All posts by Anne Unsworth

Friday 26th June 2020

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Midsummer’s Day, and time to take stock of those shrubs which have finished flowering. One might say, “in June, we prune”. But why do it at all?
Pruning keeps shrubs tidy and within bounds; it shapes them; it removes the 3 Ds – damaged, diseased and dead material; it helps to maintain vigour in the plant, stimulating new growth; it promotes future fruiting and flowering. But it can be a daunting task for gardeners – some shrubs need barely any pruning, whilst others need cutting right back.  Where to start?  The main thing is to get to know your own plants well, to observe them closely, to learn when they flower and to know whether you are growing them for their flowers/stems/fruit/ foliage. All this will inform your pruning regime.
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The basic rule is that early flowering shrubs, which flower before Midsummer’s Day, in spring and early summer, should generally be pruned immediately after flowering. So by mid June plants like Winter Jasmine, Forsythia, Kerria japonica and Ribes should already have been cut back to strong young shoots lower down. If not, do it now. The 3 Ds can also be removed. Other shrubs such as Weigela, and Philadelphus aureus are just finishing flowering around now, and need to be pruned before the end of the month. All these shrubs flower on growth made in the previous season, so over the rest of the year, they have time to grow this new material.
Forsythia intermedia
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Philadelphus aureus
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In contrast, late flowering shrubs – like Hydrangea, Sambucus nigra, Fuchsia magellicana, Summer-flowering Jasmine, Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’, and Perovskia – produce flowers made on the current season’s growth, and they should be pruned in March/April. These can be cut right back to a pair of buds close to the ground. If congested, 1 in every 3 stems can be taken out completely. Dogwoods are plants which also respond well to being cut back in late winter/early spring – lots of new stems follow with stunning, rich colours varying from yellow through to orange, red and green/black. Magnificent when grown in groups.
Sambucus nigra
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Fuchsia magellicana
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Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’
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Cornus flaverimea
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Some plants like to be cut really hard back – Buddleia is one and Eucalyptus another. Evergreens, on the other hand, may only need a light cut in early spring just to keep them in shape.  With short-lived shrubs like Lavender, Salvia and Rosemary, it’s very important not to cut into the old wood when pruning as this will kill them. Just cut back to the point where they flowered and go no further for now.
Buddleia
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It should go without saying that all pruning equipment, be it secateurs, pruning saws or loppers, should be cleaned between each task, oiled and sharpened regularly. Polishing them is, frankly, just showing off. After pruning, always water, feed and mulch the shrub concerned. Poor thing, it’s had a shock.
So. Pruning. Part art, part science. Part knowledge, part experience. And, of course, part magic, part miracle. Simples.
Jobs for the week
Prune spring flowering shrubs
Refer to all the above, a good website, good books and other good gardeners.
Take cuttings of Lavender, Sage and Rosemary 
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Harvest Lavender for drying. Cut back Sage (above), Rosemary and Lavender to about 5 cms below the faded flowers. (Don’t prune back any further until March)
Cut back any wispy Wisteria growths to 3 buds
From the main stem.
Dead-head annuals
For example, Sweet Peas – this promotes more flowers. Stake. Keep picking them too – so gratifying to be able to throw a handful of your home-growns into an old jam jar. Make sure you have it to hand every time you open the door to someone. ‘Oh, these? Yes, just picked. Charming, aren’t they?’
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Pot up Chillies and Sweet Peppers and feed
Plant Chrysanthemums
In the greenhouse, once the Tomatoes have been moved out and there’s a bit of space.
Cut back hardy Geraniums
Once they have finished flowering. Most have by now. Feed and water to encourage fresh new growth, and, hopefully another later flush of flowers too.
Fill in any gaps with Salvias
They are a Good Thing under Roses as they seem to help prevent mildew and blackspot – particularly the small-leaved microphylla cultivars. (see Sarah Raven’s website on this).  It’s also a good time to take cuttings – free plants!
Weed
Surprise! Bet you didn’t expect that, did you?!
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Cut back leaves of Pulmonarias 
And water them
Sow beans of the French and Runner varieties
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These can be sown directly into the soil. Courgettes too.
Watch out for Vine Weevil
It’s evil

Friday 19th June 2020

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19th June. And everything’s coming up roses at Garden House….but roses need water….and where’s the rain? How appropriate that this week we Zoomed off to another Friday Group member’s garden in Hove, and were asked to think about the collection, storage and use of water. We’re real Eco-warriors, us Friday Group People

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The virtual garden tour was excellent – and challenged us to think about water consumption, especially since April’s weather has morphed into May’s and May’s has become June’s. The garden owner uses mulch and compost extensively to prevent  soil erosion and water evaporation. Planting the right plant in the right place is essential to ensure that it thrives and copes with a minimal amount of watering. Melianthus major, Daucus carota, Alchemilla mollis, Opium poppies, Alliums and Lychnis were particularly striking. A well-managed pond brings in wildlife and much of the ‘planting’ simply arrived unasked. Parts of the lawn are left unmown to encourage wild flowers. The shady end of the garden boasts an Echium forest, prompting numerous requests for seeds.

Various watering-related top tips were suggested: –

Essential to mulch and/or Strulch. Use ring culture pots to grow, for example, tomatoes. Ensure there are plenty of water butts around the garden. One website recommended for its huge range of products is http://www.waterbuttsdirect.co.uk Other butt websites are available, but be careful what you google. Use guttering on sheds and greenhouses to trap/divert rainwater. Investigate the potential use of ‘grey’ water. Use ‘leaky hoses’ around the garden. Think about using permeable surfaces as paths/driveways. Water early in the morning or late at night; water the soil, not the plant. Establish moisture retaining planting holes – should be able to water thoroughly once and then leave the plant to manage. Leave lawns to cope – they will generally recuperate after periods of drought. Investigate Hozelock tanks. Use upside-down water bottles, with a tiny hole in the cap, to water the roots of tomatoes and veg.

Some rather more ‘out there’ ideas: dig a well. Ding dong. And learn how to dowse.

Plant ident.

Six favourites from the owner’s garden – who also supplied the photos.

Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’

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This highly structural biennial is not yet in flower, but the flower spike can be seen emerging at the rear of the plant. This cultivar of Sea Holly is named for the 19th century gardener Ellen Willmott, who, apparently, secretly scattered seeds of the plant when visiting gardens. The green stems and foliage turn silver-grey as they mature and contrast with metallic blue flowers. A self-seeder – seems appropriate!

Echinops ritro Veitch’s Blue’

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The Globe Thistle’s tell-tale spiky leaves are in evidence here – shortly to be followed by its metallic blue flowers. Great in a dry, sunny border and will cope with most soil types. A magnet for insects. Can be divided in spring or autumn.

