This Japanese Hardy Banana somehow defies expectations and grows quite happily in the U.K. , managing at ambient temperatures of 6 degrees centigrade. Cut back in the winter and mulch the stems. For colder areas, Architectural Plants once again offers sage words of advice: ‘Acquire yourself some nice old terracotta chimney pots and, after the leaves have been frosted, cut the banana down to a few inches lower than the top of the chimney pot, place the pot over the stem, stuff it with straw and devise a top to keep the rain out. Here it will be safe even when Hell freezes over.’ Heck, give it a go!

Hedychium

One of late summer’s glories – the Ginger Lily plant. Lush foliage and wonderful bright colours make them highly desirable – and they’re also easy to grow. But now they need protection. In an ideal world, move them into a warm, sumptuous conservatory. Otherwise, a cold greenhouse should work and/or wrap them in a winter jacket of horticultural fleece. Bubble wrap around the pot provides an extra layer of insulation and finish with a good helping of mulch over the soil. Planting the rhizomes deeply helps to enhance cold tolerance, as does siting them against a south or west facing wall. As with many exotics, it’s damp-induced rotting which is often the main killer, so endeavour to protect from winter rains.

Cobaea scandens

Is it an annual? Is it perennial? It’s the luck of the draw, really. In the U.K. we usually treat the Cup and Saucer plant as an annual, but it can flower into November/December in a sheltered position, and has been known to make it through the winter. Try covering the roots in much mulch and see what happens. Sow seeds in January, as it takes a long time to get going, but once it does, it’s rampant! An exotic-looking climber with either white or purple bell-shaped flowers, it can be trained over trellises and arches to dramatic effect. Essential!

Now, out into the garden, where someone is keeping a sharp lookout for unwanted intruders

Nothing gets past me

I just did

Autumn Leaves

What to do? Leave leaves to decompose? Dispose of them? Compost them? It’s a puzzle. Merely leaving them on the soil or grass can remove vital nutrients. The very best thing to do with deciduous leaves is to collect them up and put them into a leaf cage, or just a bin bag with holes pierced in it to allow aeration. Add a little water and they will eventually rot down, creating a perfect material for mulching and potting. It is the slow action of fungi rather than bacteria which breaks the leaves down. Some leaves decompose more quickly than others – e.g. birch, beech and cherry, whereas larger, more leathery leaves, like those of Horse Chestnut, take longer and will benefit from being shredded.

Hessian sacks are ideal for making leaf mould. Air can get in easily, as can moisture. And they look posh.

Composting

A quick recap. DON’T put in: plastics, sellotape, weeds, large pieces of wood, large prunings, crocks, polystyrene, cooked food. There will be ructions! DO put in small twiggy materials, green garden waste and grass clippings, ash from wood fires, coffee grounds, tea bags, pet hair and human hair (but not if still attached to owner), feathers, cardboard. Layer, aerate, turn, pray.

Charles Dowding, the no-dig guru, is excellent on the subject (the religion?) of composting. Watch him on YouTube.

Jobs for the week

Sieve compost taken from the bins

Or ’tilth the filth’, as we say. This refines the texture and the resulting glory can be layered onto seeded beds or beds cleared for winter. Or used to mix with leaf mould for potting on.

Compost (before) in barrow. Compost (after) in trug. Compare and contrast.

Assess borders

Decide what is to be kept and what should go. Remove and replant as required. The Buddleia is a case in point. Note the traditional Replanting Dance: heel and toe, heel and toe…

Cut back anything dead, damaged, diseased, ugly, and compost appropriately (not diseased material). Stems of Asters, Dahlias, Rudbeckias, Helianthus and Peonies (not Tree Peonies) can all go. Leave seed heads for the birds and wildlife – for example, Sedums – and anything which still looks good, like the heads of Japanese Anemones. Frosts will take the garden to a whole new level of beauty.

Mulch borders

With compost from the bin

Or, as we call it, black gold

Mulching retains moisture in the soil, acts as a weed suppressant, inhibits soil erosion and provides insulation for resting plants. A layer of 10 cms is ideal. All it requires is a lot of application.

The Applicators

The crucial Break for Cake

Today including carrot cake and orange drizzle cake.

Thank goodness. That’s two of our five-a-day

So welcome. And so restorative

Work in The Cathedral

Potting on seedlings and propagating succulents

Warm, comforatable, spacious. It’s tough, but someone has to do it.

Work in the Pelargonium Palace

Primp the Pellies. Tidy. Re-pot where necessary. You know the rules.

Check Sempervivums

Houseleeks are hardy, succulent, alpine plants, and their name is indicative of the fact that it’s hard to kill them. They are tolerant of extreme temperatures and drought; the main thing which can do for them is sitting in the wet. Well, that would do for anyone.

