Friday 29th March 2019

Nearly a quarter of the way through the year.  How did that happen?


The first of the cultivated tulips are opening up.  Exciting times and exciting colours!

Plant ident. 

Prunus serrulata ‘Tai-haku’


The little vase of exquisite blossom belies the fact that, at the moment, the great white cherry – a snowstorm of a tree – is dominating the top garden at Garden House.

The pure white flowers emerge from pink buds on this well-shaped tree and are breathtaking seen against blue skies.  The young leaves are bronze-red in colour, later turning green and then colouring to yellow/orange in the autumn .  It’s deciduous, grows pretty much on any well-drained soil and has an A.G.M.  (no, not an Annual General Meeting, but an Award of Garden Merit, from the R.H.S.).  Will reach to around 6 metres in height, and its spread can be even wider.  This cherry tree was thought to be extinct (even in Japan) until a specimen was discovered in a Sussex garden in the 1920s by Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram.  All ‘Tai-hakus’ are descended from that one specimen.


Tulipa bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’

A perennial bulb, originally from Turkey, which basks happily in hot, dry situations.  Beautiful lilac petals surround a yolk-yellow centre.  Plant 10-15 cms deep in November to enjoy in March/April.  For the outlay, the returns are exceptional.


Erysimum ‘Old School’


A short-lived perennial wallflower.  Prefers hot and dry locations – definitely not one for wet soils.  Bi-coloured.  Lovely in planting schemes with tulips.  We know Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ best of all, but tempting new cultivars now appear regularly – this being one of them.

Leocojum vernum ‘Snowflake’ 


Go to Highdown Gardens between Ferring and Goring to see these en masse.  They seem to like chalky/acidic soils, but will grow elsewhere.  Often used in wildflower/woodland planting schemes as they naturalise freely, they can also be successfully grown in bog gardens and near ponds.  Rather like a giant snowdrop, 2 – 6 large white bells are borne above a stem of around 30 cms. and are rimmed with delicate green markings.

Clematis armandii


This is flowering away like mad at the moment in the top garden at Garden House.  Its glossy, evergeen leaves contrast well with a profusion of large, scented white flowers which appear in early – mid spring.  Enjoys a warm aspect – like a south or south-west facing wall or trellis – with a cool root run, and needs something to scramble up or over.  This clematis falls into Pruning Group 1, which means that it flowers on shoots produced in the previous year and really only needs minimal pruning after flowering.  However, the clematis in this group (alpinas, cirrhosas, montanas etc.) can be quite vigorous and may need to be cut firmly back from time to time, to keep them in shape and under control.

And talking of keeping things under control….

Jobs for the week:

  • Plant clematis.  Check to see which of the three pruning categories they fall into, as this will dictate how they should be treated.  It depends on the time of year when the clematis flowers and the age of the flowering wood.

Pruning Group 1: they flower early in the year and should be pruned immediately after that in mid to late spring.  Pruning Group 2:  these are large flowered hybrids which flower in early summer, around May/June. They should be pruned in early spring back to a strong pair of emergent green buds and after the first flush of flowers in the summer.  A few weaker stems can be cut right back to the ground.  Pruning Group 3: the late summer performers, flowering on the current year’s growth.  Includes viticellas, tanguticas, and herbaceous clematis.  Cut hard back in February, when the buds are starting to grow, to about 30 – 45 cms from the ground.  New basal shoots will appear.

Clematis like to have their roots kept cool and will benefit from weekly watering and feeding throughout the season.  Planting deeply helps to prevent clematis wilt, and a layer of horticultural grit around a new planting should deter those hungry, slimy things.


The clematis planters

  • Plant libertias in terracotta urns


  • Continue to make squirrel-deterrent birch structures.

Taking liberties with our libertias, indeed!  The cheek of it.


Grit as well.  That should do the trick.

  • Check through plants in pots; weed; add compost; water


Weeds in the black trug – or you’ll end up on compost heap duty next week.

  • Little Dixter prettification


  • Work on the herb bed

Clip the santolina hedge.  Weed, feed, water.


  • Pot up plants for growing on: hemerocallis, astrantias and red hot pokers


Not forgetting to label them. (As if!)

  • Re-pot young cut flower plants.  Pinch out and cut back.  

These will go in to replace the tulips after the latter have flowered



And water!

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Another job well done

  • Work in the Sunken Garden


Weed; plant anemones and the (already hardened off) sweet peas

  • Seed sowing and pricking out. 


Use the compost in the bin.  It’s in there somewhere.




Time for a break and cake under the great white cherry


Cake? Hmmm…if I hang around long enough, maybe…


Mmmm.  Indeed there are