Allium ‘Red Mohican’

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The excitement of an Allium head emerging! The purple/red flower is slightly elongated and has a punk haircut vibe going on. Very attractive and great in flower arrangements too. Note to self: plant more Allium bulbs.

Echium pininana

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Best to quote directly from the catalogue for Architectural Plants: ‘Grow this and die happy’. A Tree Echium from the island of La Palma, it’s an astoundingly dramatic biennial which forms a low growing rosette of silvery leaves in year one and, in year two, sends up a mahoosive silvery-grey spike, covered in little blue flowers, after which it sets seed and dies. Bees love it. Will self sow in mild areas, or collect the seed to start it off again. ‘Another example of screaming exotica.

Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’

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The Mock Orange sounds as if it should feature in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But no. It looks quite like a Citrus flower; smells quite like a Citrus flower; it’s not a Citrus flower. Easy to grow and maintain, it’s a hardy deciduous shrub which is good in the border and also as a hedging plant. Fabulous fragrance and beautiful golden leaves, which can light up a slightly shaded spot. 2.5 m (h) x 1.5 m (w)

Hosta ‘Patriot’

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Hostas, or Plantain Lilies, are clump-forming herbaceous perennials, and this is one of the most attractive variegated forms. The vivid green, ovate leaves have an irregular creamy-white edge, which light up shady areas in the garden. Spikes of blue/mauve flowers emerge in summer. Easy to grow, it likes shade and moist, well-drained soil and needs to be watered fervently, fervidly and frequently – especially in the first year after planting. It loves being fussed over, fed and mulched. Sounds like great-aunt Agatha.

Jobs for the week

Continue to dead-head roses
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Dead-heading takes, and I quote, “frigging ages”. But it’s worth it. They’ll look good, smell good, and, by golly, they’ll do you good. Feed and water them too.
Tie-in tomato plants as they grow
Also applies to cucumbers, if needed. Feed and water. Natch.
Remove Broad Bean plants from your potager 
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Only after you have harvested their benison, of course. Enjoy! Then plant leeks. After all, the show must go on. And it does in this G/House bed measuring only 1 m x 2.5 m, containing Tomatoes, Courgettes, Broad Beans, Sweetcorn, Mizuna, Lettuce, Nasturtiums and Calendula.
Continue to sow biennials
Sea Stock, Digitalis, Lunaria, Sweet Rocket, Erysimum, Dianthus barbatus ‘Sooty’ and other Sweet Williams.
Continue to sow herbs and lettuce seed
Water and feed
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Dead head and mollycoddle those precious Pelargoniums
Cut flowers to enjoy indoors
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Still time to sow annuals
Cosmos, Nicotiana, Rudbeckias and Zinnias. Harden off well before planting out. ‘Growing Success’ slug pellets have lived up to their name. Better than tears.
Don’t stop weeding!
Keep at it, possums
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Until next week…

Friday 12th June 2020

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There may be a lockdown, but we at Friday Group are able to enjoy virtual tours of members’ gardens. This week, a beautiful garden in Hove hoved into view, featuring a  cleverly designed space, thoughtfully planted and nurtured, with trees, shrubs, grasses, topiary and a pond area. Although the owner felt it was largely a spring garden, it was clear that the wide range of plants and shrubs used provided year-round interest and colour. Structural, well-balanced and proportioned, each area of the garden linked to the next. Surely another candidate for inclusion in the National Garden Scheme?
Highlights were: two Jasmines planted right outside the kitchen door, so their fragrance can be enjoyed; pots of plants arranged on the patio; large box globes atop box hedging; Photinia ‘Red Robin’; Deutzia; Acer; Ferns; Choisya ternata; a white Wisteria; blue Hibiscus; Fatsia japonica; Tamarisk; Cotoneaster….. The owner selected five plants as particular favourites:
Lavatera x clementii ‘Barnsley Baby’
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A compact version of the Mallow ‘Barnsley’, an attractive pink/white patio shrub. Undemanding and very free-flowering; excellent in a sunny border or in a pot. Deciduous.
Stipa gigantea
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Perhaps the owner’s favourite plant – Golden Oats, or Giant Feather Grass. It glows when lit by the sun. Can reach 2 metres in height, but its arching stems and fountain-like growth make it almost translucent. Very architectural and lasts into early winter.
Rosa foetida
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The Austrian Briar Rose  – a glorious species Rose. Its introduction to Europe from Persia was an important moment in the cultivation of roses as there were no native yellow European roses.
Phormium tenax ‘Variegatum’
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The New Zealand Flax. Cream variegated leaves. Exotic, luxuriant, explosive. Apparently they do best on clay soils, but this one looks very happy. Architectural Plants claim that this plant is irresistible, even to the most vehement of Variegataphobes.
Melianthus major
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The Honey bush. A stunning, architectural plant with serrated edges on its large blue/green leaves. A massively structural presence – looks good with exotics. Loves a hot, sunny site. Needs protection from winter wet/cold (a greenhouse or cover with a dry winter mulch) but will survive in mild areas. Puts on a lot of growth in the autumn. Its leaves smell of peanut butter – who knew?
Pests, Diseases and Disorders
Box hedge. Dish of the day on the box moth caterpillar’s menu.
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We spent some time discussing the many challenges faced by the poor gardener and the various possible solutions available. Crying and swearing appeared to be common but ineffective responses. Identification is, as always, key.  To this end, Garden House came up with a so-called…
‘Fun Quiz’
…although what’s funny about mealy bug is debatable.
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This area of horticulture requires years of specialist research and expertise to master – and is somewhat difficult to summarise in a couple of paragraphs. Especially when there are over 500 different types of aphid alone. It’s important to look carefully at the damage, identify the problem and to think hard about what kind of action is needed (if any). Use reference books, the internet and resources such as the R.H.S. and knowledgeable gardening friends.
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Pests are a pest. There are so many. Deer, rabbits, moles, insects, birds, badgers, foxes, weevils, snails, slugs. Never mind keen five-year-old footballers. The box moth caterpillar has become one of the latest demons to torture growers (see photo at start of this section). Are plants being eaten, sucked, chewed, pecked, trampled, bored into, or slimed on? Try physical barriers, traps, grit/pellets, noise deterrents, organic sprays, nets, cloches, biological controls, companion planting, picking the darned things off by hand. Or, as a last resort, and do please check Health and Safety advice on this, flame throwers. Brutal but effective.
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Perhaps the plant is diseased (but not yet deceased). Many diseases are plant specific. For example, blight hits tomatoes in particular, mostly when the weather is warm and wet. Improving airflow, removing lower leaves and watering at the base can help. As can ensuring that plants are well grown, tough, and healthy. Other solutions may range from squirting with something noxious, squirting with something not noxious (organic pesticides or a mix of soap, oil and water), introducing biological controls, cutting off and removing damaged areas, watering, feeding and adding appropriate nutrients. Adopting good garden practices, like cleaning garden tools between each job, can prevent the spread of viruses. Buy disease resistant plants whenever possible.
Disorders may be caused by drought, flooding, wind, erratic watering, lack of nutrients and Acts of God. Fervent prayer is an option. And there are always other interesting hobbies to consider, like golf and embroidery.
Jobs for the week:
Divide Irises after flowering
Continue to sow half-hardy annuals like Zinnias, Sunflowers and Cosmos

