Friday 22nd October 2021

It’s Friday. It’s Friday Group. But a certain someone isn’t here.

Sending love and all good wishes

We have a super-duper supply teacher though, complete with canine companion. Introducing, a certain Ronnie Barker…


Plant Ident.

Autumn showstoppers and colours were to the fore this week.

Aster amellusViolet Queen

Belonging to the Asteraceae family – Aster means ‘star’ – this herbaceous perennial is an excellent old variety with personality. The flowers are held on stiff dark stems and vivid deep violet/purple petals surround a yellow centre. These complementary colours contrast with one another, making each look brighter. This Aster is one of the first to flower and continues to do so throughout autumn. Clump-forming, it likes an open, sunny position and thrives in alkaline soil. Propagate by division or by taking basal cuttings in spring. Attractive to pollinators. Ht 45 cms

Chrysanthemum ‘Apollo’

Love it? Hate it? It seems that this is a Marmite plant. Also from the Asteraceae family, this is an erect, strong grower which is self-supporting (hooray!) and bee-friendly. Flowering from October to November, its rich copper-orange petals contrast with greeny-yellow centres. The Chrysanthemums have long been revered flowers in Japan and remain the symbol of the Japanese emperor even today. Ht 0.9 m

Chrysanthemums originally came from China. In traditional medicine they were used as a herbal remedy, their roots boiled for headache relief; the sprouts and petals were eaten in salads.

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

A terrific choice for the autumn border, with foliage turning from green to red and purple, contrasting with clusters of rich, blue flowers which bloom from late summer to December. This hardy Leadwort likes a sunny and well-drained sheltered site and will be fairly drought tolerant once established. Good as ground cover, as it forms a mat of stems inhibiting weed growth. A low maintenance plant. We like them. Cut back in the spring as required. Propagate by semi-hardwood cuttings. Ht 0.75 m

Verbena macdougalii ‘Lavender Spires’

A clump-forming hardy perennial which needs protection from the wind. Erect and tall, it has branching spires of nectar and pollen-rich deep lavender flowers. Flowers from July right through to October and associates well with grasses and other later-flowering plants like Gauras, Dahlias, Dill and Salvias. Best in a sunny position on moist but free-draining soil. Dan Pearson uses this at his garden ‘Hillside’, and describes it as ‘finely-tapered’ and ‘tireless’. Attractive to pollinators. Propagate by taking softwood cuttings, dividing plants or saving the seed. Ht 1.5 – 2 m

Euphorbia cyparissias ‘Orange Man’

This spreading, rhizomatous perennial has slender stems with feathery blue-green leaves which turn coppery-orange in the autumn. Acid lime-green bracts are borne from spring to summer, turning more orangey as the seasons progress. Grows in any site and will spread quickly to form large clumps. A good foil to other plants, textured and colourful and useful at the front of a border or as a trailing plant. Although it can be invasive, it is easy to remove. Beware its milky sap, typical of all Euphorbias, which is toxic and can cause irritation to skin and eyes. Ht. 20-30 cms

Persicaria ‘Firetail’

And one extra for luck…This is a favourite of that great plantsman, Piet Oudolf. Fantastic with its long red spikes persisting through until November. Dies cleanly, which is a bonus for the busy gardener.

Ah, here’s Ronnie. And she can smell a cat

Colour theory

As well as learning Latin for Gardeners, we at Garden House like to engage with all aspects of horticulture: history, science, techniques, design and artistry. Oh yes.

Today we considered how planting designs can be effected and affected by colour. First, take your colour wheel

The wheel makes colour relationships easy to see by dividing the spectrum into 12 basic hues: 3 primary colours, red, yellow and blue; 3 secondary colours, purple, green and orange; 6 tertiary colours, which are blends of one primary and one secondary colour.

Colours by themselves can create a mood. Green tends to be calming and soothing, whilst yellows are uplifting and lively.

Complementary colours sit opposite one another on the wheel. E.g. red is opposite green. These provide a vibrant and energetic combination of colour, giving the most visual impact. Nature does this with ease – think of green Holly with its red berries, or Asters with violet petals and yellow centres. Analogous (neighbouring) colours, however, sit next to each other on the wheel and share the same base colours. By putting them together, a colourful but more relaxed feeling is created. For example, blue, purple and fuchsia or orange, yellow and green.

We looked at various colourtastic combos and were somewhat overcome.

As usual, cake saved the day

Meanwhile, Ronnie is still doggedly pursuing that scent…

She’ll never find me here

Having a little cat-nap

Jobs for the Week

Plant prepared Hyacinth bulbs

These are bulbs specially treated for forcing indoors; they are pre-chilled to force them to flower at Christmas or in the New Year.

Clean out the Hyacinth jars

Fill with water


Place a bulb on the top of a jar, ensuring that the base of the bulb sits just above the water. Tuck the jars away in a cool dark place for 6 weeks or so and wait for roots to form. Top up the water levels as required. Once the main green shoot is around 7-10 cms tall, move the glass into full light and gentle warmth and the flower will gradually develop.

They can be grown in gritty compost in pots too. And will definitely light up those dark winter months

Pricking out

Lots still to be done. Hardy annuals, herbs and veg. in particular

Flat-leafed Parsley seedlings in clumps

Flat-leafed Parsley now with breathing room

Prune Shrub Roses

The work continues. They’ll look glorious by next summer

Thick, prickle-resistant gloves are essential

Work on Dry Bed

Work is ongoing here too

It’s really starting to look like a Dry Bed

Sow seeds

This week, it’s Broad Beans, Onions and Garlic

Here are the sowers

And here they are, sowing

Take cuttings

There’s still time to take cuttings of tender perennials. Cut plant material with clean, sharp secateurs and place in a moistened plastic bag to prevent drying out.

Penstemons, Salvias, Plectranthus and Linarias today

Trim into cuttings as per last week’s blog. Insert carefully into a loose compost mix.

Keep some, give some away. Happiness all round.

Plant Lilium Regale bulbs

These are to go into 3 long tom pots which will help to provide a long, cool root run. Huge, trumpet-shaped white flowers flushed pink, with a wonderful scent, will give a spectacular display. In triplicate.

Plant Lilium ‘Forever Susan’ bulbs in pots.

Top with grit to stop those snails getting interested.

But keep a look out anyhow. You can’t be too careful.

There are some big specimens around

Empty pots preparatory to planting Tulip bulbs

…and recycle the contents to make more lovely compost

Work in greenhouse

Potting up more seedlings

That greenhouse is looking rather empty. What gives?

The contents of the greenhouse are in temporary accommodation

Eagerly awaiting rehousing, in a brand new greenhouse!

Stay tuned for the next exciting update…. Wonder if it will look something like this?