All posts by Anne Unsworth

Friday 10th January 2020

New year, new decade.  It seems ages since we were last here, but we’re back and good to go 


Well, once we get our dose of caffeine, we’ll be good to go

Won’t we?


Of course!

So, without further ado, it’s straight onto the…

Plant ident:   

And what’s in the garden now? Bulbs are starting to come through… 


…and there are lots of other things to enjoy

Vinca major

This is a lovely form, believed to be Vinca major.  This has been flowering every week of the year – and the present week is no exception.  Upright in form, with a delicate blue flower, the glossy green leaves display marked veining.  A delight, and an excellent choice for ground cover.

Arum italicum subsp ‘Marmoratum’


Its stunning arrow-shaped, variegated leaves are beautiful in their own right; in summer, creamy-white spathes (the flowers) emerge, giving way to a cluster of green berries which turn a vivid orange/red in autumn.

Iris unguicularis


The Algerian Iris – a tough little performer.  The rhizomes are happiest at the base of a sunny, south-facing wall.  A real beauty, which flowers from November through to the end of February, and its lavender-blue flowers are scented.  Very undemanding, it thrives on poor soil, dry conditions and neglect. The renowned gardener E. Bowles commented that, “the older a clump gets, the better it flowers”.  Plant alongside drought tolerant shrubs and bulbs.

Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’


A winter-flowering variety, which can take its time to get established.  But well worth giving it a go – just look at the results! Now is a good time to plant it.  From the Ranunculaceae family – the same as Hellebores

Cyclamen coum


Perfect small white flowers contrast with rounded, dark green leaves in the plant shown above, but a wide range of colours and foliage is available.  Delicate loveliness, but don’t be fooled, this is a tough little perennial, flowering away in winter and early spring. Interesting fact number 5,193.  Did you know that the seeds of these Cyclamen are actually distributed by ants and bees? (I know!) Apparently, the stems curl, bringing the seed pod down to the ground.  The seeds are collected by ants and bees which eat the sticky seed coat, but leave the seeds themselves!   

One other must-have for this time of year is a Daphne.  If you haven’t got one, rectify the situation immediately.  Either Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ or Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’. Scentsational! 

Jobs for the week:

It may be gloomy and cold out there, but there’s plenty to do.  

Compost control and management

First remove composted material


Easier said than done


Then on to the amber bay

Churn and turn 

Apply newly retrieved compost to flower beds

Remove rose prunings (aka squirrel deterrents) from flower beds.  They failed.  Order cannons.  This is war.  Apply compost to improve soil structure and appearance.

Pot on Ranunculus ‘Pauline Violet’ seedlings

No problem!


Seed sowing

This time of year is when heated mats and electric propagators come into their own; just gives seeds a head start.  We are sowing: Nicotiana mutabilis, Cobaea scandens, Cleome, Swiss chard, Spinach, Giant Red Mustard, Antirrhinums, Coriander, Parsley (soak the seeds in warm water prior to sowing). And Rue. Phew!



Better crack on, there’s a lot to do

Prune the hybrid tea roses and apply feed to all roses


Research materials – check

Tools for the job – check

Workers – where are the workers?

They checked out


Ah! That’s where they’ve got to   


Back to it

Prick out seedlings

Here we have les amies des Ammis doing une tâche splendide.  Friday Group aims to be trilingual by the end of the year.  English, French and Latiimg-20200115-wa0004-1Yes! Oui! Ita vero!

These are Eschscholzia ‘Ivory Castle’.  They are hardy annuals, so can be left outside through the winter – but keep an eye on them, they won’t like sitting in pools of water indefinitely.  Would you?

img-20200115-wa0008And thick and fast they came at last


More and more seedlings.  All looking good.

General potting-on work


Generally pottering on with potting on

Work on Little Dixter

Remove all existing pots.  Tidy and clean shelving. Set out pots of Iris and Narcissi. New year, new term, new start.


Work in progress


Well, that’s a lovely job

Simple, elegant, refined

Pelargonium Palace

Deadheading as required; water the pots – but don’t soak them; tidy the greenhouse and sweep through


Taking them out for an airing?


