All posts by Anne Unsworth

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.

Pyracantha

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.

Fragaria

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….

and…relax

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

Soggy

Waterloggy

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 –

Tamed!

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

Timber!

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’

Flow

It’s a design thing

Beds improved

More light on the subject

Water, water, water

Time for a celebratory Group Photo

Woohoo!

Hard work

and a lot of fun

Well done, team!

Friday 6th May 2022

This week Friday Group set off for Laughton in East Sussex to work for the morning at Pelham Plants – a wonderful nursery owned by Paul Seaborne, a long-time friend of Garden House.

An opportunity to work in a very special garden under the eagle eye of a fantastic plantsman. Daunting, but exciting.

We congregate,

drink coffee and chat

and are welcomed by Paul, who’s been busy selling his plants at various Plant Fairs recently. That’s in addition to running the nursery, propagating plants, and managing a sizeable garden as well.

Good job The Fab Friday Group are here to lend a hand!

We set off around the garden to discover some amazing plants and also what tasks he has in store for us. And, right at the entrance to the garden, we’re greeted by this –

Malus transitoria

What a tree! Exquisite blossom in profusion and small, ovate leaves which turn yellow in the autumn. Will grow in most soils. Ht. 4-8 m. It’s pretty much the first thing we see and it’s immediately on everybody’s ‘All the Plants I Covet’ list.

Euphorbia epithymoides ‘Midas’

Paul describes this as ‘aptly named’ due to its vivid lime-gold bracts, which emerge in late spring. An easy plant, which likes a partially shaded site, it’s quite unassuming in its habit – but is nevertheless considered a ‘must-have’ by Pelham Plants. Buy, plant, enjoy.

Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’

This one is at Peak Performance Point. Gloriously showy, with white blossom held on horizontal, tiered branches and prominently veined, dark green oval leaves which turn purple in the autumn. This deciduous shrub will grow in most situations, but is clearly flourishing in the fertile clay soil here. A.G.M. Ht. 2.5 – 4 m

Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile

A deciduous shrub which, in the spring, is covered in small, snowball-like clusters of white flowers. The fresh green leaves develop autumnal tints later in the season. Best planted in full sun to partial shade in fertile, moist, well-drained soil. A good, ornamental shrub, attractive to pollinators. A.G.M. Ht. 5 m

Camassia leichtlinii subsp. suksdorfii ‘Electra’

The label reads as follows: ‘Rarely offered 1 m tall hybrid with electric-blue flowers. Its vigour and sterility lends itself to safely planting mid-border.’ The fact that the plant is sterile means that it doesn’t produce seeds and is therefore not cross pollinated by other Camassias. Individual star-like flowers grow up the stem of each plant, and the bulbs flourish best in rich, damp, heavy soils. This cultivar is twice the size of other varieties. Plant deeply in borders or maybe naturalise them in an area of rough grass.

Acer griseum

The Paperbark Maple, so- called because its cinnamon-brown bark peels away from the trunk like paper, leaving brighter chestnut-red wood beneath. When lit by the sun, the bark glows, becoming almost translucent. A good four-season tree, which grows particularly well on clay soils. A.G.M. Ht 6 – 9 m.

Friday Group in full learning mode

The tour of the garden takes in the nursery as well –

complete with polytunnels

Jobs for the day

Weeding. Adding leaf mould to beds. Planting. Sowing. Potting on.

(This all sounds quite familiar!)

On your marks, get set –

GO!

But, the question on everyone’s lips is…. does he stop for cake?

Of course he does. He’s a gardener!

This is a job we excel at

Back to it – there’s work to be done –

Looks biblical!

Removing Spanish Bluebells and deadheading English Narcissi

Potloads of planting

Removing forget-me-nots; not forgetting to leave seeds behind for next year’s display

Nearly there!

What’s that interesting-looking shed there on the right? It’s in such a beautiful setting

It’s a private privy for plants-people. Complete with a very appropriate wash basin…

We all want one of those too

Just time to explore the nursery in more detail – leading to the inevitable retail experience

Ah! There’s that Camassia!

Not to mention Actaea, Achillea, Aconitum, Agapanthus, Agastache, Allium….. and that’s just the ‘A’ group. Oh, heck.

A wonderful time was had by all. Huge thanks to Paul for a great morning.

Friday 29th April 2022

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These Tulips are putting the zing into spring

A fine day for it, and Friday Group are ready for action. We’re all delighted at the news that the recent Garden House opening for the National Gardens Scheme was so successful; over £2,000 was raised for charity. Marvellous.

The hot news is that work on the landscaping for the new Dry Garden is really and truly underway.

