Friday 22nd November 2019

Autumn days – but winter is on the way,


and ‘the rose hips are blood-bright,
spattered on their overwrought stems’
(from Chokecherries by Melissa Kwasny)
Plant Ident.
Time to look at evergreens – so important for the structure of a garden, particularly during the winter months.
Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteovariegata’
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This large, bushy evergreen shrub is a fabulous plant which can be clipped to taste.  Not fully hardy in extremely cold parts of the country, but vigorous and good in coastal areas.  The creamy-white margins of the leaves make it a particularly attractive choice.
Myrtus communis subsp tarentina
The small-leaved myrtle was known as the herb of love in the Victorian era and was widely used in wedding bouquets at the time.  It has large, pink-tinted cream flowers in the summer, followed by white berries in the autumn.  The leaves are small, ovate in form and a glossy dark green.  Tough and forgiving.
Griselinia littoralis
Litoralis means ‘of the seashore’, so this plant is a good choice for coastal gardens.  It makes a great hedge, but is equally good as a freestanding shrub.  Beautifully coloured petioles (the stalks that join leaves to stems) complement the leaves themselves, which have a sheen on the topside and are a paler matt green on the underside.  Raising the canopy on a freestanding shrub can transform and elevate its appearance.  (Makes it look posher.)
Santolina ‘Bowles Lemon’
There is a grey variety of Cotton Lavender, but this vibrant green form bears lovely lemon flowers.  Another plant which thrives by the sea, it makes a good small hedge and is also effective planted in groups and clipped into plump, cushiony shapes.  Prune in March.
Taxus baccata fastigiata ‘Aureomarginata’
Whilst it’s important to be familiar with the Latin names of plants, it has to be said that this one is a bit of a mouthful.  ‘Aureomarginata’ means ‘having gold margins’.  Fastigiata means ‘growing upright – having upright clustered branches, narrowing towards the top’.  A good description of the Golden Irish Yew.  Much favoured by Garden House, this beautiful evergreen is valuable for its architectural, vertical growth and its robust nature.
Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’
The ubiquitous Elaeagnus is widely used in public plantings, from car-parks to country parks.  It makes an excellent hedge and is particularly appreciated in winter gardens for the splash of bright golden-yellow provided by its leaves, which have irregular green edges.
The tiny, white flowers which appear in the autumn are insignificant, but have a wonderful fragrance.  Another good plant for coastal areas.  Any stems with leaves reverting to plain green should be removed immediately.    
Jobs for the week:
Recently, Garden House held another Workshop on Rose Pruning, led by the inspirational Simon White from Peter Beales Roses.  (‘How-to’ guides are available from their website.)   The R.H.S. also have good publications available on the topic of pruning.
This week, Friday Group had a number of pruning jobs to tackle, including some climbing and rambling roses.  Ramblers generally flower only once a year and, as the name suggests, they ramble about and produce long, lax flexible stems.  They flower on old wood made in the previous year.  Usually, they have single flowers which are followed by rose hips in the autumn.  R. ‘Kiftsgate’, R. ‘Rambling Rector’ and R. ‘Veilchenblau’ are all ramblers.
Climbers, on the other hand, usually repeat flower, and the roses grow on wood which has grown in the current season.  They have stiffer stems and can be a challenge to tie in.  R. ‘Compassion’ and R. ‘ Cecile Brunner’ are examples of the type.
Pruning with our visiting expert
Sharp, clean tools are essential.  As is a plan of action.
Old, dead and diseased wood goes first.
Tying- in stems horizontally promotes better flower production.
But. there’s always so much to clear up and remove!
Plant up the big terracotta pots
Not bulbs, by any chance?
Thought so.  More tulips.
Best get on with it then
Plant Currant bushes.
White, black and red, please.  And why not add some Narcissi bulbs too?
Why not?  They’ll look wonderful.
Plant Crocus bulbs in amongst the paths
Eyes down in the spring…
…for tiny pops of colour
Nicely naturalistic
Plant up Hippeastrums
Crocks in the bottom are a good idea in these big pots
A mix of grit and multi-purpose compost goes in.  Then put in the Amaryllis bulbs, taking care not to damage their tentacle-like roots.  Bury two-thirds of the bulbs, leaving the neck visible.
Don’t forget to grit the top – or you can use moss.  Looks classy.
Then, once we get the hang of things, we can improvise with planting in jars too.
Layers of grit, compost, topped off with decorative gravel.  Think Isle of Wight coloured sand souvenirs
Oh, I say
Leave in a light room at a temperature of around 20 degrees.  Water sparingly to keep very lightly moist but not soggy.  10-12 weeks should do it.
Plant more Paperwhites for indoor-flowering 
Plant Alliums in drifts 
In the new bed, these are going to be a purple sensation!
I mean, these are going to be ‘Purple Sensation’
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Is this drifty enough?
Plant up Lil’s bed with Tulips, Lunaria and Digitalis
First, rake the soil
Cool raking action
They say honesty is the best policy
So, Honesty in first, then Foxgloves
Followed by the bulbs
Here we go……
Many hands make light work of bulbs
That’s funny.  I thought bulbs made lights work….
Oh, very good!
Plant up the special outdoor chair with ivies
Think of it as a Game of Thrones
Have at you!
A little more adjustment
And there we have it.
A hand-woven ivy-cushion seat.
Prune Rosa ‘Cécile Brunner’
A climbing rose which grows on the trellis behind the compost heap.
You may be beautiful, Cécile, but you sure are a prickly customer
A short breather, perhaps?
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Now, do be careful not to relax too much!
Prune the rambling rose growing in the apple tree
Sometimes ramblers are left pretty much to their own devices but there comes a time, when they may need taking in hand.  The long flexible branches are the flower bearing stems for the next year and, unless pruning severely, these should not be cut.  All old, diseased and dead wood can be taken out.  Keep the hips for Christmas decorations!
Where to start?
Help!  It’s rambling into my hair!
Be brutal!
Give it a short back and sides.  That’ll sort it.
Clematis vitalba or Old Man’s Beard.
The wild beauty of wild clematis


