Friday 14th February 2020

 Season of Hyacinths and Hellebores

Plant ident.

Aesculus hippocastanum

Taking cuttings of the horse chestnut, or conker, tree is one of the easiest ways to propagate this wonderful tree.  Young softwood cuttings can be take in spring – or hardwood cuttings in the autumn. In spring, the new buds are emerging, their scales sticky with a kind of gum, which helps to prevent insect damage and also keeps the bud closed until it’s ready to open. Look below the buds and there is a little U-shaped indentation.  Just like a horse-shoe!  You can even see the marks of the nails.


Hardy annuals

It’s a busy time with these at the moment.  Sowing, pricking out, potting on, re-potting, and trying to find space to put them all. They don’t need to be under cover, as they can tolerate the cold, although some protection from Storms Ciara, Dennis the Menace, Ermyntrude, Fester etc. etc. might be an idea.  And they won’t want to get waterlogged. But they’ll be fine standing outside on wired staging where they can get enough light, drainage and be a little protected from the worst of the weather.  The clue is in the name – hardy annuals. Tough little blighters that germinate, grow, flower, set seed and (sniff) pass away all in one growing year. Successional sowings will provide continuity of colour through the season.

Ammi majus


A Garden House stalwart, Bishop’s Weed is like a more refined form of cow parsley.  Part of the carrot family, lacy umbels of white flowers are borne above delicate green foliage.  Great in borders and the cutting garden.  Good for attracting bees and other pollinating insects.  Plant in sun or partial shade. Essential.

Eschscholzia ‘Ivory Castle’


Another tough little h/a, which can, like all hardy annuals, be direct sown, as it’s not very keen on being transplanted.  However, sowing in modules and pricking out carefully into pots does give more control. Also known as the Californian Poppy, it has wonderful blue-green feathery foliage and gorgeous cream/white silk-like flowers which flower vigorously. Will tolerate poor soils but needs full sun.

Ammi visnaga

Like majus, it’s an umbellifer, but this variety is denser in form with bigger dome-shaped flower heads. A good filler. Birds love to feast on the seed heads in winter. Altogether, a nicely alliterative plant: its feathery, filigree foliage adds phenomenal finesse. Fab.


Centaurea cyanus ‘Red Boy’


An easy peasy hardy annual.  Easy to germinate, easy to grow and easy on the eye in a vase. Sow it, grow it.  Centaurea cyanus ‘Blue Boy’, ‘White’ and ‘Black Ball’ are also good.

Ridolfia segetum ‘Goldspray’


Flowering from summer to autumn, this far-from-humble umbel really does have gold sprays. Looks like dill, but even more so. Loved by all sorts of pollinating insects, it sparkles in the border and looks great as a cut flower. Contrasts well with burgundies and deep purples. Likes full sun; pinch out the tips to promote bushy growth. A must.

Calendula ‘Indian Prince’


A wonderful h/a and a great cultivar to choose for the garden. Deep orange with a darkly contrasting centre. Great on its own or as a companion plant. When potting on all hardy annuals, ensure that seedlings are centred in the pot and that their bottom leaves touch the soil. This deep planting helps to stabilise the young plants as they grow on.

Sow hardy annuals


But of course!



Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs and wait for the magic to happen

Rose pruning continues


Clean, sharp tools for the job

We can use those rose cuttings


Propagation: plant the rose cuttings. 

These are from Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ and Rosa glauca.


Hey presto!


Then it’s just a waiting game


Tidying borders and perennials



Prune and tie-in new growth on roses

Encouraging horizontal growth promotes the formation of side shoots, or laterals, that extend from the main canes.  This will enable the plant to produce more flowers.


I thank you

Work on paths


Sharpen the edges, weed, clear, sweep. The results will amaze you.


Create a new bed for the new rose

Handily situated near the new watering system


Sometimes life is literally a bed of roses


– and Bergenias too


Work in the Engine Room continues


Aka the Compost Heap


Someone has to direct operations…


Plant up terracotta planters with succulents

In the greenhouse

Potting on tender perennials continues apace

Argyranthemum, Pelargonium quercifolium ‘Royal Oak’ and Helichrysum ‘Lime Green’

Tidy up time20200214_125845-1

Snug trugs

Meanwhile… someone has to keep an eye on the fire. It’s a job.


I got the lying on the table job

I’m so good at it

And, don’t forget. Garden House opens for the National Garden Scheme on Friday 28th February.  Pass it on.


Friday 7th February 2020


We’ve passed the Universal Palindrome Day – 02/02/2020 – and very exciting it was too.  Even more exciting though, was our Friday Group outing.  The weather wasn’t in the least mizzly-drizzly at Wisley, thank goodness; on the contrary, it was brilliant, radiant and luminous. Terms frequently used to describe the group itself.

Wisley dazzled, particularly with its Winter Walk


Bark shone in the sunshine

Along the way, we met our old friend Daphne… here she is, looking and smelling  wonderful


Libertia ixioides ‘Goldfinger’ living up to its name


Edgeworthia chrysantha


Exquisitely scented

Iris ‘Harmony’ looking harmonious


And stems of Cornus, lit like fire, with a glimpse of ghostly Rubus cockburnianus beyond.


Stunning stems


Then into The Glasshouse Gallery, to see The Giant Houseplant Takeover…..

Monster sights


Lemony delights


And one or two frights



I mean, that’s no way to treat your guests

Moving quickly on… through the entrance hall and into the living room. The phone’s off the hook and there’s a fire in the grate – but no-one’s about.