Cripes!

The lawn has gone. Turves are neatly stacked and will rot down into compost, and piles of topsoil are heading to pastures new. Or to make new pastures. A new edging wall has been built –

And the heavy plant is in place, awaiting further activity

It’s all very exciting

Lots for Friday Group to crack on with, but first….it’s the

Plant Ident.

Anthriscus sylvestris

The fabulous frothiness of Cow Parsley (or Queen Anne’s Lace) is now evident along roadside verges and at the edges of woodland and fields. Beautiful to behold at this time of year, it’s so rampant that it is not generally grown in gardens intentionally. It produces such quantities of seed that it is regarded as a nuisance and a weed, rather than something to be cultivated. However, it is a lovely feature of the British countryside at this time of year, and something to be celebrated.

A pretty form of Anthriscus sylvestris exists called ‘Ravenswing’. The foliage is lacy and dark purple, and contrasts well with the creamy-white flowers. This form is desirable and garden-worthy!

Plectranthus argentatus

A tender perennial which is invaluable for use in containers from late spring onward. It’s a stunning plant with soft, silvery stems and foliage and produces small, tubular blue-white flower spikes in the summer. Like most tender perennials, it can easily be propagated from cuttings. Full sun.

Nemesia

A wonderful bedding plant from which cuttings can be taken to increase stock. This one will spread and trail, ideal for a pot or basket – or it can be used as an edging plant in a border. Partial – full sun. Keep this (and the two below) well watered and feed regularly for optimum pizzazz.

Bidens

This tender perennial has a bright white, daisy-like flower. A great choice for hanging baskets or pots, where it will provide the filler/spiller element in a planting scheme. Take cuttings! Full sun.

Trailing Verbena

Another fantastic annual bedding plant which produces masses of flowers over a long period. Ideal in pots. Full sun, but will enjoy a little afternoon shade if possible.

Topic for the week

Taking cuttings from tender perennials

Now is a good time to start tackling this job, as many of them will require cutting back in order to keep them bushy. This will create a lot of plant material which can be turned into cuttings – or ‘free plants’, as we like to call them.

Using sharp snips, cut back neatly to just above a leaf joint; do this all over the plant to form a compact dome shape. Remove all dead, twiggy material as well. (See the Salvia plant, above.)

To root the cuttings, take a non-flowering piece of stem and cut just below a leaf joint. Remove the lower leaves and plant around the edge of an FP7 in a potting mix of compost and perlite. Up to 5 cuttings can be placed in the pot. Place on a heated mat or in a heated propagator on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. Alternatively, put a plastic cover over the pot (e.g. the top half of a bottle or a plastic bag). This will encourage rooting. Leave for a couple of weeks, and hey presto!

Jobs for the week

Pot up the plants which have been removed from the area which is going to be the Dry Garden. Use the available topsoil. Some of the plants will need tidying up and cutting back to prevent legginess.

Remove spent Tulips from pots

The gardening year continues, and although the Tulips have been upstanding and outstanding, many of them are now over. Some varieties are particularly beautiful in the last stages of their performance.

T. ‘Exotic Emperor’ marks its grand finale with a flourish

They need to be deadheaded and turned out of their pots. Leave the foliage on the bulbs, which can then be planted deep in garden borders. Alternatively, dry and store them in a cool, dark environment until next year.

Plant out Sweet Peas, please

…on your hands and knees

These are going in the little sitting area near the Cathedral Greenhouse. Imagine the scent in the summer as you sit there sipping your morning coffee

Pull out Spanish Bluebells

Much coarser than the native English Bluebell, Spanish Bluebells have strap-like leaves and their bells grow all around the stem. They are invasive, and spread like crazy.

English bluebells, on the other hand, have slender leaves and only have bells on one side of the stem, which is what gives them their delicate, drooping habit. See below –

First, hunt down your Sp. Bluebells

Then pull/dig them out – ideally taking the wretched bulb too.

They are dastardly things to shift. Tenacity, brute force and determination are essential.

But slow and steady wins the race!

Stop for cake

It’s the law

Cut back tender perennials – and make cuttings

Best to collect all your cuttings in a moist plastic bag to prevent them from drying out. Like so –

Prick out seedlings in greenhouse

It’s a production line at this time of year. Dianthus ‘Chianti’ needs pricking out, as do the Mina lobata seedlings and, and, and…

Check on the Pelargoniums

Tidy them up; remove dead, diseased, dying material; feed; water.

Check. Check. Check.

Check

Pot on young plants taken from the coldframes

Such as the Verbascums

All ready to start!

Now, what about these two? Are they potting on? Or just playing up?

