Friday 9th July 2021

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

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

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

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


‘Hakuna matata’ is my motto

Just put one word steadily after another

But, do try to keep up, dear

Plant Ident.

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

Rosa ‘Compassion’

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

Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’

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

Trachelospermum jasminoides

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

Aloysia citrodora

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

Dianthus ‘Old Square Eyes’

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

Jobs for the Week

Take Pipings from Dianthus

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

Never forgetting…?

The all-important label

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

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

Look what happens!

Work on the Rockery

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

Pot up Sempervirens and Succulent plantlets

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

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

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

Tasteful. NOT tasty.

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

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

Cut back Geraniums

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

Although it does entail a lot of bending

Go On The Offensive On Lil’s Bed

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

Praying and gardening go hand-in-hand

Time to get up onto two feet now.

Upsy daisy

Friday 2nd July 2021

Week Two of Friday Group’s Transformation Challenge.

What’s in store for them this week?

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

This is more like it.


And after


And after


My goodness, it’s all action

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

Some must have had two cups

Oh. Now, that what I call a transformation!

Congratulations. A job well dug.

Well-deserved, team.

Literally, the icing on the cake.

Meanwhile, in another corner of Brighton….

There are people in that shrubbery!

Are they playing hide-and-seek?

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

Well, yes they do, actually

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

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


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

Friday 25th June 2021

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

We may have dreams of turning this situation…

…into something approaching this

Maybe a little showy?

Or this

into this

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

But how about this

into this?

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

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

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

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

And they’re off!

Turf off. Turf stacked.

Mountains of earth appear from the depths

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

While some dug, others were on border control.

The obligatory cake-stop

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

There will be updates

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

Friday 18th June 2021

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

Anyone seen the hose?

First, though, the Plant Ident.

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

Iris sibirica ‘Red Flare’

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

Geranium ‘Red Admiral’

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

Linaria ‘Peachy’

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

Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’

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

Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’

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

Dry Garden Update

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

A Look Round the Garden

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


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

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis

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

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

Rosa ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’

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


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

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

They created quite a buzz


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

whether prettily pink

or perfectly poised and purple

or deepest-darkest purple-black

Herbs and salads

Look delicious… as do

The Cakes

And who could refuse a slice of Persian Love Cake?

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

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

Tasks for the week

Carry on Weeding

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

Pick Sweet Peas

The more you pick, the more they grow

Stake plants

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

Learn acronyms

V.E. Visitor Experience

A.G.M. Award of Garden Merit

P.B.R. Plant Breeders’ Rights

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

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

Enjoy the Roses

Friday 11th June 2021

The Roses rise up

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

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

Oh, I do so agree

Plant ident.

It had to be Roses. Of course!

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

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

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

Rosa ‘Mrs Oakley Fisher’

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

Rosa ‘Eye of the Tiger’

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

Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’

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

Rosa ‘Richardii’

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

Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’

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

Rosa ‘Crepuscule’

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

Tasks in the garden

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

Gardening or yoga?

Either way, she’s stuck

Some find this amusing

Her time will come

Phew. Someone’s upright again

Plant up summer pots

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

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

Work on plans for the dry garden

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

Watch the Poppies popping

from this…

to this

Stake annuals as necessary

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

Plant up the Exotic Border

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

Plant up the metal trough

Remember the mantra: thrillers, fillers and spillers

Ooh, tasteful!

Weed, water and feed

Plant up pots in the top garden

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

She wouldn’t

Would she?

Oh, she certainly would!

Time to make our escape

A symphony in blue and mauve

Friday 4th June 2021

No need to water the garden today. Nature is doing it all for us. Copiously. Which means that we are allocated under-cover jobs. As opposed to undercover jobs – although that does sound a lot more exciting. We’ve even got the right coats.

But what could we possibly need to spy on at Garden House?

Well, look what we found in those boxes…

Oh, I say, Moneypenny

In these situations, it’s always reassuring to know that someone is at the ready to take notes

Plant ident.

