Friday 14th December 2018

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The last Friday Group meeting at Garden House for 2018.  A time for reflection, thoughtfulness and deep pondering on the meaning of life etc. etc.  And at G/H it’s time to celebrate the garden and all the beauty in it……


Well, it’s beautiful to some….


Now that’s more like it!


Cheers to the garden, to Bridge – and to Friday Group


To follow? A tricky horticultural quiz


Points mean prizes


Then, food and drink to share…


…and presents to give and receive

Now we look forward to a fresh new gardening year


It’s going to be an exciting one!

  Happy Christmas and a very happy and peaceful 2019

Friday 7th December 2018

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Rain meant that we were indoors for wet play for the early part of today’s meeting.  We spent a happy time looking at displays set up by participants on other courses.

Then, on to look at this week’s plant ident.

Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’


Such a good, tough do-er in the garden, its yellow-green colouring adds a splash of colour to winter borders, bringing flashes of gold into shady areas and creating interest.  Can grow to 1m high x 1.5 m wide, and will climb if given support. Dependable as ground cover and a good foil for other golden or purple-leaved shrubs.  Any reversions (plain green shoots) need to be clipped out, cutting back to the original branch.  Good in north-facing gardens.  Excellent in most soils in the border and also in large containers.

Helleborus niger 


Named for its black seeds, the Christmas rose was a popular plant with Victorians, who would use cloches to force them into flower for Christmas.  Enjoys partial shade/woodland areas and has lovely white or pink-flushed flowers from winter to early spring.  Cut old leaves right back in January to reveal the flowers better.  Ideally, use leaf mould when planting.  A semi-evergreen perennial, but can be challenging to retain in the garden from year to year  – maybe worth trying to grow them in pots?

Pittosporum tenuifolium


A wonderful evergreen shrub, hailing from New Zealand. Stylish, responds well to clipping and has the most fabulous fragrance, emanating from tiny black flowers which are virtually invisible.  This variety (and there are many) has an attractive black stem.  Loved by flower arrangers.  Get one.  Or more.

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Getting up close and personal with those lovely stems

Eleagnus ebbingei


This fast-growing, bushy, evergreen shrub is a common sight both near the coast and as part of many a local authority planting scheme. Basically, it’s a tough cookie.  It copes with sun, shade, wind, salty air and works well as a dense hedge.  Any soil will do.  Its motto? – “Bring it on”.  Long oval-shaped leaves are dark green and glossy on top, and an unexpected silvery-grey beneath.  In the autumn, small bell-shaped white flowers, (flowering on old wood), impart a delicious perfume, similar to that of dianthus.  It’s another shrub that scrubs up well, once in the capable hands of a topiarist.  There are a couple of other well-known varieties: the variegated E. ‘Gilt Edge’ and E. pungens maculata.


Sarcoccoca confusa


Christmas box is an easy to grow evergreen.  Beautiful fragrant flowers are followed by dark, glossy berries.  It does well in shade and looks good in containers – perhaps place a couple on either side of your front door over the winter months so you can enjoy the winter perfume?  Smart – and shows off your horticultural know-how.  Got to be done.

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Jobs for the week:

More bulbs.  More planting.  In pots.


Turn the compost heap.  Put fresh compost on new beds


And it’s her birthday too!  Imagine her delight.

Remove euphorbias from near the vegetable beds  



Prune Euphorbia mellifera


Take care with the milky sap of the honey spurge, as it is an irritant to skin.  Removing old growth encourages fresh new shoots, which will rejuvenate the plant.

Prick out seedlings in the greenhouse


… and pot on plants which have rooted


Now is an ideal time to plant out broad beans, onions and garlic – although perhaps a more comfortable job when it’s not raining.  This year, we shall ensure there is a pattern of crop rotation in the new raised vegetable beds.

Make a Christmas wreath from birch stems


Decorate with hazel catkins and honesty and clematis seedheads; sumptuously seasonal

Prune climbing roses


Decorate large pots with cornus stems



Stylish.  And a known squirrel deterrent.