Stake / support plants as necessary (it’s often necessary)

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Sow poppies such as Papaver ‘Ladybird’ and ‘Lauren’s Grape’ direct into the soil – scatter the seed. Thin out as they germinate

Deadhead perennials and annuals

Remove Honesty from the garden and dry out the seed heads

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Hang them upside down; the dried seed heads will be useful in flower arrangements. Leave one choice plant in the garden to collect seed from (e.g. ‘Chedglow’)

Remember the motto: Feeding Friday. Give a dilute organic liquid seaweed feed to shrubs/plants/pots

Plant Gladioli

Take pipings (cuttings) from Dianthus; sow seeds of biennials

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(Pipings are in the three pots at rear. Biennial seeds in front.) Taking pipings is easy to do and a cheap way to increase your stock. Alternatively, you can buy Dianthus plants – ‘The Plantsman’s Preference’ nursery is a good source. Chiltern Seeds are good for biennials.

Cut back Pulmonarias now, removing old leaves. Also Oriental Poppies

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Feed and water. Keep the seed heads to use as decorations later in the year

Cuttings of Lavender, Helianthemum, Rosemary, Sage etc. can be taken now.

Keep going

Continue to sow Lettuce; plant out Leeks after Broad Beans have finished; plant out Runner beans

Tend your tomatoes tenderly

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Think Helicopter Parenting. They need attention! Tie-in, pinch out, feed and water.

Buy relaxing foam bath; apply expensive hand cream; download whale music; breathe in aromatherapeutic (?) scents. Zone out.

Next week? Friday Group is off to Zoom around another garden plus we’ll be thinking about liquid assets: the collection, storage and use of water.

Friday 5th June 2020

The exquisite Geranium phaeum

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The Little Dixter corner at G/H was looking exotic, with Abutilons, Ginger, Tetrapanax – but, sadly, technical hitches prevented us from viewing the rest of the garden. (Maybe Garden House has secretly had the whole place covered in tarmac as a low maintenance option.) Undaunted, we shared our Pot Planting Prescriptions; some for sun, some for shade, some in pots, some in window boxes. Their progress over the summer will be interesting.

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We were reminded to consider the following when planting up containers:

a) Aspect Sun? Shade? Choose the right plant for the right location. How will the pot be viewed? It’s a piece of theatre, darling, so think about your audience. Will it be seen from the front? the side? all round? Think also about the size of the planter and its material.

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b) Compost G/H uses multi-purpose compost with grit or perlite, perhaps with some home-made compost mixed in. Some prefer soil-based composts, some like to add well-rotted manure to the base, some add water retaining granules.

c) Drainage is important. Don’t let your containers get waterlogged. Make sure they have drainage holes and use some broken pot pieces to prevent those holes from getting blocked. Pot feet are a good idea too.

d) Feed! Maybe add a little pelleted chicken manure to the compost when filling the pot, and thereafter feed regularly with a diluted liquid seaweed fertiliser. (Monty Don suggests adopting the phrase ‘Feeding Friday’. As opposed to the one we seem to have adopted at our house, ‘Feeding Frenzy’.)

e) Regular dead-heading  Of everything. Encourages and prolongs flowering, like these Felicia amelloides.

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f) Water regularly Consider using upside-down plastic bottles (make a small hole in the lid) filled with water and pressed into the soil. Efficient, effective, economical, everso clever.

Plant ident.

A few drought tolerant plants:

Lotus hirsutus

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A mat-forming shrub with very pretty pale pink flowers in the summer. Beautiful silvery foliage. Needs free-draining gritty soil. Easy from cuttings, which is just as well, because it’s wise to take some in case it freezes/rots to death over the winter. Also, on a topical note, its common name is the Hairy Canary Flower. Obviously unable to get a cut, like the rest of us in lockdown.

Phlomis italica

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This is the Balearic Island Sage. A hardy, evergrey plant growing to around 1.5 m with lilac-pink hooded flowers. Full sun, front of border, drought tolerant. Soft, felted leaves. Excellent seed heads.

Euphorbia seguieriana subsp. niciciana

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A delicate, upright, clump-forming perennial. Fine blue-green leaves. Lovely in a pot in a sunny area. Beware the sap!

And so, we come to The Tasks:

Water. Weed. Worry

Feed plants regularly

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We all love a good feed and grow heartily as a result.  Pelargoniums respond in exactly the same way, and, in fact, will happily enjoy a double strength organic seaweed feed.  Give your summer containers the same treatment – they will love you for it.

Dead heading

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It pays dividends. Do it, and you’ll achieve results like this Rosa ‘Albertine’

Continue to harden off seedlings and plant out. Take cuttings of tender perennials to increase your stock

Make a wigwam for runner beans; plant the beans out and protect from slugs

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Heap big wigwam. Heap big slugs

Plant up your pot/container.

Keep a note of the plants chosen. So far we have these:

Large wooden container with planted olive tree. Pelargonium ‘Pink Capricorn’; Lavendula stoechas (French Lavender); Erigeron karvinskianus. A Mediterranean planting – best enjoyed with an Aperol spritz

The Cobbled Together pot. Nemesia ‘Framboise’; Petunia ‘Surfinia Sky Blue’; Pelargonium ‘Pink Capricorn’; Helichrysum ‘Blue Green’

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The ‘Lockdown’ container. Cephalaria gigantea; Salvia viridis ‘Blue Monday’; white trailing Fuchsia; Viola cornuta ‘Penny Orange Jump Up’

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Terracotta pot in full sun for most of the day.  Pelargonium ‘Terry’s@G/H’; Osteospermum ‘Serenity Blue-Eyed Beauty’; Calibrachoa ‘Can Can Black Cherry’

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Window box in a north facing shady courtyard. Plectranthus ciliatus ‘Nico’; Heuchera ‘Autumn Leaves’; Fuchsia ‘Patricia Hodge’

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Terracotta pot. Salvia farinaceae; Osteospermum ‘Gelato Cranberry’; Saxifrage

A pair of terracotta pots. Fuchsia’Bella’; unnamed Fuchsia; Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’; Gaura lindheimeri ‘Summer Breeze’; Felicia amelloides; trailing Fuchsia

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Trough. Heliotrope ‘Dwarf Marine’; Cerinthe major purpurascens; Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’

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Terracotta pot. Stipa tenuissima; Persicaria microcephela ‘Red Dragon’; Plectranthus purpureus; Pelargonium ‘Pink Capricorn’

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Terracotta pot. Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’;Pelargonium ‘Lord Bute’; Plectranthus argentatus; Helichrysum petiolare ‘Silver’

Large terracotta pot. Rosa ‘Francis E. Lester’; Perovskia atriplicifolia; Lamium

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Vintage animal feeder. Does this mean it fed old animals? Aeonium arboreum ‘Schwartzkopf’; Ophiopogon planiscapus; Geranium pratense ‘Midnight Reiter’; Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’; Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’

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Vintage metal tank. Aeonium ‘Schwartzkopf’ (there’s a theme going on here); Diascia (orange); Dahlia (single, orange); Angelica archangelica; Tagetes ‘Burning Embers’

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Black ceramic planter. Salvia ‘Black and Blue’; Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’; Panicum ‘Frosted Explosion’; Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’

Looking forward to our next Zoom session and a virtual tour of another F/G garden.

