Friday 13th October


Unlucky for some but we had a great Friday in the garden last week.

Following on from our discussion the previous week about the pricking out of hardy annuals, Bridge showed us how to take semi-ripe cuttings of eg. salvias, argyranthemum, verbena.  Semi-ripe cuttings are usually carried out during late summer – early autumn when the base of the cutting is hardening but the non-flowering tip is still soft.

It is best to take cuttings in the morning to avoid wilting and these should be kept in a plastic bag until you are ready to carry out the process.  Shoots which are more horizontal in habit with short gaps between the leaves make good material for semi-ripe cuttings.  Trim the cuttings to 10 -15cm in length, cutting just below a leaf joint (node).  Remove the bottom leaves and the soft tips as all the energy is needed for the growth of new roots.

Using a dibber, place the cuttings in a suitable container filled with half compost mixed with half perlite or vermiculite (to provide good drainage) and water well.

Place the cuttings in a greenhouse or cold frame.  Alternatively, cover with a plastic bag and put in a warm, bright postion out of direct sunlight.  The compost should be kept damp but not allowed to become waterlogged.  The cuttings should take around six weeks to root if provided with “bottom heat”, ie. a heated propagator.

The cuttings should be ready to harden off during the following May and planted out next summer.

Our Plant ID on Friday concentrated on plants which are tolerant of coastal conditions:

Tamarisk sp.



This is a deciduous tree with light feaathery leaves and racemes of tiny pink or white flowers in late spring.



This slow-growing evergreen shrub is great for hedging and clipping.  It is often used for flower-arranging with its mainly deep purple (sometimes yellow) blooms during the winter.

Phormium ‘Alison Blackman’


This medium shrub (growing to 1.2m) has stunning leaf markings and will tolerate partial shade in moist well-drained soil.

Griselenia Littoralis


This fast-growing evergreen shrub is fantastic for hedging with bright green ovate leaves.  It has yellow-green very small flowers in spring, followed in the autumn by purple fruits on female plants where both sexes are grown together.

Elaeagnus x ebbingei


This dense evergreen shrub has broad, leathery, dark green leaves which are silvery underneath and produces fragrant white flowers in autumn.

Jobs this week:

  • Taking semi-ripe and hard-wood cuttings.
  • Tending to raspberries in pots.IMG_0407.JPG
  • Sowing sweet peas in root trainers.


  • Potting on hard wood cuttings into long pots.
  • Clearing the strawberry bed.IMG_0408.JPG
  • Continuing to prune Rosa Cecile Brunner – I think we’re there now!
  • Continuing to clear Lil’s bed in readiness for bulb-planting in earnest when we return from our half term break.


  • Clearing away nepeta and geraniums from underneath the arches in readiness for bulb-planting.


  • Collecting lavender sprigs to prepare cuttings.


  • Making a London Pride hedge under the espaliered apples.IMG_0409.JPG
  • Making a hanging basket with ferns.

We’ll be back in a few weeks when we return from our half term break.


Friday 6th October

We started off the day with a demonstration of pricking out by Bridge.

Many of the seeds which we sowed a couple of weeks ago are growing well and need transferring into separate pots, eg. Eschscholzia (California poppy).  In order to produce good root systems, the seedlings need space and so one per pot should be placed in either a module tray or individual pots no less than 7.5cm deep.

  • Make a hole in damp compost in the centre of each pot which is deep enough to accommodate the roots of the young plant.
  • Holding the plant by its leaves (never the stem in case you damage it), transfer it into the hole until its first leaves are just touching the surface of the compost.
  • Firm the soil around the plant and water with a fine watering rose.
  • Place in a sheltered postion under glass where they will receive plenty of light and make sure they are kept lightly watered.

Plant ID

Ginkgo biloba – Maidenhair tree


This is a deciduous conifer tree (gymnosperm) which is thought to have been growing on earth for over 150 milion years.  Growing up to 25m, its leaves turn bright yellow in autumn when the female tree will often produce unpleasantly-scented dull yellow fruits.  Some botanists believe that these odorous berries attracted dinosaurs who, after consuming them, spat them out, so helping to spread the seeds.  It is great at absorbing pollution and you will find it growing in the centre of many big cities.

Paulownia tomentosa – Foxglove tree


This medium-sized deciduous tree has lovely ovate leaves which can reach up to 25cm in length.  It produces beautiful panicles of fragrant lilac-coloured flowers in spring.  However, if cut back hard, these blooms will be sacrificed in exchange for extra-large leaves.  Like the Ginkgo tree, the Paulownia is extremely pollution-tolerant.

