All posts by Anne Unsworth

Friday 22nd July 2022

The last day of the 2021-2022 season for Friday Group at Garden House. Time for reflection, celebration and planning for 2022-2023. Nothing stands still here!

Except occasionally, the gardeners

For this week’s plant ident, Leavers were given ten minutes to identify and talk about a favourite specimen from the garden. Ten Minutes!!

Ten hours later they reappeared, choices made.

Plant Ident.

Chamaenerion angustifolium ‘Album’

This is the classier, white form of the ubiquitous Rose Bay Willow Herb. A splendid presence in the summer garden, especially at Garden House, where it is located up on one of the terraced beds, giving a gorgeous display of green, lanceolate foliage and ephemeral white blossom. The flowers are loved by bees and other pollinators, and the leaves are a delicacy for the larvae of the elephant hawk moth. Birds love the seeds. Propagate this hardy perennial by sowing seed, division or by taking softwood cuttings from side shoots in spring. Likes moist but well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Ht. 1.5 m

Lovely stuff!

Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Valerie Finnis’

Named for the famous plantswoman, this Artemisia is best shown and grown in a Mediterranean-style planting scheme, so the new Dry Garden at Garden House is an ideal spot. The plant has elegant and aromatic silver-grey foliage which looks wonderful when planted alongside pink and purple flowers. The leaves can be dried for use in dried flower arrangements. Tolerant of drought once established. A.G.M. Ht. 0.60 m

Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’

A truly, madly, deeply wonderful Rose, which is planted here next to the dark purple Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’. A terrific combo. A long-flowering China Rose, its flowers change colour (hence ‘Mutabilis’, changing) turning from pink to apricot. A lovely, informal and relaxed shrub, which fits comfortably among most border planting schemes. Ht. 2.0 m

Achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’

Yarrow is a great summer plant, flowering for four months. The cultivar ‘Cloth of Gold’ has flat, golden-yellow flower heads which contrast well with feathery, green foliage. Bees, insects, birds, butterflies and moths love the nectar/pollen rich flowers and seeds. Good for wildlife and gravel gardens, it likes full sun and well-drained soil and can’t abide being waterlogged. Copes with most soil types. Ht 1.5 m

Melianthus major

The Honey Bush. For many, this wins the vote for their favourite year-round plant. Fabulous cut and serrated leaves (which smell of peanut butter when pinched!), gorgeous glaucous tones, amazing deep-red flower spikes, birds love it, it’s hugely architectural, the list goes on…..Now featuring prominently in the Dry Garden, where it should thrive. Not reliably hardy in the U.K., but in well-drained southern soils, it should survive the winter and sprout again from the woody base. Of course it holds a prestigious A.G.M. Ht. 2.0m

So, that’s five more plants to add to all our plant lists.

Jobs for the week

An hour’s work in the garden before we sat down to enjoy a shared lunch together. Committed? We should be.

Clear the fallen leaves of the Paulownia tree now carpeting the Dry Garden.

Pricking out, potting on, taking cuttings

Cut Geraniums hard back. Feed and water them. New growth should appear and, hopefully, more flowers too.

Observe plants which are performing well in the garden – for example, Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’, a bulb which produces elegant deep-crimson flowers around now.

As is usual on these occasions, lunch was delicious

Recipes were swapped

We spent a little time considering the year’s highlights –

There were ups

And downs

There was Christmas 2021

Wassailing in January 2022

The production of worm fertiliser

(Check the contents of that bottle)

We worked in colleagues’ gardens

Go Team Friday Group!

We learned how to make cakes disappear

As if by magic

We celebrated,

went on visits,

enjoyed working in the Cathedral Greenhouse

and helped to make the Dry Garden

in the wet

We acquired horticultural knowledge

by the barrowload

and were constantly monitored by the best in the business…

It’s all been enormous fun


very life-enhancing

So, until September 2022 – farewell!

Friday 15th July 2022

Mid-July, and the heat is on

No problem for us at Garden House; we plant for both sun and shade.

Such cool gardeners!

Plant ident.

Purple prose to describe the purple/blue plants in today’s ident.

Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’

Russian Sage (and, therefore, a Salvia). Large, plumy panicles of lavender-blue flowers are borne on this beautiful perennial sub-shrub from mid-summer and carry on through to autumn. Its white stems have aromatic silvery-grey leaves and the whole effect is luminous. Best grown in a poor but well-drained soil in full sun, so it’s particularly suited to sandy, chalky and loamy conditions. Lovely with ornamental grasses. It can flop a little and so should be cut back in March to its permanent woody framework in order to promote bushier growth. Mulch with compost after pruning and water well. Drought resistant. Attractive to pollinators. A.G.M.