Friday 15th November 2019

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey…

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…except for the leaves of the Field Maple, which are a bright buttery-yellow.

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Plant Ident.

This week, the focus was on trees.  Garden House finds Barcham’s ‘Time for Trees’ to be an excellent reference book.

Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’


An attractive, small, deciduous tree with large, purple, heart-shaped leaves.  Fertile, moist but well-drained soils suit it, and it likes a sunny or partially shaded position.  Looks great contrasted with lime-coloured plants.  Can suffer from wind damage as it is a little fragile.  A.G.M. (h. 8 m)

Acer campestre


The tough, native Field Maple is frequently used in urban plantings as it is resistant to air pollution.  Deciduous, it has small, five-lobed leaves which are dark green, but turn a beautiful butter-yellow in the autumn.  It makes a good informal hedge and is a fantastic tree for wildlife.  (h. 7 – 10+ m)

Cercis siliquastrum


The Judas Tree.  It loves chalk!  Heart-shaped leaves are preceded by pink/purple pea-flowers which bloom on the branches – a stunning sight in the front garden at Garden House.  Flattened pods follow later in the year. Deciduous. (h. 3 – 8 m)

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii


The Himalayan Birch.  With its distinctive white trunk, this is a tree that sparkles at this time of year.  Good as a standard, or multi-stemmed; good planted as an individual specimen, or in a group.  Visit the National Trust gardens at Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge to see a magnificent glade of them, with their shimmering white bark against blue skies lit by winter sunshine.  Makes you go all poetic.


Cornus Mas

The Cornelian Cherry.  Deciduous.  Wonderful for its tiny yellow flowers in the bleak days of February, followed by small, red, cherry-like fruits.  Doesn’t grow too big.  Nice shape.  Lovely bark.  A good alternative to Witch-hazel. Plant early flowering Narcissi underneath to complete the golden glow.  (h. 3-8 m)

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’

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Also known as the Coral-Bark Maple.  A large deciduous shrub or small tree, its stems and branches are coral red.  Looks glorious at this time of year with the additional bonus of the beautifully coloured autumnal leaves.  Not good on chalk.