Begenia ciliata


This clump-forming perennial has large round hairy leaves which are tinged red early in the season.  It is evergreen and its red stems will produce white flowers early on in spring which turn to pink as time goes on.  The leaves may be damaged by frost during the winter but will be replaced by fresh ones in the spring.  It grows to 30cm.

Melianthus major – Honey bush or Peanut butter plant


This medium-sized evergreen shrub has beautiful pinnate leaves which grow up to 45cm in length.  It has lovely red flower spikes during the spring and summer.  It loves the sun and will do well if planted in a sheltered position.

Hesperantha coccinea ‘Fenland Daybreak’ – Crimson flag lily ‘Fenland Daybreak’


This semi-evergreen perennial has recently been renamed and used to be known as Schizostylis coccinea ‘Fenland Daybreak’.  It can grow up to 60cm and has narrow, upright sword-shaped leaves.  From late summer through autumn, it grows beautiful salmon-pink flowers.

Acanthus ‘Whitewater’


This unusual Acanthus form has impressive dark, deeply-cut variegated leaves with white splashes.  It grows to 1.5m and produces striking white flowers on tall erect stems.

Jobs for the week

  • Pricking out of seedlings in the greenhouse.


  • Making a Square Foot Salad Garden in the greenhouse – One foot squares were marked out with tarred string and different varieties of salad leaves were sown.
  • Bulb sorting – ready for bulb planting which we’ll do gradually over the next few weeks.


  • Working on the Winter Bed and starting to plant some of the bulbs there.


  • Propagating Pulmonarias – These were dug up and divided before being potted up, ready for re-planting later.  The leaves were cut back so that the roots don’t have to work so hard to maintain the foliage.
  • Removing the Trachelospermum jasminoides from the large planter in the front garden and replacing it with a Chamaerops humilis (Dwarf fan palm).  The rose over the garden gate was also pruned.
  • Continuing to prune Rosa ‘Cecil Brunner’ – and admiring the view from the compost heap.


  • Continuing to clear the veg bed, including the strawberries and collecting runner bean seeds.
  • Continuing to clear Lil’s Bed and planting out wallflowers.
  • Hoeing/weeding Paul’s Bed and getting it ready for bulb planting.
  • Planting up an autumn container by the pond.


Friday 29th September

This week we welcomed visitors into the garden as we hosted a Macmillan Coffee Morning, raising money for cancer support.  The rain stopped just in time for the opening and there was a steady flow of visitors throughout the morning.


As the nights draw in and autumn is well and truely upon us, our minds turned to which bulbs we’ll be planting over the next few weeks.  Earlier in the year, Bridge visited June Blake’s garden in Ireland and was really impressed by her tulip collection.  They were planted randomly in drifts and made an amazing display.  Bridge thought it would be good to do something similar here in the garden and so Lil’s Bed will be devoted to many different varieties of tulips planted en masse – more details later on.  We’ll also be planting Tulipa ‘Red Shine’ and Camassia ‘Blue Melody’ under the arches so they will perk up the display there next spring.

As we’ll be opening in early March for the first time next year, we want to make sure that the garden has plenty of winter interest for our visitors.  So we’ll be planting with that in mind:  Under the Griselinia (which Mary and Christian pruned so beautifully last week), we’ll be planting Cyclamen and Crocus x cultorum ‘Jeanne d’Arc’;  we’ll be planting hyacinths amongst the rhubarb and the cherry tree at the back of the veg bed will be espaliered – which will introduce a different feature to that part of the garden.

Leading on from our discussion about bulb planting, we talked about all the different types of bulbous plants.  These are plants where a part of the plant is made up of a swollen food storage organ which enables the plant to survive when it is dormant.  There are four main types of bulbous plant:

Bulbs – eg Tulips and Narcissi.

These are made up of fleshy leaves or leaf bases which are attached to the basal plate to form concentric rings of scales.  Often there is a papery outer covering to protect the bulb as with Narcissi.


Corms – eg Crocus and Gladioli.

These are modified stems.  The “mother” bulb dies and produces new babies which are taken off the mother bulb and planted.


Rhizomes – eg. Cannas and Day Lilies.

These are swollen underground stems which grow more or less horizontally.


Tubers – eg. Dahlias and and ornamental Sweet Potatoes.

These are often confused with rhizomes.


