FRIDAY 21st MAY2021

We’re back!

Not at all excited or anything….but breakfast bubbles were the order of the day

We could get used to this

Caption competition?

“Thank you, Jeeves. That will be all.”

The Winner!

Who knew that prosecco could be such a stimulant to conversation and gardening?

There’s a lot to catch up on as we can see

And cakes? Steady now…

Maybe later. For now, let’s get on with the

Plant ident

Iris germanica

Currently the stars of the show. Blooming marvellous.

Bearded irises are statuesque, evergreen perennials with narrow, grey/green, sword-shaped leaves and erect stems. The latter carry three large, dropping petals, ‘falls’, and three smaller, upright, ‘standard’ petals in late spring. There is a yellow ‘beard’ in the centre of the flower, which guides insects towards the pollen. Best in full sun on well-drained alkaline to neutral soils (chalk, loam or sand).

Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’

This tough Hardy Geranium is a great doer in the garden and will happily self-seed around – particularly into cracks on terraces. A good cultivar, it has red stems and a profusion of eye-catching, small, bright purple flowers. Attractive to butterflies. Much appreciated at Garden House. Grow in sun or shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Geranium macrorrhizum

A semi-evergreen Cranesbill which flourishes best in shady positions – even in dry shade. It has pink/purple flowers which emerge on long stems above shapely, aromatic leaves. Reliable and easy, these are very useful plants, the foliage also having the benefit of turning red in the autumn. Plants will bulk up to provide good ground cover and act as an effective weed suppressant.

Rosa ‘Bengal Crimson’

A chinensis shrub Rose which legendarily flowers for 365 days of the year in the Chelsea Physic Garden. And 366 in a leap year! Single, crimson flowers contrast with healthy, glossy green leaves. Robust and compact – and loved by many.

Anthemis punctata subsp. cupaniana

This will be a must-have plant for the new dry garden at Garden House as it grows quickly to make a sprawling mound of ebullient white daisies with finely-cut silver-grey foliage. Good on walls and terraces as it will drape itself attractively over them. Light, well-drained soil in full sun.

Akebia quinata

Aka the Chocolate Vine or Five-leaf Akebia. A fabulous, twining climber, which can become quite vigorous, so needs to be kept in check. Fragrant, deep purple/chocolate- coloured flowers emerge along dangling racemes. Exotic! If it cross pollinates with a neighbouring Akebia, it may produce sausage-shaped fruit after flowering. Semi-evergreen. Needs warmth. As do we.

The Chelsea Chop

Now that we have all become adept hairdressers over lockdown, we can put our newly-acquired skills into practice in the garden. Time for the Chelsea Chop. A process of cutting back herbaceous perennials in late May to avoid ‘floppage’ and achieve better flowers later in the summer. This pruning method can be applied to complete clumps of plants to delay flowering, or just to some of them, to spread flowering over a longer period.

Phlox, Penstemons, Achilleas Asters and Sedums all respond well to this treatment. Using clean, sharp secateurs, make a sloping cut just above a leaf joint, removing about one third of the stem. Horticulturally-speaking, you are removing the apical dominance of the plant. Hem hem.

Jobs for the Week

Plant Tomatoes using the ring culture method

The ring culture pot is put into the ground in the greenhouse, flush with the soil. Tomato plants are planted deeply into the centre of the pot. Water can be poured into the reservoir surrounding the central pot. When applying dilute feed (once a week, when the first trusses develop), this can go directly onto the plant. This will encourage the plants to produce more feeder roots from their stems, resulting in vigorous, productive plants.

By wrapping twine around the base of each plant and then tying it onto a cane near the roof of the greenhouse, you have a ready-made twining/support system for your cordon Tomatoes. If you don’t know how to tie a slipknot, now is the time to learn.

Or, you can always talk to an expert…

Pinch out the ‘hairy armpits’ in each Tomato’s leaf axils, or you will have a jungly vine on your hands. Pinch out the tops of the plants once five or six trusses have set.

Work on the herb bed

Cut back Parsley

Plant Rainbow Chard

Weed and water

Make time for coffee and cake

Carrot cake for those concerned about their 5-a-day

Chocolate cake for those less concerned about their 5-a-day

And tea cake for everyone else

We’re thinking about entering The Great British Bake Off, although maybe The Great British Rake Off would be a better bet.

Pot on mini Pumpkins

These Tromboncino and Jill-Be-Little varieties will take over from the Sweet Peas once the latter have finished flowering. They’ll love clambering up the wigwam structures.

