All posts by annieunsworth

Friday 1st March 2019


The fine weather may have left us for a short while, but we are stalwart types here at Friday Group and not at all weedy.  At least, we weren’t until Sara did the plant ident. for us this week – all about weeds.  They may just be plants in the wrong place for some – but for many of us they are the bane of our lives.

Pentaglottis sempervirens


Alkanet, in the Boraginaceae family, is sometimes confused with borage or comfrey.  It has bright blue flowers, green bristly leaves and grows (too well) in damp, shady places. The leaves have little white dots on them which is how you can distinguish the plant from its better-behaved cousins.  Traditionally, its roots were used as a red dye – nowadays it is more notable for the fact that you can’t get rid of the wretched thing once you’ve got it.

Borago officinalis


Borage is an annual herb and will self seed in sun or partial shade in most well-drained soils.  The leaves can be used to make a cooling cucumber-flavoured tea, whilst the vivid blue flowers can be used in summer drinks.  Put flowers into an ice cube tray, fill tray with water and freeze.  Serve Pimms with decorative ice cubes and a breezy air of nonchalance.

Symphytum officinale


Comfrey is nature’s way of producing fertiliser for the garden, being rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  It spreads through its vigorous root system and is hard to get rid of once in a garden.  However, provided it is kept under control, it does produce attractive flowers (white, blue or purple/pink) and its leaves can be used to make an excellent organic liquid feed.  Fill a bucket with water and pack in about ) 0.5 kg of comfrey leaves to 7.5 litres of water.  Cover and leave for about four weeks after which your lovely, smelly (its organic!), black/brown “comfrey tea” will be ready to use as a liquid feed.  You don’t have to dilute this.  Comfrey leaves can also be added to the compost heap.

The plant has traditionally been used for its healing, medicinal properties – as indicated by its traditional name of “knitbone”.

We then went on to play a game of:

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This is set to be a serious commercial success; Sara is patenting the idea as you read.

Ranunculus ficaria


Lesser celandine is a bright, cheerful, yellow perennial herb from the buttercup family.  It loves damp places and woods and is a source of nectar for insects in the early part of the year.  However, its root tubers are invasive and most gardeners view it as a weed.  An attractive cultivar exists called Ficaria verna ‘Brazen Hussy’ with deep black/bronze leaves.  Worth growing for the name alone!

Arum maculatum 


This shade-loving, tuberous perennial, with large arrow-shaped leaves, is also known as “lords-and-ladies” or “cuckoo pint”.  Its attractive berries turn a vivid orange/red in the autumn, but it self-seeds with ease, so it can become less of a plant and more of a weed as far as gardeners are concerned.  Again, a more desirable cultivar is available, Arum italicum ‘Pictum’, which has marbled, white-veined leaves, although even that one needs watching.


Campanula poscharskyana


The Serbian bellflower won a vote of confidence, qualifying as not a weed in our books, even though it too can become invasive.  We were beguiled by its diminutive stature and delicate bell-shaped, purple/blue flowers.  We’re getting soft.

Jobs for the week:

  • Prepare the garden to impress visitors next Friday when it opens for the National Gardens Scheme.  11.30 – 3.30.  It will be wonderful.  Bring friends.  Eat cake.


  • Rake and weed the borders.  Repeat


  •  And repeat 


  Note the fine attention to detail


What’s happening?


Coming through!

  • Meticulous weeding now saves headaches later












  • Sow chilli and tomato seeds; label


A masterclass in seed sowing.  Watch and learn


It’s a hot bed in there

  • Pot on stipas and prick out the chard seedlings











Happy in her work

  • Prune the clematis in the sunken garden; cut down to second buds 




Someone’s keeping a watchful eye on things

  • Replant terracotta urns with golden libertias.  Weave a birch structure for decorative delight and to deter varmints












Serious sculpture going on here, folks











What’s the last date for Turner Prize admissions?

  • And now.  Turning to the engine of the garden: sort and tidy the compost heap.  Sounds innocuous enough, but people hide when this job is being given out


She’s really getting on top of it.


Magnificent.  Queen of the Heap.


It’s a work of art, really, isn’t it?