Sempervivums form distinctive rosettes of foliage and bear flowers from spring to summer. Each rosette is a separate plant and is monocarpic, meaning that it will flower once and then die. However, baby plants (offsets) grow on and these can be removed, planted up and grown on, forming new clumps. Above, we can see the dead rosette in the centre of the pot.

Re-pot offsets in gritty compost and finish with a layer of horticultural grit. Label and protect from wet weather

Planting bulbs

Underneath the arches. Will it ever end? And what’s going in today?

Lovely!

We think so

Anyway, we must get on

Wrap up warm

Winter jackets on

And which Friday Group member got wrapped this year?

Tidy up time

Making a clean sweep of things

And, guess what? The sun came out! Well, they say it shines on the righteous

November it may be…

…but look what’s still blooming away at Garden House!

Friday 19th November 2021

Another Friday. It’s mizzly and drizzly, but the front garden is as neat as a pin. Pots have been planted up with bulbs and topped off with horticultural grit. That’s true haughty culture.

Plant ident.

This could be called ‘The Late Show’, as these lovelies are all still performing even though it’s mid-November.

Phygelius capensis

The Cape Fuchsia is a (very) vigorous semi-evergreen, small shrub with extraordinary tubular flowers, which can be 3 cms long, orange-red in colour and a welcome addition to the border at this end of the year. Its vigour may be welcomed by some, but the phrase “an absolute nightmare” has also been used to describe it. However, the suckers which appear can easily be removed and potted up to make new, free plants. Can be treated as a herbaceous perennial. Ht. 1.5m

Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

Dan Pearson has recently written about Amsonia, and used such descriptives as ‘luminous’, ‘autumn blaze’ and ‘flash of glory’. So, nip out and buy some immediately. When planted in groups, the gorgeous buttery-yellow, lanceate leaves of Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ light up the autumn garden. A clump-forming deciduous perennial, panicles of star-shaped light-blue flowers appear from late spring to early summer. Fairly drought-resistant and copes with most soils. Best planted in full sun to partial shade where the light will hit it at some point in the day. Unassuming, perhaps, but a hard worker and one that is easily maintained. Reportedly resistant to slugs and snails. And not frequently seen, so worth buying for neighbour envy alone. Ht. 0.5m

Salvia confertiflora

Soft, dark red, velvety flowers adorn this beautiful Salvia. Bees and other insects love its nectar-rich flowers and the spikes contrast with the plant’s large, veined, green leaves. Can be hardy in some warm and sheltered areas, but is probably best treated as a tender perennial, so provide winter protection before the frosts arrive. (By the way, frosts generally arrive with a vengeance the night before you decide to provide winter protection.) So, at the very least, take cuttings to ensure plants for next year. Likes full sun and a sheltered position; regular dead-heading will prolong the flowering period. Ht. 1.5m

Sorbus aucuparia ‘Joseph Rock’

This variety of Mountain Ash is known for the beautiful amber-yellow berries which appear in autumn. Its deciduous, pinnate foliage takes on wonderful fall shades of scarlet, red, orange and copper which complement the colours of the fruit. Birds eventually take the berries, and, earlier in the year, bees enjoy feasting from the creamy white flowers. Upright and neat in form, this makes an excellent choice for a small garden. Full sun, any aspect. And it has an A.G.M., of course! Ht. 6-10m

Salvia involucrata ‘Hadspen’s Pink’

Apparently, one of Sarah Raven’s top ten perennials, now that it has survived a couple of winters in her garden in East Sussex. In less sheltered areas, it is generally treated as a tender perennial. Introduced by the colour gurus Sandra and Nori Pope whilst they gardened at Hadspen House (now The Newt Hotel and Gardens). Starts to flower in July and continues for months. The tubular flowers are a bright lipstick pink and are borne on upright, reddish stems which arch as they grow. Likes a well-drained, warm and sheltered position in sun. Ht. 1.2-1.5m

Jobs for the week

Sow a pictorial meadow

Goodness. Sounds very Homes and Gardens. And, indeed it is. As practised by none other than Highgrove House, my dear. So, what exactly is a pictorial meadow?

It’s a spectacularly colourful and naturalistic seeded planting containing both native and non-native flowers, aimed at attracting more pollinators without being a traditional ‘wildflower meadow’. It doesn’t, for instance, contain grasses in the seed mix. One of the best known was the planting created for the Olympic Park in London 2012.

Garden House is using a special hardy cornfield mixture containing Cornflower, Corn Cockle, Corn Chamomile, Cut-leaved Cranesbill, Corn Marigold and Poppies amongst other delights.

And here, the team assemble to consider the best course of action

First, clear the entire Exotic bed. Dispose of all compostable waste in the receiving bin of the compost heap. (See next Job for the week.)

