Friday 20th September 2019


Our second Friday back and we found ourselves basking in the warmth of an Indian summer.  But, this is no time for basking – we’re not sharks, after all.  Let’s get straight onto the

Plant Ident.  

Not so much an identification challenge this week, more a discussion concerning plants and their lifecycles.  We also considered how to define/describe them.  Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Let’s see….



A tree.  Actually this is Prunus ‘Tai Haku’, the Great White Japanese Cherry, up on the top terrace at Garden House.  Spectacular in spring with its clouds of pure white blossoms.  In botanical terms, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated, woody, central stem or trunk.  Usually the stem is a single trunk which is surrounded by a layer of bark.  It generally supports a canopy of branches and leaves overhead.  Two obvious types of trees are deciduous and evergreen.



Small to medium-sized perennial woody plants with multiple stems.  Often rounded in shape, and generally smaller than trees.  Abelia grandiflora (above) is an example – as are Viburnum, Berberis, Hebe, Forsythia and Philadelphus.


A tongue twister.  These are even smaller perennial, woody plants, such as Rosemary, Lavender and Sage, with a soft top and a woody base.  When pruning them, it’s important never to cut down into the old stems.  Instead, cut back to about 2.5 cms above the old wood.

white potted purple petaled flower






A perennial plant is one which has a lifecycle of more than two years – so trees, shrubs and sub-shrubs fall into this category.

There are others too, which are the backbone of many garden borders as they are  good, dependable plants which can provide interest over many months:-

Herbaceous perennials


These are non-woody plants with a soft top which die down in the winter but return in the spring (they are deciduous) – and which come back year after year in the garden.  Generally these are the hardy plants found in a traditional herbaceous border, like Sedum, Phlox, Heleniums, Geraniums and (see above) Japanese Anemones.

Unfortunately, there are always exceptions to the rule – and some herbaceous perennials don’t die down in the winter as they are evergreen.  Bergenias and Hellebores, for instance.  Unhelpful but true.

Tender Perennials

Pelargoniums are tender perennials.  As with other perennials, these have a life cycle of over two years.  However.  They must be kept frost-free over the winter months, or they will die!  A heated greenhouse or somewhere light and airy indoors is perfect.  When all danger of frost has passed, they can be brought out into the garden again.  Heliotropes, Argyranthemums and some Fuchsias are also tender.  Basically, tender perennials require tender, loving care.

(N.B. Pelargoniums are NOT Geraniums!  Geraniums are hardy plants which can survive the winter outside.)



Pelargonium Palace



Plants with a lifecycle that takes two years to complete.  Foxgloves are biennials.  After being sown in May, June, July, they can be planted out in October and will flower in late spring/summer the following year.  They grow stems, roots and a rosette of leaves in their first year, and, after remaining dormant over the winter months, form spikes of flowers in the next.  Other biennials are:  Honesty, Sweet William, Wallflowers, Parsley.  They often self-seed.

Hardy Annuals

Hardy annuals don’t need heat to germinate.  By sowing them in pots/modules you have a better degree of control over them as they grow – and, by giving them protection from the elements over the winter in a greenhouse or cold frame, they will grow into bigger and better plants and will flower earlier.   They can also be sown directly into the soil in the  spring, and will flower the same year.  Examples are Calendulas, Cornflowers and Corn Cockles.  There are also other plants not beginning with ‘C’.

These seeds


become these plants.



Half-Hardy Annuals

These seeds need warmth in order to germinate.  Bottom heat, if you’ll pardon the expression.  Once sown in trays, pots or modules, they can be put on a heated mat or in a propagator at a temperature of about 20 – 22 degrees.  Some, like Nicotiana, need to be sown early (February), whilst others, like Cosmos, germinate and grow quickly – and these can be sown later on, in April.  They should be removed from the heat after the first true set of leaves have formed.

Plant out from the end of May, once all danger of frost has passed.


This lovely Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia, is an example of a half-hardy annual, as is Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Sensation Picotee’, shown below


Monocarpic plants 

Now we’re getting properly technical… examples are Echiums and Angelicas.  Plants which have a 3-year lifecycle and die at the end of that period.  They can self-seed.


Definition: a known superfood / remedy for gardeners.  Appears fleetingly, beautiful to behold, but gone in seconds.  Provide in abundance for best results.


Jobs for the week:

Pot up Iris germanica


Looks like fun

Work on Pelargoniums in the greenhouse.

Deadhead; pot on; feed; water; label   


And pot on the Streptocarpus.


(It’s a plant, not a throat infection.)

Prune the raspberries


Cut out old fruit canes and tie in the new canes on which next year’s fruit will be produced.  Weed beds.

Work on Little Dixter

Transform into Great Dixter


Looks Great

Collect seeds from Sweet Peas and Red Orach


Cut back Mints and feed.  Feed Agapanthus plants


Use Maxicrop seaweed fertiliser.


Prune the yew tree 

Then cloud prune the Myrtle into (and I quote) “a blobby, fat shape.”

Those nice people from Niwaki would faint clean away


It takes a lifetime to learn cloud-pruning

No pressure

Sow hardy annual seeds into modules

First take your seeds and some module trays.


Sow onto a compost mixed 50:50 with perlite.


Sprinkle lightly with vermiculite; this is translucent so light can still get through.  Label and water.



Propagate Pinks from cuttings  


Pinks (or Dianthus) are easy to propagate from ‘pipings’.  These are the soft tips of shoots which haven’t flowered.  They should be about five pairs of leaves in length.  Here, pipings are being picked from old Pink plants.  I feel another tongue twister coming on.

Plant the Pinks’ pipings in potting compost.  A 50:50 mix of compost and perlite.


And who amongst you is Mrs Sinkins?  Oh, it’s the Pink!  Got it.  Dianthus ‘Mrs Sinkins’

And here she is –


Pretty Pink pipings – picked, properly prepared, planted and, hey presto, we have propagation.  Prolific and painless.

Sow vegetable seeds

Broad Beans, Chard, Rocket and Winter Spinach?


No problem!

Work in greenhouse

Clear the beds.  Apply some pelleted chicken manure as fertiliser.  Plant out Chrysanthemums.  Label and water.

Blue skies, sun, flowers and Sunflowers












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