As is Team Friday Group.






Friday 8th February 2019

No snow this week, but biting cold wind and grey drippy skies.


Our plant ident. this Friday was done by Liz (thank you, Liz), who presented us with a series of grasses, rushes and sedges.  Useful in the garden in so many ways: giving structure and interest throughout the year; good in borders and pots; providers of sensational sensory encounters (sound, movement, light, texture); attractive to wildlife; stabilising; giving continuity and unification to planting schemes. Why not give them a try?

Phragmites australis


The common reed belongs to the Poaceae family.  Not really suitable for most gardens, unless you live on An Estate as opposed to an estate.  They are often seen in areas of wetland across the U.K., where extensive golden-brown reed beds are a haven for wildlife, particularly birds.  Growing from 2 – 4 metres tall, the reeds have hollow stems which grow from a system of spreading rhizomes, and produce long, feathery, purple plumes.  They are still harvested for thatching – especially in the Norfolk Broads – and scientists are also interested in the possibility of using reed beds as water filters.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’


A compact, deciduous, perennial grass with long, narrow, green blades finely edged in creamy white.  It grows to a height of about 1.2 metres and its elegant form adds height, movement and interest to borders.  In the autumn it produces reddish pink panicles of flowers which gradually bleach through the winter.  Cut back to ground level in February.

Stipa gigantea


Also known as giant feather grass or golden oats, this evergreen perennial is one of Bridge’s favourite grasses.  Reaching 2.5 metres, it has a powerful presence in the garden, producing oat-like flower heads on arching stems in the summer months which persist into the winter.  Plant in a sunny position in well-drained soil and it will shimmer; it looks particularly effective when back-lit by the evening sun. It has a transparency which enables one to see through it, so it can be planted towards the front of a border – either singly or perhaps in groups of three.  Easy to grow and requires little maintenance, other than to cut back in early spring.

Panicum elegans ‘Frosted Explosion’

A half-hardy annual which is easy to grow from seed.  Much sought after by florists and flower arrangers for its airy, textural appearance, it has been described as looking like a fibre optic lamp!  Poaceae family.

Plant ident. (practical)

Acorus gramineus ‘Variegatus’


A semi- evergreen perennial which can actually be grown anywhere, including wet or very moist soils.  It grows to around 0.3 metres from rhizomes and has creamy yellow/ green variegated leaves.  Good as ground cover, but it spreads slowly so you may need to invest in a few to make an impact.  Propagate by division.


Festuca glauca


Poaceae family.  A decorative fescue grass which forms a compact tuft with blue needle-like foliage.  There are several named forms, such as ‘Elijah Blue’ and ‘Blaufuchs’ which are hardier and bluer than the original Festuca glauca.  Good in containers, gravel and rock gardens – but also borders, where they look better planted in a group.  Odd numbers, please.  About 0.6 wide x 0.3 metres tall.

Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’


A dwarf form of evergreen pampas grass which is very hardy and wind resistant.  Grows in any sunny situation in well-drained soil.  Narrow rough-edged leaves accompany stiff stems which, in the summer, carry creamy-white flower panicles up to 1.2 metres tall.  Cut back to the ground in early spring – or you could always do what Sussex Prairies do with their grasses and set fire to it!  (N.B. Not advised!)  


Phyllostachys nigra


The black-stemmed bamboo can grow to 8 – 9 metres tall.  Needs light, nitrogen, plenty of water, and not much in the way of competition from other plants.  It’s a spreader, so beware!  Keep it in a pot or ensure it is contained in some way when planted.  Chop off runners before it takes over the garden – and the house.


Cyperus alternifolius


The umbrella plant.  Cyperaceae family.  It’s a sedge with an edge. Growing by the pond at Garden House, as it simply loves a watery location. Think Moses in his papyrus basket.  The stems are round, smooth and a beautiful green.  A local Sussex garden owner reports that his dwarf papyrus grows just fine away from any water margins, but that it needs plenty of light to grow well.  Good in a large pot.  An evergreen perennial, it forms a clump of stems which reach a height of about 0.6 metres ending in palm-like green bracts.  Can be grown indoors.