Pelargoniums on parade

Cut back perennials in the top garden

Remove as much wild garlic as possible from the bed


Now, I don’t mean to be funny, but I could be here until 2030 doing that….

Weed and tidy the bed outside the shelter

Remove the green-leaved Celandine (Ranunculus).  They tend to take over… these poor Cyclamen are being throttled


 Leave R. ‘Brazen Hussy’


A dark form of the common celandine with shiny bronze/black foliage.  Best not to make any jokes about brazen hussies.  

Sort through seed boxes and organise

I’m sorting

And I’m organising

Order restored, it’s time to leave


Garden House 10th January 2020

Friday 22nd November 2019

Autumn days – but winter is on the way,


and ‘the rose hips are blood-bright,
spattered on their overwrought stems’
(from Chokecherries by Melissa Kwasny)
Plant Ident.
Time to look at evergreens – so important for the structure of a garden, particularly during the winter months.
Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteovariegata’
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This large, bushy evergreen shrub is a fabulous plant which can be clipped to taste.  Not fully hardy in extremely cold parts of the country, but vigorous and good in coastal areas.  The creamy-white margins of the leaves make it a particularly attractive choice.
Myrtus communis subsp tarentina
The small-leaved myrtle was known as the herb of love in the Victorian era and was widely used in wedding bouquets at the time.  It has large, pink-tinted cream flowers in the summer, followed by white berries in the autumn.  The leaves are small, ovate in form and a glossy dark green.  Tough and forgiving.
Griselinia littoralis
Litoralis means ‘of the seashore’, so this plant is a good choice for coastal gardens.  It makes a great hedge, but is equally good as a freestanding shrub.  Beautifully coloured petioles (the stalks that join leaves to stems) complement the leaves themselves, which have a sheen on the topside and are a paler matt green on the underside.  Raising the canopy on a freestanding shrub can transform and elevate its appearance.  (Makes it look posher.)
Santolina ‘Bowles Lemon’
There is a grey variety of Cotton Lavender, but this vibrant green form bears lovely lemon flowers.  Another plant which thrives by the sea, it makes a good small hedge and is also effective planted in groups and clipped into plump, cushiony shapes.  Prune in March.
Taxus baccata fastigiata ‘Aureomarginata’
Whilst it’s important to be familiar with the Latin names of plants, it has to be said that this one is a bit of a mouthful.  ‘Aureomarginata’ means ‘having gold margins’.  Fastigiata means ‘growing upright – having upright clustered branches, narrowing towards the top’.  A good description of the Golden Irish Yew.  Much favoured by Garden House, this beautiful evergreen is valuable for its architectural, vertical growth and its robust nature.
Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’
The ubiquitous Elaeagnus is widely used in public plantings, from car-parks to country parks.  It makes an excellent hedge and is particularly appreciated in winter gardens for the splash of bright golden-yellow provided by its leaves, which have irregular green edges.
The tiny, white flowers which appear in the autumn are insignificant, but have a wonderful fragrance.  Another good plant for coastal areas.  Any stems with leaves reverting to plain green should be removed immediately.    
Jobs for the week:
Recently, Garden House held another Workshop on Rose Pruning, led by the inspirational Simon White from Peter Beales Roses.  (‘How-to’ guides are available from their website.)   The R.H.S. also have good publications available on the topic of pruning.
This week, Friday Group had a number of pruning jobs to tackle, including some climbing and rambling roses.  Ramblers generally flower only once a year and, as the name suggests, they ramble about and produce long, lax flexible stems.  They flower on old wood made in the previous year.  Usually, they have single flowers which are followed by rose hips in the autumn.  R. ‘Kiftsgate’, R. ‘Rambling Rector’ and R. ‘Veilchenblau’ are all ramblers.
Climbers, on the other hand, usually repeat flower, and the roses grow on wood which has grown in the current season.  They have stiffer stems and can be a challenge to tie in.  R. ‘Compassion’ and R. ‘ Cecile Brunner’ are examples of the type.
Pruning with our visiting expert
Sharp, clean tools are essential.  As is a plan of action.
Old, dead and diseased wood goes first.
Tying- in stems horizontally promotes better flower production.
But. there’s always so much to clear up and remove!
Plant up the big terracotta pots
Not bulbs, by any chance?
Thought so.  More tulips.
Best get on with it then
Plant Currant bushes.
White, black and red, please.  And why not add some Narcissi bulbs too?
Why not?  They’ll look wonderful.
Plant Crocus bulbs in amongst the paths
Eyes down in the spring…
…for tiny pops of colour
Nicely naturalistic
Plant up Hippeastrums
Crocks in the bottom are a good idea in these big pots
A mix of grit and multi-purpose compost goes in.  Then put in the Amaryllis bulbs, taking care not to damage their tentacle-like roots.  Bury two-thirds of the bulbs, leaving the neck visible.
Don’t forget to grit the top – or you can use moss.  Looks classy.
Then, once we get the hang of things, we can improvise with planting in jars too.
Layers of grit, compost, topped off with decorative gravel.  Think Isle of Wight coloured sand souvenirs
Oh, I say
Leave in a light room at a temperature of around 20 degrees.  Water sparingly to keep very lightly moist but not soggy.  10-12 weeks should do it.
Plant more Paperwhites for indoor-flowering 
Plant Alliums in drifts 
In the new bed, these are going to be a purple sensation!
I mean, these are going to be ‘Purple Sensation’
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Is this drifty enough?
Plant up Lil’s bed with Tulips, Lunaria and Digitalis
First, rake the soil
Cool raking action
They say honesty is the best policy
So, Honesty in first, then Foxgloves
Followed by the bulbs
Here we go……
Many hands make light work of bulbs
That’s funny.  I thought bulbs made lights work….
Oh, very good!
Plant up the special outdoor chair with ivies
Think of it as a Game of Thrones
Have at you!
A little more adjustment
And there we have it.
A hand-woven ivy-cushion seat.
Prune Rosa ‘Cécile Brunner’
A climbing rose which grows on the trellis behind the compost heap.
You may be beautiful, Cécile, but you sure are a prickly customer
A short breather, perhaps?
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Now, do be careful not to relax too much!
Prune the rambling rose growing in the apple tree
Sometimes ramblers are left pretty much to their own devices but there comes a time, when they may need taking in hand.  The long flexible branches are the flower bearing stems for the next year and, unless pruning severely, these should not be cut.  All old, diseased and dead wood can be taken out.  Keep the hips for Christmas decorations!
Where to start?
Help!  It’s rambling into my hair!
Be brutal!
Give it a short back and sides.  That’ll sort it.
Clematis vitalba or Old Man’s Beard.
The wild beauty of wild clematis