It looks as if they’re about to make mud-castles.

Someone had better keep an eye on them

Everything in the garden’s lovely. And there’s more to look forward to

Happiness is being in the garden

Friday 22nd April 2022

Cydonia oblonga, the Quince tree, is in full flower at Garden House. Nature’s way of reminding you to save all your empty jam jars now, ready for the benison to come in the autumn.

That’s if you actually managed to eat all the quince cheese you made from last year’s bountiful crop…

Plant ident.

Brought to us today courtesy of Paul Seaborne of Pelham Plants fame. A Nursery not to be missed.

Geum ‘Princess Juliana’

Geums are popular herbaceous plants which develop mounds of neat, dense foliage. Apricot-orange semi-double flowers are held on tall, wiry stems from April/May through to August. A great plant for the spring-early summer border. H. 70 cms

Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Rote Glocke’

Pelham Plants describes this as the reddest of purple Pasqueflowers. Restrain yourself from dead-heading it, as you’ll want to enjoy the fluffy seedheads later on, and maybe even collect the seeds. ‘Pasque’ relates to Easter time, and it is sometimes known as ‘the Anemone of Passiontide’ for this reason. Loves chalky soils. Plant in full sun.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’

Honestly, it’s ‘Honesty’. Rich burgundy-black leaves and seed pods contrast with glowing lilac-purple flowers. An easy biennial with decorative papery seed cases forming later. A fantastic choice for the spring garden; looks stunning with a froth of forget-me-nots around its feet and offset by a few white Honesty plants planted nearby. A must-have.

Osteospermum compactum ‘Irish’

Fantastic in a container or on a sunny bank. Needs well-drained conditions. Low growing silvery-grey foliage contrasts with bright purple/pink daisy-like flowers from late spring through to autumn. Compact in habit. Good in poor, sandy or gravel soils; it thrives in full sun in the summer. Hardy in well-drained soil. Ht 30 cms.

Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’

Large, scarlet-orange flowers provide a hit of rich colour at this time of year. This form is a sterile hybrid and is an introduction from 2016 by Elizabeth MacGregor; reliable and repeat-flowering. Grow in moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Deadhead regularly. 50 – 60 cms

One wonders if there is a Mr MacGregor, and whether this plant is rabbit-proof? Peter Rabbit would know.

Jobs for the week

This weekend the garden is opening for the National Garden Scheme on both Saturday and Sunday. The call has gone out for plates of cakes (please), and for many hands to make light work of the refreshment stall.

And for Friday Group, today is all about preparation. We call it a V.E. Day, as the aim is to provide the perfect Visitor Experience.

But, oh dear! We’ve already been diverted by the tantalisingly tempting plants set out and ready to sell on the Pelham Plants stall.

Prick out seedlings

Artichokes looking good in the top right of the picture

An esteemed Friday Grouper looking good in the centre of the picture

And lots of little seedlings coming on a treat all over the picture

Clean the Cathedral Greenhouse until it gleams

Gleaming!

Tidy the top garden

Glue individual petals back onto Tulips. (The recent windy conditions have taken their toll on some of the early flowerers.) Spray fully flowered Tulips with hairspray to maintain the display for as long as possible. Caution: these techniques are not widely recognised; do not try this at home.

Deadhead, feed and water the Pelargoniums in the upper greenhouse.

Little Dixter

Tidy and sweep area. Prettify the pots

Plant out Sweet Peas

These are Lathyrus ‘Mollie Rilstone’

Plant around the base of the finely crafted Sweet Pea Teepee. It’s a woven wonder.

Weed the cut flower bed and plant out more hardy annuals

General V.E. titivation

To encompass deadheading, weeding, sweeping paths and under no circumstances looking longingly at the plants for sale.

Meticulous weeding going on here

A beautifully posed reminder that perennial weeds go into a black trug for the garden recycling bin. Not into garden compost.

Pots being prettified

Beds weeded. Paths swept

The Boiled Sweets Tulip Bed

Looking delicious!

Peak pink perfection in a pot

And here are some photos from the N.G.S. opening. Photos courtesy of a genius photographer from the Fantastic Friday Forum….

A happy weekend was enjoyed by all

Friday 1st April 2022

Snowy Mespilus living up to its name

Well, guess what? April Fool’s Day, and it did indeed snow! Some couldn’t believe their eyes, tails, paws or whiskers –

And then, the next minute, the sun came out and lit up the Great White Cherry –

We do love the dear old British weather

Plant ident.