This week we looked at plants traditionally found in cottage gardens. Nowadays, no matter whether your style is formal formality or informal florals, these can be used in all sorts of schemes.

Gladiolus byzantinus

An architectural herbaceous perennial with attractive sword-shaped leaves. Comparatively fleeting in its flowering period, but the almost neon quality of the magenta flowers make it a desirable plant. Self seeds freely in some gardens.

Geranium phaeum ‘Lisa’

A Mourning Widow Geranium, with very beautiful foliage – the leaves are paler in the centre, which has the effect of lighting them up. Good in both deep and dry shade, making it a must-have plant for many gardeners. Cut to the ground at the end of June after flowering and you will be rewarded by fresh growth. From the Geraniaceae family, these are one of the Cranesbill genus – so named because of their seedheads.

Erigeron karvinskianus

Herbaceous perennials. These little beauties are a joy. Where they are happy, they seed and flower profusely all over the place and provide little cushions of delight throughout the garden. Good as ground cover, they will grow in cracks in paths and patios and look especially good around walls and steps, softening hard landscaping. Masses of white daisies gradually turn pink, contrasting with their bright yellow centres; they flower from May through to October. Cut back to encourage fresh growth during the season.

Geranium sanguineum

Low-growing with delicate ferny foliage, this Geranium variety looks good growing with shrubs or Roses or towards the front of a border. Dead-heading prolongs the flowering period. Good for attracting all sorts of pollinators as the flowers are rich with nectar and pollen

Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata ‘Black Barlow’

A double form of Columbine, or ‘Granny’s Bonnet’, which admittedly isn’t particularly good for bees and other pollen lovers, but is reliably perennial and doesn’t cross with other forms. Upright in habit and behaviour (like your granny), it grows to around 90 cms. Flowers are a deep purple-black in colour. Good foliage too – the leaves are grey-green and divided. Lasts well as a cut flower. Likes semi-shade and any soil.

Jobs for the week

Clear out the Potting Shed

Use the opportunity of a rainy day to shape up, clear things out and make everything shipshape. Find your inner Marie Kondo, if you will.

In every job that must be done there is an element of fun.

Sort out boxes of seeds

You find the fun, and snap, the job’s a game…

And every task you undertake

Becomes a piece of cake…

Did somebody say ‘Cake?’

Thank goodness. I’m exhausted with all that writing.

Time for a flask of delicious tuna juice

Work in the conservatory

But be careful in there

Check on the succulents and other ravenous pot plants. Re-pot as necessary. Mind your fingers.

Work in the greenhouse

Pricking out. Potting on. Labelling. Gritting. Watering.

A laugh, a spree…

Reorganise the library


Pelargonium Prefects Perfect the Pelargonium Palace

Feed the Pellies according to the seaweed creed. Remove dead, diseased and damaged plant material and generally tidy them up. Check for aphids. Kill them. But in a kind, gentle and organic way. Undercover training has prepared you for this.

Hope for dry weather next week

Now that. Is a stunner

Anyone sense a new obsession coming on?

Friday 28th May 2021

The days fly by, and once again it’s Friday Group time

It’s all looking very busy in the greenhouse

Plant ident.

Tagetes patula ‘Linnaeus Burning Embers’

The African Marigold is frequently grown in the vegetable garden as a ‘companion plant’. The idea of companion planting is that communities of plants are grown together for their mutual benefit, either to protect against pests or to improve pollination/growth. This particular half-hardy annual is related to Calendulas, and its scent is known to deter pests; try it next to Tomatoes to ward off an aphid invasion. The mahogany petals are edged with yellow, echoing the centre of the flower. An easy, but very attractive, summer garden resident which makes a good cut flower. Full sun, please.

Hesperis matronalis

Known more widely as Sweet Rocket, this very attractive biennial plant has purple, mauve, lilac or white flowers. A traditional cottage garden plant, it tends to seed itself around and enjoys being either in the sun or part shade. Beautifully scented – and especially so in the evening. Dead-heading will encourage more flowers, but remember to let some go to seed, so that you don’t lose it in the garden. Much easier to let it do all the work! ‘Chedglow’ is a purple-leaved cultivar worth cultivating.