Friday 15th November 2019

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey…

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…except for the leaves of the Field Maple, which are a bright buttery-yellow.

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Plant Ident.

This week, the focus was on trees.  Garden House finds Barcham’s ‘Time for Trees’ to be an excellent reference book.

Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’


An attractive, small, deciduous tree with large, purple, heart-shaped leaves.  Fertile, moist but well-drained soils suit it, and it likes a sunny or partially shaded position.  Looks great contrasted with lime-coloured plants.  Can suffer from wind damage as it is a little fragile.  A.G.M. (h. 8 m)

Acer campestre


The tough, native Field Maple is frequently used in urban plantings as it is resistant to air pollution.  Deciduous, it has small, five-lobed leaves which are dark green, but turn a beautiful butter-yellow in the autumn.  It makes a good informal hedge and is a fantastic tree for wildlife.  (h. 7 – 10+ m)

Cercis siliquastrum


The Judas Tree.  It loves chalk!  Heart-shaped leaves are preceded by pink/purple pea-flowers which bloom on the branches – a stunning sight in the front garden at Garden House.  Flattened pods follow later in the year. Deciduous. (h. 3 – 8 m)

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii


The Himalayan Birch.  With its distinctive white trunk, this is a tree that sparkles at this time of year.  Good as a standard, or multi-stemmed; good planted as an individual specimen, or in a group.  Visit the National Trust gardens at Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge to see a magnificent glade of them, with their shimmering white bark against blue skies lit by winter sunshine.  Makes you go all poetic.