Clematis Perle d’Azur

A late-flowering large-flowered Clematis with sumptuous pale blue/mauve flowers which are produced on the current year’s growth. Plant deeply and in shade to provide a cool root run, as this will help to prevent Clematis wilt and encourage new shoots to grow from below ground level. However, you do want to encourage the top growth to romp away into the sun and this is best done by planting it next to an arch or obelisk. This Clematis belongs in Pruning Group 3, which means it should be cut down in February/March to a framework about 45 cms above the ground, where fat new buds are forming. Feed regularly and water well. Cosset your Clematis. A.G.M. Ht. 4.0m

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’

An elegant, deciduous shrub grown mainly for its rich purple foliage. Back-lit by the sun, the leaves shine. Pinkish-white flowers appear in early summer follwed by glossy red seedheads in the autumn. Site in partial shade-full sun, in a moist, well-drained soil. Does well on clay. Prune after flowering to promote colourful new growth; take out about a quarter of the old stems – or you can cut it back completely. Looks fantastic grown alongside lime-green plants and also golden shrubs like Euonymous ‘Green and Gold’. The foliage lasts well in a vase and is a great filler for arrangements. A.G.M. Ht. 2.0m

Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’

A real favourite at Garden House. The deep purple-black foliage is finely cut and complements the pink heads of elderflower blossom which are later followed by red-black elderberries. Prune back to ground level annually, in early spring. Likes a moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Easy from hardwood cuttings. A.G.M. Ht. 3.0m

Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’

This is a purple-leafed form of the Smoke Bush, whose distinctive soft, smoky, flower plumes appear in the summer. It’s a shrub which goes on giving as the year progresses, because the leaves turn a vivid orangey-red in the autumn. Grow in well-drained, fertile soil in full sun or part shade. It loves a mulch of well-rotted compost or leafmould. Prune to shape. A.G.M. Ht. 6.0 m

Teucrium chamaedrys

Wall Germander. A delightful, dwarf, evergreen sub-shrub. Whorls of purple-pink flowers on loose spikes appear from midsummer to autumn. . Dark green, shiny, aromatic foliage. Heavenly in a herb garden. Can be used to make a low-growing dividing hedge in a parterre (should you be partial to parterres). Clip after flowering to ensure the plant remains bushy. Full sun. Bees adore it. You will too. Ht 0.25 m

Jobs for the week

Lots to do – but we’re feelin’ hot, hot, hot. So we keep our hats on and find a cool spot when we can –

Cut back Bearded Irises

Make a fan-shape as you cut the foliage, maintaining interest in the shape. Water well after cutting back. If the Irises have become overcrowded, divide clumps, removing the old central part and then replant the rhizomes. They like to bake in the sun.

Clip the Yew hedge outside the Garden Room

It needs shaping. Also, remove Honesty and the seedheads of Aquilegia. Take out the Hydrangea in the border as it’s too dry there for it to flourish. Right plant, but in the wrong place.

Cutting back and planting

Continues apace on the terraces. Gardening is something you very literally have to get into.

Work on the cut flower bed

Sadly, there’s been a lot of fox activity on this bed, and the blighters have caused quite a bit of damage. Cut back where necessary; deadhead; feed and water. Plant out classy Cleomes.

Plant Rose in Apple tree bed

Remove Rambling Rosie from her pot, where she is being somewhat lackadaisical, and plant deeply with lots of fresh compost in the bed next to the Garden Room. Hopefully this “vigorous, arching and repeat-flowering Rose” will then do what it says on her label – ramble!

Clearing the bed prior to tackling Rambling Rosie – a prickly customer.

Health and Safety Signage

Literally banging on about it

Potter in the Pelargonium Palace

Check those Pellies. Not too dry, not too wet. They must be just right.

Perfect pondering, pottering

and pouring

Work on the Dry Garden

Cut flowered plants back to a dome shape.

And plant Scabious

Sow biennials

It’s the last chance saloon for this job. Seeds of white and purple Hesperis, Angelica, Papaver nudicaule to be sown in the Cathedral greenhouse. Sieve the compost to remove any large lumps and ensure a fine sowing medium

Civilised sieve sharing

Put a layer of grit on top of the compost after sowing, then label. Water very gently using a fine rose spray on a small watering can.

Looking good alongside the cuttings

Plant Zinnias

Zingy Zinnias. These will contribute to extending the flowering season in the garden alongside other late-flowering perennials such as Heleniums


Hang on. Did we forget our Cake Break today?

Absolutely not!

A very special cake for a very special person’s very special birthday

We simply had to raise a glass to her

This was our penultimate session for the year. It hardly seems possible.

But, be in no doubt that Friday Group will finish 2021-22 with a flourish!

