All posts by Anne Unsworth

Friday 3rd April 2020


We’re still socially isolating.  But Friday Group gets round that little difficulty by having a Zoom meeting. Back in the day, a Zoom was a delicious ice lolly, but let’s not go there, it will only date this blogger.  Now, what’s going on in that garden?  Ooh!


Aah!  Well impressed

Plant ident.: Banging on about biennials.

Erysimum cheiri ‘Blood Red’


A wonderful, deep rich red wallflower. Scented. Fabulous with tulips

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’ and L. annua

Honesty is a great filler for this time of year. The variety ‘Chedglow’ has superb dark foliage, which sets it apart.  Comes true from seed.  The striking purple flowers of Lunaria annua also shine out now – making it very far from ordinary.

 Lunaria annua alba

The white form of honesty. It shimmers at dusk. Fragrant. All these forms produce beautiful paper-like, translucent seedheads in the autumn, which can be used in dried or cut flower displays.


Myosotis sylvatica


How could we ever forget? The Forget-Me-Not is a welcome sight in gardens from mid- spring. Pale blue flowers with a bright yellow eye, and so commonplace that they are easy to overlook. Seeds about with ease. Looks great en masse with tulips and wallflowers; loved by bees, butterflies, caterpillars and moths. Basically, Nature’s gift.

Jobs for the Week:


Cut back young Eucalyptus plants to about 45 cms to encourage new growth. Looks alarming – but watch it grow!  The juvenile blue-green foliage is particularly useful in flower arranging; delicate and rounded, it makes an attractive feature in a vase or bouquet. Dead sophisticated.
Cut back Mediterranean plants
That means Santolinas, Lavendula, Rosmarinus, Helichrysum italicum (the Curry Plant), Salvias and other similar plants. Cut back to about 30 cms, just above the new growth. Harsh? No! This will prevent straggly growth and encourage a good, bushy shape.
Cuttings can be taken at this stage (below, left).  Once rooted, (below, top right), the cuttings can be potted up. Bingo! New plants from old.
Sow courgettes, leeks, cucumbers and basil
A sieve is a useful item for removing the unwanted lumps and bumps in compost. Helpful if a very fine covering of compost is required over seeds
Here is another very useful seed sowing item
Keep everything moving along! Most days, something will need pricking out or potting on. Remember, we love this!
Sow sweet peas in loo rolls or long root trainers
Last chance saloon for sowing these. They’ll need somewhere warm to germinate.
Dead head Narcissi


Cut off stalks at the base, but leave the foliage, which will feed the plant as it dies back. A diluted dose of liquid seaweed feed (like Maxicrop) given now, encourages better flowering next year. Plant out forced indoor bulbs of Narcissi and Hyacinths that have finished flowering, and ditto any in outdoor pots. Now they can be transferred into borders.  Under the hedge is a good place for Narcissi to flourish  
Stake Broad Beans
The plants need support as they grow. These are a crimson -flowered variety.
Continue to sow half-hardy annuals
These are tender and need warmth to germinate as well as continued protection from frost. Leave Cosmos seeds for another week or so, as they grow very quickly and can become leggy if sown too early.
Sow carrots, beetroot, parsnips
These thrive in raised beds, if you run to that sort of thing.  If not, make some! The seeds can now be sown direct into well-raked soil, which ideally should be warmed first with a cloche (And, no, that doesn’t mean one of your old hats).  Whatever, give them a go.
Sow lettuces every couple of weeks
Prick out seedlings and pot on cuttings ready for summer containers
Gradually pot tomatoes on, into the next pot size up. 
Order Lilies, Nerines, and Acidanthera for later colour
Parkers Wholesale catalogue is one good source of bulbs like these
Plant out perennials and comb through grasses
Time for their annual hairdressing appointment. Remove old thatch and any dead leaves
Sow annual climbers
Such as Rhodochiton, Mina lobata, Thunbergia, Ipomea.  They’ll need heat to germinate. Ipomea is also known as Morning Glory. (So, what’s the story?) Well, the story is that Morning Glory hates the wind, so make sure to grow it in a sheltered, warm place – maybe round a kitchen window?
Over the next couple of weeks:
Sow lettuce in a bowl with drainage.