Cornus Mas

The Cornelian Cherry.  Deciduous.  Wonderful for its tiny yellow flowers in the bleak days of February, followed by small, red, cherry-like fruits.  Doesn’t grow too big.  Nice shape.  Lovely bark.  A good alternative to Witch-hazel. Plant early flowering Narcissi underneath to complete the golden glow.  (h. 3-8 m)

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’

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Also known as the Coral-Bark Maple.  A large deciduous shrub or small tree, its stems and branches are coral red.  Looks glorious at this time of year with the additional bonus of the beautifully coloured autumnal leaves.  Not good on chalk.

Arbutus unedo

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The Strawberry Tree, named for its large red-berried fruits.  The fruits from the previous year ripen in the autumn, at the same time as tiny, white, bell-shaped flowers appear.  All-year interest is guaranteed as it is evergreen and sports a wonderful rough, brown bark which peels away in strips to reveal coppery-orange colours underneath. (h. 4 – 8 m)

Malus robusta ‘Red Sentinel’

A lovely tree for the garden.  Beautiful and numerous bright red crab apples decorate this tree in the autumn, often remaining well into winter.  Tolerates a range of soil conditions, including clay. (h. 3 – 7 m.)

Prunus serrulata ‘Tai-haku’ 


The Great White Cherry.  Much loved by Garden House.  Makes a magnificent specimen tree, bearing large single white flowers in the spring alongside coppery-coloured foliage.  This tree was thought to have disappeared for many years, until ‘Cherry’ Ingram found one growing in a Sussex garden in 1932, after which it was re-introduced to its native Japan.  (h. 7 – 12 m)

Jobs for the week:

Pot on propagated annuals in the greenhouse


Fill pots right to the top with compost then strike off the excess with one hand. Tap the pot so that the compost settles.  Leave space for watering.  Its important that each pot should be similar to its neighbours so that the same plants will receive exactly the same treatment and grow at a similar rate.

Plant the bare-rooted roses (ultimately destined for the Rose Meadow) into large pots 

The selection chosen are: R. ‘Hot Chocolate’, R. ‘For Your Eyes Only’, R. ‘Cafe’, R. ‘Eyes For You’ and R. ‘Belle Epoque’.  All hybrid tea roses.  Prune hard back.  Label and water, of course!


They look snug

Plant clematis and roses on the back bed.

It’s cold, it’s wet it’s… hey! Where’s my planting companion off to?


I’ll be right back…


I’ve been espaliered!

Continue planting bulbs


And more and more and more….


And plant species tulip bulbs in pots



These will be used as part of the Little Dixter display.  The pots, not the ladies.

Check the Pelargonium Palace

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We think the ladies would be terrific as part of the Little Dixter display.

Dead-head all Pelargoniums; remove any damaged or diseased plant material.  Water.

Plant Narcissi in winter border


Plant up large pots with Tulipa ‘Chinatown’

Add some winter bedding on top for seasonal interest


Divide Allium ‘Ozawa’ and re-pot


Pull the clumps apart gently.  Pot up clusters consisting of about 4 of these summer-flowering bulbs.  Firm in well; label; grit; water. Put them into the cold frame.


She looks rather pleased with herself

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the garden…


Ooh, a nice quiet moment

I’ll just sit here for a while


Hang on a minute


What is that?

I don’t believe it


Believe it, baby!


It’s OK, puss, there’s an ally nearby…


To the rescue!

Prick out Californian Poppies and re-pot

Re-pot them quite deeply, ensuring their lowest leaves are resting on the surface of the compost.  this keeps them firm in the pot and ensures they will grow away better.

Remove the strawberry plants from the metal containers and move to fruit beds


Cut the plants back and re-plant around the edges of the fruit beds.  A berry good idea.

Sixteen apples sitting on a wall


What if one should accidentally fall?

The leaves of Prunus serrulata ‘Tai-haku’


‘Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.’

(Robert Frost)





Friday 8th November 2019

It may be November, but there’s always something for Friday Group to enjoy at Garden House.  Now’s the time for the woodburner and bunches of chrysanths.


Plant Ident.

First of all this week, we looked at leaves and branches from some unusual trees.  Ginkgo biloba (the Maidenhair tree), Metasequoia glytostroboides (the Dawn Redwood), Larix decidua (the European Larch) and Taxodium distichum (the Swamp Cypress).