Plant Nerine Lilies for autumn flowering

Make sure the tops of the bulbs are visible; Nerines are from South Africa and they will need to bake in the summer sun. Some of these will be bright pink and some white.

Sow biennials

Foxgloves, Honesty, Angelica, Sweet Rocket – all can be sown now for flowers next year.

Work in the Pelargonium Palace

Feed Pelargoniums with a dilute seaweed solution; remove any damaged or dead plant material; tidy. Take the darlings out for an airing. Use a perambulator if necessary.

Plant out Beetroot ‘Chioggia’ seedlings

Can be planted out a handspan apart in small clumps. Plant in well-prepared beds. Water carefully; label. Let them grow on and pick when small.

Summer Containers

Plant up from now on to ensure a dramatic summer backdrop. Tender perennials and annuals in all sorts of combos. They’re going to be stunning.

Summer awaits

FRIDAY 14th MAY 2021

This may be our last session in mini groups. Is it really possible? Could there be cake and coffee on the horizon? Excitement mounts.

Any chance of sardines?

Full steam ahead in the garden to prepare for a magnificent opening on 18th June for the National Garden Scheme. 11.30 – 4.30. Pre-booking available, or just turn up on the day. Not to be missed!

Plant ident

Teucrium fruticans

Also known as Tree Germander. In the Lamiaceae (mint) family, Teucrium has lavender-blue, salvia-like flowers and small, soft, silver-grey leaves. A woody, evergreen shrub which spreads; it’s easy to take cuttings from. Best in a sunny spot in neutral to alkaline soil. Fab for bees and butterflies as it is long-flowering and pollen/nectar-rich.

Smyrnium perfoliatum

Sometimes mistaken for a Euphorbia, this hardy, biennial umbellifer is actually a member of the Apiaceae family and produces brilliant lime-green/ yellow flowers in late spring. Best in dappled shade, where it glows. Once established, it will seed itself around, but can be tricky to establish!

Geranium pyrenaicum

The clue is in the name – it’s originally from the Pyrenees. A marvellous self-seeder, and one which will be welcome all over the garden. Easily removed if it becomes overly keen on moving in with you. If you cut it down after flowering, it will regrow to flower again later in the season.

Anisodontea capensis

From the Malvaceae family, an attractive and very long-flowering evergreen sub-shrub. Upright in habit, it has vivid pink flowers which can last from spring right through to the first frosts. The flowers have magenta centres and delicately-veined markings. Butterflies and bees love this plant, as does the gardener who has it, because it is drought and heat tolerant, and requires little maintenance. Full sun or very light shade suit it best. Grows to 0.6 – 0.9 m. A.G.M. Surely it must be a solid contender for the planned dry garden here at Garden House?

Today’s tasks

Following discussions about the proposed design for the dry garden, it was decided that paths should be widened from 1 m to 1.2 m to allow for ‘floppage’. (A technical term, probably requiring little, if any, explanation.) The seating areas will be similarly enlarged.

Euphorbia demonstrating extreme floppage

One job for today was to use canes and string to mark out the entrances/exits to the dry garden, and also the circles, to get a 3D view of the plan.

The team sprang into action

Creating holes deep enough for the canes

Take copious notes

Jobs for the week

Direct sow seeds

Now that we have nearly reached the magic date of 15th May, when all danger of frost has gone, (has it?), seeds can now be sown directly into the soil. (Possibly not quite yet warm enough for Tomatoes to be outside.) Half-hardy annuals can be planted out once they have been hardened off, and there is a break in the rain. Beds need to be really well prepared. To ensure success, it’s a case of tilth the filth, squirt the dirt, sow and hoe. Simples.

Replace winter/spring pot displays with summer plantings

They’ve been wonderful,

but time moves on…

Pot on those pellies; grow-on those Argyranthemums; find fillers, thrillers and spillers. It’s all hands to the deck, emptying out pots whose displays are now past their best. Plant flowered bulbs out into the garden, save anything which can be re-used and gird your loins for next season’s show. Hopefully it will look something like this:

That’s if it ever decides to stop raining

Friday 7th May 2021

The April/May flower show continues…

Prim perfection from Primula auricula

Plant ident.

Saxifraga x urbium

We know it better by its common name – London Pride – it comes from the same family as Heucheras and Bergenias, Saxifragaceae. A delightful little evergreen perennial, forming a spreading carpet of crinkle-edged rosettes, making it a good choice for ground cover. Best described by The Pink Wheelbarrow in this hyphenated masterpiece: ‘One of the most ground-hugging, low-growing, weed-smothering, bomb-proof plants you could have in the garden’. Fair enough. Pink/white flower panicles emerge from mid spring to summer, carried on long stems. Full sun to partial shade. Propagates easily; just pull up a rosette or two with a bit of root, and plant immediately. Garden House rating: Top Stuff.