Prunus spinosa

Blackthorn. The hedgerows are frothing with it right now. Ebullient, uplifting, its appearance announces that spring has sprung. The branches are often decorated by lichen which thrives on its nutrient-rich bark. Sometimes mistaken for Hawthorn (which flowers later, in May), the Blackthorn’s white blossoms flower on bare wood before the leaves emerge. Fleeting, but gorgeous, and followed later by Sloe berries, used to make Sloe gin. A strange name for a drink which disappears so fast.

Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’

Honesty. Stunning blue/purple flowers which are almost irridescent. Seems to be virtually perennial. Continues to please over a long period, as the papery seed cases, which form later, are beautifully decorative.

Another sought-after variety is Lunaria ‘Chedglow’, with outstanding deep chocolate/burgundy foliage, dark lilac flowers and magenta stems. A stunner.

As well as being a caterpillar plant food, Lunaria is good for attracting bees, butterflies and moths. It has nectar /pollen rich flowers. Ht. 0.9 cms

Euphorbia myrsinites

A semi-prostrate perennial, with close-set leaves spiralling from base to tip. Flowers with the usual panache of Euphorbias, having vivid, acid green/yellow bracts. Quirky and architectural. Needs full sun and good drainage. Ideal for a dry/gravel garden. Beware the milky sap which can be toxic.

Pachyphragma macrophyllum

Single, pure white flowers appear in a domed form from late winter. This attractive plant is described as having a slow, dense, creeping habit (we know people like that). Pelham Plants say that it is one of the most underrated, shady, evergreen groundcover plants they grow. If it’s recommended by them, then it’s worth getting five of them immediately. Ht. 30 cms

Epimedium ex ‘Spine Tingler’

Raised from seed taken from the strong and reliable E. ‘Spine Tingler’. Copes with dry shade once established, and therefore invaluable, although it prefers a moist, well-drained soil. A low-growing, evergreen perennial with lance-shaped leaves which emerge bronze-red in colour. Sprays of long-spurred, pale lemon flowers dance over the leaves in April/May. Cut back in late winter, before the new flower stems emerge. Pelham Plants comment? “Should be interesting.” Watch this space. Ht. to 50 cms

Anemone nemorosa

Commonly known as Windflower, it’s a spring showstopper. Go into mature woodland anytime now to enjoy carpets of these beautiful wild flowers. They grow in deciduous woods and flower before the leaf canopy develops overhead and reduces the light. Star-shaped petals surround golden-yellow anthers, and green leaves offset the beetroot-coloured stems. Wood Anemones are ancient-woodland-indicator plants, signifying that the area is a rare and special habitat. Legend suggests they were named for the Anemoi, the four Greek gods of the wind, who used the flowers as harbingers of spring.

It’s a busy time in the garden right now. Seed-sowing, potting-on, planning pots for later, cutting back, feeding, planting, making plant supports, cosseting and caring for the precious compost heap. It’s all going on.

Jobs for the week

Cut back Jasmine on arch

Before it engulfs everything in its path.

Plant Gladioli corms

These are Acidanthera, or Gladiolus murielae. Graceful late summer gems, which have wonderful, white, starry-shaped flowers with purple central markings. The elongated leaves are sword-shaped. Lovely in borders and in pots, they also make an excellent cut flower. Scented. Plant in trays in the greenhouse to get them going – they’ll respond well to a little warmth. Nerine bulbs can also be planted now.

Feed Auriculas and Pelargoniums

We’re talking organic liquid seaweed or, alternatively, worm leachate – the liquid which drains off from a bin full of worms. Liquid gold. Dilute in water in a ratio of 1:10. Plants love it.

Sow seeds

There’s all sorts going in today

Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’, Tithonia, Orlaya grandiflora, Heliotrope ‘Marine’, Rudbeckia and Nicotiana. It’s going to look beautiful. Hold off for another week or so on quick-growers like Cosmos, Tagetes and Zinnias, or you’ll be swamped by seedlings all jostling for your attention.

And as she sows, it snows

Cripes! What the hecky decky is that? Oh – Amaranthus Tricolor ‘Splendens Perfecta’? Obvs.

Plant new Jasmine in pot. Make a support for it

Cut back Salvias, Lavenders etc

This job is largely centred on the herb beds. All sorts of Mediterranean plants can be cut back, Salvias, Lavenders, Phlomis, Ballota and Artemisia amongst others – although watch out for cold spells. (Like now!) Count back to 2 shoots from the ground and prune at this point. Sounds harsh, but they need a firm hand to prevent them from becoming spindly and leggy. This will keep them nice and bushy. Unless you’ve killed them.

Well, it’s no good telling us that now. We’ve just cut them all back!

Take cuttings from the prunings or use the herbs in your next culinary cook-up.