Friday 29th May 2020

We seem to have Zoomed through May and spring. Can June really be next? The evidence suggests it can and will….

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This week we were given a virtual tour of another Friday Group member’s garden.  We’re learning so much from these – and clearly Group members have learned an enormous amount from Garden House. Call it, ‘The Garden House Effect’. This large, sloping garden in Woodingdean, is beautifully laid out, planted and maintained. It contains colour-themed borders, roses, beds of grasses, raised vegetable beds, a newly dug pond, a greenhouse, compost bins – the list goes on and on. As does the gardening. Thanks to the owner for a great visit – and for supplying brilliant photos.

Here are five of her favourite plants:

Geranium maderense

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The Madeira Cranesbill. This terrific geranium is sited in a border filled with ‘hot’ colours. A robust but sometimes short-lived perennial, it has large, deeply dissected leaves and pink-purple flowers with a deep magenta centre. Remove flowered stems and old leaves to encourage further growth. Keep frost free over winter. Loves the sun, but copes with shade. Has an A.G.M. and is attractive to pollinators. A favourite at Garden House too.

Argyrocytisus battandieri

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Pineapple Broom. Fragrant. (You can guess what the scent is like – delicious.) Here planted with the glaucous foliage of Euphorbia beneath it. Silky, grey-green trifoliate leaves and golden-yellow pea-shaped panicles of flowers make it an attractive shrub to grow; particularly good against a sunny wall where it can reach over 4 m. Suits most soils. Hardy, but appreciates some shelter. Drought tolerant. A.G.M. Tick, tick, tick, tick – that’s all the boxes.

Rosa ‘Fighting Temeraire’

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A David Austin English Shrub Rose, with a wonderful, fruity fragrance, reminiscent of lemon zest. Large flowers open to a rich apricot colour, with a soft yellow centre just below the stamens. Repeat-flowering and grows to 1 m (h) x 1.5 m (w). Good in a mixed border, but would also fit into a wilder planting scheme as the flowers have such a relaxed, informal shape. Attractive to bees. This garden owner absolutely loves hers!

Stachys byzantina in front of Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’

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Such a wonderful colour combination; the soft, silvery-grey foliage of the Lamb’s Ears with tiny mauve flowers borne aloft on spikes works beautifully with the wallflower behind.

Phlomis fruticosa

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Jerusalem sage, a small semi-evergreen shrub in the Lamiaceae family. Provides verticality (love that word!) and architectural interest; yellow flowers grow in whorls around the stems, and grey-green lanceolate leaves are soft to the touch. The seed heads are attractive too, and can be left over the winter; they look stunning when frosted. Grow in full sun in fertile, well-drained soil – it flourishes in chalky and sandy soils. Drought tolerant. A.G.M.

Pondering upon ponds

The pond which has recently been created in this garden has seen almost immediate benefits, with frogs carelessly flouting all social distancing regulations. As well as an increase in wildlife of all sorts, the prospect of choosing appropriate water plants is exciting – although it seems that these will often arrive of their own accord out of the ether. Ponds need to be in full sun, in a secluded part of the garden, away from trees, have a deep area of about 60 cms, shallow shelves for marginal plants and some easy means for creatures to access and leave the water.

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Oxygenating plants such as False watercress are needed in the deeper parts of the pond. Rafting plants like Waterlilies are beautiful, and their floating leaves create shade, inhibiting algae. They also provide hiding places for fish and other aquatic creatures. Equisetum hyemale (the Lego plant) is a dramatic, upright plant with hollow bamboo-like stems. Best contained in a pot or basket (it is set on world domination), it is a good choice for boggy and marginal shallow areas. Upright plants are essential for supporting the life cycle of dragonflies. Another excellent marginal plant is the Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris, as is the glorious native Iris pseudacorus.  All sorts of flowering plants can be grown in and around water, from the impressive Pontaderia cordata to the delicate Water Forget-me-Not, and their presence will attract a wide variety of insects.

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To have or not to have a pond, that is the aquatic question. They have a whole vocabulary of their own – emergent, submerged, marginal, rafting, oxygenating… Fortunately, there are specialists who can help; Waterside Nursery is one such, with an informative website: http://www.watersidenursery.co.uk. The Wildlife Trust is also good: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org

Jobs for the week

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The general message is: water, water, water, weed, feed, water, water, repeat

Keep an eye on tomatoes

See instructions above and follow religiously. Indeterminate tomatoes need pinching out and are generally grown outside up canes, or in ring-culture pots in the greenhouse. Determinate tomatoes are squatter in growth, like bush tomatoes; plant in grow bags or large pots. Stake.

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These bush tomatoes are being watered by a fiendishly clever, terribly complicated and expensive system. Cut off the top half of a plastic bottle. Leave the screw top on and make a very small hole in it. Turn upside down and press into soil next to tomato plant. Fill with water. Hey presto: water drips onto plant’s roots. Lie down for rest of day.

Plant out dahlias

Make sure your plants have been properly hardened off. Like characters in a Guy Ritchie film, they should be well hard. Can go into the ground or BIG pots Cut out all but five strong stems in order to promote large blooms. Stake. Pinch out the first flower bud at the top of the plant (down to a node) to encourage side shoots and more flower production. Goes against your instincts, but it will pay dividends.

Sow Radishes regularly – in clumps of four or five seeds

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Pot Aubergines on into the next size pot

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Sow mini squashes

They will replace the Sweet Peas once they are over. They will be happy to clamber up the supports left behind, including wigwams and obelisks.

Tie-in Clematis

Wire ties covered in brown paper are especially useful for this job. Do the whole feeding and watering thing. Obvs.

Dead-head roses and other flowers to extend their flowering period

Create an exotic area

Why not? At Garden House, Little Dixter has become a haven for exotica. Not erotica. As far as we know. Tetrapanax, Cannas, Hedychium… all cry out to be grown and spelled correctly. Maybe try a Banana (mustafaMusa) – or a Citrus plant, perhaps? At the very least, sit in the hottest spot in your garden and eat a Bounty.