Arbutus unedo

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The Strawberry Tree, named for its large red-berried fruits.  The fruits from the previous year ripen in the autumn, at the same time as tiny, white, bell-shaped flowers appear.  All-year interest is guaranteed as it is evergreen and sports a wonderful rough, brown bark which peels away in strips to reveal coppery-orange colours underneath. (h. 4 – 8 m)

Malus robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

A lovely tree for the garden.  Beautiful and numerous bright red crab apples decorate this tree in the autumn, often remaining well into winter.  Tolerates a range of soil conditions, including clay. (h. 3 – 7 m.)

Prunus serrulata ‘Tai-haku’ 


The Great White Cherry.  Much loved by Garden House.  Makes a magnificent specimen tree, bearing large single white flowers in the spring alongside coppery-coloured foliage.  This tree was thought to have disappeared for many years, until ‘Cherry’ Ingram found one growing in a Sussex garden in 1932, after which it was re-introduced to its native Japan.  (h. 7 – 12 m)

Jobs for the week:

Pot on propagated annuals in the greenhouse


Fill pots right to the top with compost then strike off the excess with one hand. Tap the pot so that the compost settles.  Leave space for watering.  Its important that each pot should be similar to its neighbours so that the same plants will receive exactly the same treatment and grow at a similar rate.

Plant the bare-rooted roses (ultimately destined for the Rose Meadow) into large pots 

The selection chosen are: R. ‘Hot Chocolate’, R. ‘For Your Eyes Only’, R. ‘Cafe’, R. ‘Eyes For You’ and R. ‘Belle Epoque’.  All hybrid tea roses.  Prune hard back.  Label and water, of course!


They look snug

Plant clematis and roses on the back bed.

It’s cold, it’s wet it’s… hey! Where’s my planting companion off to?


I’ll be right back…


I’ve been espaliered!

Continue planting bulbs


And more and more and more….


And plant species tulip bulbs in pots



These will be used as part of the Little Dixter display.  The pots, not the ladies.

Check the Pelargonium Palace

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We think the ladies would be terrific as part of the Little Dixter display.

Dead-head all Pelargoniums; remove any damaged or diseased plant material.  Water.

Plant Narcissi in winter border


Plant up large pots with Tulipa ‘Chinatown’

Add some winter bedding on top for seasonal interest


Divide Allium ‘Ozawa’ and re-pot


Pull the clumps apart gently.  Pot up clusters consisting of about 4 of these summer-flowering bulbs.  Firm in well; label; grit; water. Put them into the cold frame.


She looks rather pleased with herself

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the garden…


Ooh, a nice quiet moment

I’ll just sit here for a while


Hang on a minute


What is that?

I don’t believe it


Believe it, baby!


It’s OK, puss, there’s an ally nearby…


To the rescue!

Prick out Californian Poppies and re-pot

Re-pot them quite deeply, ensuring their lowest leaves are resting on the surface of the compost.  this keeps them firm in the pot and ensures they will grow away better.

Remove the strawberry plants from the metal containers and move to fruit beds


Cut the plants back and re-plant around the edges of the fruit beds.  A berry good idea.

Sixteen apples sitting on a wall


What if one should accidentally fall?

The leaves of Prunus serrulata ‘Tai-haku’


‘Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.’

(Robert Frost)





Friday 8th November 2019

It may be November, but there’s always something for Friday Group to enjoy at Garden House.  Now’s the time for the woodburner and bunches of chrysanths.


Plant Ident.

First of all this week, we looked at leaves and branches from some unusual trees.  Ginkgo biloba (the Maidenhair tree), Metasequoia glytostroboides (the Dawn Redwood), Larix decidua (the European Larch) and Taxodium distichum (the Swamp Cypress).

Q.  Why are they unusual?

A.  They are all deciduous conifers and, unlike most conifers, they shed their leaves in    the autumn.

Biennials Bonanza

Time for some of the biennial seedlings sown earlier in the year to be planted out.  Seeds of biennial plants can be sown in the May, June or July of the year prior to them flowering.  These are some we will be enjoying next year:

Dianthus barbatus ‘Sooty’


Sweet Williams are always a favourite and these are no exception.  Fragrant, deep red/chocolate flowers are borne above red stems and the leaves are mid green turning to deep ruby-black in colour.  Eye-catching.