Apply quantities of delicious, home-made compost prior to sowing the seed mix at 2 gms per sq. yard. (Mixing our Imperials and Metrics there. That’s Brexit for you.)

By sowing now we hope for earlier germination and tougher plants. A further sowing can be made next spring if necessary.

Heap heaps on the compost heap

Sort, turn and whisper magic spells. Remove already composted material to spread on newly cleared beds. Our resident expert returns to cosset his pride and joy, accompanied by a willing and able assistant.

Who, for some reason, doesn’t appear to want a photo taken. Can’t think why…

Still, nothing she can do about it now, eh?

And soon, she’s enjoying every minute –

Plant outdoor Hyacinth bulbs

The variety ‘Woodstock’ is being planted alongside Rhubarb plants in one of the raised beds; this should make an attractive combo next year, with the deep magenta of the Hyacinths contrasting with the deep red of the vegetable stalks. (Yes, vegetable!)

Empty 3 blue pots

To be filled with… guess what?

Absolutamundo!

Still, many hands make light bulb work

Or, light work of bulbs

Where possible, match your gloves to the pots you are working on.

Work in the top garden

More emptying of pots, re-filling of pots, planting of pots, gritting, wiring, labelling. You know the routine.

Yes. We know.

Oh, looking very lovely

And what about the other routine we love?

The Cake Break

Ah, yes.

Plant up window boxes

With yet more Tulips. Tulipa ‘Abu Hassan’ to be precise.

Little Dixter

Not just any old Tulips in here, thanks. Now is the time to bring some of the species Tulips to the planting party, namely Tulipa turkestanica and Tulipa tarda. These are much smaller, more delicate bulbs. And much, much more expensive. They will need truly expert planting…

Excellent choice

And? Oh dear

Perhaps a little gingering up is required to get the best out of her

Looks promising

Planting bulbs for indoor flowers

These Narcissi bulbs have been forced in order to produce earlier blooms. They don’t need much in the way of drainage, so wine boxes will make ideal containers. Planted up in quantity, they are going to provide a dramatic display in the near future

Watch this space

Friday 12th November 2021

Friday Group are back at Garden House. Hip hip, hooray!

And it’s a bit on the damp side

Although the Cornelian Cherry is putting on a fine, fiery display

And what is this glasstastic vision we see before us?

Coo! It’s a beauty

Plant ident.

This week we concentrated on those plants which really should be brought under cover NOW, to avoid death by frost.

Fuchsia microphylla

The small-leaved Fuchsia is a late and very welcome flowerer. It’s got itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny pink flowers and evergreen foliage going on all over. Small black berries form in the autumn, which, apparently, are edible. ‘After you’, as one F/G member appositely commented. Get this little lovely indoors now; hopefully you already have some cuttings growing, but try again if not. It may survive outside in very mild areas, but why take the chance? It’s great in our Little Dixter area, and in pots around the garden.

Gomphrena globosa

An unusual, tender perennial which is easy to grow from cuttings. Its sprawling habit is shown off best when grown in a large container. Best in full sun, the flower stems can be cut and will last for a long time in a vase; the flowers will also hold their vivid purple colour when dried. Stays in bloom right up to the first frosts.

Plectranthus ciliatus ‘Nico’

A very tender perennial, often treated as an annual, with cuttings easily taken and struck to ensure more plants next year. Invaluable in pots as a foil for Dahlias, Cosmos, Salvias or other flowering plants, but equally arresting on its own. It’s sometimes used as ground cover, as it has a large footprint, and will quickly carpet an area. The dark green leaves have pronounced purple markings, with undersides washed in the same dark purple. Attractive flower spikes emerge in the autumn. Will grow in sun or part shade quite happily. How about trying it as a houseplant on a sunny windowsill over the winter months?

Tibouchina urvilleana

A spectacular tender, evergreen perennial, with the most glorious irridescent violet/purple flowers in late summer to autumn. A somewhat lax shrub with soft, elliptical, grey-green leaves, it will grow in most soils. Brings a touch of the exotic with it, and looks great in containers and on patios. Better still in conservatories or orangeries; surely it’s worth getting this plant if only as a reason to acquire the latter. Will grow outdoors in frost-free situations, but should really be brought in as the weather gets chilly. A.G.M. Ht 2.5 – 4 m

Cuphea ignea

This spreading, evergreen sub-shrub is the Mexican Cigar Plant. Striking scarlet/orange, tubular flowers are produced in quantity throughout the summer and autumn and complement the lance-shaped, vivid green leaves. Grows best in full sun in a sheltered position or in a pot. Attractive to pollinators. A.G.M. Ht. 40 cms

Bulbs

The time for planting is upon us. They have been ordered, delivered, hidden in wardrobes, cupboards and under benches. And counted. How many are there?

‘Never you mind.’