A seedy discussion

Vicky then did a presentation on seeds, bringing in a wide range for us to examine and marvel at.  All so different and all so miraculous.


From the top and going clockwise, these are seeds from the sycamore, marigold, French bean, clematis and pumpkin.  In the centre is a pine cone, which opens to release its seeds when they have ripened.

And then, these:

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From left to right, the seeds of sweet pea, black scabious, Japanese anemone, Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican daisy).

All seeds grow in much the same way, given light, warmth, food and water.  They grow roots first, to take hold, then a small plant begins to emerge.  This process is known as germination.  The roots take nutrients from the soil and then light gives the plant energy to begin photosynthesis.

In her own garden, Vicky uses seed compost when sowing seeds – although it is perfectly possible to get good germination using a good multi-purpose compost.  Smaller seeds can be fiddly and tricky to sow as it is difficult to see them.  Many gardeners add a little silver sand to the seeds before sprinkling them over the surface of the compost, making it easy to see where they have fallen.

Some seeds need a period of cold to help them germinate (vernalisation), whilst others  require soaking in water.  Some need to be sown immediately, when fresh, whilst others will remain viable for years.  Variety is the spice of life.

Containers for seed-sowing.

You can, of course, make your own.  Cheap, environmentally-friendly and the pack also comes with a free halo.


Three taps of the magic wand….


Et voilà!

There is also the option of using peat free compost discs


Add water and stand back…..


Quite quite magical.

Some seeds are best sown in root trainer modules – like sweet peas.


Others do better in small modules


Or larger ones


Or sprinkled sparingly in a tray


Fill the container with compost.  Strike off the soil on top to create a flat surface.  Tamp down lightly.  Use a finger or a dibber to make a hole, if the seed is big enough to need one, and cover lightly.   Best not to water from above as smaller seeds can get washed about – stand in water until damp.  You can apply a thin layer of vermiculite on top of the compost, as it lets light through.  Place in a warm, light environment.  A heated mat in a greenhouse is perfect.

Seed potatoes

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Nowadays, specially bred disease-resistant seed potatoes are available.  Early, second early and maincrop – the choice is yours – along with a huge range of varieties.  Seed potatoes need to be “chitted” (allowed to sprout) before planting.  Somewhere cool and airy, like a garden shed, is ideal.  Dig a shallow trench in a sunny place in the vegetable garden and mix the soil with lots of good garden compost / well-rotted manure. Add an organic slow- release fertiliser, like pelleted chicken manure.  Plant the chitted potatoes (not chipped potatoes) about 0.3 metres apart, with the shoots facing upwards.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell which way is “up”, and Vicky suggests that you try to find the “eyebrow” where the bud is and ensure that this is underneath the bud as you plant. (See photo above.)

Whilst your potatoes are growing, you merely have to keep earthing them up and conducting extensive research on exactly how you are going to cook them.


Mmmmm, potatoes……








Friday 1st February 2019

There’s little that stops us from getting outside at Friday Group, but on Friday 1st Feb.,  snow definitely stopped play.  As a result, our blog is shorter this week – more of a blogette.

We were due to split into two working parties to help a couple of our lucky colleagues with their own plots.  But sadly, the Weather Fairy had other ideas……

In the bleak midwinter


Frosty wind made moan


Earth stood hard as iron

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Water like a stone


All well at Garden House though – someone has wrapped up the greenhouse


Cosy!  I wonder what tog rating that fleece is?


As a result, the sweet peas and capsicum seeds are sitting pretty in their pots.

In the meantime, Friday Group members have been diligently keeping up with their horticultural research.  This is the winter garden at Mottisfont.  A planting of Betula jacquemontii in the foreground, with Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and Helleborus argutifolius behind.


And these photos are from Wisley’s recently extended area of planting for winter interest


The fragrant, hardy, deciduous shrub Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’, glowing pale yellow on a grey day.


Rubus cockburnianus (the white-stemmed bramble)


The stunning bark of Prunus serrula


And under glass in the Alpine House, these little beauties….