Calendula officinalis

Another cottage garden plant which is easy to grow and a delight to behold, is the English or Pot Marigold – with its distinctive bright orange flowers. A hardy annual, it’s often grown on the vegetable plot as a ‘sacrificial plant’ (sounds biblical). The idea of these ‘trap crops’ is that they will attract pests away from the main crops you want to protect. Aphids and other undesirables head over to the Calendulas/Nasturtiums /Chervil and infest them instead. Terribly barbaric, if you ask me. They also attract pollinating insects. The petals are edible and can be used to add panache to salads; Mrs Next-Door will be well impressed, despite herself. They look great as cut flowers in a summer flower arrangement, If they have managed to survive being eaten by humans or pests, they look great as cut flowers in a summer flower arrangement. There are many cultivars available, of which ‘Neon’, ‘Nova’ and ‘Indian Prince’ are three. Direct sow in a sunny position.


A less well-known half-hardy annual, Gomphrena is from the Amaranthaceae family. Its small spherical flower heads are held on the ends of stems. Good at the front of a dry garden border as it is very drought tolerant, and also combines well with other hot summer annuals such as Zinnias. Easy from seed.

Brachyscome iberidifolia

The Swan River Daisy has long been a popular half-hardy annual for gardens. Originating in Australia it likes well-drained soils, of most types, and full sun. A good choice for hanging baskets or window boxes, as it has a rather lax habit which lends itself very well to informal planting. Flowers profusely over a long period; colour can vary according to the cultivar, but is often blue/mauve. Apparently it doesn’t need to be dead-headed (can this be true?) – but cutting off the flowers now will result in lower, bushier plants.

The Dry Garden

The plan continues to evolve, and Liz described where the project was up to. Very unfortunately, there was unruly behaviour in class and the naughty step was brought into play.

Jobs for the week

There’s such a lot to do in the garden at the moment. So, secateurs at the ready!

Feeding Friday

The feeding season is upon us. Why not be organised and do it on a Friday, every Friday, without fail on a Friday? Dilute, organic seaweed feed is at the top of the Garden House menu. The Pelargoniums need particular care and attention as they grow into their summer lushness, as do the Streptocarpus. (Cape Primroses – not Sore Throats.)

On parade at Pelargonium Palace

Work in the pond

Skim off weeds and algae which have accumulated on the pond’s surface. Throw a bale of barley straw into the water, to prevent the formation of more algae. Adding a black pond dye to the water can show the water feature off to full effect, creating an obsidian mirror which reflects the sky by day and night. Warning: poetry may result.

“You’d never believe it. It was enormous. Massive. Humongous. It got away.”

Remove Tulip bulbs and Primroses

This clears the beds/pots/containers to allow summer plantings of annuals such as Ammi and other frothy loveliness; these will benefit from staking to ensure tip-top outcomes.

The spent Tulip bulbs can be planted in other areas of the garden, or dried and kept until the autumn, when they can be replanted.

Work on the Exotic Bed

Is there a dress code?

Here, the Tulip bulbs are not being removed. Instead they will be left to become a perennial planting scheme, with more bulbs being added each year. Musa, Hedychium, Nasturtiums and annual Dahlias will eventually go in to create a truly tropical vibe. Throw in a few cocktails, shaken, not stirred, and all will be complete.

Enjoy May

For soon. It will be June

FRIDAY 21st MAY2021

We’re back!

Not at all excited or anything….but breakfast bubbles were the order of the day

We could get used to this

Caption competition?

“Thank you, Jeeves. That will be all.”

The Winner!

Who knew that prosecco could be such a stimulant to conversation and gardening?

There’s a lot to catch up on as we can see

And cakes? Steady now…

Maybe later. For now, let’s get on with the

Plant ident

Iris germanica

Currently the stars of the show. Blooming marvellous.