Q.  Why are they unusual?

A.  They are all deciduous conifers and, unlike most conifers, they shed their leaves in    the autumn.

Biennials Bonanza

Time for some of the biennial seedlings sown earlier in the year to be planted out.  Seeds of biennial plants can be sown in the May, June or July of the year prior to them flowering.  These are some we will be enjoying next year:

Dianthus barbatus ‘Sooty’


Sweet Williams are always a favourite and these are no exception.  Fragrant, deep red/chocolate flowers are borne above red stems and the leaves are mid green turning to deep ruby-black in colour.  Eye-catching.

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Erysimum cheiri ‘Blood Red’

Part of the Brassica family, the deep red flowers of this wonderful Wallflower will excite admiration from all your garden visitors.  They fill the May-June ‘garden gap’ and, what’s more, have a deliciously spicy scent.  They need to be hardened off slowly before being planted outside, ideally in full sun.  Ensure good drainage and regular dead-heading, and you are on to a winner.  Plant amongst tulips to evoke real garden envy.


Lunaria annua


Another member of the brassica family, Honesty can have either white or purple/mauve flowers.  Lunaria means ‘moon-shaped’ – which its seed heads are.  These are an added bonus, decorative in the border and when used for flower arrangements.  The flat, papery seed cases are translucent and shimmer, both indoors and out.  Will self seed around the garden.




Come next April, this Sea Stock’s brilliant white flowers will be floating over its grey-green leaves.  Particularly effective in the low-light of dusk, its exquisite scent will fill the air.  So, place this hardy biennial near a path, where it will be much appreciated.  The plant shown above will become the plant below.


Hesperis matronalis

Sweet Rocket.  This biennial (can also be a short-lived perennial) and its fragrant purple or white flowers appear in late spring/early summer.  Another useful plant to have in the garden to fill the spring-summer gap.  Beautifully scented, as its name implies, and a self-seeder.


Jobs for the week:

Basically, if you say ‘Plant bulbs’, you’ve got it covered.


See what I mean?

But, before you start:-

Add leaf mould to improve the condition of the soil and rake the beds to a smooth finish

Those beds look nicely raked


But of course!


Plant bulbs


Plant more bulbs


See above




The bulbs are in, but not forgotten


They are planted deep in the soil.  The Dianthus, and Aniseed, stand guard.


Something else is planted deep in this soil….


Wonder if we’ll get a Tortoise Tree?

Plant three or four different types of Narcissi under the Cornus Mas tree

Include ‘Jack Snipe’ and ‘Hawera’, to create a golden glow under its yellow blossoms in February.



(Is she praying or planting? Both are useful.)

Plant in groups of 5 to 7 bulbs

  Or more!


One, two, three, four… oh blast, have I counted that one already?


An additional Achillea will just add to the golden glow.  This one is Achillea ‘Schwellenburg’.

Plant bulbs in pots 

(If not already engaged in planting bulbs in borders.)  This is ‘Avalanche’, for indoor flowering.


Bulbs tossed and mossed

And bulbs for outdoor pots.  These are Crocuses.


Hyacinth bulbs planted in the rhubarb bed will create a sophisticated look next spring.  Oh yes.

Remove Salvia uliginosa from large pots; plant up with a mix of orange/red tulips and orange and red Erysimum.

Five little wallflowers sitting on a wall…


Plant bulbs in the top garden near the Pelargonium Palace greenhouse.

Plant deeply – at least a trowel’s depth, wriggle the trowel about to create a hole, then plant the flatter side of the bulb against the back of the hole.



And delivery


Design a scheme for perennial planting in the top garden

Hang on a minute.  No bulbs???

Not one!

Here are the plants in all their glory


First, lay out your scheme


Consider from all angles


Ready, set…




Take tender plants into the greenhouse 

This one might be Begonia luxurians


Some will need removing from their pots and re-potting



Prick out and pot on biennials and hardy annuals as necessary



(You mean Alcea rosea?)

Plant Sweet Williams in the bed behind the greenhouse


Good job



A last sweep round to create the perfect finish.


True dedication

No sign of any bulbs now!


I wonder.  Maybe more next week?



Those tulips don’t plant themselves, you know.

And who planted you there?


I’m not planted


I’m hibernating