Fill bowl or colander with compost. Collect together all half-empty seed packets of salad leaves, mix together and sprinkle on. Sieve over enough compost to just cover.  Water and wait for germination. Cut when you want to eat the salad, which will effectively prune the leaves, and then they will grow again
Easter Sunday onward: eat huge quantities of chocolate. Simples.
Wishing you a very happy Easter


Friday 27th March 2020

Friday Groupers are currently working from home as we are all practising social isolation. Unbowed, Garden House continues practising horticultural excellence.
The (Virtual) Plant Ident.
From back to front, the Narcissi are: ‘Thalia’, ‘Sweet Love’, ‘Barrett Browning’, ‘Elka’ and ‘Jack Snipe’
Jobs for the week:
Cut back Pelargoniums
These have been overwintered in the greenhouse, where they have been kept frost-free
Pelargonium quercifolium – the Oak leaf Pelargonium. It’s gone a bit sprawly, (technical term), over the winter months; now is the time to cut it back.  Brace yourselves.
A few snips and… see what the poor plant looks like now
Oh heck
Whilst undertaking this job, don’t lose the opportunity to take cuttings
Water and spray with organic SB plant invigorator

To help prevent pests and diseases such as greenfly. Other invigorators may be available

Feed roses with pelleted chicken manure
N.B. Not chicken feed. Weed around the roses and add a handful of pellets around the plant; fork over lightly and water if no rain expected
Beware of adult vine weevils
They bite chunks from the leaf margins of plants such as  Bergenias.  Not nice.
The evil weevil
Continue to sow half hardy annuals
Such as Cosmos, Zinnias and annual climbers such as Mina lobata, or you can buy in plug plants of things such as Rhodochitons to grow up wigwams and obelisks
Keep on top of weeding
Challenging for one individual!! Remove all annual weeds before they go to seed.  Repeat. All annual weeds.
Take softwood cuttings of Chrysanthemums
They take root very easily, so give them a try
Plant out any hardy annuals that will be running out of food now
They tend to go a pink colour if they are hungry for nitrogen – feed with half strength maxi crop
Plant gladiolus corms in trays to start them into growth 
Pot up any Dahlias that were stored last year
Keep them in a frost free place, water and put organic slug pellets on top to protect young shoots
Prepare the veg. bed for sowing beetroot, carrots etc
Sow more vegetable seeds
Leeks in trays or FP9’s , lettuces in modules and broad beans if not already sown in autumn
By now the greenhouse should be looking something like this:
And someone should be feeling very pleased
She is!

Friday 20th March 2020


Strange times, as Friday Group takes note of Jobs for the Week from a distance and does a virtual Plant Ident.,  via the good offices of Garden House. That’s what a coronavirus outbreak does for you. Thank goodness for I. T., social media and our inspirational leader who remains undaunted, calm and is carrying on by herself.  And what a carry on…

Let’s see what’s in flower at the moment –
Plant Ident.
Pulmonaria saccharata
Pulmonaria is commonly known as ‘Lungwort’, so named because its spotted leaves supposedly resemble lungs.  Good ground cover plants for shady areas, their flowers can be blue, violet, pink, purple, red or white and are very attractive to bees. Pulmonaria saccharata has blue / pinkish flowers which appear from late winter to early spring.
After flowering, remove old leaves.
Epimedium x perralchicum
A beautiful, evergreen, rhizomatous perennial with delicate, yellow flowers.  Grows to about 40cms tall and has attractive heart-shaped leaves.  Likes sandy / chalky soils which are moist but well-drained.  Prefers partial shade.
Narcissus ‘Thalia’
A vigorous, multi-headed narcissus, tolerant of most soils and positions. Brilliant in the garden and as a cut flower.  Its flowers are fragrant and pure white or pale ivory; the narrow petals flare slightly backwards to reveal the cup more clearly. A highly recommended variety.
Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Severn Sea’
This cultivar has been awarded an R.H.S. Award of Garden Merit. Evergreen, aromatic leaves and vivid, blue flowers make it a popular herb for both culinary and medicinal uses. Grows best in light, well-drained soils – chalky or sandy soils are perfect.  Full sun reminds it of its Mediterranean origins.
Hippeastrum sp.
Often given as a Christmas gift, the tender Hippeastrum bulb produces the most astonishing flowers about 6 – 7 weeks after planting.  Plant into compost with two-thirds of the bulb above the level of the compost.  Leave in a warm, well-lit place and water infrequently. Turn the pot as the stem grows to keep it growing straight, providing a little more water. If cared for properly, the bulb can be encouraged to flower again the following year.
Jobs for the week:
Everything is coming to life
Divide herbaceous perennials and grasses
If it takes more than half an hour, will it be long division?
Plant out hardy annuals 30cms apart
Feed beds and borders with pelleted chicken manure
A handful per square metre
Sow tomatoes, leeks, dill, basil, and any hardy annuals as it’s the last chance for them now – eg cornflowers, ammi
Prick out anything that has developed a set of true leaves
Plant last years gladioli corms in compost in pots or trays to bring into growth
Deadhead Narcissi and plant Hyacinths from the house into the garden
Remove spent flowers and leave leaves on to feed the plants
Finish cutting back Cornus, Salix and Rubus cockburnianus
Don’t forget to have a break!


