Friday 15th October 2021

They’ve arrived!

It’s that time again

Trug no. 12 in a series of many

Topic for the Week


Recently featured in a Gardeners World TV special, trees are very much in focus at the moment. The biggest plants on the planet, and the longest living species, they provide oxygen, store carbon, stabilise soil, and are essential as a habitat for wildlife. Some in the U.S.A. are over 5,000 years old.

But how many are there in the garden at Garden House? Fifteen? Maybe thirty? Higher, higher…

It’s forty!

Well, I knew that

Plant Ident.: Trees in the garden

When choosing a tree for your garden, some research is necessary. Think about the eventual size, shape and shadow profile of the tree in question. Deciduous or Evergreen? What do you want it for? As an ornamental? For its fruit or bark? To act as a barrier or as a specimen exhibit? What sort of soil do you have, and will it be right for the object of your desire? Location? Aspect?

Now go and have a nice cup of tea.

Paulownia tomentosa

The magnificent Foxglove Tree (aka The Princess Tree) is a deciduous, hardwood tree native to China. It gets BIG, and in May, when it comes into flower, its large, fragrant, mauve blossoms resemble those of a foxglove. The fruit is an egg-shaped capsule which contains the seeds. Paulownias can be pollarded every year in early spring, but then won’t produce their dramatic flowers as these only form on mature wood. However, the upside of this is that their leaves will be humungous! Could look fantastic in a jungly planting scheme. Grows best in full sun, is tolerant of pollution and copes with many soil types. Ht. 12 m and upwards!(Unless, of course, you cut it back.) A.G.M.

Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’

A beautiful, deciduous, small tree/shrub, which absolutely hates exposed, windy conditions, so please think carefully about siting this one. Needs sun or partial shade and shelter. Can be multi- or single-stemmed. Its vivid pink/magenta flowers arrive before the leaves, growing on bare stems. The leaves are purple and heart-shaped, turning yellow in the autumn, and look amazing when backlit by the sun. Not very keen on chalky soils. Can also try it in a (very) large pot. Loves an annual mulch of well-rotted compost. A.G.M. Ht. 8 m

Cercis Siliquastrum

Another Redbud tree – related to ‘Forest Pansy’ – this is the Judas Tree. The photo shows the pea-like pink blossom which grows on the bare wood of the tree before the leaves emerge. At Garden House, this is in the front garden and is at its spectacular best in April/May. This one actually likes poor, chalky soil, so thrives in Brighton, and although it grows larger than Cercis canadensis, it responds well to pruning. Likes an open, sunny position. Its heart-shaped leaves are green and colour to yellow in the autumn. Good for pollinators, and highly recommended by Garden House. Ht 8 -12 m

Betula utilis subsp. jacquemontii

The silvery beauty of Silver Birch. A vigorous deciduous tree with brilliant white bark and upright, graceful branches. The bark peels each year, revealing a new, fresh layer. Good as a specimen tree, but, arguably, even better when planted in small groups. Part of the Betulaceae family, so it has catkins in the spring which emerge prior to the foliage. Ovate leaves turn an attractive golden yellow in the autumn, before falling. Good for wildlife. Grows well in most situations and soils, but best where its bark can be lit by the winter sun, when it will shine out at its glorious best. Ht 12 m and rising.

Amelanchier lamarckii ‘Ballerina’

This is what it looks like in the spring against a blue sky. Almost sets you off doing arabesques, chassés and a couple of grande jetés, doesn’t it?

Commonly known as Snowy mespilus, these can be single- or multi-stemmed, and are some of the most useful ornamental trees for small gardens. Simple, white blossoms and lovely bronzed foliage in spring, autumn colour and small berries, which are loved by birds, they tick all the boxes. Prefers a moist, lime free soil, but the ones at Garden House are doing very well with plenty of added compost, thank you! Ht. 3-6 m

And these are the little ballerina blossoms. Five-petals? Must be in the Rosaceae family. Tick.

Topic for the week

Taking cuttings

It’s best to take cuttings early in the morning when the plant is full of water. Don’t let them lie about as they’ll dry out. Put them into a clean, plastic bag until you are able to deal with them. But time is of the essence!