Friday 8th July 2022

It’s hot. It’s sunny. This is no time to be feeling blue. Summer is well and truly here, and the Dry Garden is coming into its own.

Following a recent G/H trip to Suffolk, which included a visit to the specialist nursery Woottens, Garden House seems to have acquired some new specimens from the Geraniaceae family, prompting a deeper dive into the whole group.

Plant ident.

The Geraniaceae family. It’s a big ‘un. They are all fairly short plants, mainly grown for ornamental purposes. Some have scented leaves. Some (such as Pelargonium graveolens) are grown for oil of geranium, used in making perfumes. Some prefer shady, moist soils, whilst others (e.g. Erodiums) thrive in drier, sunnier conditions. Their flowers have 5 petals and they have long, beak-like seedheads.

Within the family, the three main genera are: Geranium (Cranesbills), Pelargonium (Storksbills) and Erodium (Heronsbills).

Now, let’s get one thing straight from the outset – these (above) are NOT Geraniums. They are Pelargoniums. These are beauteous, tender things which love to be brought outside for the summer months, but must be tucked up and kept sheltered and frost free over the winter. If not treated tenderly, they will die, and serve you right. Low maintenance and very rewarding to grow, these brighten up pots, windowsills and patios over the summer. Many of them have deliciously scented leaves, such as Rose, Lemon, Mint and Balsam. The flowers have 7 stamens and come in a wide variety of colours and hues.

Geraniums, on the other hand, are tough old birds.

These are the Cranesbills. There are loads of these hardy, deciduous, herbaceous perennials, and within the genus there will generally be a choice of plants which are suitable for a tricky situation in the garden – dry shade/ deep, moist shade/ full sun. Planted into borders, they disappear below the ground during the winter months, then fresh foliage will emerge in late spring to grow on and produce flowers from early summer and often through into autumn. They benefit from being cut hard back after flowering, given some organic feed (like Maxicrop) and a good watering, and will then grow away once more, often producing a second crop of flowers later in the season. These flowers have 10 stamens – and come in a wide colour range. Invaluable.

Margery Fish, a doyenne of gardening, was apparently once asked what the secret of gardening was. Her reply? ‘When in doubt, plant a Geranium’!

Erodium (Heronsbills) are generally more petite than their cousins. They are hardy plants, preferring a sheltered position in full sun.

Best in a sharply drained, neutral to acid soil and are ideal for including in alpine gardens or gravel beds, where they make soft mounds of growth. Their leaves often have pretty, scalloped edges. Flowering from April through to September, the flowers have five stamens and come in white, pink, yellow, blue and purple. Enjoy them in a little alpine pan raised up on a table.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’

In Sarah Raven’s view, this is the best of the violet-blue Geraniums for a pot or in a border. Excellent as ground cover, this is a vigorous plant and can become overly enthusiastic, so it’s a prime candidate for cutting back after flowering. Likes a moist soil in partial shade-full sun. Divide clumps in the spring. Attractive to pollinators. A very popular cultivar. A.G.M. Ht 0.75 m

Geranium ‘Anne Thomson’

Vivid magenta flowers are the hallmark of this lovely. Great for combining with golds and darker reds. Its light green-golden foliage is ‘palmately lobed’, according to the R.H.S., which is horticultural-speak for ‘looks like a hand’. Full sun-partial shade. Pollinators? Tick. A.G.M.? Tick. Ht. 0.5 m

Geranium himalayense ‘Derrick Cook’

Which part of the world do you suppose this originates from? Produces masses of purple-veined white flowers in the summer, and its leaves take on red hues in the autumn. Gorgeous. Prefers a moist but well-drained soil; partial shade-sun. Attractive to pollinators. Ht. 0.5m

Erodium malacoides

Lovely violet-magenta flowers form in July. It needs a light (sandy) or medium (loamy) well-drained soil and full sun. Ht 0.5m

Geranium sanguineum

Eye-catching magenta-pink mallow-like flowers characterise this variety, which is also known as Blood-red Cranesbill. The small leaves are deeply cut and palmate. Good for groundcover and also in a rock garden, flowering from late spring to late summer. Drought tolerant, easy to grow and very reliable. Apparently resistant to deer and rabbits. Please do give feedback if you own a deer park. Attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects. Ht. 0.2 m

Jobs for the week

At some point in the academic year, many educational establishments include a Reading Week as part of the curriculum. At the University of Garden House, we have a Weeding Week. This means that we all turn up as usual, armed with sharpened secateurs and gleaming trowels, and spend the best part of one session weeding weeds.

Cries of ‘Out you come!’ and ‘Let’s be ‘avin’ you’ echo round the garden as we heed the need to weed and feed.