Pot on cuttings of tender perennials, eg Pelargoniums
Stake broad beans with canes and ‘cats’ cradle’ string ties
Stop to admire the prim primroses
Harvest leeks, kale and spring onions and continue to pick salad crops from the greenhouse
Cut back Salvias
Use their soft tops to make cuttings, remembering to cut just under a node; plant into gritty compost or use half compost and half perlite
Weed herbaceous borders
Look out for speedwell and hairy bitter cress as well as cleavers or sticky willy which tend to germinate early in the season
Bring out stored Dahlias and pot up; keep in greenhouse or frost-free place
Now, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labours

We miss you, Garden House

Friday 6th March 2020

Here we are in March, thus proving that time really is Marching on. Let’s go quickly to the plant ident., averting any chance of further wordplay nonsense.

Plant Ident.

Fritilleria meleagris


The Snake’s-head Fritillary is such a welcome sight in gardens in the spring, and even more so in orchards and meadows, if your estate runs to that kind of thing. The delicate purple/white chequered flowers are reminiscent of snakeskin – but they also have an Art Deco lamp vibe going on.  Moist soils suit it best – like the orchard at Sissinghurst and the moat/orchard area at Nyetimber. There is a pure white variety too.

Helleborus orientalis ‘Winter Wings’


The orientalis group of Hellebores are good strong growers, and add greatly to the late winter/early spring garden. Varied and beautiful in their colours and markings, they can be further appreciated by floating some well-chosen flower heads in a bowl of water.  Neighbours, whom we’re always keen to impress, will be blown away by your tasteful exquisiteness.

Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’


The Garden House view is that the white form of Flowering Currant is preferable to the pink or red forms.  You might say, “Icicles are nicicles”. You might not. An important early source of nectar for insects, it’s a deciduous shrub which, like Forsythia, chronicles the start of the gardening year.  For some, the scent is a reminder of childhood. Perhaps evoking fond memories of losing control on roller skates or falling off a bike and taking a dive into a Flowering Currant hedge. Happy days.

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii ‘Lambrook Gold’


What an impressive name. This excellent sub-shrub is starting to look wonderful in the garden.  An architectural plant, with fabulous blue-green foliage and zingy yellow/green flowers, good anywhere, but particularly in hot, dry areas.  After flowering, the stems should be cut down to the base to encourage further growth. (Be careful as the sap can be an irritant to skin.)  Effective as a means of pulling a planting scheme together.  The word ‘cohesive’ comes to mind.

Leucojum vernum’Snowflake’


The spring snowflake is a bulbous perennial with slim, strappy leaves.  White bell-shaped flowers dangle from arching stems, often leading people to confuse the plant with the snowdrop, especially since the tepals are usually tipped with green.  However, it’s later flowering and taller. Likes moist but well-drained soils and looks great when naturalised in bold drifts.

Jobs for the week:

Sort out plants in the cold frame and take some cuttings


This little lot is Lavendula dentata.  Love the organic dibber… These will go into the greenhouse for a little protection and warmth to encourage rooting.  #welovefreeplants

Pot on hardy annuals

They are running out of energy in their current pots; they look tired, a bit pale and slightly weary. Sounds familiar. Ammi, Centaurea and Papaver seedlings now need the next size up in pots, fresh compost and a dilute seaweed feed.


Here are a couple of hardy annuals

Divide perennials and re-pot

Use an old carving knife to divide the root ball.

Steady now.  That could be interpreted as threatening behaviour.