Bearded irises are statuesque, evergreen perennials with narrow, grey/green, sword-shaped leaves and erect stems. The latter carry three large, dropping petals, ‘falls’, and three smaller, upright, ‘standard’ petals in late spring. There is a yellow ‘beard’ in the centre of the flower, which guides insects towards the pollen. Best in full sun on well-drained alkaline to neutral soils (chalk, loam or sand).

Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’

This tough Hardy Geranium is a great doer in the garden and will happily self-seed around – particularly into cracks on terraces. A good cultivar, it has red stems and a profusion of eye-catching, small, bright purple flowers. Attractive to butterflies. Much appreciated at Garden House. Grow in sun or shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Geranium macrorrhizum

A semi-evergreen Cranesbill which flourishes best in shady positions – even in dry shade. It has pink/purple flowers which emerge on long stems above shapely, aromatic leaves. Reliable and easy, these are very useful plants, the foliage also having the benefit of turning red in the autumn. Plants will bulk up to provide good ground cover and act as an effective weed suppressant.

Rosa ‘Bengal Crimson’

A chinensis shrub Rose which legendarily flowers for 365 days of the year in the Chelsea Physic Garden. And 366 in a leap year! Single, crimson flowers contrast with healthy, glossy green leaves. Robust and compact – and loved by many.

Anthemis punctata subsp. cupaniana

This will be a must-have plant for the new dry garden at Garden House as it grows quickly to make a sprawling mound of ebullient white daisies with finely-cut silver-grey foliage. Good on walls and terraces as it will drape itself attractively over them. Light, well-drained soil in full sun.

Akebia quinata

Aka the Chocolate Vine or Five-leaf Akebia. A fabulous, twining climber, which can become quite vigorous, so needs to be kept in check. Fragrant, deep purple/chocolate- coloured flowers emerge along dangling racemes. Exotic! If it cross pollinates with a neighbouring Akebia, it may produce sausage-shaped fruit after flowering. Semi-evergreen. Needs warmth. As do we.

The Chelsea Chop

Now that we have all become adept hairdressers over lockdown, we can put our newly-acquired skills into practice in the garden. Time for the Chelsea Chop. A process of cutting back herbaceous perennials in late May to avoid ‘floppage’ and achieve better flowers later in the summer. This pruning method can be applied to complete clumps of plants to delay flowering, or just to some of them, to spread flowering over a longer period.

Phlox, Penstemons, Achilleas Asters and Sedums all respond well to this treatment. Using clean, sharp secateurs, make a sloping cut just above a leaf joint, removing about one third of the stem. Horticulturally-speaking, you are removing the apical dominance of the plant. Hem hem.

Jobs for the Week

Plant Tomatoes using the ring culture method

The ring culture pot is put into the ground in the greenhouse, flush with the soil. Tomato plants are planted deeply into the centre of the pot. Water can be poured into the reservoir surrounding the central pot. When applying dilute feed (once a week, when the first trusses develop), this can go directly onto the plant. This will encourage the plants to produce more feeder roots from their stems, resulting in vigorous, productive plants.

By wrapping twine around the base of each plant and then tying it onto a cane near the roof of the greenhouse, you have a ready-made twining/support system for your cordon Tomatoes. If you don’t know how to tie a slipknot, now is the time to learn.

Or, you can always talk to an expert…

Pinch out the ‘hairy armpits’ in each Tomato’s leaf axils, or you will have a jungly vine on your hands. Pinch out the tops of the plants once five or six trusses have set.

Work on the herb bed

Cut back Parsley

Plant Rainbow Chard

Weed and water

Make time for coffee and cake

Carrot cake for those concerned about their 5-a-day

Chocolate cake for those less concerned about their 5-a-day

And tea cake for everyone else

We’re thinking about entering The Great British Bake Off, although maybe The Great British Rake Off would be a better bet.

Pot on mini Pumpkins

These Tromboncino and Jill-Be-Little varieties will take over from the Sweet Peas once the latter have finished flowering. They’ll love clambering up the wigwam structures.

Plant Nerine Lilies for autumn flowering

Make sure the tops of the bulbs are visible; Nerines are from South Africa and they will need to bake in the summer sun. Some of these will be bright pink and some white.