It’s not just weeding though. We also engage in the age-old tradition of hacking back. This may look chaotic if not somewhat frenzied, but belies the craftsmanship and hours of training involved in reaching the horticultural heights of hacker-backer.

Hacker-backers in action

Take no prisoners!

Water divining? Whatever next?

Oh. It’s a semi-circular metal support structure. But is it for the garden or the gardener?

Possibly for this gardener

Understandably so. The need for cake comes upon us all at midday

The clearance continues. Removing Lunaria from garden borders

It’s a case of being the best policy for Honesty

Garden House’s very own biological pest control system in action. The headline might be: ‘Snail-Eating Tortoise’.

(Not ‘Snail Eating Tortoise’, which would be a very different picture.)

Nature red in tooth and claw

Back for more nature next week.

Friday 1st July 2022

Well, please don’t think that just because it’s summer we’ve got time to lie about and smell the Roses. There’s no shortage of jobs to get on with – and we’re always looking ahead. Now is the moment to consider getting those late summer perennials in, if you haven’t done so already…

But first, as ever, it’s the Plant Ident.

Consolida ambigua

Larkspur is a joy to behold in gardens now. A hardy annual Delphinium which flowers longer and better than perennial forms, it has dense flower spikes which come in a range of colours from white to pink through to deep purple-blue. It makes an excellent cut flower and can last for over a week in a vase. Flowers from June to October. Ht 90 cms

Centaurea cyanus

The annual Cornflower, seen planted alongside Larkspur in the above photo, is an old faithful seen in every cottage garden. The vivid blue of the wild flower has been cultivated in the various forms now available, from ‘Blue Boy’ to ‘Blue Diadem’, but the range of colours has now been extended by breeders to include pinks, whites, reds and a deep maroon/black form called ‘Black Ball’. Loved by pollinators and florists alike; easy to grow. Ht 1.0 m

Eschscholzia californica

The delicate flowers of the California Poppy bring a vivid splash of colour to the summer garden. The feathery foliage is blue-green, and cultivars come in shades of orange, pink, red, coral, ivory and white. Grown as hardy annuals in the U.K., they are easy to grow from seed – especially in hot, dry areas where the soil is poor. Will self-seed – the curious looking seed pods are long and curved. Regular deadheading prolongs the flowering period. Rich in pollen, they attract bees and other pollinators. Ht. 30cms


Mostly tender perennials, used in summer flower displays, pots and hanging baskets, they are loved by some, hated by others. Begonias have, by and large, lost their reputation for being all boringly-bedding-plant-like or overblown with ruffles and kerfuffles. Recent varieties have been bred to be much more refined and elegant in appearance. Foliage can be lanceolate or gently rounded, plain glossy green or tapestry-like – and there are a wide range of non-garish flower colours now available.

Best out of direct sun, they can add interest to shady spots in the garden. Imagine their cool elegance as they drape themselves effortlessly over the edges of a series of large hanging baskets in your garden.

The showiest leaves of all belong to Begonia rex, while Begonia luxurians, the Palm-Leaf Begonia, can reach 3 metres in height and add exoticism to a border planting for the summer months.

Jobs for the week

Remove Honesty, unless you want to keep some growing for self-seeding or to decorate the garden in late summer/autumn with its shining seed pods. Remove Poppies, unless you want to keep their seed heads to look decorative in the garden. You can always hang onto both Poppy and Honesty seed heads to use in your flamboyant vase arrangements indoors.

Plant Heleniums and perennial Sunflowers. These colourful plants will keep the summer season going through into autumn, together with things like Crocosmia, Echinacea, Asters, Anemones, Rudbeckia, Hylotelephium and Salvias. It’s all about continuity.

Plant up hanging baskets with Begonias

Plant Grasses, Nicotiana and Fuchsias

For waves of graceful waftiness

Love a bit of waftiness!

Take cuttings of Mints

Mint has a tendency to occupy all available space, hence it is usual to contain it. Whilst taking cuttings, it’s a good time to check on its vigorous root system and see whether any of your marvellous Mint collection has managed to make good an escape from the metal bucket you so carefully chose to restrain it in two years ago.

Take cuttings of about 8 cms long from the top growth of a Mint plant. Remove the lower leaves and cut through the stem just below a leaf node. Put the stems into a glass of water and keep in a light place; roots will develop on the stems within a couple of weeks. Pot the rooted cutting up into a small container filled with good, peat-free coompost. Once a good root system has developed, pot the stems up in a container with good quality, peat-free multipurpose compost. Firm in well and water.

Of course, you’ll know that it’s a pot of Mint – but what type? Pineapple? Apple? Blackcurrant? Spearmint? Peppermint? Morroccan MInt? So, for goodness sake, don’t forget the label, Mabel. Trim the top growth from the newly planted cuttings to reduce transpiration. Hey presto! New plants from old.