These are Heleniums. More importantly, they are free Heleniums


Pelargonium Palace 

So-called because of those oh-so-regal Pelargoniums. Carefully inspect the plants, water and generally tidy them up. Continue to re-pot Pelargoniums into terracotta pots which are, as everybody knows, much classier.

Sort out plants on the second terrace


 With gusto

Pond Management

If you are keen on and interested in wildlife, there’s a chance you may end up in the pond.  Blanket weed is living up to its name and needs Dealing With.  Nets at the ready.

Looks a bit fishy

And how big was the one that got away?



Plant out Anemone blanda and Irises


Both plants grow from rhizomes. They’re going to look fantastic. Guaranteed.

Prune the fig tree

It needs to be encouraged to lie trained against the wall.  Take out older wood, dead wood and any small shoots.

Ficus carica before


and after


Job done

Prune the Sorbaria sorbifolia tree

The showy False Spiraea has attractive pinnate leaves which exhibit great colouring from their emergence in spring until they fall in late autumn. In summer, white, fluffy panicles of flowers appear. Now is the time to take out the shoots which flowered last year. Take secateurs, a ladder and care.

Collect seeds from Allium thunbergii


Sow seeds

A variety.  Catananche, Verbascum, Dianthus carthusinorum, Coryopteris tinctoria, Spanish flag, Salpiglossis ‘Black Trumpet’. Tiny seeds need to be sown with a little sand, as this helps to spread the seed out and makes it easier to see where they have been sown.  Fill pots up to the top with compost, strike the loose compost off then tamp down the surface gently before sowing.  Cover tiny seeds with vermiculite; larger seeds can be covered with compost. Water very sparingly and gently.

Plant Galanthus nivalis bulbs

There are some Snowdrop bulbs which need to be planted 5 to a pot for growing on.  Eventually these will be planted out into the garden.


Plant up containers for spring


Orange primulas will give an immediate shot of vibrant colour

Clean and return tools to the tool shed


Tidy up time

Friday 28th February 2020


A beautiful flowery wreath to welcome N.G.S. visitors to Garden House at 12.30.  What could be nicer?  Soup, home made bread, tea and cakes?  Oh, they’re available too….


We talked about how to get your garden “eco-fit”. Having a compost heap is key: making compost results in waste material being recycled and the soil being improved. Community compost can be used – it’s very effective as a mulch.  Well-rotted horse manure also gets the thumbs up.  Best to keep weeds out of the compost bin to avoid grief later


To outwit pests and diseases, bring in: bees, insects, ladybirds, birds, worms, frogs, hedgehogs, moths and butterflies by growing the plants and flowers they long for.  Use physical barriers to deter pests, like traps, cloches, fleeces, grit.  No pesticides please, and flame throwers are right out.  A reasonable level of tidiness and hygiene is A Good Thing (definitely in the garden, and preferably in the gardener as well). If you are inundated with snails, encourage more predators, or, alternatively, grow garlic and parsley, buy wine and butter, and eat the blighters.


Keep checking your plants.  Let ‘vigilance’ be your watchword.  Go ‘peat-free’ and spread the word to save the planet. Peat is a non-renewable resource, it locks carbon in and acts as a sponge to soak up heavy rains. Madness to dig it up.  In the garden be bio-diverse.  Recycle water and materials (see mosaic stepping stone below), collect seeds, divide your plants, dig a pond, make a bug hotel, maybe a wormery? Put up bird boxes, be curious, propagate your plants.  Make leaf mould. The road less travelled may be organic, but it’s definitely the way to go.


Full of renewed ecological fervour and good intentions, we donned wetsuits, flippers and snorkels and headed out into the garden.  (Still raining.)  This is what we did:

Jobs for the week:

Work on Little Dixter

Plant up containers with plants to provide the ultimate Visitor Experience.



Plant up wire baskets with succulents


Divide Asters to increase stock


She’s using a calculator to check how good he is at division

Make a spring wreath to hang at the entrance gate

Next week, these two could be running a wreath-making workshop…

Seed sowing


Well, at least they’ve found the seeds

Potting-on in the greenhouse


Potting on and on and on……

Organise the gardening books in the Garden Room

Hands up those who want to play librarians

Sow parsley in pots and plant up terracotta pots

It’s not as wet as it looks


It’s wetter

Hunt down heavenly hellebore heads for bowl display




And all just in time for the visitors


Friday 14th February 2020

 Season of Hyacinths and Hellebores

Plant ident.