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Erysimum cheiri ‘Blood Red’

Part of the Brassica family, the deep red flowers of this wonderful Wallflower will excite admiration from all your garden visitors.  They fill the May-June ‘garden gap’ and, what’s more, have a deliciously spicy scent.  They need to be hardened off slowly before being planted outside, ideally in full sun.  Ensure good drainage and regular dead-heading, and you are on to a winner.  Plant amongst tulips to evoke real garden envy.


Lunaria annua


Another member of the brassica family, Honesty can have either white or purple/mauve flowers.  Lunaria means ‘moon-shaped’ – which its seed heads are.  These are an added bonus, decorative in the border and when used for flower arrangements.  The flat, papery seed cases are translucent and shimmer, both indoors and out.  Will self seed around the garden.




Come next April, this Sea Stock’s brilliant white flowers will be floating over its grey-green leaves.  Particularly effective in the low-light of dusk, its exquisite scent will fill the air.  So, place this hardy biennial near a path, where it will be much appreciated.  The plant shown above will become the plant below.


Hesperis matronalis

Sweet Rocket.  This biennial (can also be a short-lived perennial) and its fragrant purple or white flowers appear in late spring/early summer.  Another useful plant to have in the garden to fill the spring-summer gap.  Beautifully scented, as its name implies, and a self-seeder.


Jobs for the week:

Basically, if you say ‘Plant bulbs’, you’ve got it covered.


See what I mean?

But, before you start:-

Add leaf mould to improve the condition of the soil and rake the beds to a smooth finish

Those beds look nicely raked


But of course!


Plant bulbs


Plant more bulbs


See above




The bulbs are in, but not forgotten


They are planted deep in the soil.  The Dianthus, and Aniseed, stand guard.


Something else is planted deep in this soil….


Wonder if we’ll get a Tortoise Tree?

Plant three or four different types of Narcissi under the Cornus Mas tree

Include ‘Jack Snipe’ and ‘Hawera’, to create a golden glow under its yellow blossoms in February.



(Is she praying or planting? Both are useful.)

Plant in groups of 5 to 7 bulbs

  Or more!


One, two, three, four… oh blast, have I counted that one already?


An additional Achillea will just add to the golden glow.  This one is Achillea ‘Schwellenburg’.

Plant bulbs in pots 

(If not already engaged in planting bulbs in borders.)  This is ‘Avalanche’, for indoor flowering.


Bulbs tossed and mossed

And bulbs for outdoor pots.  These are Crocuses.


Hyacinth bulbs planted in the rhubarb bed will create a sophisticated look next spring.  Oh yes.

Remove Salvia uliginosa from large pots; plant up with a mix of orange/red tulips and orange and red Erysimum.

Five little wallflowers sitting on a wall…


Plant bulbs in the top garden near the Pelargonium Palace greenhouse.

Plant deeply – at least a trowel’s depth, wriggle the trowel about to create a hole, then plant the flatter side of the bulb against the back of the hole.



And delivery


Design a scheme for perennial planting in the top garden

Hang on a minute.  No bulbs???

Not one!

Here are the plants in all their glory


First, lay out your scheme


Consider from all angles


Ready, set…




Take tender plants into the greenhouse 

This one might be Begonia luxurians


Some will need removing from their pots and re-potting



Prick out and pot on biennials and hardy annuals as necessary



(You mean Alcea rosea?)

Plant Sweet Williams in the bed behind the greenhouse


Good job



A last sweep round to create the perfect finish.


True dedication

No sign of any bulbs now!


I wonder.  Maybe more next week?



Those tulips don’t plant themselves, you know.

And who planted you there?


I’m not planted


I’m hibernating




Friday 25th October 2019

We’re a seasonal lot at Friday Group and although we’re always thinking ahead, planning and planting for the future, never let it be said that we don’t take time to enjoy the here and now.  20191027_145531 (1).jpg

In view of this, today’s Plant Ident. was all about berries.  It’s a very berry year.

Cornus alba ‘Kesseleringii’


This vigorous, deciduous dogwood has dark red, almost black, stems which contrast well with other coloured barks and stems in the winter garden.  Its oval leaves turn a lovely mahogany-red in the autumn, and small white berries follow the tiny creamy-white flowers.  Likes a moist, well-drained soil.  Chop down to the ground in April to encourage fresh new growth with intensely coloured young stems.  Seems harsh, but pays dividends.