Hesperis matronalis

Check out the frothy beauty of this biennial. Sweet Rocket smells as good as its name implies (especially in the evenings), and looks just gorgeous shimmering in dappled sunlight. It’s enough to make you go all poetic. Its white or purple flowers look very similar to those of Honesty. Deadheading will prolong the flowering period, but do let some plants go to seed as they will self-sow around the garden, choosing better places to grow than any mere mortal would think of. Any aspect will do; prefers lighter, well-drained soils.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’

Another member of the Brassicaceae family – evidenced by the 4-petalled flowers. And this cultivar of Honesty is a real wowser. Deep, dark purple, almost chocolate coloured leaves contrast with luminous lilac flowers. Biennial. Come autumn, they will produce attractive translucent seed-heads, which look wonderful in the garden as well as in indoor arrangements. Will self-seed happily. Likes moist, well-drained soil in part shade. Good for bees, butterflies and moths.

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

From the Borage family, this cultivar of Brunnera has frosted heart-shaped leaves and small bright blue flowers reminiscent of Forget-me- Nots. (That’s Myosotis, in case you had actually forgotten, which is also in the Borage family.) An evergreen perennial, it flowers from April to May. Likes moisture-retentive soil and once it is established, it will spread to provide beautiful ground cover. Partial to full shade. Brilliant in a woodland setting, so start planting trees now.

Allium neapolitanum ‘Cowanii

Another clever filler to bridge the gap between spring and summer perennials. Bride’s Garlic / Naples Garlic is a bulbous, herbaceous perennial which will tolerate poor and dry soils and has distinctive white umbels with star-shaped flowers. Sweetly scented, even though it’s a member of the Onion family, attractive to bees and lasts for ages when cut. Good in pots. Looks good grown with purple or blue Dutch Irises in a hot, dry border.

I’m glad that’s over with. Can we get on to the practical stuff now?

Now really, Puss. Have you been paying attention? What was that white flower, for instance?

What, this white one here?

I think you’ll find that is ‘Allium Cowanii’

Perfect, Puss!

The Dry Garden

Gradually, gradually things are coming together, falling apart, then coming together again. Measurements taken; plants schemed of, dreamed of; functions of areas established; flow considered; seating and tables – hmmm; landscaping materials chosen, discarded, reconsidered. It’s a process. The design progresses and the next rough drawing has been done by Liz.

And it looks like this –

Looking good

Hosepipes laid out on the ground are a good way to assess the general layout of beds and seating areas. That’s hosepipes, not hornpipes.

First, wrestle your hosepipe to the ground

I think the hosepipe’s winning…

Jobs for the week

The focus is on sowing seeds, pricking out and potting on. It’s all go. Don’t forget to water your babies. Harden them off gradually. It’s still cold out there, so don’t be in too much of a hurry to plant out half-hardy annuals.

Pot on Stipa tenuissima plants

Prick out rooted cuttings of Santolinas

These rooted very quickly. Remove any flowers which have formed, and cut back by about one third. Prick out into small individual pots.

Dead-head Tulips once flowering is over

They will benefit from a liquid seaweed feed at this stage, before the foliage dies back.

Summer pots

Start to prepare pots for their summer plantings. Remove bulbs which have finished flowering and plant into grass, borders or under hedges.

Keep going

It’s worth it

Friday 30th April 2021

We’re gradually moving out of lockdown. Won’t be long before hotels will be able to welcome back visitors…

This hotel can’t wait

And, with May around the corner, the time of blossom is upon us

Even the espaliered fruit is in flower

It’s a zingy, springy thingy

Plant ident.

NemesiaSundae Blueberry Ice’

A top tender perennial, usually grown as an annual, particularly brilliant to use in containers. Buy one and get loads free by taking plenty of cuttings (cut below a leaf joint). Takes root easily. The blueberry-coloured snapdragon-like flowers are scented. Full sun and well-drained soil. Pinching out the growing tips will encourage a bushy habit.

There are plenty of Nemesia cultivars – there’s a particularly good white variety which smells of vanilla. Delicious, delightful, delovely. We call it Nemesia ‘Lizii’, because our Friday Friend Liz introduced it to Garden House, but it’s probably Nemesia ‘Wisley Vanilla’.

