Friday 11th december 2020

Grey and drizzly, but we ain’t grizzly. Frizzy, maybe – but that’s down to moisture in the air and hair. It’s Friday, and time for Friday Group!

And, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Wreaths are being wrought

And anything that stays still long enough, like these Artichoke heads, is getting sprayed

So keep moving

Plant ident.

The focus is on plants that die well. They have the benefit of extending interest in the garden over the winter months. Asters and Dahlias, for example, do not for the most part die well. They tend to go all squelchy as soon as a frost hits them. Hydrangeas and Sedums, on the other hand, are models of how to die a good death. As are many grasses and other perennials.

Garden designers such as Piet Oudolf demonstrated the use of these plants in the New Perennial Movement, which he pioneered. (His book ‘Designing with Plants’ is highly recommended.) These prairie-style plants are typified by their ability to hold onto their structure and seedheads as they fade and die back. Frosts and snow merely add to their charm, and they will also be beneficial to birds and other wildlife. They should not be cut back until late winter/early spring.


Black-eyed Susan are marvellous perennials which flower over a long period, and have seed heads which continue to provide interest well into the winter. They look magnificent when planted in swathes amongst the vivid green of a grass such as Sesleria, and are used extensively at the Sussex Prairies Garden. There are many cultivars – this one is Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii. Bright yellow, daisy-like flowers bloom in late summer to autumn. The cone-shaped black-brown centres continue to be held aloft long after the petals fall.


Fyi, they have changed their name, and are now known as Hylotelephium. There should be a law against it. There is a huge variety of Stonecrops, from alpines to large border cultivars. The latter are the ones which are noteworthy for their skeleton stems and flower heads which persist through until spring, when they can be cut back. Planted in full sun, they will tolerate drought and combine well with most other perennials. Tough, easy to grow and invaluable.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Yakushima Dwarf

The nursery Perfect Plantings believes that Miscanthus is the King of grasses. Full sun, any soil, they produce fabulously wafty (technical term) flower heads which last well into the winter. Sparkling in the frost or with dew on them. Not invasive. Hardy and reliable. They give height and structure and also look good in fresh and dried flower arrangements. There are many cultivars to choose from; ‘Yakushima Dwarf’ is about 0.6 m tall and one of the smaller, more compact varieties. Produces pinkish-brown flower plumes from late summer. A joy!

Eryngium planum

The Sea Holly. Here’s one that’s been sprayed earlier. Loves coastal areas, a hot and dry location and a dry, sandy soil. This one is E. planum bourgatii, and, when not covered in silver, it has variegated leaves. If one were more poetic, one would describe them as ‘elegantly marbled with broad, silvery white veins’. Eryngiums have the most beautiful, vivid metallic-blue flowers surrounded by blue/green stiff bracts. A famous cultivar is E. ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’, reputedly sown secretly by the eponymous lady when she visited gardens.


Allium schubertii

It’s HUGE! And the seedheads look like exploding fireworks. Clearly, they need plenty of room in the garden to display their elegant expansiveness to the full. Pick the dried stems, if you can bear to, and spray them for magnificent table decorations or flower arrangements. Plant now for an outstanding garden performance next year.

Allium christophii

Another big ‘un. Grows to around 50 cms. A denser seed head than schubertii, but just as magnificent. Awe and wonder in bucketfuls.

Jobs for the week

If the above inspires you to look more closely at the possibilities out there in your garden, you will find yourself happily picking and spraying from now until Christmas. Gold, silver, white – or go colourtastic. Try Iris sibirica seedheads as well as those of Fennel, Poppies – heck, even mini gourds left over from the autumn. And how about Broad Bean pods? Dry them out thoroughly, have a spray-play-day and enjoy.

Plant Allium bulbs in quantity

For maximum pleasure next year

Ditto Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ bulbs

Dog’s Tooth Violet. Best to keep your dog’s teeth (and paws) away from them. Plant in partial shade and humus-rich fertile free-draining soil.

Pot on cuttings

These are Pelargoniums, now ready to be moved on into individual pots.

Creating more and more new plants for next year

Check round the garden

Sweep up leaves to make leaf mould. Make sure plants are not drowning in pots standing in saucers full of rainwater


Plant Raspberry canes

These are Raspberry ‘Tutameen Pearl’

Soak bare-rooted Raspberry canes to hydrate the roots before planting. Cut back to around 25 cms.

Cast an eye over the vegetable plot

The fluffy green fronds of Florence Fennel. Mr McGregor would be proud. And just check out that Chard in the background! More an art form than a vegetable


Wrap up tender plants tenderly in horticultural fleece

Tidy up in the greenhouse

And put the newly potted on seedlings in there to get established

Winter salads should be growing away happily for your delectation. Sow any spare seeds that remain to ensure salad days ahead

All is hunky dory in the Pelargonium Palace

Enjoy all that is still thriving

Salvias and Rhodochiton are still flowering away in the garden

Adopt a vigorous pose

It will fill you with purpose and energy in these difficult times. As demonstrated:

Well done; that’s perfect!

Well, 2020 has been a tough year for everyone. But thank goodness for Friday Group. It’s been marvellous!

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness

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