In winter and autumn, root cuttings of Mint plants can be taken and easily grown on. Once you have a selection, you can choose the many and various ways in which to enjoy them –

in tea

in a sustaining tisane

or maybe in a summer beverage

That last one sounds good!

Plant up a Rose meadow container

Finish planting up and staking Dahlias in pots

Confront the compost

They look pretty jolly, all things considered. And that compost is simply magnificent.

Composting isn’t normally so much fun –

But today, they’re really getting on top of it

Prick out Foxgloves

These beloved biennials put on root and foliage growth in their first year, then flower, set seed and die in their second. (Sorry about that spoiler.) Seedlings can be grown on now then planted out in the garden in the autumn, where they will overwinter. Next year, they will do the Foxglove floriferous flower formation thing. Like so –

Pot on various (innumerable) plants

Including Chillies. From mild to scorchio. The clue is often in their cultivar name. Aji Dulce? Mild. Dragon’s Breath? I guess pretty hot. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper? Naga Viper Pepper? Avoid at all costs!

And you really wouldn’t want to muddle up those labels, would you?

Not even for a joke

Take a little time for a spot of serenity

Good for the soul

Friday 24th June 2022

Poppies. Symbols of everything from death and remembrance to peace and consolation. They are popping open all over the garden, bringing joy, colour and style with them.

Papaver rhoeas

Family: Papaveraceae Genus: Papaver Species: rhoeas

The Field Poppy

Poppies are a genus which form part of the family known as Papaveraceae. There are many other genera within the family, and this is where the Latin binomial naming system for plants is so useful to the gardener. It enables an individual plant in the larger family to be uniquely identified. Below is a chart showing 4 different plant families and an example of one genus within each. Each genus has a species name and may then also have a cultivar/variety name .

The Papaveraceae family alone contains around 42 genera. Most plants in the family are herbaceous, but a few are shrubs and small trees. Although members of the family share characteristics, each genus can be very different. The Californian Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), for example, is quite different from Papaver somniferum (the Opium Poppy), which, in turn, is distinct from Romneya coulteri (the Tree Poppy).

Plant ident.

Bridge showed us a number of plants from the Papaveraceae family which might all be commonly described as ‘Poppies’, yet they don’t all share the same genus.

Papaver nudicaule

Family: Papaveraceae Genus: Papaver Species: nudicaule

The Iceland Poppy is the fashionista of the family. A biennial or short-lived perennial, its beautiful, silky, chiffon-like flowers grace grey-green foliage. A fabulous choice for the cutting garden as it looks fantastic in the ground and lasts well in a vase. Sarah Raven rates the cultivar ‘Champagne Bubbles’ very highly, ‘the best possible Poppy you can grow’; praise indeed. Grows best in a fertile soil in full sun. Picking encourages prolonged flowering, but leave some seed heads for self-seeding. Ht 45 cms

Eschscholzia californica

Family: Papaveraceae Genus: Eschscholzia Species: californica

These delicate flowers bring a vivid splash of colour to the summer garden. The feathery foliage is blue-green, and cultivars come in shades of orange, pink, red, coral, ivory and white. Grown as hardy annuals in the U.K., they are easy to grow from seed – especially in hot, dry areas where the soil is poor. Rich in pollen, they attract bees. Ht. 30cms

Papaver orientale ‘Mrs Perry’

Family:Papaveraceae Genus: Papaver Species: orientale Cultivar: ‘Mrs Perry’

This deciduous perennial is a glamorous perennial with large bowl-shaped, salmon-pink flowers. Dark purple blotches mark the base of each petal. Copes with most well-drained soil and likes full sun. Propagate by division in spring or by taking root cuttings in late autumn. Ht 0.5 – 1.0 m

Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’

Family: Papaveraceae Genus: Papaver Species: ‘commutatum’ Cultivar: ‘Ladybird’

This gorgeous annual Poppy has black splodges, reminiscent of a ladybird. Good for filling gaps in sunny borders, attractive to bees and good as a cut flower. Easy to grow and a good self-seeder. Ht. 50 cms

Romneya coulteri

Family: Papaveracea Genus: Romneya Species: coulteri

The Californian Tree Poppy is a woody-based perennial with glaucous foliage and cup-shaped, white flowers. The golden yellow stamens add to the striking appearance of the plant, which blooms over a long period in the summer. Grow in a sunny location, and protect from cold winds. Propagate from basal or root cuttings. Ht 2.5 m

Meconopsis betonicifolia

Family: Papaveraceae Genus: Meconopsis Species: betonicifolia

The Himalayan Blue Poppy. If you live on chalky, alkaline soil, don’t try this at home! This short-lived perennial really wants a more acidic soil, thriving best in the cooler, wetter conditions of Scotland and northern England. It’s happiest in a bed of moist, fertile, organic matter in a sheltered and partially shaded location. A tricky, difficult customer, but one which has a rare and beautiful colour. Ht 1.2 m

Jobs for the week

Pricking out

It’s time to prick out Wallflowers, and sow biennials. Let’s do it!