Pulsatilla rubra

The Red Pasque Flower is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial which flowers in early to mid-spring. It produces beautiful, wine-coloured flowers on short stems, at the centre of which is a circle of bright golden-yellow stamens. Good in alpine sinks, where its feathery filigree delicacy can really be appreciated up close, and also in rockeries. Spreads happily. Likes full sun or partial shade.

Aubrieta ‘Hamburger Stadtpark’

There’s nothing wrong in giving time and space to some of these rather old-fashioned plants; they have been popular for decades for good reason. Great ground cover, and reliable and prolific flowering from early to late spring make these great garden stalwarts. Members of the Brassicaceae family, as indicated by their cruciferae flowers with 4 petals, they are evergreen and mat-forming. This one is Aubrieta ‘Hamburger Stadtpark’, a gorgeous purple/deep mauve. Cut back after flowering to encourage dense, compact growth. Suitable for rock gardens, containers and for trailing down walls and banks. Height and spread around 10 x 30 cms

Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Valerie Finnis’

Named by Beth Chatto after the remarkable Valerie Finnis, who taught at Waterperry Horticultural School for Women and helped to make it a highly respected and prestigious establishment. She was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1975 by the RHS.

This is a semi-eversilver perennial grown for its fantastic aromatic foliage. Much used in dry garden plantings, as it likes a light well-drained soil in full sun. 70 x 60 cms. A.G.M.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’

Another very attractive Artemisia, which can get leggy if not clipped back regularly. Its foliage is finer and more feathery than A. ludoviciana, but it is also aromatic and equally good in a hot sunny border – or even in a container. Cut back hard in the autumn.

Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’

A Marmite plant. You either love it or you hate it. Grown for its leaves, which are maroon with darker maroon and white markings and held on bright red stems. Looks particularly good when grown next to plants with a contrasting colour – perhaps one of the Artemisias above. Its foliage looks good in late spring/early summer, provided the soil doesn’t dry out. Then it can just look messy and dessicated. Great name though. Roots very easily – even in a glass of water.

Progressing the Dry Garden

Liz brought us up to speed on what’s happening. The area has been measured carefully and the plants which are to remain have been mapped. Discussions as to the final shape are ongoing, but this is one of the possibilities –

There’s a lot to think about: the functions of different areas, shapes, destinations, path surface materials… A list of suitable plants has been compiled, and Liz has checked heights/colour/flowering period. Check this out for painstaking work!

There are three pages of this, no less. Let’s hope it’s not too breezy today, or she’ll be three sheets to the wind.

Today’s job is to check and note down how many plants we already have for the dry garden – and of which type.

There are quite a few, and this is just the tip of the iceberg

Topic for the week

There are many seedlings and plants which need potting on; Bridge gave us a Masterclass in exactly how to go about this.

Not a magic wand. A dibber.

Fill your chosen pot or tray right up to the top with peat-free compost. Make sure it is only a little larger than the container your plant is currently occupying. Strike off any overflowing compost with your hand. Remove the plant or seedling carefully, holding it by a leaf, not by its stem. (It has several leaves, but only 1 stem!) Using a dibber, make a hole in the centre of the pot, big enough to take the plant, and gently settle it into its new home. Make certain the roots have room to drop into the hole, and be sure to plant deeply – right up to the first set of true leaves. Tap the pot to settle the compost carefully around the transplanted seedling – there’s no need to press hard down on the surface!

Don’t forget to water (very gently) and remember to add that label!

Sometimes seedlings get rather leggy. What to do? Lay the seedling on the surface of the compost with the root out behind; lift the plant up by a leaf

then fold the stem of the seedling gently into the prepared hole.

Tuck the roots in behind, and push them down carefully. Again, plant deeply. Essentially, you are ‘folding’ the seedling. Sounds harsh, but it should grow on perfectly well.

Hey presto!

Jobs for the week

Prick out seedlings and pot on plants as necessary. We potted on Nasturtium ‘Tip Top Rose’, as the seedlings are jostling for more living space

And, of course, we did a ‘Tip Top’ job!

Quality control this week was provided by…..


Replant alpine sinks

The utmost delicacy is required for this kind of work

Planting herbs

Check all is shipshape in the greenhouse

Aye, aye Captain

Work in the veg garden

Stake Broad Beans

Oooh! Crimson-Flowered Broad Beans?

Plant out lettuces

No sign that Peter Rabbit has been in this garden

Let’s zoom in on those Radishes

One does relish a good Radish

Harvesting. The best bit!

Fabulous Tulips, in fruit salad colours