Let’s check back on those next week, shall we?


Meanwhile. it’s all looking very festive in The Garden Room



Friday 30th November 2018


Eleven twelfths through the year.  2019 on the horizon.  Surely a time to reflect, take stock and get the Brussel sprouts on.  You can never be too prepared.

Anyway, Christmas preps. are well advanced at Garden House, with wreath-making courses underway.  Mountains of foliage, berries and flower heads are spread out ready for craft action.  Here’s one she made earlier….


It’s a beaut.


It’s a good time to take a look at the multitude of roses in the garden, now that their frameworks can be seen more easily.  There are many types of rose here – shrub, ramblers, climbers – and it’s useful to know a little about each.  As part of the programme of Garden House events, Simon White, from Peter Beales Roses in Norfolk, recently came to give a talk on the subject.  Apparently, he was inspirational.  Pruners and secateurs at the ready, then.

(Special thanks to Peter Beales Roses for permission to reproduce these wonderful images of roses from their website) 

Roses like rich, loamy soils which are deep and well-drained – they tend to do well on clay.  Adding a lot of decayed organic matter when planting gives them a great start.  They like to be planted deeply.  When growing roses, watering, feeding and air circulation are of vital importance, and in hot weather they can need watering up to twice a day.  Mulch and feed in the spring.  During the growing season, feeding should be carried out every couple of weeks with a rose feed such as Uncle Tom’s Rose Tonic.

Rambling roses 

Have long, whippy growth and (guess what?) they ramble – far and wide.  Their stems are long and lax and they usually flower only once in the year, normally around June, on old wood from the previous season.  They produce masses of smallish flowers in bunches.  Often (but not always) they are single-flowered and tend to be rather wild-looking.  They produce lovely autumnal hips which are attractive in themselves and to wildlife.  Examples are: Rosa ‘Rambling Rector’; R. ‘Alberic Barbier’; R. ‘Albertine’; R. filipes ‘Kiftsgate’; R. ‘Francis Lester’; R. ‘American Pillar’.  Very useful for covering unsightly buildings, strong arches, pergolas or for growing into trees.

Pruning: Ramblers can be pruned between now and February – remember to enjoy the hips before you decide to cut.  Take out dead and damaged growth. Remove the oldest fattest, thickest stems to promote new growth.  The long, new, flexible branches should not be cut.  Remove stems that have flowered and tie in new ones.  Shorten side shoots by two-thirds.

R. ‘American Pillar’ 

American Pillar (Rambling Rose)

Climbing roses

These are repeat-flowering, and flower on new wood grown that season.  Their flowers tend to be larger and more shapely than those of ramblers – and they have stiffer stems.  Best if grown against a wall (using wires to secure them) or an arch.  Clematis is a good companion planting as it can use the rose to clamber upwards.  Examples are Rosa ‘Compassion’; R.’Dublin Bay’;  R.’Aloha’.

Pruning: Climbers are generally pruned between December and February.  Remove dead and diseased wood and cut out any old branches from the base. Tie in new shoots and train horizontally to encourage new growth.  Prune flowered side shoots by two-thirds.

Rosa ‘Compassion’

Shrub roses:

The range of shrub roses is huge – from old and modern to species and groundcover.  They generally flower on older wood.  These are wonderful for growing in garden borders.  Good examples are: Rosa ‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ – said to have possibly the best fragrance of all roses; R.’Cecile Brunner’; R. ‘Gertrude Jekyll’.

Pruning: Dependent on the type of shrub rose.  Most require only light pruning, in late winter (February).  Remove dead and diseased wood.  Repeat-flowering shrub roses should be cut back by about one-third.  Some of the older stems on mature plants can be cut back to the base.

Rosa ‘Mme Isaac Pereire’

Roses with a good display of hips:

Some of the best must surely be the rugosa roses.  Late single, fragrant flowers contrast with large red hips. They are as tough as old boots and notably good in coastal areas.  Impressive as windbreaks and hedges too.  But watch out for the prickles.  Others are Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’; R. pimpinellifolia.