Protect your crops from birds and wildlife

Unless you are planning to grow your fruit and veg. solely for their benefit. Use netting or wire cloches.

Plant up a pot

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And share the planting recipe with Friday Group in next week’s Zoom session.  Note down any cultivar names. Plantings can be real or virtual, but preferably real.  Take a photo now and another later in the season.

Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Until that weed over there in the corner catches your eye.

 

 

Friday 22nd May 2020

Everything’s looking lovely in the Garden House garden. Purple Alliums sing against magenta Roses and chartreuse Euphorbias.

For our virtual meeting today, we zoomed all the way to Eastbourne to discover the delights of another member’s garden and the fruits of years of hard work.  Our hosts garden more or less directly on chalk, with just a few inches of topsoil, and also have to cope with a sloping rear garden which is exposed and windy at the top. Rebuilding wide, attractive steps which lead onto terraced areas and improving the soil with £££ of compost has improved matters considerably, and now the informal, naturalistic planting is a haven for wildlife of all sorts.

Roses abound. We were introduced to ‘Princess Anne’, ‘Alan Titchmarsh’ and the ‘Rambling Rector – all of whom were looking magnificent – demonstrating the importance of pruning, mulching, feeding and watering. A recently planted Rosa ‘For Your Eyes Only’ left us shaken and stirred – part of an ongoing planting project. The chalk bank at the top of the garden has Geraniums, false Valerian, Cotoneaster and Lavenders. Here the grass is only cut every 3 – 4 weeks and there are areas of long grass left uncut too. Wildflowers seed around – Vetches, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Clovers.

An island bed is planted with purple Thalictrum, orange Escholzia, Nepeta, Sweet Rocket, Cerinthe and the impressive, silvery Verbascum olympicum, which thrives on alkaline soils and is home to the mullein moth in its egg and caterpillar stages.

Plant Ident:

Argyranthemum ‘Jamaica Primrose’

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A member of the Aster (not Astor) family, and native to the Canary Islands, this joyous daisy is a half-hardy perennial. Primrose yellow petals contrast with a darker centre and grey/green leaves. Its long-flowering period from May onward is aided by regular dead-heading and its height makes it useful in the border. Take cuttings in the autumn.

Nepeta gigantea ‘Six Hills Giant’

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Lamiaceae family (sage/mint).  This perennial Catmint attracts bees and mint moths, smells great when crushed and can be pruned easily by giving it a number 3 razor cut. This will encourage growth and a further crop of flowers later in the season. Enjoys light, well-drained soil in full sun. Cats love it. Divide in the spring. The plant, not the cats.

Cerinthe major purpurescens

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Aka, Honeywort.  A self-seeding annual; great in the border. Grey/green leaves and purple/blue drooping bell-like bracts. Good in borders, pots and vases. A fantastic plant to put alongside orange Californian poppies. A real zingy thingy.

Cistus x hybridus

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Hybrid Rock Rose. A bushy, evergreen shrub with white flowers which last for only one day, although this is compensated for by the fact that it flowers for ages over the summer. Good on chalk – as you can see! Needs full sun, preferably a west-facing aspect and some shelter – should then be hardy.

Erigeron karvinskianus

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Somehow ‘Mexican fleabane’ just doesn’t sound as good. Masses of small daisies are borne in profusion, which is also the name of a cultivar, starting white and maturing to pink. Loved by bees and butterflies. Flowers vigorously from May to October; self-seeds; great in nooks and crannies but not crooks and nannies. Full sun.

Jobs for the week:
 
Check your roses
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Check. Looking good! Keep feeding and watering them.  As they go over, why not collect the petals and dry them in the sun? Make confetti or a wonderful potpourri.
Enjoy your Pelargoniums
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Especially if they are Regal ones and live in a Pelargonium Palace.
Look after your tomato plants – there are various ways of growing them
1. Bush tomatoes need BIG pots (as big as a bucket) if they aren’t in the ground. No pinching out required. Full sun. Water and feed. This method is suitable for determinate tomatoes – ones which tend to ripen early, have a compact shape and ripen all around at the same time (usually over a period of about two weeks).
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2. Peat-free Grow Bags can be used to plant determinate bush tomatoes against a hot sunny wall – no staking required.
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3. Indeterminate tomatoes have a longer growth period, and can produce fruit until the frosts arrive.  They need pinching out, so check their armpits regularly. At Garden House, a frame of ten poles has been constructed in an outside bed and a cordon tomato planted at the base of each, to be trained upward.
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In the same bed are crimson-flowered broad beans, courgettes , Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ (companion planting) and Nasturtiums (a somewhat scarily named sacrificial planting). The idea is that the Nasturtiums will attract the blackfly. Let’s hope someone’s told the blackfly. Use organic slug pellets, or you may find that the entire planting has been guzzled overnight by slimy critters.
4. Ring culture is a good way of growing indeterminate tomatoes in the greenhouse
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Suitable for vine tomatoes such as Sungold, Gardeners’ Delight and Costoluto Fiorentino. There are two reservoirs, one for water and the other for feeding. The tomatoes produce feeder roots up their stems. Tomatoes planted 18 inches apart.  Note the companion planting of Tagetes – to discourage whitefly.
Plant Hydrangeas in a partially shady area 
Cuttings can be taken now. Cutting under a leaf joint, take a non-flowering shoot about 10 cms long from new growth. Cut the leaves in half to reduce moisture loss. Insert the cutting into gritty compost mixed with perlite. Place pot into a propagator. Spray with water, being careful not to soak the compost. Or rotting will ensue.
Continue to sow vegetables
Like Runner Beans. These are ‘Wisley Magic’; sow and stand back: Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum.
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Prick out seedlings
As plants grow, consider whether they would benefit from staking.  Ammis and Cornflowers would. Cut out the first flower as it appears in annuals; this will encourage multiple side shoots, bushiness and floriferousnessessss.
 
Pot on established small plants.  Sow seeds.  
You can do a second sowing of things like Calendulas, Zinnias and Cosmos now.
 
Sow biennials for flowers next year   

First, order your seeds.  Hmmm….someone’s been busy.  

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Try Foxgloves, Sweet Rocket, Sweet William, Anchusa ‘Loddon Blue’, Papaver nudicaule, Wallflowers. Plant the seedlings out in October to flower in May/June/July 2021. In their first year, they form a rosette of leaves; they then need a period of cold over the winter months (vernalisation) to induce flowering in the following year. Over the winter they don’t need any protection, as they are very hardy. A good choice for those without a greenhouse. The Sweet William Dianthus barbatus nigrescens ‘Sooty’ (below) is a lovely biennial to grow, and a favourite at Garden House. 
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Equipment for the garden
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Sometimes it’s good to research other aids to gardening which are now available.  Hotbins, for instance. A sealed, insulated unit designed to make compost very quickly at high temperatures. Eventually, you should be able to dispose of cooked food in the bin – something not advised in a regular compost heap. Can be sited (discreetly! – it’s not a thing of beauty) near the house for convenience. Needs careful management. One to think about.
Friday Group Challenge
Write a recipe for a container you have planted up in your garden. Note down the exact names of the cultivars. Think foliage, spillers, fillers and thrillers. Go wild! Take a photo now – and again later in the season.
 