Separate out the little lovelies, being careful not to damage the rootlets…

Nicely done

And add the all-important label (this one is there already).

Plant Dahlias

Plant up six pots with different varieties. Put crocks at the botoom of each pot to help with drainage, then mix G/House compost with a little organic, pelleted, chicken manure. Stake the plants and finish with a layer of horticultural grit to discourage those far from sluggish slugs. Label and water.

Sounds easy enough

If only we hadn’t watered the flipping thing before deciding to move it

Then weave a little frame to support the darling Dahlia as it grows

No trouble at all

Check the cut flower bed

Weed. Remove those plants which are beyond help. Plant some Dahlias, Larkspur and Ammi. Add a layer of grit (see reference to slugs, above) and a few organic slug pellets.

Pander to the Pelargoniums

In the greenhouse in the top garden, deadhead and feed the precious Pellies. Use diluted worm wee (technical term) or seaweed feed. Talk to them, show them kindness and treat them tenderly. They seem to respond.

But choose your words carefully

Take cuttings

So many plants to choose from! Plectranthus are a good bet – they take very easily and grow on quickly. Using a sharp knife or snips, cut down to a leaf joint on a non-flowering shoot; remove the bottom leaves of the cutting; make a small hole in the corner of a plant pot with a little dibber; push the cutting gently into the hole; firm carefully; water and label.

Also, take cuttings of Chrysanthemums to grow on in the greenhouse

Pot up Grasses

In the greenhouse. A less popular option in the summer months as it can turn into an oven in there

But these are cool customers

Check round the garden

Weed. Feed. Deadhead

Devoted dedication to duty

These are the Salad Days of summer

Friday 10th June 2022

Summertime – and the living is easy

Well, it is when it’s not like this…

We do love a spot of Great British Weather

Anyway, it’s looking good this week, which is just as well, because the garden has to be prepared for the Homelink Fundraiser which will be happening next week, on Friday 17th June.

But first the

Plant ident.

Today’s theme is:- the Rosaceae family. Simples, you would think. But you’d be wrong. Within this plant family, there are 91 different genuses. Each genus shares the same characteristics, but may not look the same; sometimes they are very hard to spot. Most are deciduous, but some are evergreen. They include Sorbus, Crataegus and Prunus amongst others. One defining characteristic is the fact that their flowers have five sepals, five petals and the stamens are generally arranged in a spiral. Many of the plants in the Rosaceae family produce edible fruits.


Firethorn? In the same family as Roses? Really?

Absolutely, dear reader. Count the petals on the flowers. There are five. Just one of the identifying marks of a plant in the Rosaceae family.

Who’d ‘ve thort it?

After the flowers, clusters of berries appear in the autumn; the fruits can be yellow, orange or red, depending on the variety. Below, the berries are beginning to form.

Cotoneaster franchetii

An evergreen/semi-evergreen shrub, which has white flowers in June, followed by orange-red autumn berries. Erect, with spreading branches, it has attractive foliage – the long leaves are clearly veined and are grey-green in colour. A good doer in the garden, providing many months of interest. Likes a fertile, well-drained soil.

Rosa canina

The Dog Rose. Wild, simple and utterly beautiful. Single flowers with five petals. A thorny climber which scrambles through hedgerows from May to August and then produces striking, oval, red hips. Insects love the flowers for their nectar and birds enjoy the autumn fruits.

Rosa ‘For Your Eyes Only’

From the wild, to a new style of bred Rose, one of a recently introduced group. This Floribunda Bush Rose has single, deep salmon flowers which fade to apricot, with a deep crimson centre. Thorny, hardy and can tolerate poorer soils. Useful as a hedge or can be grown in a pot or in the border. A.G.M.


Five petals? Check!

Strawberries. In the Rose family. A fruit-bearing plant producing clusters of fruit from a single flower. Pretty blossoms, but we are even keener on the fruit

Add cream and you have a match made in heaven.

Alchemilla mollis

To quote from the Crocus website: ‘Alchemilla mollis takes its name from the Arabic, meaning ‘little magical one’, as, in the Middle Ages, the water collected from its leaves after a morning dew, was said to have healing properties.’

