Friday 22nd May 2020

Everything’s looking lovely in the Garden House garden. Purple Alliums sing against magenta Roses and chartreuse Euphorbias.

For our virtual meeting today, we zoomed all the way to Eastbourne to discover the delights of another member’s garden and the fruits of years of hard work.  Our hosts garden more or less directly on chalk, with just a few inches of topsoil, and also have to cope with a sloping rear garden which is exposed and windy at the top. Rebuilding wide, attractive steps which lead onto terraced areas and improving the soil with £££ of compost has improved matters considerably, and now the informal, naturalistic planting is a haven for wildlife of all sorts.

Roses abound. We were introduced to ‘Princess Anne’, ‘Alan Titchmarsh’ and the ‘Rambling Rector – all of whom were looking magnificent – demonstrating the importance of pruning, mulching, feeding and watering. A recently planted Rosa ‘For Your Eyes Only’ left us shaken and stirred – part of an ongoing planting project. The chalk bank at the top of the garden has Geraniums, false Valerian, Cotoneaster and Lavenders. Here the grass is only cut every 3 – 4 weeks and there are areas of long grass left uncut too. Wildflowers seed around – Vetches, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Clovers.

An island bed is planted with purple Thalictrum, orange Escholzia, Nepeta, Sweet Rocket, Cerinthe and the impressive, silvery Verbascum olympicum, which thrives on alkaline soils and is home to the mullein moth in its egg and caterpillar stages.

Plant Ident:

Argyranthemum ‘Jamaica Primrose’

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A member of the Aster (not Astor) family, and native to the Canary Islands, this joyous daisy is a half-hardy perennial. Primrose yellow petals contrast with a darker centre and grey/green leaves. Its long-flowering period from May onward is aided by regular dead-heading and its height makes it useful in the border. Take cuttings in the autumn.

Nepeta gigantea ‘Six Hills Giant’

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Lamiaceae family (sage/mint).  This perennial Catmint attracts bees and mint moths, smells great when crushed and can be pruned easily by giving it a number 3 razor cut. This will encourage growth and a further crop of flowers later in the season. Enjoys light, well-drained soil in full sun. Cats love it. Divide in the spring. The plant, not the cats.

Cerinthe major purpurescens

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Aka, Honeywort.  A self-seeding annual; great in the border. Grey/green leaves and purple/blue drooping bell-like bracts. Good in borders, pots and vases. A fantastic plant to put alongside orange Californian poppies. A real zingy thingy.

Cistus x hybridus

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Hybrid Rock Rose. A bushy, evergreen shrub with white flowers which last for only one day, although this is compensated for by the fact that it flowers for ages over the summer. Good on chalk – as you can see! Needs full sun, preferably a west-facing aspect and some shelter – should then be hardy.

Erigeron karvinskianus

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Somehow ‘Mexican fleabane’ just doesn’t sound as good. Masses of small daisies are borne in profusion, which is also the name of a cultivar, starting white and maturing to pink. Loved by bees and butterflies. Flowers vigorously from May to October; self-seeds; great in nooks and crannies but not crooks and nannies. Full sun.

Jobs for the week:
 
Check your roses
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Check. Looking good! Keep feeding and watering them.  As they go over, why not collect the petals and dry them in the sun? Make confetti or a wonderful potpourri.
Enjoy your Pelargoniums
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Especially if they are Regal ones and live in a Pelargonium Palace.
Look after your tomato plants – there are various ways of growing them
1. Bush tomatoes need BIG pots (as big as a bucket) if they aren’t in the ground. No pinching out required. Full sun. Water and feed. This method is suitable for determinate tomatoes – ones which tend to ripen early, have a compact shape and ripen all around at the same time (usually over a period of about two weeks).
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2. Peat-free Grow Bags can be used to plant determinate bush tomatoes against a hot sunny wall – no staking required.
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3. Indeterminate tomatoes have a longer growth period, and can produce fruit until the frosts arrive.  They need pinching out, so check their armpits regularly. At Garden House, a frame of ten poles has been constructed in an outside bed and a cordon tomato planted at the base of each, to be trained upward.
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In the same bed are crimson-flowered broad beans, courgettes , Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ (companion planting) and Nasturtiums (a somewhat scarily named sacrificial planting). The idea is that the Nasturtiums will attract the blackfly. Let’s hope someone’s told the blackfly. Use organic slug pellets, or you may find that the entire planting has been guzzled overnight by slimy critters.
4. Ring culture is a good way of growing indeterminate tomatoes in the greenhouse
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Suitable for vine tomatoes such as Sungold, Gardeners’ Delight and Costoluto Fiorentino. There are two reservoirs, one for water and the other for feeding. The tomatoes produce feeder roots up their stems. Tomatoes planted 18 inches apart.  Note the companion planting of Tagetes – to discourage whitefly.
Plant Hydrangeas in a partially shady area 
Cuttings can be taken now. Cutting under a leaf joint, take a non-flowering shoot about 10 cms long from new growth. Cut the leaves in half to reduce moisture loss. Insert the cutting into gritty compost mixed with perlite. Place pot into a propagator. Spray with water, being careful not to soak the compost. Or rotting will ensue.
Continue to sow vegetables
Like Runner Beans. These are ‘Wisley Magic’; sow and stand back: Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum.
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Prick out seedlings
As plants grow, consider whether they would benefit from staking.  Ammis and Cornflowers would. Cut out the first flower as it appears in annuals; this will encourage multiple side shoots, bushiness and floriferousnessessss.
 
Pot on established small plants.  Sow seeds.  
You can do a second sowing of things like Calendulas, Zinnias and Cosmos now.
 
Sow biennials for flowers next year   

First, order your seeds.  Hmmm….someone’s been busy.  

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Try Foxgloves, Sweet Rocket, Sweet William, Anchusa ‘Loddon Blue’, Papaver nudicaule, Wallflowers. Plant the seedlings out in October to flower in May/June/July 2021. In their first year, they form a rosette of leaves; they then need a period of cold over the winter months (vernalisation) to induce flowering in the following year. Over the winter they don’t need any protection, as they are very hardy. A good choice for those without a greenhouse. The Sweet William Dianthus barbatus nigrescens ‘Sooty’ (below) is a lovely biennial to grow, and a favourite at Garden House. 
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Equipment for the garden
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Sometimes it’s good to research other aids to gardening which are now available.  Hotbins, for instance. A sealed, insulated unit designed to make compost very quickly at high temperatures. Eventually, you should be able to dispose of cooked food in the bin – something not advised in a regular compost heap. Can be sited (discreetly! – it’s not a thing of beauty) near the house for convenience. Needs careful management. One to think about.
Friday Group Challenge
Write a recipe for a container you have planted up in your garden. Note down the exact names of the cultivars. Think foliage, spillers, fillers and thrillers. Go wild! Take a photo now – and again later in the season.
 
So, until next week….. happy gardening!
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