The plants in here are all grown in terracotta pots which are plunged into sand in the raised beds.  This mimics their natural growing environment, keeping the roots cool and away from hot sun.  The gardeners here even brush the sand level with soft paintbrushes, such is their attention to detail.  Vents, windows and doors are kept open during the day, even in winter, to maximise airflow; what alpines hate most is not the cold, but the wet.





Hang on a minute….


Is that cherry tree made of Lego?

And what about these Anthurium andraeanum in The Glasshouse?


It’s the Great Brick (Lego) Safari at Wisley


“Aha! We very nearly literally gottcha!”


At least this one got away safely













Friday 25th January 2019

Grey and drizzly makes us grizzly.  But, cheer up, it’s Friday, and time for another Friday Group session at Garden House.


Plans are afoot to create a new path through the bed behind the hedge at Garden House;  this will make weeding easier and offer a new way to experience the garden in that area.  At this point, however, you have to use your imagination –


Plant ident.

Plants which help us get through the dark days, which are somehow even more appreciated and vivid as a result.

Galanthus nivalis


The snowdrop.  In French, it is the “perce-neige”.  Such a lovely thing, especially when seen in drifts near woodland.  It needs good drainage to flourish and a soil which doesn’t dry out in the summer, but can do well even on thin chalk soils.  Snowdrops probably do best in dappled shade.  It’s best to plant them “in the green” – that is, after flowering, and just as the foliage starts to die back.  (The foliage can be allowed to die back naturally.)  Snowdrops will self-seed and spread where happy, or can be increased by division.  There are many hundreds of snowdrop cultivars now available, some of them very expensive, and much sought after by keen ‘galanthophiles’.


These winter/spring flowering perennials prefer a gritty and poor-to-reasonably fertile soil.  There are a wide variety of types and colours available these days, but the early-flowering Crocus tommasinianus remains very popular.  It thrives best in partial shade and is easy to naturalise as it will self-seed.  Attractive to bees and other insects.  The large autumn crocus, Crocus speciosus, flowers much later in the year, and is equally delightful.

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Crocuses can be enjoyed indoors too –


Easiest to buy crocus bulbs as they are coming into flower; put them into little glass forcing vases so that their roots reach down into the water.  A group of them will make a lovely display –  and your neighbours green with envy at your horticultural prowess.

Iris reticulata’Pixie’


Iris reticulata are dwarf bulbous perennials.  Three large spreading petals alternate with three erect smaller petals.  ‘Pixie’ is a wonderful violet-blue and each of the “fall” petals is flecked with golden yellow and white.  In the garden, bulbs should be planted in well-drained soil in the autumn, about 8 -10 cms deep and 7- 10 cms apart.  In pots, they are frequently planted much closer together.  Often used in winter/spring container plantings and in rock gardens, they need plenty of sun.

Iris reticulata ‘George’

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The oyster shell grit used here shows off the lovely blooms – and discourages  interested parties


Like you two

Eranthis hyemalis


It’s not hard to discern that this little plant with its ruffled green bib is part of the buttercup family.  Known as the winter aconite, its golden-yellow glow is a cheery sight in winter.  In the wild, aconites grow largely in deciduous woodlands and en masse they can light up an otherwise dull area.  Cultivation is very similar to that of snowdrops – and, again, they do well on chalky soil.  They will self-seed, or the seed can be collected and immediately sown in pots, or they can be transplanted “in the green”.

This variety is actually part of the Eranthis hyemalis Cilicica Group


Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’

Twisted or corkscrew hazel is the mainstay of many a flower arranger’s vase in their winter/spring displays, and also provides a spectacular shape in the garden at this time of year, especially when seen against a sparkling blue sky.  Also known as Harry Lauder’s walking stick, it is a hardy, deciduous shrub/small tree with attractive, yellow, male catkins in the early spring, followed by edible nuts.  It requires little in the way of pruning, just enough to keep it in shape and not too bushy, and will grow in all types of soil, provided it doesn’t dry out.

Cornus mas

Bridge is a great fan of this deciduous shrub/small tree.  Known also as the cornelian cherry, it is currently bearing  small clusters of long-lasting, bright yellow flowers.  They open on bare wood in late winter, and are later followed by tart, edible, glossy red fruits which have the appearance of cherries. Cornus mas has ovate leaves which provide good colour in the autumn, when they turn reddish-purple.  An excellent alternative to witchhazel for those who don’t have acidic soils.  Can be propagated by hardwood cuttings at this time of year.