So, until next week….. happy gardening!
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Friday 15th May 2020

This week Friday Group was given another virtual tour around a fellow member’s garden. Such a treat – great design, beautifully planted and clearly much loved. It featured a change of level at the rear of the garden, a lawn with a meandering path, a summer house, a greenhouse, a pond, roses and many cottage garden plants.  Evergreens provided form and structure.
Here are some of the highlights:
Acacia 
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The glorious Mimosa tree in full flower showing off masses of fragrant yellow flowers. Native to Australia, it flowers from February to May.  Now, that’s a long-running show.
Acer palmatum ‘Inaba-shidare’
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Deciduous. A wonderful Japanese Maple with feathery, filigree, purple/burgundy foliage which turns bright crimson in the autumn.  An excellent specimen tree.
Betula utilis jacquemontii ‘Grayswood Ghost’ A.G.M.
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The multi-stemmed Himalayan Silver Birch has glossy green leaves which turn yellow in the autumn months.  It is particularly known for its stunning ghostly-white peeling bark.  So tactile! Deciduous; it grows best in full sun or part shade.
Phillyrea latifolia
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The Green Olive tree, planted and grown here as a hedge.  With its tight, lush, evergreen foliage, it’s a terrific plant; according to its owner, it only needs trimming once a year. Hardy and highly recommended. 
Pinus sylvestris ‘Nana’
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The Dwarf Scots Pine is an evergreen conifer which can apparently live for up to 1,000 years. Sadly, we have yet to breed gardeners who can do the same. A fantastic, slow-growing, compact tree, suitable for sites where low maintenance is a priority.  Its distinctive flaking bark is orange/red-brown in colour, whilst the foliage is glaucous- blue/green. Needs full sun.
Jobs for the week:
Dead heading
Essential to encourage longer flowering in plants such as geums and other herbaceous perennials and annuals
Stake hardy annuals as necessary
Ammi majus and Cornflowers grow very tall and will do better with a little support.  As we all do.  Wire twist ties covered with brown paper are good for this job.
When growing hardy annuals, cut the emerging central flower out
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This will encourage a bushy plant with more side shoots. If your neighbours ask what you’re doing you say (and here, repeat after me), “Oh, this? Just removing the apical dominance.”  Then waft indoors, modestly but confidently.
Above: the hardy annual Corn cockle – Agrostemma ‘Alba’. Note the fabulous markings, which look like embroidery.
Feeding and watering
Difficult to be precise when there are so many plants which have different needs – but this is where getting to know your individual darlings will pay off. Succulents don’t like too much water – yet roses can’t get enough. Generally speaking, use pelleted chicken manure to establish plants when planting them. About a small handful in a large planting hole, mixed in with good soil and compost. Feeding can be with Maxicrop Seaweed Concentrate (diluted), every couple of weeks. Roses love Uncle Tom’s Tonic, as does Uncle Tom.
Plan and plant up summer pots and troughs
Be daring.  How about Angelica with Aeoniums? Then you can move on to the ‘B’ section. Thinks about some new colour combinations (not talking underwear here). Oranges and purples?
Now is a good time to prune evergreens
For example – Griselinia, Pittosporum, Holly etc. We have now passed the magic date of 15th May when, hopefully, the danger of frost is over. (No liability accepted.) Feed and water the evergreens afterwards. Rosemary can be cut back too – but don’t cut into the old wood.  Prune it hard back to above where a couple of leaves are growing.  Use the opportunity to take some tip cuttings: cut under a leaf joint, giving a tip about 5 cms long. Take off the bottom leaves and insert into a small pot of gritty compost.
Continue to harden off half-hardy annuals, some of which can start to be planted out now
Keep a watchful eye on the temperature.  Don’t plant out the half-hardies which notoriously HATE the cold, like Rhodochitons, Mina Lobata and Morning Glory. Basically, you have to be like an over-anxious parent and hover over your seedlings day and night, being careful not to let them get too cold, too wet, too hot, too dry or too leggy. Exhausting. But this is why gin was invented.
Start a new project – how about a Rose Meadow?  
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At Garden House roses are being planted along with Verbena bonariensis, Gaura lindheimeri, Orlaya grandiflora, Helichrysum, and annual grasses.  One of the roses is Rosa ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (see below). A stunner. The charity Perennial have advice on Rose Meadows and Peter Beales roses are always a good bet.
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Sow biennials now
Much cheaper than buying the plants themselves.  Foxgloves, Wallflowers and Verbascums can be started off now to flower next year.
Take note of any gaps in planting 
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Plan to fill them with suitable plants next year. Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’ (above) is a good filler for what used to be called the ‘June gap’ – but which is now the ‘May gap’.  Perennial Dutch Irises are stylish – and you can never have too many Alliums.
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Harden off and plant out tomato plants
They can go into large containers to grow into big, sturdy plants. Place them near a sunny wall for maximum warmth, sun and protection. Water well, but don’t over-water. They love being fed too. See advice on being an over-anxious parent above. Now is the time to bring that home-made watering can into use (The plastic milk carton.) Keep a note of the date of last feeding on the carton itself.
Watch out for slugs and snails
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Some plants are a magnet for them.  Hostas are a particular delicacy, as are all your carefully sown salad crops. Use grit to discourage the slimy blighters. Be like Scar in The Lion King and “Be Prepared”.
The Chelsea Chop
If you can’t give yourself a haircut, for goodness sake do at least cut back your bushy herbaceous perennials. Things like Sedums, Geraniums, Heleniums, Asters and Phlox. Seems a tad scary, but this will prevent them from flopping and exposing their bare middles. ‘Nuff said. It will also encourage more flowers and sturdier growth.  I wish a haircut could do as much for me.
Lay in enormous supplies of gincake and chocolate. With the amount of weight this blogger has put on over Lockdown, no wonder it’s called bulk buying.
And………. rest!

Have a break.  Once you have completed your Latin For Horticulture homework, maybe move on to Japanese?  That’s what’s happening at Garden House. Check the labels.

For some, this Lockdown has clearly gone on for far too long.
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Sayonara

Friday 8th May 2020

The wonderful Paulownia tomentosum at Garden House
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Run out of things to do in Lockdown?  Given up on learning the banjo?  Mandarin homework too difficult?  Turned out yet another rubbish watercolour?  Take heart, my friends. There are Garden House tasks to accomplish, should you choose to accept them.  But first, the all important –
Plant Ident.
This week we were given a virtual tour round the beautiful garden of one of our very own Friday Group members. And it was simply lovely. Design, planting, atmosphere – it had it all. One area was selected for particular study –

Erodium pelargoniiflorum 

The Pelargonium-flowered storksbill, native to the Pyrenees and belonging to the Geraniaceae family.

