Friday 17th July 2020


Time to celebrate the end of a rather strange year for Garden House and Friday Group.  Zoom sessions will continue for another 4 weeks, but today is when we say our formal farewells.20200717_135807

So, open the gate….


And come on down into the garden


Let’s check out what’s flowering

Who knew, in September 2019, that “Zoom”, “social-distancing”, “virtual hugs” and “PPE” would become terms we’d acquire over the course of the year?


Actually, I did.

Never mind, let’s think about all the positives. It’s the summertime and the weather is fine. Some say there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues….but we beg to differ


A socially-distanced chat


Time to appreciate the garden


It’s in the pink!

And time to enjoy each other’s company


…not forgetting a little something to eat

…and drink


Here’s to all members, past and present

Now, what’s caught their attention?


Oh, another good story!


Then it’s time for…


The Speech


A celebration of Friday Group!

Au revoirs are always sad – please keep in touch


Some have been coming for years


We’ll miss them terribly!

Farewell for now


Happy summer all!

Be safe.

Friday 10th July 2020

This week, we Zoomed around another lovely garden owned by one of the infamous Friday Group. A real treat. Packed full of interest, from a clever trompe l’oeil effect to a great choice of fence and shed colours, to some wonderful/some weird scented plants. Loads of good ideas for us to take away and try in our own gardens. It’s all gravy! (Or, in our case, cake.)img_20200710_091749657_hdr

Initially, faced with a very traditional rectangular back garden, the owner attended Deborah Kalinke’s course in Garden Design, and then implemented changes. The rear garden is approached from a balcony with steps leading down – offering a change in perspective. A curving sinuous path went in, two grass circles surrounded by beds, a close-boarded fence was painted black (so good), and a mirrored “gate” was installed, which magically appears to open out into another area of garden. A veggie patch was created “all you can eat in 3 square feet”, the tiniest Mediterranean garden, a shady area, the smallest prairie garden in the south-east, a pebble pond, pots, a little greenhouse. Incredible.  And, a darling blue shed; the icing on the cake, and the owner’s pride and joy.img_20200710_122312958

We all want one

Plants a-plenty, of course. We expect nothing less from a long-standing F/G member. Highlights were: Wisteria – now heading for its second flowering of the year; the dry area planted with an Olive tree, Lemon thyme, Euphorbias, Salvias and a fabulous Jasmine; the vegetable area – Tomatoes, Carrots, climbing and dwarf French Beans, Cavolo Nero, Beetroot, Nasturtiums, Strawberries and a Crab Apple tree. And a mahoosive Rhubarb. And Peas growing up a trellis. How is it done? However it’s done, she goes on to do yet more in the shade – with Hart’s Tongue Fern and other varieties planted alongside Phlomis russeliana, Astilbes and Astrantias. Betula ‘Snow Queen’ also makes an appearance along with a dramatically impressive Dranunculus (sounds like Dracula’s uncle and, by all accounts, smells like him). Grasses and Thalictrums sway together in vertical harmony.

The Plant Ident. centred on five of the owner’s favourites:

Buddleia alternifoliaimg_20200604_175514

The slender branches of the Fountain butterfly bush have a weeping habit and are covered with soft purple or pink racemes of flowers in the early summer – flowering on the previous year’s stems. A hardy (A.G.M.) shrub, it will grow in sun or part shade, in pretty much any type of fertile soil, reaching around 4 m  x 4 m. Buddleias are magnets for wildlife – bees, moths, birds and butterflies – and are virtually mandatory in any naturalist’s garden. Probably in naturists’ gardens too, but perhaps for different reasons.

Malus ‘Laura’ img_20200425_182422

Crab apples are such rewarding trees to grow, giving interest over much of the year. Buds and flowers in spring and summer are followed by fruit which can be picked and enjoyed by humans and birds alike. ‘Laura’ is a small, deciduous tree with leaves which emerge as bronze/purple in spring but turn dark green by summer. The flowers are dark pink with lighter centres and remain on the tree for longer than regular apple trees. The crab apple fruits are maroon/dark red and can be used for making jelly, which has a red tint to it. Grows (slowly) to about 2.5 m., upright in habit, (haughty horticulturalists would say ‘fastigiate’), and doesn’t take up much space. A good choice for a small garden.