Sow biennials

Foxgloves, Honesty, Angelica, Sweet Rocket – all can be sown now for flowers next year.

Work in the Pelargonium Palace

Feed Pelargoniums with a dilute seaweed solution; remove any damaged or dead plant material; tidy. Take the darlings out for an airing. Use a perambulator if necessary.

Plant out Beetroot ‘Chioggia’ seedlings

Can be planted out a handspan apart in small clumps. Plant in well-prepared beds. Water carefully; label. Let them grow on and pick when small.

Summer Containers

Plant up from now on to ensure a dramatic summer backdrop. Tender perennials and annuals in all sorts of combos. They’re going to be stunning.

Summer awaits

FRIDAY 14th MAY 2021

This may be our last session in mini groups. Is it really possible? Could there be cake and coffee on the horizon? Excitement mounts.

Any chance of sardines?

Full steam ahead in the garden to prepare for a magnificent opening on 18th June for the National Garden Scheme. 11.30 – 4.30. Pre-booking available, or just turn up on the day. Not to be missed!

Plant ident

Teucrium fruticans

Also known as Tree Germander. In the Lamiaceae (mint) family, Teucrium has lavender-blue, salvia-like flowers and small, soft, silver-grey leaves. A woody, evergreen shrub which spreads; it’s easy to take cuttings from. Best in a sunny spot in neutral to alkaline soil. Fab for bees and butterflies as it is long-flowering and pollen/nectar-rich.

Smyrnium perfoliatum

Sometimes mistaken for a Euphorbia, this hardy, biennial umbellifer is actually a member of the Apiaceae family and produces brilliant lime-green/ yellow flowers in late spring. Best in dappled shade, where it glows. Once established, it will seed itself around, but can be tricky to establish!

Geranium pyrenaicum

The clue is in the name – it’s originally from the Pyrenees. A marvellous self-seeder, and one which will be welcome all over the garden. Easily removed if it becomes overly keen on moving in with you. If you cut it down after flowering, it will regrow to flower again later in the season.

Anisodontea capensis

From the Malvaceae family, an attractive and very long-flowering evergreen sub-shrub. Upright in habit, it has vivid pink flowers which can last from spring right through to the first frosts. The flowers have magenta centres and delicately-veined markings. Butterflies and bees love this plant, as does the gardener who has it, because it is drought and heat tolerant, and requires little maintenance. Full sun or very light shade suit it best. Grows to 0.6 – 0.9 m. A.G.M. Surely it must be a solid contender for the planned dry garden here at Garden House?

Today’s tasks

Following discussions about the proposed design for the dry garden, it was decided that paths should be widened from 1 m to 1.2 m to allow for ‘floppage’. (A technical term, probably requiring little, if any, explanation.) The seating areas will be similarly enlarged.

Euphorbia demonstrating extreme floppage

One job for today was to use canes and string to mark out the entrances/exits to the dry garden, and also the circles, to get a 3D view of the plan.

The team sprang into action

Creating holes deep enough for the canes

Take copious notes

Jobs for the week

Direct sow seeds

Now that we have nearly reached the magic date of 15th May, when all danger of frost has gone, (has it?), seeds can now be sown directly into the soil. (Possibly not quite yet warm enough for Tomatoes to be outside.) Half-hardy annuals can be planted out once they have been hardened off, and there is a break in the rain. Beds need to be really well prepared. To ensure success, it’s a case of tilth the filth, squirt the dirt, sow and hoe. Simples.

Replace winter/spring pot displays with summer plantings

They’ve been wonderful,

but time moves on…

Pot on those pellies; grow-on those Argyranthemums; find fillers, thrillers and spillers. It’s all hands to the deck, emptying out pots whose displays are now past their best. Plant flowered bulbs out into the garden, save anything which can be re-used and gird your loins for next season’s show. Hopefully it will look something like this:

That’s if it ever decides to stop raining

Friday 7th May 2021

The April/May flower show continues…

Prim perfection from Primula auricula

Plant ident.