Plant ID

Petunia exserta



This very rare form is a species petunia and the seeds were collected by Derry Watkins in Brazil.  It is pollinated in Brazil by hummingbirds and is part of the potato family.  It should be grown in a container and kept in a sheltered spot or conservatory in winter.  In mild climates, it will continue flowering right the way through winter.

Impatiens kilimanjaro


This litte perennial is native to Kenya and will grow to 0.5m over a period of two years.  It likes to grow in full shade in well-draining soil and during the winter it should be kept in a frost-free environment or covered with a good layer of mulch to give it protection.

Helichrysum bracteatum ‘Dargan Hill Monarch’ or Starflower


These little flowers are popular with flower arrangers and if the earlier flowers are cut just before opening fully and hung upside down, they will make a very attractive dried flower.  They grow well in full sun in pretty much any soil and will reach up to 90cm high.

Salvia ‘Amistad’


These bushy perennials will grow up to 1.2m and have bright, aromatic downy leaves.  Their rich purple flowers will last through the summer up until the first frosts.

Eucomis or Pineapple flower


These exotic-looking plants from South Africa are frost-hardy and can be grown quite easily in southern parts of the UK.  In other areas, they should be grown in containers and moved to a frost-free place during the winter.  They should be grown in a sunny spot and not shaded by other plants – otherwise they won’t flower as well.  They should also be kept well-watered during the summer to ensure good flower development.

Jobs this week:

  • We carried on planting out Sedum hanging baskets.


  • The Pittosporum pyramid was clipped tightly.


  • The veg plot was cleared in readiness for new planting.
  • Chrysanthemums were planted out in the greenouse.  These will be kept under cover where we’re hoping they will flower from mid-late November until Christmas.IMG_0383
  • We planted winter-flowering plants under the griselinia.
  • The rockery was weeded and new plants added.
  • The Green Roof was weeded and thrifts planted on the roof.


  • Potting on plants from the greenhouse.
  • The wisteria and climbing rose were pruned on the back wall.


  • The summer-fruiting raspberries were pruned and the old support canes were removed.


Friday 22nd September


This week we had an in-depth discussion on plant identification and the naming of plants.  Plant-naming is perceived as complicated largely because of the use of Latin.  Scientists use the global vocabulary of Latin to identify plants both accurately and uniquely.  Having a botanical name means that a plant can easily be identified anywhere in the world. 

Every plant belongs to a family, and its botanical name is made up of its genus, species and (where applicable) its cultivar/variety.

For example, in the family Papaveraceae, the poppy family, there are many different types of poppy:  

California – Eschscholzia


Opium – Papaver somniferum


Flanders – Papaver rhoeas


Welsh – Meconopsis cambrica


Blue (Himalayan) – Meconopsis betonicifolia Franch.


Californian tree poppy – Romneya coulteri ‘White Cloud’


Oriental – Papaver orientale ‘Mrs. Perry’


So, Papaver orientale ‘Mrs Perry’ identifies one specific poppy which is a herbaceous perennial.

The genus name is like a surname,  eg. Papaver (poppy), Erica (heather), Fagus (beech).  This is followed by the species name, which provides yet more information, eg. orientalis (from the east);  alba (white);  sinensis (from China);  sylvatica (of the woods).  Lastly, if the plant has been cultivated or bred as opposed to discovered growing naturally in the wild, it has a cultivar/variety name, eg. ‘Mrs Perry’;  ‘King Edward’;  ‘Argentea Marginata’ (with silver margins).  The genus name has a capital letter, the species name is in lower case and the cultivar name is in quotation marks with a capital letter.

The importance of using correct botanical vocabulary can be seen, for example, in the Rosaceae family, which contains not just roses, but trees, shrubs, perennials and biennials.  Cotoneasters, apples, hawthorns and strawberries all reside within this group.  Their flowers all have 5 sepals and 5 petals and are hermaphrodite (male and female parts on the same plant).  

Here are some more examples of the botanical names of plants:  Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’;  Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’;  Solanum tuberosum ‘King Edward’.

Jobs for the week:

  • Emptying the large terracotta pots of summer bedding and removing sufficient soil so that plastic pots can be inserted, ready for bulb-planting.
  • Planting up hanging baskets with sedums and reading up on more information and advice on growing sedums.


  • Removing Libertias from their pots and dividing them.  They were then replanted and fed.
  • Pruning and re-shaping the Griselinia.  Cutting the lower branches will raise the canopy and allow for under-planting later.


