Friday 4th January 2019

Blue sky. Silhouettes. Winter bareness. Skeletal structures.


Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

And so we are back!  We discussed the joys (family, friends, children) and sorrows (excessive commercialism, oven burns) of Christmas and New Year.  We shared some of the happy times and places we had experienced over the festive season: a visit to the Saltmarsh Cafe after a walk at Cuckmere Haven; trips to Kew and Standen; walking to Rodmell;  riding a pony; open-air cooking over a fire; celebrating New Year doing the conga with neighbours in the street; and – perhaps a particular favourite – drinking hot chocolate with a shot of brandy outdoors.  Somewhat randomly, the phrase “Count the lollipops!” came up.  Random, maybe, but perhaps a good metaphor for life?

Plant Ident.

Winter plants.  There are plenty of stems, scents and flowers to enjoy now.

Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’


This early-flowering winter/spring specimen at Garden House is spectacular at the moment.  Full of nodding flowers and buds, in due course it will produce beautiful seedheads.  In Group 1 of the clematis pruning brigade, ‘Freckles’ loves to romp about in full sun, but its base and roots need to be planted in the shade.  It requires little in the way of routine pruning, but, if growth needs to be restricted, shoots can be cut back to healthy buds after flowering.  Tie-in plant as required.  Then feed with a slow-release general purpose fertiliser and mulch with well-rotted garden compost.

Camellia japonica ‘Little Bit’


Originating in northern India, China, Japan and Indonesia, camellias are the plant species responsible for bringing tea to the tables of the British aristocracy from the 17th century.  (Tea is made form the leaves of Camellia sinensis).  The British East India Company later brought camellia plants back for wealthy, discerning clients to use in their gardens.   Best in shaded woodland areas, camellias are elegant, evergreen, plants with exquisite flowers, which require acid soils to thrive.  They flower from winter through spring and can successfully be grown in pots, provided ericaceous compost and acidic fertilisers are used.  It’s best to use rainwater for watering where possible, as tap water contains calcium – especially in hard water areas.  Flowers can be single, semi-double or double and have different forms (e.g. paeony, anemone, rose).


‘Little Bit’ has anemone-form flowers.  Grown in a pot at Garden House, it can also be used in the border, against a wall or as a specimen plant.  Prune as required in the spring, after flowering.

Camellia sasanqua ‘White Pearl’


Another early-flowering variety, this one is semi-double.  Glossy, dark green leaves show off the white petals perfectly.  It’s a good idea to avoid an eastern aspect when planting camellias, as the morning sun can burn their buds, leading to a loss of flowers.

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

IMG-20181227-WA0005 (1).jpg

This deciduous dogwood looks amazing when planted in quantity, as here at Wakehurst Place.  In recent years, this shrub has become very popular – and rightly so – as the winter garden is lit up by its flame-coloured stems.  Dogwoods love soils which hold moisture and so tend to do well in clay; they are wonderful planted near water or in groups in the border.  Plant in full sun and only prune once the plants are well-established, then cut back hard at the end of March.  Mulch muchly.

Lonicera fragrantissima

Also known as the winter-flowering honeysuckle, this shrubby plant grows quite big, sprawls, doesn’t look particularly beautiful – and yet, and yet.  From January – March small white flowers appear on leafless stems.  Smell them and you’ll understand.  Gorgeous!  Likes a fertile soil which is moist but well-drained.Prune as soon as it finishes flowering.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’


Another top smeller.  A beautiful, evergreen shrub with gold margins edging the leaves; it likes a sheltered, sunny site.  The small clusters of pink/purple flowers are wonderfully fragrant.  It’s an expensive plant as it is hard to propagate.  Spendy, but worth it.  Top tip: whilst at Wakehurst, after enjoying the dogwoods, continue on to the Himalayan Glade, where you will be able to inhale the lemony-perfumed deliciousness of these daphnes.

Helleborus argutifolius


The Corsican hellebore is an evergreen, herbaceous perennial and one which garden designers frequently include in their planting portfolios.  Bridge prefers this to the perennial “stinking hellebore”, Helleborus foetidus.  (With a name like that, who wouldn’t?)  Pale green flowers are suspended over dark, glossy leaves with serrated edges.  Can take sun, shade and most soils – but for preference, errs on the side of neutral to alkaline soils.  To appreciate the flowers fully, remove faded or damaged leaves when the buds begin to open.

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’


This upright, hardy, deciduous shrub can reach around 3 metres, and is another perfumed delight.  Reaching for the skies, its bare stems produce clusters of small, pink flowers before small, dark green leaves reappear.  Not especially exciting later in the year, this fabulous viburnum is a great plant for the winter months as it is so long-flowering.  Plant near a path or gate to enjoy the scent.  Remove old/damaged/weak branches after they have flowered – and mulch around the base.

Jobs for the week:

We need to crack on with work in the garden because Garden House will be opening its doors as part of the National Garden Scheme on March 8th 2019. Do check out the famous Yellow Book for further information, or visit the website

Pot on rooted cuttings


Hedera helix ‘Goldheart’.  Done.  Boom.

 Plant up the newly-prepared, raised vegetable bed


Meticulous planning and execution


Delicate handling


Satisfaction.  A good job, well done.


Broad beans (‘Aquadulce’).  All in a row.

Prick out hardy annual seedlings into 7 cm pots


Ridolfia segetum, unless I’m very much mistaken.

Work on Little Dixter


Think Christopher Lloyd; we want the complete experience.




Weed tulip beds.


Somehow, the phrase “Hoe, hoe, hoe!” comes to mind.

Check the coldframes for unwelcome visitors


 Like this little critter


Pinch out tips of ammis etc. to encourage growth

Pot on sweet pea seedlings


Plant tulbaghia bulbs near viburnums


 Plus various other jobs



Sort veg./ flower/salad/herb seeds 


Now how did they manage to get an indoor job?

Plant out wood anemones and a few more tulips (the last ones!) in the winter bed

Re-pot rooted streptocarpus cuttings

Pot them into a bark/compost mix.  And we also need to check the heated matting is working in the greenhouse.




In winter

all the singing is in

the tops of the trees

Mary Oliver









One thought on “Friday 4th January 2019”

  1. We started growing Camellia japonica, sasanqua and reticulata back in the early 1990s, but had kept production limited for several years. We could only grow them in fenced areas. Now that the entire production area is fenced many more are grown. ‘White Pearl’ was one of our two most popular white Camellia sasanquas. We also grew Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’.


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