Jobs in the garden

Display crocuses in forcing jars


Tidy “Little Dixter”

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Looking good

Empty out the urns and prepare them for planting 

Use a mix of compost and pelleted chicken manure.  Eventually the urns will be planted up with these libertias


Prune apple trees


Be careful out there

Prune Cornus mas


That pruning saw looks dangerous.  I hope she’s not about to take the whole tree down


All well

Prune Rosa Cecile Brunner 


Pruning roses is a science and art form in itself, but there are general rules.  Always use good, clean, sharp secateurs; ensure cuts are cleanly made; all cuts should be made at an angle, above a node and away from the bud; remove dead and diseased wood; remove wood/stems which rub against others; maintain an open, airy centre to the plant; prune hard when first planting.  One can always consult a reputable website for expert advice on particular roses: the R.H.S., David Austin Roses and Classic Roses (Peter Beales) are three such.  Basically, be brave and don’t be intimidated!

Weed tulip tree bed.  Cut back plants as necessary

For example, curry plants should be cut back to new growth, whilst grasses can be cut hard back.

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I don’t mean to frighten you, but there are bears in these woods….



Sow seeds in the paper pots made last week


Recycling a-go-go


And water anything in the greenhouse that seems too dry

Cut back Rosa banksia ‘Lutea’ 



Smile please!

…and cut back Rosa glauca


That’s all very well, but have you seen these thorns?


Oh, well.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Prick out honesty seedlings


  That’s honesty, honestly.

Winter still-life


Effortlessly elegant and hard-working

Just like Friday Group














Friday 18th January 2019

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Not a drop of snow – but there are snowdrops!


We looked at a variety of indoor and outdoor plants, and identified them all as Euphorbias (spurges).  This is a large and very diverse genus of flowering plants (there are over 2,000 types) varying from annuals to shrubs and trees, coming from all over the world.  Even the Christmas poinsettia is a euphorbia.  What unites them is their milky white, poisonous sap and the shape and form of their heads of flowers.  It is essential that they (and all plants) be labelled correctly so that they can be uniquely identified.

Euphorbia splendens, or crown of thorns


Euphorbia myrsinites


Euphorbia mellifera


Euphorbia wulfenii


When writing labels, the genus name comes first, starting with a capital letter.  This is followed by the species name, written in lower case.  Often there is a third descriptor – the cultivar name – indicating that the plant is a cultivated variety.  The first letter of this name is also capitalized and the name itself is set within single quotation marks.

Here, for example,  is Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

….not forgetting the label, written with a permanent ink marker


Plant Ident.

This week, Bridge focused our attention on the beauty of twigs and buds.  There are ways of identifying trees and shrubs, even without their flowers and leaves.

Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’


Buds appear symmetrically opposite each other on pale new shoots.  Eventually the buds present as creamy-pink before opening to produce pale pink flower heads, which contrast with the almost black, dissected foliage. An excellent ornamental plant which responds well to being cut hard back in the winter.

Cornus sp.


The stems of this wild dogwood are flushed red and green, typical of the species.



The vivid green stem of this willow is pliable and lends itself to being woven into decorative garden arches, living willow sculptures, baskets etc.

Carpinus betulus


The name hornbeam comes from the hardness of the timber: it seems that ‘horn’ means ‘hard’ and ‘beam’ means ‘tree’ in Old English. Very similar in appearance to beech, but hornbeam leaves are more deeply veined and the edges more noticeably serrated.

Betula jaquemontii


The shiny red-brown bark of the twig indicates it is from the silver birch.  However, as trees mature, it is their silvery-white bark which makes them so distinctive in winter.

Ginkgo biloba 



Also known as the Maidenhair tree, the bark of this ancient tree is pale grey-brown.  The buds emerge from stubby spurs.

 Fraxinus excelsior


Ash has the darkest of black buds.  Its bark is ash grey and smooth until the tree gets older, when fissures appear.  In spring, shoots emerge from the buds which produce clusters of small purple flowers.