We ache for Cake Break

Thirsts and appetites slaked! Thanks to a ripping raspberry, blueberry and lime drizzle cake and a marvellously, marbled marble cake. That’s Friday Group for you!

Plant out spent indoor Hyacinth bulbs and Lunaria

These look well spent

There are no short-cuts when it comes to adding extra va-va-va-voom to the garden

Hang on, where’s she going?

Ah. Taking a short-cut to the plants

Some are more risk averse, thank goodness, and have read the G/H Health and Safety Manual (951 pages).

Alpine sinks

Weed, tidy, re-grit surfaces. Plant Thrift and Alpine Crocus. Take cuttings from alpines and place immediately into plastic bags to prevent them drying out before planting them.

Sempervivums and Succulents

These can be used in alpine troughs to great effect too. Add some slates and grit to top it all off and you have a display fit for Chelsea.

Pruning

Cut back Phygelius and hardy Fuchsias to about 10 cms from the ground. Again, watch out for extended cold spells – you may need to throw some horticultural fleece over the newly-shorn shrubs just for safety’s sake. Use the cuttings to propagate new plants. Waste not, want not.

Feed plants after pruning. Pelleted chicken manure is just fine.

Cut back the stems of established Cornus before the new leaves come through. Either cut all stems hard back, or take out one third of the stems every year. Propagate new plants from the prunings, or use them to weave decorative edgings on obelisks, wigwams or in borders. Or, let the inner florist in you run amok –

Oh, I say.

We may have had four seasons in one day, but here at Garden House you can always find sunshine in a pot.

Friday 25th March 2022

Here are some of the Dahlias and annuals we’re going to be growing this year at Garden House.

Let’s look at the choice of Dahlias in closer detail –

Plant ident.

Dahlias

There was a time when these fabulous plants were somewhat neglected by regular gardeners. Perhaps because they were seen as complicated things to deal with – and only worth growing by Mrs Cholmondley-Smythe at The Manor for Withering-in-the-Water’s Annual Village Show. Thankfully, in recent years, they have come roaring back into fashion.

Nowadays it’s thought that unless you have very hard ground frosts, it’s feasible to leave Dahlias in the ground from one season to the next. This is especially the case in warm, sheltered areas of the country. They should, however, be given a good dressing of mulch in the winter to provide extra protection.

When in bloom, keep picking the flowers to encourage greater floriferousnessesses. Apparently, their petals are edible!

Dahlia ‘Nicholas’

A Decorative. The colour moves from apricot at the outside of the flower head through to crimson at the centre.

Dahlia ‘Renato Tosio’

One of the Decorative group of Dahlias, with a wonderful starburst quality to its flowers. A soft, pinky-orange, it’s an early flowerer, starting in July and continuing to perform over a long period – often into November.

Dahlia ‘Josie’

Named for the Head Gardener at Perch Hill, Josie Lewis. Described as being brighter still than D. ‘Totally Tangerine’, it promises to be a winner. Anemone-type.

Dahlia ‘Sarah Raven’

An Anemone-type Dahlia, named after the famed gardener, cook and writer. Her catalogue describes this one as having ‘tall, straight ebony stems and a good vase life. Exceptional amounts of pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies. ‘ We’re sold.

Dahlia ‘Molly Raven’

A Decorative Dahlia: ‘Rich stripes and stipples over a soft coffee to pink petal base. The foliage and stems contrast perfectly to the flowers.’ Sounds scrumptious. Wonder if it could be made into ice cream?

Jobs for the week

Pot up Dahlia tubers

These are Dahlia tubers – not creatures from the Black Lagoon. Now is the time to start potting them up. Store in a sheltered place, somewhere light and frost free, keeping them moist but not soaking wet. Once the plants have reached about 20 cms, pinch out their growing tips. Only plant out into the garden after the last frosts.

Note: the last frost will be the one which comes the day after you have planted out your Dahlias

Continue planting on cut flower bed

The gardeners are camouflaged behind the architectural structure of the Olive tree, but they are busily planting seedlings of Dill and Beth’s Poppy.

Plant out hardy annuals

Add them to pots on the display area outside the greenhouse.

Plant out the forced Hyacinth bulbs

These Hyacinths have now finished flowering indoors. Remove the spent flower heads and plant the bulbs out into the garden. Leave the foliage to die back naturally; the leaves produce the energy the bulbs need to form next year’s flowers.

Sow salad seeds in boxes

Cover with cling film. The boxes, not the gardeners. This will speed germination.

Take time to look at the new growth in the garden

Adopt a romantic pose. Recite a few lines of poetry, should the mood take you.

There’s plenty to inspire us