Lady’s Mantle. A beautiful and useful herbaceous perennial. A stalwart in every cottage garden, and, come to think of it, in most gardens. Such an obliging, easy performer, popping up every year to display tiny, frothy, lime-green summer flowers and neat, pleated leaves which last all through the summer. Can be cut hard back and will appear again – and will self seed to the delight of some and the despair of others. (No matter, it is easily removed.) The leaves catch drops of water which look like quicksilver. Useful as a foil to other plants, particularly under Roses and mixed in with Geraniums. Likes sun to partial shade and has an A.G.M.

Jobs for the week

Work in the dry garden

There’s still quite a lot of planting to do. The very special crimson-flowered Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’ (it’s pricey!) has to go in, as well as the annual Nigella ‘Musical Prelude’. Scrape the gravel topping away, dig a planting hole, water the hole prior to planting, then plant, firm in well, water again and replace the gravel.

Rather like this –

Plant up pots

Two pots need to be emptied then planted up with the soft blue-flowered plants Plumbago (see below) and Salvia uliginosa, together with Acidanthera and its sword-shaped leaves. Going to be gorgeous.

Work on vegetable boxes near the greenhouse

Plant up Runner Beans and Lettuces

Those rabbits will be so pleased

Make wigwams for large pots

Rather like this one. No pressure.

No pressure? There’s so much pressure that this member of Friday Group has had to escape to the wildflower meadow for a moment of peace, tranquility and zen….


Potting on

Happily pootling, pottering and potting in the greenhouse.

Cutting back in the pond area

She’s in there somewhere

Some herbaceous perennials, like Geraniums, are becoming a little too enthusiastic in their growth and need taking in hand. Cut back those which are lolling about or have finished flowering. You can be quite draconian with your secateurs as the plant will bounce back in no time. Water well.

Work on cut flower bed

A lot of gerunds in this area today: weeding, assessing, cutting, raising, adding, removing. To find out more about gerunds, you need to sign up for a different class.

Take a moment to check out progress in the Dry Garden

It looks like it’s been here forever

Roll on those hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer

This kind of craziness is relished byFriday Group

Friday 27th May 2022

Another week has flown past and the Dry Garden is beginning to bed itself in a little; it looks nice and gravelly – and dry!

We’re even having to water the plants in. Whatever next?

Well, next is the Plant ident., of course. This week most of them are biennials, which can be sown around now for flowers next year.

Plant ident.

Biennials are plants which grow over a two year period. They grow vegetatively during their first year, then fruit and die during the second. In other words, they are flowering plants which take two growing seasons to complete their biological life cycles.

Examples are: Lunaria, Digitalis and Dianthus barbatus – as well as

Hesperis matronalis

Sweet Rocket is, as its name implies, a scented biennial. Its flowers are similar to those of Honesty, attractive to pollinators and can be purple, lilac or white. The scent is strongest in the evening. The flowers look good in a cottage garden setting or in a wildlife garden and are best planted in drifts.

Papaver nudicaule

A biennial, or short-lived perennial, the Icelandic Poppy is best grown in a deep, fertile soil in full sun. They come in a variety of luscious colours and have wonderful crepe-paper-like petals. Regular picking ensures that you will have beautiful cut flowers for indoors and will also encourage the production of more flowers. Should self-seed. Ht 30 cms

Angelica archangelica

Many gardeners grow Angelica for its architectural qualities – it makes quite a statement in the border with its huge umbelliferous flowerheads held on ribbed, pale green/purple stems. The stems were traditionally picked and candied for use in baking, but many domestic gods and goddesses give this a miss nowadays. Grow in moist soil in partial shade. Good for using in a wildlife or prairie-style planting scheme; the flowers are attractive to pollinators and birds love the seeds. Ht 2.0m

Anchusa azurea ‘Loddon Royalist’

Much appreciated for its gorgeous azure blue colour, this Anchusa resembles Comfrey in that both plants have a bristly, hairy texture. (They are in the same family, Boraginaceae.) They have strong stems and don’t need staking (gardener’s bonus), and as they can reach 1.5 m in height, the vivid flowers can easily be seen and enjoyed. Attractive to wildlife and holds an A.G.M.

Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus

This gorgeous perennial grows from corms and comes into flower now, after the Tulips and before the Dahlias get going. Their striking magenta flowers complement Geraniums, Roses and Alliums and they make a strong perpendicular statement in the border. Their common name is Sword Lily, as the leaves are erect and shaped like curving swords. Plant corms in the autumn in light, well drained soil (they like a hot, dry situation) – the corms need to be 10 – 16 cms deep. Ht 1.0 m

Now then, who exactly is paying a visit to this Moss Rose?