Prunus serrulata ‘Tai Haku’


The fat little buds of the great white cherry glow chestnut brown and are clustered together.  The twigs are knobbly in appearance.

Cattus problemicus


This is a perennial difficulty when trying to do an accurate plant ident.

Jobs for the week:

Plant up window boxes


Using polystyrene to fill the base means that less compost is needed and the container is lighter to carry.  It also helps with drainage.  This box is going to be planted up with primulas.


Et voilà!


And this one is getting Festuca glauca and some fuschias

Take hardwood cuttings from prunings 


This philadelphus is in need of a good haircut, and now is a good time.  Pruning and cutting back shrubs like elder (Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’), Kerria japonica and Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’ keeps them in check, thins them out and encourage strong new growth.  Taking hardwood cuttings from the prunings is a means of propagating new stock.  (We call it “free plants”.)



A few judicious snips and…..


Cover with grit and water.  Say the magic words.  Then it’s a waiting game.

Prune the apple tree

….. and prune the rosehips scrambling through the tree


Hmm.  I need to get a bit higher


This is more like it


I don’t think she’s coming down

Well, this looks like one way of getting her down









Work on tulip tree bed 

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The sun shines on the righteous

Prune the winter flowering honeysuckle

That’s Lonicera fragrantissima, for the Latin speakers amongst us, being pruned on the left-hand side of the photo below.  Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ will also be pruned, and pulmonarias added to the bed to provide spring interest.


It’s a hive of activity here.

Clear out the shed

The Marie Kondo life-changing magic of tidying.


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Any bidders?

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Something is definitely sparking joy




Well impressed

Pot up new camellias


Hope that’s ericaceous compost?

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It most certainly is!

The end of another productive session


Primulas looking prim and perfect











Friday 11th January 2019


It may be a grey January day, but at Garden House, there is always something to put a smile on your face.  And, inevitably, the skies clear and the sun comes out.

We tackled a photo plant ident. at Friday Group today – all images of plants looking good in winter gardens now.  Briefly, these were: Iris unguicularis; Viola odorata; Sarcococca hookeriana; Osmanthus x burkwoodii; Viburnum x bodnantense; Lonicera fragrantissima; Mahonia x intermedia ‘Winter Sun’; Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’; Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’; Daphne bholua.  Seek them out in a nursery or garden near you.  Inhale deeply when you find them; they all have wonderful fragrances.


Having studied, considered and discussed, we moved on to the practical plant ident. for the week.  Bridge brought in stems, leaves and flowers for our delectation.  Starting with:

Rubus thibetanus


Brutally thorny, the purple stems of this brambly thing look as if they have been white-washed.  Its common name is ‘ghost bramble’, and it does indeed have the aura of an apparition in the low, evening light of a winter garden.  Lovely, ferny leaves decorate the stems – there is a golden variety which is particularly pleasing.  Will cope with sun or partial shade and can be propagated from hardwood cuttings in the winter.  Has a tendency to spread, as it will root where its growing tips touch the soil.  Bridge advises cutting the whole lot to the ground in April.  Attractive and easy to grow, but keep your secateurs handy alongside a pair of heavy-duty, protective gloves.

Cyclamen coum Album


These hardy perennials, with kidney-shaped leaves, flower from winter through to spring.  This variety has a wonderful wash of magenta at the base of the white petals.  If grown in fertile and well-drained soil, and left undisturbed, they will naturalise and spread; their seeds are actually carried by ants!  Look out for the ‘Pewter Leaf’ group, with attractive silvery leaves and pink/ magenta flowers.  Stunning in clumps under trees and at the edges of woodland.


Libertia ‘Goldfinger’


Like the Bond villain of the same name, this evergreen plant is a tough cookie.  But there the similarity ends, because libertias are good and desirable individuals.  Adding verticality to planting schemes, the upright green/gold leaves turn golden orange in the winter and enliven borders and pots.   They love a sunny, well-drained position.  Good on chalk and in seaside gardens, their small, white  flowers, borne in summer, are not particularly remarkable.  Old and dead leaves need combing through and removing in the spring.  Propagate by division.