  • Pruning the Hawthorn and endeavouring to give it a flat top haircut!  It needs sharp lines to give it shape.
  • Potting on plants in the greenhouse.
  • Starting to sow hardy annuals in the greenhouse – eg. spinach and herbs.
  • Sowing hardy annuals to produce white flowers for next summer – eg. Ammi majus.


  • Dead-heading flowers in the Exotic Bed and generally tidying in preparation for our open morning next Friday in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.


  • Clearing out Lil’s Bed and digging it over in preparation for planting single colour wallflowers.


  • Taking gourds off the birch structure near the shed and dismantling the whole thing.  
  • We picked a good amount of quinces from the tree.


Friday 15th September

Welcome to another year of gardening with the Garden House Friday Group.

It was good to see everyone back last Friday – many familar faces and a few joining us for the first time.  It seems a long time since we were last here in July and the garden has certainly come on a lot since then.

We have many exciting plans for the garden this year and will keep you posted on how the garden is progressing .

After welcoming everyone to the group and explaining a little about what we’ll be doing over the coming months, we had a good discussion about the life cycle of certain plants.

Annuals – plants whose life span, from seed germination through to death, is completed in a single season.

Hardy Annuals (HA)

These do not need heat to germinate and can be sown directly outside in the spring.  The seeds can survive in the ground and may even come back again the following year.

A good example of this is Nigella (Love-in-a-mist).


This cottage garden favourite is great for filling the gaps in a summer border.  It is also good for drying and using in dried flower arrangements in the home.  The seeds can be sown in the autumn or in March either in situ or in modules under a cold frame.  Once flowering, you will be rewarded with blooms which can last up to eight weeks between July – September if you keep dead-heading.

Other examples of HA are: Calendular, Cornflowers, Ammi majus and Orlea, Sweet peas, Californian poppies and Tithonia.

Half Hardy Annuals (HHA)

These plants cannot withstand frost and so need to be sown and raised under glass in a heated greenhouse or on a window sill until the threat of frost has passed. They can then be planted outside.

A lovely example is Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Dazzler’

These beautiful Cosmos have large open flowers and light, feathery foliage.  They can grow quite tall and so may need staking later in the summer.  If you continue to dead-head, flowers will  keep coming from June right the way through to November.


With HHA, it depends entirely on the plant when the seeds are sown.  For instance, Cosmos can be sown quite late as they grow very fast.  However, the tiny seeds of Nicotiana need to be sown in January.

Other examples of HHA are: Tagetes (African marigolds), Cleomes, Petunias and Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate (annual Persicaria which is doing very well in the garden at the moment).

Perennials – these plants complete their life span from seed germination to death in three or more years.

Herbaceous Perennials 

These plants are non-woody and survive in the ground due to their good root systems.  Their foliage is soft and some herbaceous perennials retain their leaves in winter, for instance Hellebores.  However, some perennials are more tender, such as Fuchsias and Pelargoniums and need to be placed under cover during the winter months.  In colder climates, Dahlia tubers are lifted and stored once the first frosts arrive.  These are all known as Tender Perennials.

A good herbaceous perennial to look out for at this time of year is Symphyotrichum ‘Little Carlow’ (Aster ‘Little Carlow’).


This Aster is one of the few which will withstand some shade  as most Asters need plenty of sunshine to thrive.  The foliage will start to break down after the first frosts but it is a good doer and looks very pretty at this time of year.

Other examples of Tender Perennials are Cuphea Tiny Mice which are perfect for patio containers and hanging baskets


and Dahlia ‘Pooh’ which we have here at the Garden House and is looking lovely.



These plants have a woody structure and can be evergreen, ie. retain their leaves in the winter, eg. Abelia x grandiflora.


These are medium-sized shrubs growing to 3m.  They have small, glossy leaves and produce pale pink flowers during the summer which are slightly fragranced.

Semi-evergreen shrubs will retain most of their leaves in a mild winter, eg. Privet.


This tough shrub can be used as hedging and is often used as a substitute for Box hedging.

Deciduous shrubs shed all their leaves in the winter, eg. Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’.


This is a medium-sized shrub with highly-scented white flowers in late spring-early summer.  It has an arching habit and grows well in sun-partial shade.

After our talk about plant life cycles, Bridge sent us out into the garden in small groups to (re)familiarise ourselves with the garden and all the changes which have taken place in our absence.  We now have a ‘hot’ composter as well as our usual composting system and so Richard’s kingdom is expanding!