Saxifraga x urbium

We know it better by its common name – London Pride – it comes from the same family as Heucheras and Bergenias, Saxifragaceae. A delightful little evergreen perennial, forming a spreading carpet of crinkle-edged rosettes, making it a good choice for ground cover. Best described by The Pink Wheelbarrow in this hyphenated masterpiece: ‘One of the most ground-hugging, low-growing, weed-smothering, bomb-proof plants you could have in the garden’. Fair enough. Pink/white flower panicles emerge from mid spring to summer, carried on long stems. Full sun to partial shade. Propagates easily; just pull up a rosette or two with a bit of root, and plant immediately. Garden House rating: Top Stuff.

Hesperis matronalis

Check out the frothy beauty of this biennial. Sweet Rocket smells as good as its name implies (especially in the evenings), and looks just gorgeous shimmering in dappled sunlight. It’s enough to make you go all poetic. Its white or purple flowers look very similar to those of Honesty. Deadheading will prolong the flowering period, but do let some plants go to seed as they will self-sow around the garden, choosing better places to grow than any mere mortal would think of. Any aspect will do; prefers lighter, well-drained soils.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’

Another member of the Brassicaceae family – evidenced by the 4-petalled flowers. And this cultivar of Honesty is a real wowser. Deep, dark purple, almost chocolate coloured leaves contrast with luminous lilac flowers. Biennial. Come autumn, they will produce attractive translucent seed-heads, which look wonderful in the garden as well as in indoor arrangements. Will self-seed happily. Likes moist, well-drained soil in part shade. Good for bees, butterflies and moths.

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

From the Borage family, this cultivar of Brunnera has frosted heart-shaped leaves and small bright blue flowers reminiscent of Forget-me- Nots. (That’s Myosotis, in case you had actually forgotten, which is also in the Borage family.) An evergreen perennial, it flowers from April to May. Likes moisture-retentive soil and once it is established, it will spread to provide beautiful ground cover. Partial to full shade. Brilliant in a woodland setting, so start planting trees now.

Allium neapolitanum ‘Cowanii

Another clever filler to bridge the gap between spring and summer perennials. Bride’s Garlic / Naples Garlic is a bulbous, herbaceous perennial which will tolerate poor and dry soils and has distinctive white umbels with star-shaped flowers. Sweetly scented, even though it’s a member of the Onion family, attractive to bees and lasts for ages when cut. Good in pots. Looks good grown with purple or blue Dutch Irises in a hot, dry border.

I’m glad that’s over with. Can we get on to the practical stuff now?

Now really, Puss. Have you been paying attention? What was that white flower, for instance?

What, this white one here?

I think you’ll find that is ‘Allium Cowanii’

Perfect, Puss!

The Dry Garden

Gradually, gradually things are coming together, falling apart, then coming together again. Measurements taken; plants schemed of, dreamed of; functions of areas established; flow considered; seating and tables – hmmm; landscaping materials chosen, discarded, reconsidered. It’s a process. The design progresses and the next rough drawing has been done by Liz.

And it looks like this –

Looking good

Hosepipes laid out on the ground are a good way to assess the general layout of beds and seating areas. That’s hosepipes, not hornpipes.

First, wrestle your hosepipe to the ground

I think the hosepipe’s winning…

Jobs for the week

The focus is on sowing seeds, pricking out and potting on. It’s all go. Don’t forget to water your babies. Harden them off gradually. It’s still cold out there, so don’t be in too much of a hurry to plant out half-hardy annuals.

Pot on Stipa tenuissima plants

Prick out rooted cuttings of Santolinas

These rooted very quickly. Remove any flowers which have formed, and cut back by about one third. Prick out into small individual pots.

Dead-head Tulips once flowering is over

They will benefit from a liquid seaweed feed at this stage, before the foliage dies back.

Summer pots

Start to prepare pots for their summer plantings. Remove bulbs which have finished flowering and plant into grass, borders or under hedges.

Keep going

It’s worth it

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