Friday 26th March 2021

We’re still zooming, while Garden House is blooming.

The Narcissi are having their moment

As are the Hyacinths. This one is ‘Woodstock’

Euphorbia euphoria

Plant ident.

There are changes afoot at the lower end of the Garden House garden (Box hedges removed due to blight; plans to remove part/all of the lawn; design for a new dry garden bed in process). So, this week’s focus was on plants suitable for dry gardens.

Dry, yes, but perhaps not quite as dramatic as this. We’re talking Sussex, not Arizona.

Beth Chatto’s ‘The Dry Garden’ and ‘The Gravel Garden’ are hugely informative on the topic. An award-winning plantswoman, author and lecturer, she spent years creating her renowned garden at Elmstead Market in Essex, an area known for low levels of rainfall. Her philosophy, ‘Right plant; right place’, is completely in tune with current thinking on sustainability and environmental concerns. Check out the website for loads of good information: https://www.bethchatto.co.uk/ And visit the gardens!

Cynara cardunculus

The Cardoon. What a splendidly architectural plant. A robust, herbaceous perennial whose glaucous foliage is a statement in itself, but the magnificent thistle-like purple flowers, which appear in late summer and autumn, are the icing on the cake. They resemble Globe Artichokes. Cuttings can be taken from side shoots. Can grow up to 2.5 m; attracts bees and, unfortunately, blackfly. Spectacular in a pot or in the border. A.G.M. – and no wonder.

Convolvulus cneorum

Evergrey, pretty and vigorous, this half-hardy Convolvulus is a good doer and a stalwart in the dry garden. Can be hacked back annually to keep it bushy and restrained, and cuttings are easy to take and root. Pruned to shape now, it will spread to provide good ground cover. Lovely leaves and delicate pollen-rich flowers which may look like bindweed, but, thankfully, are not! Attracts bees. Full sun. 60 cms h. x 90 cms w. A.G.M.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

Wormwood. It seems that absinthe is derived from Artemisia. A concept now being tested by Friday Group, solely in the name of reesearchhhshh, you unnershtand. An excellent plant, evergrey, silvery and soft. It needs cutting back now, as it grows quickly, and will become woody without pruning. Cut above the new, fresh buds, and avoid going back into the old wood. A.G.M.

Erodium pelargonifolium

Another gorgeous asset to a dry border. Heronsbill belongs to the Geraniaceae family along with two other species, Pelargoniums (Storksbills) and Geraniums (Cranesbills). It’s a woody-based perennial and has pretty apple-green leaves on long stalks. The 5-petalled flowers are white with the two uppermost petals carrying purple markings. Often used in alpine troughs and rockeries, it prefers gritty, neutral/alkaline soils. Flowers forever and will seed around. Stunning! 30 x 30 cms

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’

A lovely thing, this compact, everblue, ornamental perennial grass. The needle-like leaves become more intensely silvery/blue-green in full sun. Low-growing, it forms neat mounds and produces spikes of blue-green flowers over the summer months. Comb through in the winter to remove dead foliage. Grows in most soils. 30 cms x 30 cms. A.G.M.

Topic for the week:

Planning a planting scheme for a dry garden

Many thanks, once again, to Liz McCullough for generously sharing her knowledge and work with us. Her handout helped us to think about the importance of how many plants might be necessary to make an impact in a planting scheme, and how they might be used to greatest effect. Odd numbers seem to work best.

We were tasked to select around 5 species of plants which would be good to include in a dry garden of about 1.2 x 2.4 m. Here are some of the ideas we came up with – we were quite generous with the plants!

First of all:

Featuring: Stipa tenuissima (see it billowing below), Ballota pseudodictamnus, Eschscholzia californica and Festuca glauca.

And here we have:

Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’, Hyssop officinalis f. albus, Erodium pelargonifolium and Geranium malviflorum. Respect to the artist.

The third group suggested:

Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ x 1  (h 1.2 x w 1.0); Achillea ‘Credo’ x 3 (1.2 x 0.5); Stipa gigantea  x 1 (2.5 x 1.2);  Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ x 20  (1.0 ) (see below);  Verbena bonariensis x 2  (0.45 x 0.2); Erodium pelargonifolium x 3  (0.3 x 0. 3)     

 And the fourth:

A purple, blue, grey and white colour scheme, featuring the lovely violet Verbena bonariensis together with Stipa tenuissima; Stachys byzantinus; Gaura lindheimeri; Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’

Group five presented:

Stipa tenuissima, Calamantha nepeta ‘Blue Cloud’, Dianthus carthusianorum, Sedum matrona (or similar)Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’. (And white iris at the back because they’re already there (see below), as well as a few random purple alliums…)

Number six was in favour of:

Olea europaea; Helictotrichon sempervirens x 3; Knautia macedonica x 3; Agastache ‘Blackadder’ x 3. Thymes and/or Oregano plants to be added at the front of the border. Extra house points awarded for coming up with the first two items…

The seventh and final contribution:

Stipa gigantea (see below); Verbena rigida; Lavendula; Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’; Allium ‘Globemeister’; Iris. Plus, possibly, Geraniums. This group clearly had their minds set on a bigger site and garden.

The plant shopping list just gets longer

Jobs for the week:

Sow Beetroot in modules in clumps; sow lettuces and salad leaves. Sow Courgettes.

Sow carrot seeds

Easier in raised beds. Try ‘Rainbow Mix’ for different coloured carrots. (It might even make eating the things more interesting.)

Sow Broad Beans under cloches

Them, not you. Unless you have a cloche hat. That would be natty.

Sadly, this is more likely…

Sow Tagetes ‘Burning Embers’ and Ricinus seeds (toxic!)

Start to plant out hardy annuals

Although, do keep an eye on the weather. Use canes to support plants as they grow away

Feed Snowdrops after flowering

This will help to feed the bulbs for next year’s performance. At Garden House, we use a liquid seaweed feed

Tiptoe through the Tulips

Take time to enjoy them

Cut down Cornus stems to promote strong coloured stems next year

– and for goodness sake, do be creative with the prunings. These Cornus plants are looking fabulous, emphasising the green theme and contrasting beautifully with the bright yellows.

Above all, remember where you hid those Easter eggs in the garden. Unless, of course, you’re purposely trying to save them for another day.

Under the Cornus mas?

Maybe in the watering can?

And now we March into April

Happy Easter

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