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Perennial, although a bit on the tender side. Looks like a geranium and is a lovely thing; its white flowers have maroon markings. Lax habit. Likes sun, but not wet, and prefers a neutral / alkaline soil. Good for pollinators. Self-seeds gently or can be propagated by basal cuttings from April – September. Add it to your list. 

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ AGM

Bishop’s Hat or Barrenwort.  Belongs to the Berberidaceae (Barberry) family.  Native to Europe and Asia.

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A vigorous, rhizomatous perennial which has bright yellow flowers held upright in an open spray.  They are more easily seen if the leaves are removed in late winter. The leaves are the plant’s best feature – beautifully shaped and opening light green with red tints. Really tough, good ground cover and will tolerate dry shade. Propagate by division after flowering or in the autumn.

Athyrium pictum ‘Silver Falls’      

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The Painted Lady Fern, native to eastern Asia, belonging to the Cliff Fern family (Woodsiaceae).  A deciduous fern with creeping rhizomes. Grey-green fronds have purple-red midribs, and are heavily overlaid with silver and a central, purplish flush that develops. More silvery than Athyrium pictum (the Japanese Painted Fern) and keeps its colour for longer. Likes a shady sheltered site. Propagate by division in spring

Aquilegia formosa  

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Aka, the Crimson, Red or Western Columbine is a form of Granny’s Bonnet. Part of the Ranunculaceae family and native to North America. The name ‘formosa’ means beautiful and this lovely plant is certainly that.  Best raised from seed, its red and yellow flowers give a pop of colour in the border, and have a light, airy quality.  A short-lived perennial. Likes sun or part shade.

Thalictrum delavayi album   

Another great plant from the Ranunculaceae family, Chinese Meadow Rue is a favourite in this garden.

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Not in flower yet, but its foliage is attractive, with deeply divided pale green leaves. Beautiful, airy white flowers create a frothy haze in the summer border. Can reach up to 2 metres in height, so needs support. Likes a rich, fertile soil in part or full shade and not too dry.  Seed heads look good and it also makes a striking cut flower. Herbaceous, so dies down in the winter. Can divide in the spring or autumn if required.

Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ 

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Related to the edible buckwheat, Persicaria is from the Polygonaceae family. A dramatic and vigorous plant (estate agent’s jargon for “it’s a thug”) which grows to the owner’s height in her garden, but is kept in check.  Exotic purple-crimson foliage is the main attraction as the white flowers are nondescript.  Cut back in late autumn when the plant dies back.  Grow anywhere, but good in light shade; propagate by cuttings or division.

Saxifraga x urbium AGM       

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Known from the 17th century as London Pride, this is part of the Saxifragaceae family. Bishop Walsham How (1823–1897) wrote a poem to the flower rebuking it for having the sin of pride. When told the flower had the name because Londoners were proud of it he wrote another poem apologising to it! A song by Noël Coward, celebrated London Pride and the plant became very popular in World War II.  Much loved in this garden, it forms a mat which provides great ground cover, with a mass of small pale pink rosette flowers.  A beautiful cut flower. Grows anywhere, even deep shade.  Easy to propagate by offsets.

Jobs for the week:
Finish removing flowered tulips bulbs from pots
… and also from the borders if required. You can let the foliage die down naturally and keep the bulbs somewhere cool, airy and dry until next year.
Start to cut back Euphorbias
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As they go over, cut their flowering stems back to the base of the plant. Remember to take care as you do this job as the sap is toxic and an irritant to the skin, so full protective armour is required, including goggles. In keeping with the times, let’s call it P.P.E.
Plant up summer containers
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At Garden House, drought tolerant plants like Pelargoniums, Argyranthemums and Acidanthera murielae are being used as far as possible. Trailers such as Helichrysum and Plectranthus (above) are invaluable.
Feeding plants
At this time of year, regular feeding makes a huge difference to their performance. A dilution of Maxicrop organic seaweed extract is ideal.  Why not adopt the idea of using an empty, plastic milk carton and punch some small holes in the lid. This creates a magnificent, if somewhat utilitarian, watering can with a fine rose spray. For free. We like that.
Feed your Roses
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Uncle Tom’s Tonic is good. (Although my own Uncle Tom’s tonic was called whiskey.)
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Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’ demonstrating the floriferous results of skilful pruning earlier in the year.
Continue to harden off half-hardy annuals and tender perennials
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Take them out in the day and back into the greenhouse/cold frame/under the bed at night. The 15th May isn’t far away, if that’s the date when you normally begin to plant out your tender lovelies.
If your seedlings are becoming etiolated…
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Etiolated = long and leggy, like these Cosmos. As a rule, because they aren’t getting enough light. Try to get them outside during the day, or at least turn them around by 90 degrees each day to ensure they get as much light as possible. (It’s a time-consuming business, this gardening lark.)

When you plant them out, fill a module tray full pf compost and strike off the excess.  Ensure that you plant each seedling deeply. Coil the long root and stem all into the planting hole in a single cell. This is better than having an unstable long-stemmed seedling. Charles Dowding, the No-Dig guru, has some good You-Tube videos on this subject.

Spray SB Plant Invigorator on seedlings (including veg.) 
Reduce Dahlias to five stems
This will encourage bigger and better flowers.  First take your Dahlia.
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Take off all but five stems
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To increase your stock, pot up the cuttings; trim the stem just below a leaf joint
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Chrysanthemum cuttings can also be taken now.
Other plants looking good at Garden House
Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’: a tough, long-flowering self seeder. Essential.
Anchusa azurea ‘Loddon Royalist’. Bluer than blue Alkanet.
Tulbaghia ‘Purple Eye’. The delicate, slender-leaved ‘Society Garlic’. Gorgeous.
The Cynara Cardunculus is magnificent…
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But just take a look at that Wisteria alba!
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Perfection!

Friday 1st May 2020

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Lockdown continues.  As do Zoom meetings.  Friday Group remain supportive, encouraging and inspirational.  Photos provide proof.

 

 

Plant ident.

Tulbaghia ‘Purple Eye’

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Known as ‘Society Garlic’, this Tulbaghia is a clump forming perennial with slender leaves and pale lavender flowers which have a deep purple centre.  Suitable for borders or containers – it is valuable as it flowers for a long time,  Full sun and fertile, well-drained soils suit it beautifully.

Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’

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Scarlet flowers held on long stems bloom prolifically from mid-spring.  Regular dead-heading prolongs their lengthy flowering period – and, in fact, they may flower again later in the season.  Plant in full sun.  Good in most soils, including sandy ones.

