Friday 17th September 2021

We’ve only just started our autumn sessions, and already we’re thinking about next year’s plantings. These are some fantastic Stocks, with cool evergrey-silver foliage, whose blissful scent we’ll enjoy in 2022.

Plant ident.

This week it’s all about half-hardy, annual climbers. Useful, exciting, dramatic and well worth a go. These begin and end their life-cycle over a twelve-month period; being half-hardy, means they can’t be planted out in the garden until all danger of frost has passed. They are generally sown in the spring and the pots are placed on heat to germinate.

Thunbergia alata ‘Sunny Suzy Brownie’

The Black-Eyed Susan Vine is a great choice if you need to cover an ugly fence or wall quickly; a twining climber, it will need support. In the summer months it produces very pretty dark orange-red flowers. Grow in a sunny position for best results, remembering to water and feed regularly. H. 2m

Rhodochiton atrosanguineus ‘Purple Bells’

Sow seeds very early (in February) on heat. (Rhodochiton needs a long growing season.) A glamorous climber, which excites a lot of interest both for its bell-like flowers and its tendril-like stems with heart-shaped foliage. Originating from Mexico, it can hang downwards from a balcony, or clamber upwards from pots. Treated as a half-hardy, acrobatic annual in this country (for obvious reasons), it could be considered a tender perennial if kept somewhere sheltered and warm over winter. The obvious answer is to build an orangery. A.G.M. Full sun, any soil. H. 3m

Something like this would do

The Rhodochitons currently performing at Garden House came from seeds collected from last year’s plants. Just saying.

Cobaea scandens

Another one from Mexico which also needs sowing very early in the year – in fact those at Garden House were sown in January. Sow the seeds on their sides to discourage rotting off. They start off their lives growing with quiet innocence, looking so encouraging in their green lushness. By the end of the autumn, they are a chaotic mess, unless trained by a strict disciplinarian. Sarah Raven grows hers over arches at the entrance to Perch Hill, where the white or purple bells of the Cup and Saucer plant dangle down to welcome visitors. However they are grown they are wonderful, as they are fabulously tendrilled creatures with surreal, exotic flowers. A.G.M. Full sun, any soil. H. 10m!

Ipomoea lobata

Spanish flag (its flowers are red and creamy yellow) is a terrific climber and another which will provoke envious glances. Related to bindweed (although its flowers don’t resemble those of that blasted Morning Glory we all know and hate) and to the Sweet Potato, it is in the Convolvulaceae family. Grow in full sun, either in a border or up a teepee of canes in a large pot. H. 5m. Stunning.

Sowing Seeds

Now is the time to get on with sowing hardy annuals, which we’ll be doing over the next few weeks at Garden House. They can also be sown next year in the spring, but by starting now we’ll get stronger plants which will flower earlier.

Hardy annuals are plants which begin and end their life cycle over one growing season – i.e. within a twelve month period. They can withstand the cold temperatures of winter, and can survive outside over the winter months. However, it’s a good idea to give them some protection from storms, winds and torrential rain, so they’re best kept in an unheated greenhouse or coldframe where possible.

Examples of hardy annuals are: Ammi majus, Calendula ‘Indian Prince’, Orlaya grandiflora, Nigella ‘African Bride’, Eschscholzia ‘Strawberry Fields’, Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’, Consolida and Papaver ‘Beth’s Poppy’. Cheap and easy to grow, they are a no-brainer for the keen Friday Group member.


Fill an FP9 pot full of compost and strike off the residue. Sow seeds on top, gently pressing into the compost. Cover with horticultural grit and label. Where seeds are tiny, sow them with a small amount of silver sand mixed in; move the mix across the pot diagonally; turn the pot and sow again. This enables you to see exactly where the seeds have been sown and ensures that germination will be fairly even. Cover with a shallow layer of vermiculite, an inert material which improves drainage and allows light to penetrate. That’s vermiculite. Not cellulite. Label.

Place pots in a water bath so that the seeds won’t be disturbed; water will be taken up by capillary action. Putting pots in the greenhouse on a heated mat will facilitate germination.

Jobs for the Week

Now, who’s on Quality Control this week?

Sorry. Not me. Far too busy looking gorgeous



Just resting my eyes. Keep your hair on

Work on Little Dixter

Using some very precious pots. No pressure there then.

Pot up Viola ‘Bunny Ears’. And no rabbiting on. Pot up other autumn-flowering shrubs and grasses to create interest and theatricality at the entrance to the lower part of the garden. Pennisetum and Hylotelephium spectabile will feature spectacularly.

Sow hardy annual seeds

As per instructions (see above). Label the pots. Remove from water tray and place on heated mat in greenhouse for speedier germination.

Pots – 9/10. Quality control – 0/10

Iris unguicularis

Such beautiful flowers, and now is the time to propagate them. Remove the Irises from the under-arch bed and divide them, ensuring that some roots remain on each division.

Some detangling is involved

And then some splitting

Plant up in pots; water; label; place in greenhouse until rooted.

Vegetable beds

Plant out Beetroot, Spring Onions, Radishes, Spinach and Leeks. Rake the beds first; they have already been given some lovely home-made compost.

Leeks in


But of course!

And a little something to deter those slimy things?

Ah, yes!

But – oh dear!

Look what the team found inside the bag!

Hmm. Disposed of carefully, thoughtfully,

and ecologically

Plant out Wallflowers

These Erysimum ‘Sugar Rush’ have been grown from seed and now need to be set out in the garden. One hand-span apart and planted deeply.

Nicely watered in

Work in the greenhouse

Pot on Florence Fennel and Robert de Niro. Sorry, that should be Cavolo Nero, or Black Kale. The latter is very ornamental in the winter border – especially when there’s a touch of frost to decorate the edges of its leaves. It’s a cut-and-come-again vegetable, useful in stir-fries and salads. Who knows, in time the seedlings may become as statuesque and architectural as this –

Plant out Chrysanthemums for autumn flowering

Keep colour in the garden going throughout late summer/early autumn. A wide variety of Chrysanthemums are now available, and they are coming back into fashion fast. Get ahead of the curve.

Pinch out the tops of the plants to promote more flower heads.

Plant out Foxgloves

In the bed underneath the arches. (Please, no singing.) Foxgloves are hardy biennials, and strong seedlings/plug plants can be planted out in the garden now for overwintering so they will be ready to flower next summer. They are versatile plants, coping with both sun and shade.

And so, Friday Group finish until another Friday. Bidding a fond farewell with a fabulous Fuchsia Finale –


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