Two rather lovely irridescent bugs – Rose Chaffer beetles to be precise. Beautiful creatures, but, oh dear, Roses are one of their favourite foods. The larval grubs, however, are important to the soil as they feed on dead and decaying matter and contribute to the decomposition process. If they become a nuisance, try organic pest controls and encourage birds into the garden and pray that they’ll prey on them.

Jobs for the week

The Dry Garden

Continue planting

Water in

And enjoy!

The Compost Heap

Ensure all that plant material is crammed into the correct bin

Here, our expert is doing the Horticultural Hop

Planting containers

Weaving Teepees

These are to support climbers in pots – like Thunbergia, Rhodochiton, Mina lobata.

Two sets of Friday Groupers are put on teepee duty. No element of competition whatsoever.

Ours is best!

Supporting cut flowers

The magnificent bamboo framework needs to be raised gradually as the plants grow

The supporters support the cutting garden support structure. And then…

they stand back to admire their handiwork

These two look like peas in a pod!

Planting continues

You can never have too many Roses

Sow biennials

Sow them annually!

A busy time in the garden; there is so much to keep up with, as well as planting and planning for the months ahead.

We love it!

Friday 20th May 2022

This week, it’s all about the Dry Garden. This approach to gardening was made famous in the U.K. by the writer, plantswoman and horticultural legend, Beth Chatto, who transformed a car park in her famous Essex garden into a gravel garden. This was by way of an experiment to deal with the challenge of being situated in one of the driest parts of the country. It succeeded, and is now famous for its spectacular display of drought-tolerant plants and the fact that it is not irrigated, despite having poor, free-draining soil.

Chatto first cleared the area and then redesigned it using hosepipes to create large curving shapes, reminiscent of a dried-up river bed with islands of planting. A similar approach was adopted at Garden House, and after a great deal of clearing, designing and some hard landscaping, the time is right for some planting.

So, drought-tolerant plants for a dry area. Looking good so far.

Oh dear. Looks a little damp. Maybe it will get better?

Let’s lay out some of the plants ready to go in

Er, is the weather improving?

Improving? Are you joking?

It’s not a joking matter. Unless you’re one of the few who gave some flimsy reason for not turning up today…

But we try to keep cheerful nonetheless



Downward doggy

Is she doing a raindance?

It’s supposed to be a dry river bed

Well, everything will be thoroughly watered in

Taking on its final shape

Raking gravel over the planted areas

Brushing to ensure an even surface

And, you know what? It was actually a lot of fun!

All we need now is some dry, sunny weather

Roll on summer

Friday 13th May 2022

Unlucky for some…. but not for one esteemed Friday Group colleague. F/G are off to work in her garden.

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to Lewes we go – complete with trugs, spades, garden forks, saws. You name it, we’ve got it.

It’s a very attractive garden already – and with great potential. Plans have been made by Bridge and Deborah in collaboration with the owner

But first, the all important caffeine hit.

There are beds to weed and plants to clear

One or two branches to be removed from a thicket of Sumac

Soil to be improved with soil conditioner, compost and leaf mould

A new wheelbarrow will earn its keep –

Briefing commences and jobs are allocated

It’s a serious project and we all pay close attention

Well, close-ish attention

The final details are mulled over

then it’s all systems go

Salvias and a Sarcococca are taken out for planting elsewhere. Geranium phaeum ‘Lisa’ and G. phaeum ‘Samobor’ go in, along with Gaura lindheimeri and Alchemilla mollis

Eyes down

and up-tails all

Pruning and shaping; cut Lilac back, move Jasminium nudiflorum and just look what’s happening to that Ribes shrub by the fence –


Soil improved and Heuchera obsidian added plus Geum, Pittosporum, Helenium and Alchemilla

Removing turves to widen the beds

Immersive weeding, removing Bindweed and our old favourite, Ground Elder

Bucketloads of barrowing – soil conditioner, compost, pukka muck

and a spot of leaf mould too

That should help improve things. Plant Vinca minor ‘Alba’ to add to the green and white vibe, Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’, Helleborus, Astrantia….

Not forgetting to add goodness to each planting hole plus some organic pelleted chicken manure

Lovely stuff


For every cut, there is a clearance

The pond unearthed. Yellow flag iris removed and geraniums culled

You have to be cruel to be kind

Should be fine. (Fingers crossed.)

And gradually, gradually, it all starts coming together…

The Choisya bed’s looking choice

And this is gorgeous!

Well, thank you!

You too, of course. But that new tree is Malus ‘Gorgeous’. And there’s also Rosa ‘Albertine’, Clematis ‘Etoile Rose’, Grasses and some fab Heuchera ‘Autumn Bride’


It’s a design thing

Beds improved

More light on the subject

Water, water, water

Time for a celebratory Group Photo


Hard work

and a lot of fun

Well done, team!