Friday 30th September

The Garden House was buzzing with activity on Friday morning with plant sellers, cake makers, café volunteers, friends and even scaffolders on site alongside the Friday Garden Group.

It all started so peacefully…a calm and spacious area for the plant sales….

….then, within a nanosecond of FGG being let loose, it looked like this.

And these were always going to disappear like…..well, hotcakes.

But before the Macmillan coffee morning started it was down to the serious business of FGG.

Plant Ident

This week’s plants were all annual climbers, great on their own or as part of a scheme, grown up trellis, wigwams, walls or arches.

Thunbergia alata

(alata – winged)

Black-eyed Susan, black-eyed clock vine, bright eyes are all common names for this fairly fast growing, twining climber. It is a good example of why Latin names are useful as, not only does this plant have many different common names, other plants are also sometimes known as black-eyed Susan which could be confusing. Although it is a tender perennial, originating from East Africa, it is generally grown here as an annual. It will produce an abundance of flowers over several months – the picture here shows three different varieties. Sow seed under glass in Jan/Feb or take semi-ripe cuttings in late summer. Ht up to 2.5m when trained up.

Rhodochiton astrosanguineus

(astrosanguineus – dark blood-red)

This fascinating tender climber, also known as purple bell vine, is native to Mexico and can be grown here as a perennial in very sheltered, frost-free spots or in a conservatory but is more widely grown from seed as an annual. Each flower is composed of a long, slender, purple-black tube growing out of a chalice-shaped mauve calyx resembling dangly earrings, hanging bells and other things that we won’t mention here…(!). It will romp away up to 3 metres when trained but can also be used as a trailing plant. Grow from seed on heat in February. RHS AGM

Cobaea scandens

( scandens – climbing )

The cup and saucer plant, or cathedral bells, is one of the fastest growing vines, reaching growth of 7m+ in a single season. Again, it is perennial native to tropical America and can be grown as such here if it is protected and kept at about 7°c. The plants have an almost tropical appearance with lush green growth and large, bell-shaped flowers which are fragrant when fully open. Pictured is the purple variety but a white version – f. alba – is also fabulous. When growing from seed it needs a long growing period so start it off under glass in January, planting its large, flat seeds on their sides to prevent them rotting. As it gets going it will need supporting with a cane or similar. Ht 4,5,6,7 metres…and beyond?!

Ipomea lobata ‘Exotic Love’

( lobata – with lobes )

This firecracker of a climber is also known as Spanish flag but hails from Mexico. It is a half-hardy, short lived perennial but is generally grown as an annual here. Its vigourous growth produces spires (racemes) of tubular blooms that arrive in an intense scarlet then fade through gold to creamy white. Sow seeds under glass in April then plant out when all risk of frost has passed into a well drained soil in full sun. Note – the seeds can be toxic if ingested so it is recommended that you wear gloves when handling them. This is a striking addition to any garden – go on – who doesn’t need a bit of ‘Exotic Love’ in their life? Ht up to 5m.

Jobs for the week

Sow hardy annuals

Hardy annuals can be sown in autumn or spring but starting them off now allows them to get a good start, making the plant hardier and earlier to flower. Plants such as Calendula, Nigella, Centaurea (cornflower), Eschscholzia, Lychnis and Scabiosa can be sown in an FP9 pot on a mix of compost and perlite and covered lightly with grit. When sowing very tiny seeds, mix with fine silver sand and sprinkle evenly over the surface. Remember, the smaller the seed, the less covering it needs. Hardy annuals don’t need heat to germinate but these ones are being put into the new, custom-made fancy-schmancy propagator… Made by Keith, it has heating cables controlled by thermostat and is lined with attic-type insulation. Very impressive.

We’re not jealous!

Prepare beds for winter veg

The cut-flower beds have served their purpose for now and need to be cleared to make way for winter vegetables and salads. Early broad beans have been started off in pots – these are hardy and will overwinter in the beds.

They’ve done a grand job but why are they are trying to avoid the camera?

Cut back the jasmine under the rose arches

This is more like it….well posed you two.

The area under the rose arches was becoming quite jungle-like. The rampant jasmine needed cutting back, alongside tidying up the beds underneath. We will now be able to walk through without the aid of a machete.

More bed management

We’re a happy bunch!

At this time of year there is always clearing, cutting back, weeding and tidying to do. These lovelies were concentrating on the beds and paths in front of the rose arches.

Sort out strawberry plants in the greenhouse.

No, not quite that many.

More our scale I think.

The strawberries had been lifted from the beds, where they were not in the best position, and potted up until ready to be planted elsewhere. They needed to be checked over, weeded, some consigned to the compost heap and others selected to be sold at the coffee morning. Chilli plants were searched for their last remaining fruits, then also jettisoned into the compost. This is what we found….

Gorgeous!

Work in the dry garden

It’s all about the teamwork!

The dry garden is looking wonderful but we can’t rest on our laurels (or any other plant for that matter). Some of the Euphorbia needed to be removed, established plants like Helianthemum cut back to a manageable shape for winter, and there was beautiful Myrtle (see last week’s plant ident) to be planted.

Have you noticed how much everyone is smiling today?

Herb bed management

See what I mean?…smiles galore.

Earlier this year (or could well have been last year – time means nothing at the moment) several hedging Germanders – Teucrium x lucidris – were planted along the edges of the herb beds to form, eventually, a low (30cm) hedge which is drought resistant, aromatic when brushed past and has very pretty, tiny pink flowers. They now need to be clipped into shape to keep the hedging dream on track. There were also other herbs in the beds which needed a tidy as well as the potted mints. A heady job for these lucky gardeners.

Pot on Chrysanthemums

There were lots of Chrysanthemums in the greenhouse which needed to be potted on from their fairly big pots (2 litres) into even bigger ones – we’re talking bucket sized. The plants will then be found a more suitable home as they were not getting enough light in the greenhouse. These are Korean Chrysanthemum which are making something of a comeback after falling out of favour. This was a sizable, physical task so it’s a wonder that even these two are still smiling.

Macmillan coffee morning

I think the universal cheerfulness stemmed from getting the garden ready for visitors and knowing that a good cause was being supported. Lots of people came, the sun shone, plants were purchase, cake was eaten…..and the best part?…. £500 was raised for Macmillan – a cause close to many of our hearts. Thank you everyone. xxx