Artemisia ‘Powys Castle’

When taking cuttings, it’s important to look carefully at the parent plant. Choose a strong side shoot, with no flowers (these would drain energy from the cutting and thereby inhibit growth). Enough material needs to be taken to enable the plant to photosynthesise, and it should be young, floppy growth. Cut a piece about 10 cms long with snips or a sharp knife. Trim the stem just below a node, or leaf joint, and remove any buds. Handle very gently by holding a leaf; if the stem gets damaged, the cutting is unlikely to take. Your final cutting should be around 5 – 8 cms long

A cutting of Plectranthus ciliatus ‘Nico’

Some leaves can be cut in half to prevent too much water loss.

Using a dibber, place the cutting into a small pot or tray of compost (roughly 50%) mixed with vermiculite (about 50%). They seem to root best if planted around the edges of a pot, and rooting will be quicker if they are placed on a heated mat in a greenhouse. Or, a propagator with a hood would be good. And alliterative. If you have neither of those, a bright windowsill should be fine, but cover the pot with a clear plastic bag, supported by small canes. You’re trying to enclose moisture, not suffocate the poor things. Hopefully, they should root in about 2 – 3 weeks.

Argyranthemum ‘Jamaica Primrose’ cutting

Which should turn into this by next year –

So, by the summer of 2022, that little Artemisia cutting should have grown into this –

Unless this happens

Jobs for the week

Take cuttings

Quelle surprise!

Of Argyranthemums and Arctotis, Plectranthus and the Beloved Pelargoniums, Osteospermums… and on and on. Plant prepared cuttings carefully into a vermiculite/compost mix. Water, label and place in greenhouse. Await root formation. (Not formation rooting.)

Salvias as well. Ensure the cuttings are taken from new wood, not the old stuff. The cutting on the right needs its lower leaves removed and then the cut to be made below a leaf joint.

Look at this wonderful treasure trove of goodies

Plectranthus, Artemisia ‘Powys Castle’, Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’. Some say that taking cuttings is ‘protecting your assets’, others just see ‘free plants’.

Prune the Ficus carica

The Fig. You can’t miss it. It’s huge.

This is usually a March job, but it’s got so big it needs taking in hand now.

And here, our colleague has the Fig very literally in hand. The leaves and wood smell fantastically figgy.

Seed sowing

We’re starting to sow Sweet Pea seeds now, but more will be sown early next year. This will give us early flowers and continuity of growth.

Using root-trainers is a good idea as Lathyrus develop long tap roots and need a long, cool root run. Plant 3 seeds per module (about 2-3 cms below the surface of the compost), then remove the weakest one later. The seedlings can remain in the trainers for a considerable length of time. They can go into an unheated greenhouse or cold frame.

Keep vigilant! Once they have three sets of leaves, pinch out the growing tips to prevent leggy growth and encourage side shoots to form. Control the amount of light they receive – too little and they’ll become etiolated. (Leggy. But sounds posher and more botanical.)

Sow more hardy annuals. Scabious ‘Black Cat’, Centaurea ‘Double Blue’ and Welsh Poppies. Don’t sow too thickly, or you’ll end up with a gazillion poppies. Mix a little silver sand with fine seeds – this helps you to see where they’ve been sown.

Cake time!


Work on the Dry bed

Ongoing. Take a strip of land about 60 cms wide and weed thoroughly. Remove any material which is unsuitable for hot, dry situations. Like Polar Bears.

Prick out seedlings in the greenhouse

Seedling levels have peaked. Start to reduce the quantity by pricking them out into modules for growing on. You may not need all of them, unless you want to move into the greenhouse whilst the plants take over your house.

Sow salad seeds

Use up all leftover salad seeds by mixing them together and sowing into compost-filled containers. Wooden wine boxes are attractive to use, but it does mean that you have to drink all the contents first. Shame.

The salads can be sown fairly thickly and will provide leaves over the autumn/winter as they are ‘cut and come again’ varieties.

Prune the Shrub Roses

Another ongoing task. Remove dead, diseased and damaged wood, taking those stems right down to the base. Thin out the shrub to allow air circulation and light to penetrate the plant; this helps to deter black spot and mildew. Leave the Rose with around 15 stems, and trim them to 3 levels of height. This will enable you to enjoy the blooms more easily next year as they’ll be elegantly layered as opposed to clumped together. Point this out to your neighbour who will, no doubt, be mightily impressed.

Cydonia oblonga (Quince)

If we sliced these up, we could eat them with a runcible spoon

Anyone got a runcible spoon?

The finest, most fabulous, filigree casing

Fabergé couldn’t do it better.