Part of the familiarisation process involved choosing a small patch of the garden and looking at it closely to see which plants should be saved and looked after and which ones should be moved or got rid of altogether.  Often it isn’t until you really look at an area of the garden carefully that you really appreciate what is actually growing there.

Here are a few photos of us refamiliarising!

It was great to be back in the garden on Friday – here’s to another year of happy and fruitful gardening!

Friday July 21st


Well it’s that time again as we arrive at the end of our Friday Group year.  We rounded it all off with our fantastic Charity Open Day yesterday when we raised money for Lewes Saturday Circle.  The day went extremely well and we were able to raise a substantial amount for the charity.  We raised over £600 on the gate alone and visitors and Friday Group members alike gave generously.  Despite the weather(!), visitors were able to enjoy many interesting stalls, delicious food, great music and of course our wonderful garden which looked fantastic. The much anticipated auction was a great success as usual and we thank all those who donated generous prizes.  Many people, not only Friday Group members gave up a great deal of time to ensure the day was a success and so thank you to everyone involved, both on the day and during the run-up to the event.  And of course huge thanks goes to Bridge and Graham who welcome people into their garden so warmly every year for this event. Here are just a few snaps of our day.

And for the last Plant ID until September, here are a few of our favourites lighting up the borders at the moment:

Tithonia or Mexican sunflower


These beautiful bright orange daisy-like flowers grow best in full sun and can reach 2m high.  They can last well into autumn and look lovely grown with black dahlias.

Ridolfia segetum or False Fennel


This striking fennel-like umbel will flower in full sun throughout the summer and into the autumn. The bees and other insects love it and it adds great structure to the border.  It also looks good as a cut flower.

Thunbergia or Black-eyed susan vine


This annual climber originates from East Africa and used to be regarded as a conservatory plant.  However, it now grows happily ouside in a sheltered postion in full sun.  It likes to grow in well-drained soil and can be grown also in containers.

Geranium psilostemon or Armenium cranesbill


This herbaceous perennial is a great addition to the border.  It is clump-forming in habit, its leaves taking on a reddish tinge as the summer goes on.  Cut back hard after flowering and you will be rewarded with fresh leaves to pep up your display.

Stipa gigantea


And finally, one of Bridge’s favourites.  Growing in full sun, it can reach over 2m high with its graceful, slender grey-green leaves and oat-like flowerheads.  It introduces movement and texture to the border and its flowerheads can be left well after the first frosts to provide interest and structure.  Care must be taken when handling as the edges of the  leaves can be quite sharp.  Comb through in spring to get rid of all the old growth.

Thank you to all you Friday Groupers for all your hard work this year.  Many of you will be coming back in September but for those who are leaving us, good luck in your new ventures and do come back and visit us.

And thank you Bridge for another year of inspiration, great learning, friendship and above all fun!


Friday 14th July



We started the morning off by having further discussions about our Charity Open Day next Sunday 23rd which is promising to be a great day and is coming together nicely. We’ll be raising money for Lewes Saturday Circle and want to make sure the garden is looking its very best.

A big part of the summer garden are the bedding plants which we use to great effect in summer containers.  Following on from last week, here are a few more of our favourites:

Plant ID

Sanvitalia procumbens or Creeping zinnia 


This annual has yellow daisy-like flowers and dark red stems.  It is easy to grow and is tolerant of heat and drought and is an excellent filler for containers with its tumbling habit.  It grows to 20cm high and spreads to 45cm.  Keep deadheading to prolong flowering.

Ipomoea ‘Bright Ideas Rusty Red’



These are great foliage plants and and look good in hanging baskets, patio containers and window boxes alongside other container annuals.  They are sun-loving but often benefit from some afternoon shade to prevent the foliage from bleaching.



These clump-forming half hardy annuals have soft ferny foliage with a profusion of small yellow flowers.  They grow well in full sun to a height of 30cm and spread to 20cm.

Gallery Dahlias


These dahlias are a recent introduction  and have shorter stems than many forms.  What they lack in height they make up for in their abundance of double flowers.  They look good at the front of borders or in containers.

Jobs this week

  • Cutting back foliage overhanging paths and removing of Honesty plants alongside the Garden Room.  These will then be dried and used in indoor arrangements later in the year.
  • Planting Actea and bright green Sesleria autumnalis in the Top Garden.
  • Planting around the pond.



  • Giving the Muehlenbeckia a hard prune.


  • Planting up more summer containers.
  • Weeding the Winter Bed.IMG_0348

Fingers crossed now that the weather stays fair for our Open day on Sunday!


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