Cotoneaster horizontalis


Aka the fishbone Cotoneaster, the reason for which is obvious when you see a good specimen: its stems grow in an easily identifiable herringbone pattern.  A really structural, tough, deciduous shrub, it is loved by bees (for its little pink flowers) and birds (for the small, bright red berries which they enjoy in the winter).  Will self-sow easily.  Can be encouraged to grow upwards against a wall.

Malus sylvestris


One of the Rosaceae family, commonly known as the Crab Apple.  The fruits are wonderful for making crab apple jelly as they have a high pectin content.  There are many cultivars of these small, useful trees to choose from and their fruits can vary in colour from yellow through to gold, orange, scarlet and dark red.  They are a good choice for a small garden as they offer year-round interest in addition to the fruits: long-lasting flowers, good autumn colour, attractive to birds and insects – and they are self-fertile.  Plant one!

Rubus Fruticosus


The native wild blackberry is a vigorous, thorny, suckering plant.  Creates a good habitat for wildlife, but would normally only be grown by a gardener as part of a mixed, wild, country hedge.  There are now named cultivars which have been developed for growing in gardens for their fruit – several of which are thornless.  Lovely to harvest the blackberries in late summer and enjoy them ‘au naturel’ (‘in the nude’??) or in a crumble.

Crataegus monogyna


The common Hawthorn, native to the U.K., is a small, rounded, spiny deciduous tree with small, green, distinctively lobed leaves.  Masses of small creamy flowers appear in the spring – a familiar sight in country lanes and along roadside verges – and are followed by little berries (or haws) which turn red in the autumn.  Good as part of a mixed hedgerow and very attractive to bugs and birds.

Crataegus laevigata

Sometimes known as the Midland Hawthorn, and actually not dissimilar to the common one, this variety is a very beautiful form of Hawthorn.  Its leaves are more deeply cut and it holds two seeds within each haw or berry.  Laxer in growth than its more common cousin.  Loved by Garden House.



Firethorn is a genus of thorny, evergreen shrubs which are a common sight in many gardens and municipal plantings.  That’s because they do their job well.  Tough, ornamental and practical, their autumn berries come in a range of colours, from yellows through to oranges and fiery reds.  Frothy white flowers, adored by insects, appear earlier in the year and the foliage is a deep, glossy green.  They can be clipped, trained and shaped (prune back to two buds from the main stem in April), or left to grow a little on the wild side.  Birds love to nest in them.  Will tolerate all sorts of conditions and are cheap to buy.  Common, maybe, but star performers.  Don’t diss them.  Don’t miss them.


Ilex aquifolium 

These long-lived native trees are of enormous importance to wildlife.  They are generally dioecious, with male and female flowers on different plants; berries are only produced on the female trees when there is a male tree nearby.  Nectar, pollen and, on the female trees, bright red berries attract pollinators and birds alike.  The leaves are evergreen and glossy, often prickly at the edges.  Used to decorate houses over the Christmas period, holly was seen as a fertility symbol and also as a charm against evil spirits.


To see a splendid display of holly, visit the Holly Walk at Kew.

Iris foetidissima


Stinking Iris?  An unlovely name which sounds like a character from a Harry Potter book.  But check those berries out.  What a shiny, zingy, orange!  They generally remain as seen above through the winter, bursting out of their pods – birds generally ignore them – and add a bright splash of colour to the winter garden border.  A plant which some consider to be rather a weed, it is tolerant of a wide range of growing situations and soils.

Euonymus europaeus


Such an eye-catching tree at this time of year.  The Spindle has lovely pink capsules which split open to reveal orange berries within.  A colour clash that works.  This is a native tree that has dense hard wood – originally used for making spindles for the spinning trade.  The foliage turns a dramatic shade of red in the autumn. Joe Swift has recently declared this to be one of his favourites for autumn, the best cultivar being ‘Red Cascade’.  They grow well in chalk, but will tolerate most well-drained soils.

Cotoneaster frigidus ‘Cornubia’


This deciduous, bushy shrub can also be trained into a small specimen tree.  Prolific flattened heads of white flowers precede vivid red berries, which remain on the tree for a long time before the birds descend.  The flowers are attractive to bees and other pollinators.  No wonder it has been awarded an AGM by the RHS.