Help yourself to a book


Plant yourself in a chair. Make yourself at home.


Perhaps a game of chess?


In the kitchen, time stands still.


And in the dining room, the plants are running amok



We loved the cake stand, the vintage ivy-leaf crockery and the popping bottle of champagne.  Those bubbles!


The candles burn brightly


And after-dinner drinks await

Then a lovely long bath before bed. Or maybe a shower?


Time to turn in. Loving the eiderdown.


In the morning, there’s time to look at the paintings.




Given time, they’ll grow on you


Then on through the rest of the gallery




Amazing Amaryllis



All the rage, don’t y’know


Here’s the recipe


Wonderful Wisley. Passionate about plants


And we are too






Friday 31st January 2020

The last day of January


A bowlful of beauty

Things are on the move at G/House


Not this little chap, though

Plant ident.

Chaenomeles japonica


Japanese quince, (not to be confused with the Quince tree, Cydonia oblongata), is an easy shrub which provides a lovely shot of colour from early to mid-spring.  Pink or red flowers emerge on the bare, thorny stems, followed by green leaves.  The fruits, which come later, are edible. Part of the Rosaceae family. Will cope with any soil in any planting position, and can be trained against walls to grow upwards. Attractive both to us and to wildlife. Prune lightly in April to keep in shape – cut back ‘sticky-out-bits’ to 2 buds. Put one on the list, and, please, do write in if too much technical jargon is being used here.

Callicarpa bodinieri


Aka the Beauty Berry.  For obvious reasons.  Little violet beads are held in clusters from autumn onward, and remain on the shrub over the winter after the leaves have dropped. Planted en masse in the sun, they can stop you in your tracks. Rather a boring plant for the rest of the year, but a real zinger right now. Any soil, any aspect.

Magnolia no-idea


It’s a Magnolia, of that we can be sure.  But which variety this one is, remains a mystery. Magnolias are ancient creatures, and were one of the first flowering plants to appear.  Their spectacular blossoms emerge from buds which are like little furry sleeping bags.  So tactile. The flowers can vary from goblet to tulip to star-shaped, and from white to pink, red/purple, pale yellow and more. There are many different types of Magnolia, from shrubs to trees, from evergreen to deciduous; some petite and others just humungous (technical term). Most prefer a slightly acidic soil, but there are some which positively prefer an alkaline one. Breathtaking when seen from below, against a blue sky on a sunny spring day. They have some of the most beautiful scents you will ever come across. Visit Nymans Gardens in West Sussex for spectacular displays.

Interesting fact no. 973: they were originally pollinated by possums. (Does someone make this stuff up?)

Cyclamen coum


Such a joy to see from December and on through the dark grey days of winter.  Best in well-drained soil under deciduous shrubs and trees, where they benefit from light before the canopy of leaves grows. Varying in colour from white, pink, mauve to deep purples, they also have attractive, heart-shaped leaves – ‘Pewter Group’ is one particular cultivar with notable markings. If left undisturbed and happy, Cyclamen will naturalise – apparently, the seed is transported by ants who love the sugary coating. (Not possums?)

Jobs for the week

Planting up winter containers

See Cyclamen above. To enjoy in the theatre that is Little Dixter; later in the season, they will be planted out into the garden.



 Check out those birch twigs. Very fancy.

Bellis and Polyanthus in long tom pots join the display. Spot the Cyclamen.


Plant three new Hellebores 


Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Carol’.  Planted by just the right person.

Sort out the Potting Shed

Needs a good tidy up.  Let’s keep everything neat and in the right place.


Think Marie Kondo. Do these old bits of wood spark joy?


Yes they do!

Pelargonium Palace 

Clean out the greenhouse; dead-head plants – but don’t cut them hard back just yet; check for aphids and other nasties. Spray mealy bugs with diluted horticultural soft soap or diluted eco-friendly washing-up liquid. Alys Fowler suggests dabbing the little blighters with a paintbrush loaded with vodka. Surely, there are better uses for that liquid. Drink it, for example, and you just won’t care.  A.F. also recommends S.B. Plant Invigorator, a non-toxic pesticide/fungicide/foliar feed.  Safe to use on edible crops too. Can be applied to plants affected with whitefly, greenfly, aphids, woolly mammoths and mealy bugs. Do it early in the season, before ladybirds appear, or they will get hit too.

Must remember to get this proofread, in case of silly mistakes.


They’ve been invigorated just by holding that S.B.Plant Invigorator spray.

Remove leaves which have reverted to plain green on the variegated ivy

Some members are so proficient, they can do this by touch alone.


Planting under the arches

Digitalis lutea to go in along here.


and here


Weeds out. Plants in.


Indoors for cake.  Too mizzly-drizzly out there.


Continue work on the herb bed 

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Foxtail’


Is everybody happy?

Oh yes. Ecstatic!


You bet your life we are.


She looks rather boxed in.

Weed and mulch the Lion’s Head bed near the arches


What a difference!

Work on bed under the crab apples.  

Self-sown seedlings of Nigella ‘African Bride’ now appearing in quantity. Thin out and transplant small clumps into pots.  Care needed, as they have a long tap-root.


Deep concentration

Plant Stipas on the back bed by the apple tree


So much better than being allocated the compost heap today

Alpine troughs

Check through, weed, add plants as required.  As usual it’s the attention to fine detail that sets everything off


This is what they call ‘a clean sweep’.


Paths become more visible when the stones are glistening


Yet another productive session, despite the misty-moisty rain.  And, of course, our complexions are now totally hydrated and perfect!


It’s all good