Friday 29th May 2020

We seem to have Zoomed through May and spring. Can June really be next? The evidence suggests it can and will….

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This week we were given a virtual tour of another Friday Group member’s garden.  We’re learning so much from these – and clearly Group members have learned an enormous amount from Garden House. Call it, ‘The Garden House Effect’. This large, sloping garden in Woodingdean, is beautifully laid out, planted and maintained. It contains colour-themed borders, roses, beds of grasses, raised vegetable beds, a newly dug pond, a greenhouse, compost bins – the list goes on and on. As does the gardening. Thanks to the owner for a great visit – and for supplying brilliant photos.

Here are five of her favourite plants:

Geranium maderense

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The Madeira Cranesbill. This terrific geranium is sited in a border filled with ‘hot’ colours. A robust but sometimes short-lived perennial, it has large, deeply dissected leaves and pink-purple flowers with a deep magenta centre. Remove flowered stems and old leaves to encourage further growth. Keep frost free over winter. Loves the sun, but copes with shade. Has an A.G.M. and is attractive to pollinators. A favourite at Garden House too.

Argyrocytisus battandieri

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Pineapple Broom. Fragrant. (You can guess what the scent is like – delicious.) Here planted with the glaucous foliage of Euphorbia beneath it. Silky, grey-green trifoliate leaves and golden-yellow pea-shaped panicles of flowers make it an attractive shrub to grow; particularly good against a sunny wall where it can reach over 4 m. Suits most soils. Hardy, but appreciates some shelter. Drought tolerant. A.G.M. Tick, tick, tick, tick – that’s all the boxes.

Rosa ‘Fighting Temeraire’

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A David Austin English Shrub Rose, with a wonderful, fruity fragrance, reminiscent of lemon zest. Large flowers open to a rich apricot colour, with a soft yellow centre just below the stamens. Repeat-flowering and grows to 1 m (h) x 1.5 m (w). Good in a mixed border, but would also fit into a wilder planting scheme as the flowers have such a relaxed, informal shape. Attractive to bees. This garden owner absolutely loves hers!

Stachys byzantina in front of Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’

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Such a wonderful colour combination; the soft, silvery-grey foliage of the Lamb’s Ears with tiny mauve flowers borne aloft on spikes works beautifully with the wallflower behind.

Phlomis fruticosa

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Jerusalem sage, a small semi-evergreen shrub in the Lamiaceae family. Provides verticality (love that word!) and architectural interest; yellow flowers grow in whorls around the stems, and grey-green lanceolate leaves are soft to the touch. The seed heads are attractive too, and can be left over the winter; they look stunning when frosted. Grow in full sun in fertile, well-drained soil – it flourishes in chalky and sandy soils. Drought tolerant. A.G.M.

Pondering upon ponds

The pond which has recently been created in this garden has seen almost immediate benefits, with frogs carelessly flouting all social distancing regulations. As well as an increase in wildlife of all sorts, the prospect of choosing appropriate water plants is exciting – although it seems that these will often arrive of their own accord out of the ether. Ponds need to be in full sun, in a secluded part of the garden, away from trees, have a deep area of about 60 cms, shallow shelves for marginal plants and some easy means for creatures to access and leave the water.

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Oxygenating plants such as False watercress are needed in the deeper parts of the pond. Rafting plants like Waterlilies are beautiful, and their floating leaves create shade, inhibiting algae. They also provide hiding places for fish and other aquatic creatures. Equisetum hyemale (the Lego plant) is a dramatic, upright plant with hollow bamboo-like stems. Best contained in a pot or basket (it is set on world domination), it is a good choice for boggy and marginal shallow areas. Upright plants are essential for supporting the life cycle of dragonflies. Another excellent marginal plant is the Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris, as is the glorious native Iris pseudacorus.  All sorts of flowering plants can be grown in and around water, from the impressive Pontaderia cordata to the delicate Water Forget-me-Not, and their presence will attract a wide variety of insects.

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To have or not to have a pond, that is the aquatic question. They have a whole vocabulary of their own – emergent, submerged, marginal, rafting, oxygenating… Fortunately, there are specialists who can help; Waterside Nursery is one such, with an informative website: http://www.watersidenursery.co.uk. The Wildlife Trust is also good: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org

Jobs for the week

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The general message is: water, water, water, weed, feed, water, water, repeat

Keep an eye on tomatoes

See instructions above and follow religiously. Indeterminate tomatoes need pinching out and are generally grown outside up canes, or in ring-culture pots in the greenhouse. Determinate tomatoes are squatter in growth, like bush tomatoes; plant in grow bags or large pots. Stake.

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These bush tomatoes are being watered by a fiendishly clever, terribly complicated and expensive system. Cut off the top half of a plastic bottle. Leave the screw top on and make a very small hole in it. Turn upside down and press into soil next to tomato plant. Fill with water. Hey presto: water drips onto plant’s roots. Lie down for rest of day.

Plant out dahlias

Make sure your plants have been properly hardened off. Like characters in a Guy Ritchie film, they should be well hard. Can go into the ground or BIG pots Cut out all but five strong stems in order to promote large blooms. Stake. Pinch out the first flower bud at the top of the plant (down to a node) to encourage side shoots and more flower production. Goes against your instincts, but it will pay dividends.

Sow Radishes regularly – in clumps of four or five seeds

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Pot Aubergines on into the next size pot

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Sow mini squashes

They will replace the Sweet Peas once they are over. They will be happy to clamber up the supports left behind, including wigwams and obelisks.

Tie-in Clematis

Wire ties covered in brown paper are especially useful for this job. Do the whole feeding and watering thing. Obvs.

Dead-head roses and other flowers to extend their flowering period

Create an exotic area

Why not? At Garden House, Little Dixter has become a haven for exotica. Not erotica. As far as we know. Tetrapanax, Cannas, Hedychium… all cry out to be grown and spelled correctly. Maybe try a Banana (mustafaMusa) – or a Citrus plant, perhaps? At the very least, sit in the hottest spot in your garden and eat a Bounty.

Protect your crops from birds and wildlife

Unless you are planning to grow your fruit and veg. solely for their benefit. Use netting or wire cloches.

Plant up a pot

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And share the planting recipe with Friday Group in next week’s Zoom session.  Note down any cultivar names. Plantings can be real or virtual, but preferably real.  Take a photo now and another later in the season.

Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Until that weed over there in the corner catches your eye.

 

 

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