Speedwell is a tough, long-lived perennial which is deer resistant, drought tolerant and can cope with a range of soil types. There are many different varieties, and although the name of this particular cultivar is unknown, its vivid blue makes it invaluable both in the border and the vase. Attractive to pollinating insects, it satisfies any gardener’s demand for eco-credentials. Best in full sun.

Lupins (mixed)img_20200527_075603

If you can grow specimens like these, then you’d be mad not to. A traditional cottage-garden plant with pea-like flowers which are loved by bees (good) and slugs and snails (bad). Strong vertical spires in a range of mouth-watering colours. Grow in full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. Deadhead after flowering, and you may get another flush of flowers. Cut back to base in the autumn after seeds have formed. Often lupins will self-seed around naturally; alternatively, basal cuttings can be taken in spring.

Dranunculus vulgarisimg_20200602_191832

The Stink Lily – highly impressive and highly stinky. Has been described as ‘indispensable exotica’. The smell (like rotting flesh) attracts the type of flies it needs to pollinate it. Nice. Lovely colours though. About 1 m tall.

Rosa ‘Wedding Day’img_20200607_091508

A rambling rose that just loves to ramble higher and higher. This one rollicks about on a Lilac and is stunning when it flowers in May/June. Attractive hips are produced in abundance in October. Glossy, dark leaves offset the fragrant, white, single blooms which are borne in clusters. Stand back, as it can get to 10 m+.

Jobs for the week

Meanwhile, back at Garden House, the week’s tasks centre around weeding, watering, feeding, more weeding, staking, taking cuttings (especially of Salvias and Pelargoniums) and labelling. Sow Ipomoeas (Morning Glory) – it’s not too late – and maybe try for another crop of Sweet Peas. Veggies? Go for Pumpkins, Cavolo Nero, Spinach and Chard. They’re good for you. jeshoots-com-l8nlxbhwbw0-unsplash

Sow now for autumn fruition. You’ll reap the benefits.

Friday 3rd July 2020

How very exciting!  Over the course of the day, some Friday Groupers visited the garden in socially-distanced small groups. And found that summer had definitely arrived


Everything’s looking good


And we aren’t the only ones to have been Zooming recently. Look at this –


– and thisimg-20200708-wa0008-1

and these20200703_144816

 The first Act of summer is over20200703_143817

And Act 2 is about to commence20200703_143805

Take your seats

The succulents have already reserved their seating

The show must go on20200703_145708

and it does


Act 2’s happy ending20200703_144424

What a performance! Take a bow…20200703_143954

Act 3 to follow in due course

Meanwhile, unseen activity is going on quietly in the wings20200703_145015-2

Did fruit and veg make an appearance?

But of course!img-20200708-wa0016




And Currant affairs too20200703_144200-1

It wouldn’t be Friday Group without a Plant Ident. 

Salvia Amistadimg-20200709-wa0002

Introduced in 2012, a wonderful Salvia growing to around 1 m. Flowers until November and can remain in the ground over winter. Fabulous purple/blue flowers which look great in a vase, if you can bring yourself to cut them. A warm, sheltered site in full sun suits them best. Deadhead regularly to encourage more blooms. Cut back and mulch in autumn – they will survive most winters, except the one after you have invested in twelve of them.

Salvia microphylla ‘African Skies’20200703_160113

The microphyllas have smaller leaves, but are tough and generally hardy garden plants. Small light blue flowers are produced in quantity from summer through autumn. Dead heading prolongs the display of all Salvias. Prune in late autumn and mulch at the base. Grows well from cuttings.

Salvia microphylla ‘Nachtvlinder’20200709_172110

Translates as ‘Night Moth’. Soft violet/purple flowers. Very hardy in Brighton. Quite a shrubby microphylla and, again, easy to propagate. Take non-flowering cuttings from side shoots, remove the lower leaves and plant in compost. They will root in a few days. Sarah Raven recommends Salvia microphylla as a good underplanting for Roses to discourage disease and blackspot – referencing this cultivar in particular. Fairly drought tolerant once established.

Salvia greggii ‘Royal Bumble’20200703_160022

This one has containers buzzing – due both to the vibrancy of the red flowers and the fact that Salvias are rich in nectar and pollen and will attract insects. This one can tolerate a little shade, though Salvias are usually best grown in full sun.

Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’img-20200709-wa0003

Aromatic leaves, dark stems and striking magenta/pink flowers. Like ‘Amistad’ it’s a stately spectacle, attractive to insects and pollinators, and will flower from June to November. Got one? Get more.

