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

20191025_120853 (1).jpg

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









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