Euphorbia x arendsii

A cross between E. walichii and E. griffithii ‘Dixter’, this splendid specimen flourishes and glows in the sunshine, which helps to develop its wonderful colour.  Clump-forming and fully hardy, grows to around 120 cms tall.

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Astrantia ‘Buckland’

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Masterwort is best grown in semi-shade. Compact umbels of pincushion-shaped flowers are surrounded by bracts – in this instance, the flowers are a delicate shade of pink, whilst the bracts are white with green tips. A good cut flower which dries well. Grows to around 90 cms.

Angelica taiwaniana

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A spectacular architectural plant, with purple-bracted umbels of creamy white flowers which are followed by perfumed seeds.  Fabulous foliage. Will grow in sun or partial shade.  Monocarpic, which means it generally takes 3 years to flower, rather like Echiums.  Sets seed and dies after flowering.  Makes a real statement in the border – but why not try it in a pot?  Go mad in Lockdown and give it a go.

Tasks for the week:

Pull out Spanish bluebells
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So inferior to our own dear native bluebells. The invaders have wide, strappy leaves and flowers all around the stem. The natives (see below) have slimmer leaves, delicate flowers on one side only, are a darker blue and more fragrant. Sounds like the judge’s reflection on Mary Archer in his summing up of her husband’s court case.
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Plant out Gladioli
Not too late to order them from somewhere like Parkers’ Wholesale.  At Garden House,  ‘Espresso’ and ‘Plum Tart’ are being planted amongst Stipa tenuissima.  (Sounds like a particularly good coffee break.)  Also being used is Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’, a species glad.
Take tulips out of their pots
Once they have finished flowering and either a) get rid of them b) plant them into borders or c) put them into boxes to dry out to be re-planted later in the year.
Replace said tulips with summer bedding
First take out about 30 cms of compost, mix some new compost with organic feed such as pelleted chicken manure and put into the pots. Harden off bedding plants gradually before planting out. At Garden House, the magic date is 15th May, but other dates are available.
Pot on cuttings (e.g. of tender perennials) and seedlings 
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Tender perennials include things like Pelargoniums, those prized potted plants posing in the Pelargonium Palace.  Don’t forget to water and label.  You think you’ll remember what they are.  You won’t.
Don’t plant Dahlias out just yet
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However, do take cuttings if you so wish. Leave 5 stems on the original plant to promote better and larger flowers. Take cuttings from under a leaf joint, insert into gritty compost and they will hopefully develop and flower next year.
Grasses
Time to give your grasses the Leonard of London treatment. Use an afro comb to channel your inner Teasy-Weasy and remove old thatch from the plants. Apply the horticultural equivalent of conditioner – a handful of pelleted chicken poo, and water well. Luxuriant and gorgeously glossy growth should result.
Sow beetroot and other vegetable seeds
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Radishes, French beans and Runner beans.  Have a go at something new – Sweetcorn?  Squashes?  Sow half-hardy annuals: Cosmos, Zinnias etc.
Cut back the long growth of Penstemons and also Allium leaves
Tidies things up if they are looking tatty.
Finito!
Now relax and enjoy it all.  Here we enjoy a beautiful Iris we fondly call Iris ‘Liz Bradshaw’
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Well done, gardeners all! Time to head for the teapot and the Hobnobs.

Friday 24th April 2020

Lockdown continues. Baby Boomers have become Baby Zoomers. Times are strange, but in the Garden House garden? – well, it just keeps on growing and doing its thing.

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Plant ident.

Tulip acuminata

Not Tulip ‘Hakuna Matata’, although your troubles will certainly disappear once you acquire and contemplate it flowering in your garden.

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This spidery, delicate beauty is a perennial species tulip.  A bit spendy, but so worth it.  Why not invest some money in these bulbs and experience for yourself the frenzy of the seventeenth century’s tulip mania?

Allium cowanii

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Garden House rates this hardy perennial as a ‘good doer’. It very usefully appears just as the tulips go over.  About 40 cms in height, sprays of pure white flowers are held aloft supported by wiry stems. Long-lasting, good as cut flowers and a magnet for pollinators, planted en masse they are super duper.

Rosa banksiae ‘Lutescens’

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A near thornless, rambling rose and one of the very earliest to flower. Growing to about 10 m, it produces small, single, scented yellow flowers.  At Garden House, it’s situated on the terrace, where it provides a spectacular display in April / May.  Prune after flowering to shape and to keep in check. R. banksiae ‘Lutea’ is a double-flowered version of this.

Erysimum cheiri ‘Old School’

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A beautiful short-lived perennial wallflower, which flowers for months on end. Soft yellows, mauves and purples combine to great effect and make a wonderful planting in full sun on their own or, better still, interplanted with tulips.  Plant densely and in quantity to generate maximum admiration.

Myrrhis odorata

Sweet cicely is a terrific option for dry shade.  An aromatic, herbaceous perennial, it has umbels of white, frothy flowers and fern-like leaves.  Can be used as a sweetener when cooking rhubarb or the leaves can be added to salads – they have a mild aniseed flavour.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’

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This glorious Honesty cultivar was featured in the blog for 3/4/20, and look at it now!

Tasks for the week:

Apply liquid feed to growing annuals and also to tender perennials like salvias and pelargoniums, such as Pelargonium tomentosum

Begin hardening off plants which are growing under cover.  Take them out during the day and tuck them back up at night until the temperature is reliably warm
Prune evergreens once all danger of frost has passed; Eleagnus, Euonymous, Box and Viburnum tinus will all respond happily to haircuts now. Water and feed them too.
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Prune spring flowering shrubs such as Kerria, Forsythia and Honeysuckle once they have finished flowering
Sow salad crops in bowls, colanders and boxes.  Don’t forget to provide drainage. Can be left outside now.  (This means it will certainly snow next week.) Salads can also be sown direct into the ground, but may appreciate a little protection.
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Deadhead daffodils and tulips  Use a trug for maximum Country Gardener style.  Play soft background music.  Eat a Flake.
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Plant out any species bulbs which have flowered in pots.  Feed and label.
Cut back Hydrangeas to a pair of buds and maybe thin them a little. Softwood cuttings can be taken now and should root fairly quickly.
Continue to prick out seedlings once their first true leaves have appeared
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Order bulbs for next year and plant. E.g. Lilies, Eucomis etc
Sort out compost heaps Turn them. Lovely stuff.
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Water, water, water (especially pots) and don’t forget to add a liquid feed every couple of weeks.  Maxicrop seaweed extract is good.
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Take cuttings of plants to increase your stock for free.  New shoots of perennials will root well. Remember to plant the cuttings deeply and firmly
Plant out perennials.  Dig some pelleted organic chicken manure into the planting hole  before planting. Water in well; label.
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So, there we are. That little lot should keep us all busy and out of trouble for a few days.
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Well, some of us, anyway.