Aesculus hippocastanum

Taking cuttings of the horse chestnut, or conker, tree is one of the easiest ways to propagate this wonderful tree.  Young softwood cuttings can be take in spring – or hardwood cuttings in the autumn. In spring, the new buds are emerging, their scales sticky with a kind of gum, which helps to prevent insect damage and also keeps the bud closed until it’s ready to open. Look below the buds and there is a little U-shaped indentation.  Just like a horse-shoe!  You can even see the marks of the nails.


Hardy annuals

It’s a busy time with these at the moment.  Sowing, pricking out, potting on, re-potting, and trying to find space to put them all. They don’t need to be under cover, as they can tolerate the cold, although some protection from Storms Ciara, Dennis the Menace, Ermyntrude, Fester etc. etc. might be an idea.  And they won’t want to get waterlogged. But they’ll be fine standing outside on wired staging where they can get enough light, drainage and be a little protected from the worst of the weather.  The clue is in the name – hardy annuals. Tough little blighters that germinate, grow, flower, set seed and (sniff) pass away all in one growing year. Successional sowings will provide continuity of colour through the season.

Ammi majus


A Garden House stalwart, Bishop’s Weed is like a more refined form of cow parsley.  Part of the carrot family, lacy umbels of white flowers are borne above delicate green foliage.  Great in borders and the cutting garden.  Good for attracting bees and other pollinating insects.  Plant in sun or partial shade. Essential.

Eschscholzia ‘Ivory Castle’


Another tough little h/a, which can, like all hardy annuals, be direct sown, as it’s not very keen on being transplanted.  However, sowing in modules and pricking out carefully into pots does give more control. Also known as the Californian Poppy, it has wonderful blue-green feathery foliage and gorgeous cream/white silk-like flowers which flower vigorously. Will tolerate poor soils but needs full sun.

Ammi visnaga

Like majus, it’s an umbellifer, but this variety is denser in form with bigger dome-shaped flower heads. A good filler. Birds love to feast on the seed heads in winter. Altogether, a nicely alliterative plant: its feathery, filigree foliage adds phenomenal finesse. Fab.


Centaurea cyanus ‘Red Boy’


An easy peasy hardy annual.  Easy to germinate, easy to grow and easy on the eye in a vase. Sow it, grow it.  Centaurea cyanus ‘Blue Boy’, ‘White’ and ‘Black Ball’ are also good.

Ridolfia segetum ‘Goldspray’


Flowering from summer to autumn, this far-from-humble umbel really does have gold sprays. Looks like dill, but even more so. Loved by all sorts of pollinating insects, it sparkles in the border and looks great as a cut flower. Contrasts well with burgundies and deep purples. Likes full sun; pinch out the tips to promote bushy growth. A must.

Calendula ‘Indian Prince’


A wonderful h/a and a great cultivar to choose for the garden. Deep orange with a darkly contrasting centre. Great on its own or as a companion plant. When potting on all hardy annuals, ensure that seedlings are centred in the pot and that their bottom leaves touch the soil. This deep planting helps to stabilise the young plants as they grow on.

Sow hardy annuals


But of course!



Take hardwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs and wait for the magic to happen

Rose pruning continues


Clean, sharp tools for the job

We can use those rose cuttings


Propagation: plant the rose cuttings. 

These are from Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ and Rosa glauca.


Hey presto!


Then it’s just a waiting game


Tidying borders and perennials



Prune and tie-in new growth on roses

Encouraging horizontal growth promotes the formation of side shoots, or laterals, that extend from the main canes.  This will enable the plant to produce more flowers.


I thank you

Work on paths


Sharpen the edges, weed, clear, sweep. The results will amaze you.


Create a new bed for the new rose

Handily situated near the new watering system


Sometimes life is literally a bed of roses


– and Bergenias too


Work in the Engine Room continues


Aka the Compost Heap


Someone has to direct operations…


Plant up terracotta planters with succulents

In the greenhouse

Potting on tender perennials continues apace

Argyranthemum, Pelargonium quercifolium ‘Royal Oak’ and Helichrysum ‘Lime Green’

Tidy up time20200214_125845-1

Snug trugs

Meanwhile… someone has to keep an eye on the fire. It’s a job.


I got the lying on the table job

I’m so good at it

And, don’t forget. Garden House opens for the National Garden Scheme on Friday 28th February.  Pass it on.