Planting schemes have been meticulously planned for various parts of the garden. Beds, pots, containers will all host dramatic displays, which we hope will be at their peak next spring when the garden opens for the National Garden Scheme.

So, let’s plant!

Jobs for the Week

Plant bulb lasagnes in large pots. This will provide interest from February to May, as the different layers come through. Ensure the pot has good drainage and add a layer of compost; arrange 15 Tulip bulbs at a depth of around 30 cm; add a 10 cm layer of compost and put in a further 15 Tulip bulbs. 10 cm more compost will cover those bulbs, then top with white Narcissi bulbs; yet another layer of compost will take Crocus bulbs. Finish the whole lot off with another layer of compost and plant pansies as a final hurrah! Add a generous layer of grit. (Anti-squirrel tactics.)

Secure wire mesh over the pot. Those squirrels have a fight on their hands.

Plant bulbs for forcing

One group were allowed exclusive access to the enviable new structure to plant prepared bulbs. These have already undergone a period of cold temperatures to encourage early flowering. Aka vernalization.

Once the bulbs have had their cool period, they will begin to sprout. When they have grown a few centimetres they can be brought into slightly warmer conditions where they will continue to develop slowly, and then come into bloom. Grow in pots or shallow pans. (October’s Gardens Illustrated magazine has a feature on this.)

Bulb lasagne. Encore.

Plant a mix of pink and purple Tulips in layers in the large black pots.

Remember to label. And grit. And add wire mesh deterrent. Squirrels Keep Out!

Plant Galanthus

Snowdrop bulbs can be planted now under the Birch trees and amongst black grasses (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, since you ask) to provide a wonderful effect in the spring. Plant them deeply, to about three times their depth. This is where the rather alarming-looking Niwaki Hori Hori tool comes into its own. A knife with an extremely sharp blade, it can be used to dig, plant, weed and prune. And you can use it to stir your tea.

Plant bulbs in woodland bed

Scatter Narcissi bulbs for an informal scheme. Plant in Downward-Facing Dog Pose, if possible. That’s Adho Mukha Svanasana, just to be clear.

Develop an orange themed area in the top garden

So suitable when using Dutch Tulips

It’s going to look bulbalicious

More lasagnes, one suspects.

Little Dixter

Time to clear the decks and start preparing for a spring showstopper

And, yes, it does involve bulbs… Muscari, Iris, Chionodoxa. These little beauties are going to shine.

Are these bulbs planted in layers?

Well, yes, in a manner of speaking

Allow time to tidy up

Inside

and out

And then home for a hot bath. And tea in a real cup and saucer. Not the horticultural type, like these –

Friday 5th November 2021

Remember, remember, – today is the day to work in colleagues’ gardens. So, this Friday, it was a case of hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go, but not at Garden House. One group met in Brighton and one in Newhaven

The Brighton team’s brief was firstly to find the garden…It was a bit of a puzzle.

Through a little gap, and down some steep steps…

Find a gate…

…and walk into a magical space full of greenery

and a lovely view

On a steep slope too! Amazing, and not a little challenging

All sorts of levels had been created by the (strong and feisty) owner, who had also laid brick patios, built steps and was now preparing to set to work with a new toy…

Unsurprisingly, we found this a little intimidating, and had to sit down for a moment or two

Equilibrium recovered; then there was no stopping us

Our task (and we chose to accept it) was to clear a bed, remove weeds and replant with bulbs and plants appropriate to the site. Most plants were removed and placed in a holding area

These paddling pools come in so handy

We disturbed some of the hidden wildlife

A slow worm

A fast newt

And a toad which was hopping mad

We frightened a dragon, who went into hiding

And discovered oodles of oozy snails

Remaining shrubs were given a trim and tidy up. Some pots were emptied and filled with compost ready for bulbs. And a vine was unearthed and its roots traced back to New Zealand.

Of course, cakes featured. As per.

It would have been rude not to

Spurred on by the sugar rush, work continued…

for some

Then it was time to leave and return to the outside world once again

Were we ever there?

Indeed we were – the owner kindly said it was a month’s worth of gardening done in a day!

Meanwhile, in a garden far, far away…. in the midst of a mist of Miscanthus

lay another magical space

with a very excellent greenhouse

and a keen workforce eager to get going

They know the rules…

there are bulbs to plant

in beds and boxes

Beds to weed and plant

Here’s the shrub hub

Cake bait

(It works every time)

And always gets a good response

Seedlings to pot on

Keep them in the greenhouse until they are rooted and established

There are cuttings to be taken. These are of Helichrysum italicum

Narcissus bulbs planted and topped off with gravel to deter the darling little squirrels. If this fails, flame throwers will be brought in. Available at all good garden centres.

Another golden day

Thank you so much to both our wonderful hosts. It was a lot of fun.

Next Friday, it’s back to base at Garden House

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