Jobs for the week:

Plant up bowls of Narcissi for indoor flowering.


Three types of bulbs are being used this year: Paperwhites, Grand Soleil d’Or and Avalanche.

These should come into flower within 6-7 weeks of being planted.  Put a good layer of compost in the bottom of a bowl – it doesn’t matter too much about drainage because this is a short-term arrangement and the bulbs are generally disposed of after flowering.  Nestle the bulbs in – a good number will mean a good display.


Plant them up to their necks and top with grit or moss.  Add birch twigs as the stems grow, for support and a touch of professionalism.  Keep outside or in a cool place until it starts to get really cold, or they will grow too quickly, then bring in and keep frost free.  Keep an eye on the developing plants – try not to give them too much heat too quickly.  Gradually bring into warmer conditions.

Decorate as the artist in you dictates.  Lights? Baubles maybe?  But for heavens sake, keep it tasteful.

Take cuttings of tender perennials


Salvias, Pelargoniums, even the glorious Tibouchina (below).  Using clean, sharp tools, take off softwood side shoots from the plant.  Remove any flowers/some leaves, use a dibber to make a hole to insert the cutting.  Firm in gently.  Compost mixed with vermiculite provides an excellent open mixture for cuttings.


Liberate the Libertias

Free free…


Set them free

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This is Libertia ‘Goldfinger’, a useful evergreen herbaceous perennial.  Looks good in pots and, if you run to that sort of thing, urns.

No one seems to be using this table…


So, I might as well…


Ahhhh!  And…. relax.

Plant Anemone coronaria ‘Hollandia’ and Ranunculus Picotee ‘Cafe au Lait’

These are both in the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae.  They need soaking for a good 2 – 3 hours to re-hydrate them  Here’s some being prepared earlier….


Looks like dog food

At best


Once rehydrated, place the Anemones about five to a one-litre pot, smooth side down about 4 cms deep, and keep in a frost-free greenhouse or cold frame.

After the Ranunculus have been rehydrated, sit them on a compost-filled tray in a greenhouse or cold frame.  Once the shoots start to appear, pot them up spacing them a few centimetres apart and about 5cms deep.   About five in a one-litre pot.



Dig up dahlia tubers and store


At Garden House, the dahlias are taken out before the cold weather bites to make room for other plantings.  Remove the plants from the soil, cut back top growth, store in a cool dry place to allow the tubers to dry off (but not dessicate).  Keep the right labels with the right tubers!




The everlasting compost heap

Constant and careful attention makes the best growing medium money can’t buy.


And who are the lucky people in there this week?


People grow about 2 cms taller after just one session on the heap.  Fact.

Should we still have cakes at break?



Well, it wouldn’t exactly be a cake-break without them, would it?

Can’t talk.  Mouth full


Not have cake? Whose half-baked idea was that?

Discussion ends

Wrap up the exotics

Or ‘put the bananas in pyjamas’, as the practice is also known.  Cut the leaves off and wrap them up warmly in horticultural fleece.  Cannas and Gingers too, please.

From this…


to this…


to this….


It’s time to go to sleep

Some need a bedtime story


Until next year then

Collect berries and prepare them for stratification

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Sounds scary, but it just means the seeds need a cold spell before they can be tempted into growth.  Use a pestle and mortar to remove the seeds from the berries; sieve and wash; put seeds into a plastic bag with perlite and compost; place in the fridge; don’t mistake the mixture for granola.


Stratification is the game, germination is the aim.  Some seeds can take weeks, months or even years to break their dormancy.  Think teenagers.  Once the first signs of growth are there, remove from bag and pot on.  Exciting stuff.  Here we are taking on Rosa pimpinellifolia.

Plant bulbs of Iris reticulata into pots


Drainage will be necessary.  Put some old crocks into the base of the pot, add multi-purpose compost.  Plant the bulbs at about twice their depth.  Finish with a layer of grit.  Label!


Perfect symmetry

Dismantle sweet pea arches and make new wigwams

Entirely without the aid of a safety net.


Remove the old structures. Rake the beds.









I couldn’t agree more

Au revoir