Then there were some socially distant weeding tasks to be done

They look busy


Hmm, not so much…


Oh dear. The pressures of lockdown?


Colour co-ordination


Aeoniums , Angelica and Salvias


Fiery torches of Libertia


Fiery colours of Gazania


Hot stuff


We’ll be back

Friday 26th June 2020

Midsummer’s Day, and time to take stock of those shrubs which have finished flowering. One might say, “in June, we prune”. But why do it at all?
Pruning keeps shrubs tidy and within bounds; it shapes them; it removes the 3 Ds – damaged, diseased and dead material; it helps to maintain vigour in the plant, stimulating new growth; it promotes future fruiting and flowering. But it can be a daunting task for gardeners – some shrubs need barely any pruning, whilst others need cutting right back.  Where to start?  The main thing is to get to know your own plants well, to observe them closely, to learn when they flower and to know whether you are growing them for their flowers/stems/fruit/ foliage. All this will inform your pruning regime.
The basic rule is that early flowering shrubs, which flower before Midsummer’s Day, in spring and early summer, should generally be pruned immediately after flowering. So by mid June plants like Winter Jasmine, Forsythia, Kerria japonica and Ribes should already have been cut back to strong young shoots lower down. If not, do it now. The 3 Ds can also be removed. Other shrubs such as Weigela, and Philadelphus aureus are just finishing flowering around now, and need to be pruned before the end of the month. All these shrubs flower on growth made in the previous season, so over the rest of the year, they have time to grow this new material.
Forsythia intermedia
Philadelphus aureus
In contrast, late flowering shrubs – like Hydrangea, Sambucus nigra, Fuchsia magellicana, Summer-flowering Jasmine, Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’, and Perovskia – produce flowers made on the current season’s growth, and they should be pruned in March/April. These can be cut right back to a pair of buds close to the ground. If congested, 1 in every 3 stems can be taken out completely. Dogwoods are plants which also respond well to being cut back in late winter/early spring – lots of new stems follow with stunning, rich colours varying from yellow through to orange, red and green/black. Magnificent when grown in groups.
Sambucus nigra
Fuchsia magellicana
Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’
Cornus flaverimea
Some plants like to be cut really hard back – Buddleia is one and Eucalyptus another. Evergreens, on the other hand, may only need a light cut in early spring just to keep them in shape.  With short-lived shrubs like Lavender, Salvia and Rosemary, it’s very important not to cut into the old wood when pruning as this will kill them. Just cut back to the point where they flowered and go no further for now.
It should go without saying that all pruning equipment, be it secateurs, pruning saws or loppers, should be cleaned between each task, oiled and sharpened regularly. Polishing them is, frankly, just showing off. After pruning, always water, feed and mulch the shrub concerned. Poor thing, it’s had a shock.
So. Pruning. Part art, part science. Part knowledge, part experience. And, of course, part magic, part miracle. Simples.
Jobs for the week
Prune spring flowering shrubs
Refer to all the above, a good website, good books and other good gardeners.
Take cuttings of Lavender, Sage and Rosemary 
Harvest Lavender for drying. Cut back Sage (above), Rosemary and Lavender to about 5 cms below the faded flowers. (Don’t prune back any further until March)
Cut back any wispy Wisteria growths to 3 buds
From the main stem.
Dead-head annuals
For example, Sweet Peas – this promotes more flowers. Stake. Keep picking them too – so gratifying to be able to throw a handful of your home-growns into an old jam jar. Make sure you have it to hand every time you open the door to someone. ‘Oh, these? Yes, just picked. Charming, aren’t they?’
Pot up Chillies and Sweet Peppers and feed
Plant Chrysanthemums
In the greenhouse, once the Tomatoes have been moved out and there’s a bit of space.
Cut back hardy Geraniums
Once they have finished flowering. Most have by now. Feed and water to encourage fresh new growth, and, hopefully another later flush of flowers too.
Fill in any gaps with Salvias
They are a Good Thing under Roses as they seem to help prevent mildew and blackspot – particularly the small-leaved microphylla cultivars. (see Sarah Raven’s website on this).  It’s also a good time to take cuttings – free plants!
Surprise! Bet you didn’t expect that, did you?!
Cut back leaves of Pulmonarias 
And water them
Sow beans of the French and Runner varieties
These can be sown directly into the soil. Courgettes too.
Watch out for Vine Weevil
It’s evil