Rosa rugosa Alba

Rosa rugosa Alba (Shrub Rose)

Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’

Rosa moyesii Geranium (Shrub Rose)

Plant ident.:

This week it’s all about conifers.  A boon in the winter garden – and very much coming back into fashion, after a lengthy period out in the cold.  As it were.  At Great Dixter, the family home of the late, great Christopher Lloyd, conifers in pots stand sentry in the porch entrance at the front of the house.   And at Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk, conifers reveal the particular glory they can bring to a winter garden.

Taxus baccata


The yew has been described as our most venerable native tree, and very old specimens can often be found on church grounds in this country.  It is long-lived and hardy, and responds well to hard clipping and shaping, so it has long been a favourite with garden designers who often use it for topiary, or to create impressive hedging and “garden rooms”.  An evergreen conifer, its distinctive, needle-shaped leaves grow in rows along the sides of twigs.  Yew is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers grow on separate trees. Unlike many other conifers, its seeds are not held in cones, they are contained in “arils” – the small red berry-like fruits which are open at one end.  All parts of the tree are poisonous except for these fleshy fruits – but beware!, the seed inside them is highly toxic!  The taxanes in yew are extracted from summer clippings and converted into the anti-cancer drug Taxotere, used in chemotherapy.


Cedrus atlantica Glauca Group


The blue Atlas cedar is a large evergreen with silvery blue/green needles and large brown/purple upright cones.  It gets BIG – over 12m high and 8m wide, so only opt for this if you have an estate, as opposed to live on one.   Other, smaller varieties of cedar are available – for instance the little weeping tree C. atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’, which can be grown in a pot.

Cryptomeria japonica


This “fluffy” looking conifer, with reddish-brown bark, is also known as the Japanese cedar.  It changes colour as the season progresses and has distinctive, horizontal branches.  This one gets big!  When buying conifers, it is important to ensure that you bear in mind the size of your garden

Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ 


Junipers come in a wide range of types, from erect, like ‘Skyrocket’ (it does what it says on the tin) –  to prostrate, which are especially good for ground cover.  This particular variety is a compact, dwarf, evergreen shrub with attractive blue-grey foliage.  Grows in pretty well any kind of soil and will tolerate most conditions, including hot sunny sites.  At around 0.4m high x 1m wide, it’s good as ground cover and also in rockeries; it needs very little in the way of pruning.  Has an A.G.M. too.  Sounds perfect.  Buy several.

Ginkgo Bilbao



Who would have thought that this is, in fact, a conifer?  And a deciduous conifer too.  Ginkgos have been around since the Jurassic period (though not in this particular garden!)  Their fan-shaped leaves turn a wonderful butter yellow in the autumn and they have fleshy, edible seeds.

Jobs for the week:

The war against the squirrels continues.  Our seasonal weapon of choice is holly; let’s see how Squirrel Nutkin deals with this little lot.

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It’s time to wrap up any tender plants being left outdoors



Hand-made jackets for tender tibouchinas and salvias; winter protection guaranteed.  And service with a smile!

Prune rambling rose in tree outside Garden Room


Careful now.  Watch those pruners. And hang on to some hardwood cuttings for propagation, please.

Weed path to Garden Room: to infinity and beyond!


Sharp edges!  Looking good.  And the lawn got edged too.

Work wonders on winter bed



Prune Rosa Charles de Mills

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If the stems are pruned back at different heights, the roses can be seen and enjoyed more easily.  No pressure then, ladies.

Prune blueberries and plant in metal tanks


(Did anyone remind them that blueberries need to be in ericaceous soil?)


Fully galvanised.  Lovely

Prick out the seedlings in the greenhouse


Plant tulip bulbs in Paul’s bed


What, more tulips?

Prettify the pumpkin panorama


Plant Dutch irises in archway bed


….. and decorate pots with Cornus stems


which will add height and interest to the pots as we await their spring display


Clearly pleased with progress.

Prune roses under the arches



Label writing



 There must be a lot of plants needing labels

Such diligent workers everywhere; all working under the blue skies over Garden House


The sun shines on the righteous