Friday 4th March 2022

There’s a sudden spring in our step at Garden House. And in fact it looks as if a spot of spring cleaning is underway –

Pots all sorted, clean and orderly

Plant ident.

Plants in shady spots can provide year-round interest and colour. In our bid to rush forwards towards the vivid colours of spring and summer bulbs, annuals and herbaceous perennials, it’s easy to overlook these stalwart heroes, which work so hard for us, but often remain unsung.

Hedera helix ‘Goldheart’

The dark red stems of this ornamental Ivy contrast so effectively with the dark green-blotched-with-golden-yellow leaves. It can clamber up a pergola or over a seating area in shade, as it has adventitious roots, but it has the ability to light up an area, rather then making it gloomy. Clip back to keep in shape. Propagate from stem and tip cuttings. Each section of a stem can be rooted to make more (free) plants. Much loved at Garden House. Get one and you won’t regret it.

Acanthus mollis ‘Rue Ledan’

Bear’s Breeches. Large, glossy, green leaves which have a distinctive, classical, architectural vibe going on. This cultivar is not your common-or-garden type of Acanthus; it has tall spires of pure white flowers. Properly sophisticated and will do very well in a north facing border. Apparently, it’s not invasive – and, as it’s also sterile, it won’t self seed either. 1.2 m tall

Fatsia japonica

From the Araliaceae family. An old, but very useful, favourite for dark corners, which can also be grown in a pot outdoors or in. Big, shiny, dramatic, palmate leaves. It produces interesting fruit in spring – rather like the berries borne by Ivy, to which it is related.

They eventually turn black

The plant can cope with a good cut back from time to time, usually best done in mid to late spring. Either prune all stems down to a base structure, or alternatively take out one third of the stems down to the base. There is a newish variegated cultivar now available – ‘Spider’s Web’ – which is a Marmite plant. Frankly, if you don’t love it, you’re wrong.

Fatshedera lizei

Impress those neighbours of yours, who have just ‘popped by’ to tell you about their flashy, new, 4-bed R.V., by telling them that this sprawling/climbing shrub is a bi-generic hybrid. A fascinating cross between two genera of plants: Ivy and Fatsia. Their eyes will glaze over, and they’ll be gone in no time, leaving you the rest of the morning to get on with your gardening in peace and quiet.

Pulmonaria saccharata

This is one where the Latin name is worth using, because its common name is Lungwort, which sounds dreadful. It’s derived from the ancient concept of the ‘doctrine of signatures’, where herbs thought to resemble parts of the body were used to treat ailments afflicting those areas. So, the spotted leaf of Pulmonaria was thought to be appropriate for pulmonary (lung) infections. Don’t try this at home.

The plant is good in shade, but needs moisture to get established. It’s fascinating, because the flowers change colour (turning from blue to pink) as they are pollinated by bees. Cut back with shears after flowering to encourage further growth. There are many lovely cultivars – ‘Sissinghurst White’, ‘Blue Ensign’., ‘Diana Clare’ amongst others.

Polypodium vulgare

Ferns are fab, not least because the word ‘fronds’ can be used with gay abandon. This one is under the Pittosporum at the top of the steps at Garden House and is doing very well. They are rhizomatous plants which like a fairly shady position in moist soil with lots of organic matter and very good drainage. This one has long, leathery but lacy fronds. Great for a woodland area, where it will spread happily but not too invasively.

Polystichum Fern

The Shield Fern. Soft, dark green fronds that emerge upright before unfurling and falling open. Good amongst Solomon’s Seal and Hostas.

Vinca difformis

This white Periwinkle is a fantastic plant for shade. It clumps up to provide really good ground cover and the delicate flowers sparkle amongst the glossy foliage. Cut them over with shears now and this will encourage growth and the production of more side shoots and flowers.

Camellia japonica ‘Little Bit’

You can’t beat the karma of a Camellia. Refined. Elegant. So Japanese. Glossy, evergreen, ovate leaves. And this one looks like raspberry ripple. Delicious in every way. Perhaps a little blousey, compared with the simplicity of the single forms, but oh, so composed. Neutral to acid soil. Deadhead regularly. Likes a sheltered position in shade/part-shade away from morning sunshine (which can brown the petals and leaves). Good displays of Camellias currently at Nymans Gardens.

Jobs for the week

Prune the Fig

The Ficus carica is quite an old specimen by now. It has a big, fat trunk but rather skinny branches, and needs to be pruned back hard to encourage more vigorous growth. Now, this is a job for those well acquainted with all Health and Safety provisions. There are long, sharp pruning saws involved


Be brave. Be radical. Prune back to 2 – 3 buds from the main stem. Pull (rather than cut) away any suckers growing at the base. Have a go with rooting hardwood cuttings taken from the prunings – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Remove pond plants growing in aquatic pots

There’s a bit of overgrowth going on in the pond area. So, the plants need removing, dividing, reorganising and re-potting.

Maybe start with this one – Equisetum hyemale, or Rough Horsetail. A.k.a. the Lego Plant. Fun fact: pieces of the stalk can be pulled apart…. and then re-attached! I know! Bizarre and guaranteed to fascinate every small toddler, who will thenceforth be pulled like a magnet towards your garden pond. You may find some adults will be pulled in the same direction too. Can be grown as an indoor or outdoor plant.

Well, he’s caught a magnificent specimen

But it’s no easy task

After a lot of hustling and tussling…. success!


I thought you said there would be fish?

Propagate pond plants

Divide and separate.

Pot up into new aquatic baskets. Replace in pond.


Oh heck

Note the presence of the Garden House Lifeguard.

Eat cake

A job we all enjoy

Plant up the Green Roof

This is usually on top of the shed, which is currently in the process of moving. (Sheds move quite slowly.) As the roof is currently at ground level, it’s a good moment to plant up more Houseleeks and check through the existing planting.

Plant Roses

Plant deeply, adding compost to the planting hole. Dust a little mycorrhizal fungi powder on the roots of the plants when planting. Sprinkle some organic, pelleted chicken manure around the planted area. Don’t forget to provide posh metal labels complete with a catalogue number for the Rose. Oh, and water in. Natch.

Create two obelisks

For the benefit of two (more) Roses. They’ll love the support. Applications from artistic types only. That will be:


and you, yes you up that ladder

Tidy up time!

Enjoy the scent of spring

And in these dark, sombre days, remember that to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

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