Friday 13th November 2020

This looks like something from the pages of Country Living. Guess the fruit.

Ponicirus trifoliata, of course. 5 points to Gryffindor!

Aka the Hardy Orange, or, Japanese Bitter Orange. Shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a trugful here at G/H, where all things ‘japonica’ are much appreciated. This brings us smoothly on to the –

Plant Ident.

Prunus ‘Tai-Haku’

Where our first item just happens to be, arguably, the most beautiful of all Japanese Cherry trees, the Great White Cherry. The cultivar had apparently died out in Japan and was thought to be extinct, until a single specimen was found growing in a Sussex garden in the 1920s. Reintroduced to Japan by the remarkable Collingwood Ingram, all ‘Tai- Hakus’ owe their existence to that single one. Someone should make a film about it. There’s already a book: ‘Cherry’ Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms’ by Naoko Abe.

Highly recommended, perhaps too large for a small garden, but such a beautiful all-year tree. Gorgeous spring blossom, good bark, ablaze with colour in the autumn. Officially fantastic. One could imagine serenading it with that classic, “My Cherry Amour”

The Great White Cherry, dressed for spring in the Garden House garden

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

Another superb, deciduous tree, which comes into its own in the autumn/winter when it reveals its elegant pyramidal shape and stunning white bark. Catkins and fresh green leaves appear in the spring; as the season progresses, they turn yellow/toffee-brown and golden before falling. Looks great planted in small groups, or as a specimen on its own. Can be grown as a single trunk or multi-stemmed tree. Grows to around 10 m. in most soils, provided they are well-drained.

That dazzling white bark

Abelia grandiflora

Highly regarded at Garden House, this evergreen shrub has a graceful arching habit and lovely, glossy, deep green leaves. Very long-flowering, it bears small, scented, trumpet-like flowers from summer onward. In some locations it can be slightly tender and semi-evergreen, but is fine in Brighton. Grows to about 2 – 3 metres, it can be cut back / shaped after flowering. A good border plant.

Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

Frequently used by garden designers, the cut-leaved Black Elder has very finely dissected foliage which can work as a dramatic foil to other plantings – particularly those featuring golds or yellows. Pollen / nectar- rich, pink flower heads form in early summer, (those of the Common Elder are white), and are attractive to pollinators. Red/black elderberries follow. In spring, the shrub should be cut hard back to the ground; this will promote vigorous growth and better leaves. Easy from hardwood cuttings, and grows in most soils – even very chalky ones.

Cyclamen persicum

Delightful to see planted in containers in the garden now, creating interest from autumn through the winter. Try planting them with ivies to demonstrate the elegant sophistication of your horticultural savoir faire.

Cyclamen hederifolium

Another Cyclamen cultivar, ivy-leaved cyclamen is the most widespread of the species. Hardy and vigorous, this tuberous perennial blooms in the autumn. Best in part shade, will self-seed freely and loves an annual dollop of leaf mould.

Amsonia hubrichtii

Mentioned in dispatches on 6th November, the Amsonia is worth a repeat plug this week as it continues to glow away in the chalk soil in Brighton. Great autumn colour from this herbaceous perennial.

Garden Styles

Moving on from last week’s discussion about the use of colour in the garden, we considered the many and various garden styles currently in vogue. Once again we were assisted and informed by an essay written by Liz McCullough. Huge thanks to her.

Our mission, which we accepted, was to decide on a design type which had influenced us in terms of our gardening, and then think of a tree, a shrub and a perennial consistent with that style, which we might go on to use in our own gardens.

Styles included: cottage; Mediterranean; contemporary urban; exotic/architectural; wildlife-friendly; courtyard; coastal; woodland; prairie-style; vegetable/fruit-based; naturalistic; eclectic; art/sculpture-based. Some members of Friday Group seemed to be sticking with impressive resolve to just one design theme, whilst others had two, three or all elements! Below are a few of our ideas.

Strangely, no one went for the possibility of the full landscape option. No idea why. We’re all perfectly Capable.

We agreed it’s necessary to work with the hand nature has dealt you. Think about the soil, environment and conditions you have, and aim to grow the Right Plants in the Right Place.

The Exotic Garden

Additional plantings might include a Dicksonia antarctica, Fatshedera lizei and Echiums. Perhaps a Musa basjoo (Hardy Banana), Tetrapanax and a Jasmine or Passion Flower. Nurseries such as the Big Plant Nursery at Ashington and Architectural Plants near Pulborough are invaluable.

The Prairie Garden

Perhaps Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam) with grasses such as Stipa gigantea and Calamagrostis x acutiflora’Karl Foerster’ together with Rudbeckias. Visit Sussex Prairie Gardens to get your socks blown off.

The Woodland/Naturalistic Garden

Malus sylvestris (Crab Apple), Ferns and Wood Anemones and/or Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’. The Beth Chatto Gardens near Colchester are a must.

The Cottage Garden

An Apple or Holly tree, a rambling Rose and Ceratostigma plumbaginoides or Aquilegia formosa would perfectly accentuate this theme. Visit Alfriston Clergy House or Charleston to experience this type of garden.

The Wildlife Garden

Betula utilis jacquemontii or a Crab Apple, Guelder Rose, Gaura lindheimeri and Echinaceas. Or, maybe, Cratageus (Hawthorn), Lavender, Rosemary and Nepeta. According to Dave Goulson (a wildlife garden guru) this has to be the future of gardening, or we are lost.

Jobs for the week

Cut back any dead herbaceous plants which are looking messy. Leave plants and their seed heads where appropriate. (The birds will love you.)

Divide perennials and replant or you can always give some clumps away. (Your family and friends will love you.)

Chrysanthemum ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’

Resolve to grow Chrysanthemums next year

On that note, look around the garden and consider what plants you might need in future at this time of year. Here are a couple of possibilities.

Mahonia japonica

Sorbus hupehensis


Still not too late to order and plant bulbs in the garden. At Garden House over 1,000 have been planted recently – entirely without the aid of Friday Group, but with the aid of the indispensible, but rather frighteningly horrible, hori hori knife.

And, by the way, how are those forced bulbs getting on after all this time? We’re really rooting for their success.

My goodness. They’re rooting for us too

A pity that the Crocus bulbs aren’t doing the same. Those darn squirrels have been at it again. The battle is lost, but the war has only just begun.

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