Kerria japonica ‘Golden Guinea’


Belonging to the Rosaceae family, Kerria japonica is an easy, deciduous shrub which grows to around 1.5 m.  Over the winter months, the stunning green stems of this shrub shine when lit by the sun.  By mid-spring, single golden-yellow flowers have opened – they have five petals, like roses.  The foliage is slightly toothed and is a vivid, fresh spring green.  After flowering, kerrias should be cut to the base to encourage strong growth.  Useful in borders when there are gaps to be filled.

Jobs for the week:

Divide up the libertias.  They need potting on and placing on the heated bench in the greenhouse. 



Check over and tidy up the pelargoniums. Currently under protection for their own good

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Divide clumps of Viola odorata in the top garden; pot up divisions 

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Remove bulbs of elephant garlic where too prolific


Like here

And weed beds 


She’s weeding

Make paper pots from newspaper


Here’s some she made earlier


Caught on camera reading the newspaper – demonstrating how easy it is for a gardener to get distracted

Pot on cuttings of Muehlenbeckia complexa and stipas.


Muehlenbeckias are as mad-looking as their names.  Scrambly things which can climb, twine and grow as a mound. Will grow anywhere.  Stipas are a genus of grasses, good in gardens generally and especially used in prairie-style plantings.

Prune Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ 



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It’s going to look a lot better for it

Feed hellebores and camellias with pelleted chicken manure.  Cut the old leaves off hellebores throughout the garden in order to reduce the risk of fungal disease and to better appreciate the flowers


Hunting hellebores


Found one.  Behind the Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’

Take hardwood cuttings of roses


Hardwood cuttings can be taken from many plants at this time of year (black elder, philadelphus, weigela, roses, dogwoods) and are easy to do.  Rose cuttings should be around 25 – 30 cms long.  Find a dormant bud towards the bottom and make a straight cut below it. Then locate another bud at the top end of the cutting and cut diagonally above it.  Push the bottom end into a pot of gritty compost (or into a trench in an out of the way part of the garden).  2/3 of the cutting should be below the soil.  Water, label, then wait for the magic to happen.


Have they labelled them?


Ta dah!  By summer, they should be well-rooted

Sow leeks, chillies and sweet peas; place on hot bench in greenhouse to encourage germination

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It looks snug in there


Then label and …..relax

Plant agapanthus bulbs; try to imagine them in the heat of summer


     Prune and feed roses in the top garden                                                                                                            IMG-20190114-WA0017.jpg

not forgetting to feed the gardeners



Quite literally, pots of work completed

Friday 4th January 2019

Blue sky. Silhouettes. Winter bareness. Skeletal structures.


Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

And so we are back!  We discussed the joys (family, friends, children) and sorrows (excessive commercialism, oven burns) of Christmas and New Year.  We shared some of the happy times and places we had experienced over the festive season: a visit to the Saltmarsh Cafe after a walk at Cuckmere Haven; trips to Kew and Standen; walking to Rodmell;  riding a pony; open-air cooking over a fire; celebrating New Year doing the conga with neighbours in the street; and – perhaps a particular favourite – drinking hot chocolate with a shot of brandy outdoors.  Somewhat randomly, the phrase “Count the lollipops!” came up.  Random, maybe, but perhaps a good metaphor for life?

Plant Ident.

Winter plants.  There are plenty of stems, scents and flowers to enjoy now.

Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’


This early-flowering winter/spring specimen at Garden House is spectacular at the moment.  Full of nodding flowers and buds, in due course it will produce beautiful seedheads.  In Group 1 of the clematis pruning brigade, ‘Freckles’ loves to romp about in full sun, but its base and roots need to be planted in the shade.  It requires little in the way of routine pruning, but, if growth needs to be restricted, shoots can be cut back to healthy buds after flowering.  Tie-in plant as required.  Then feed with a slow-release general purpose fertiliser and mulch with well-rotted garden compost.

Camellia japonica ‘Little Bit’


Originating in northern India, China, Japan and Indonesia, camellias are the plant species responsible for bringing tea to the tables of the British aristocracy from the 17th century.  (Tea is made form the leaves of Camellia sinensis).  The British East India Company later brought camellia plants back for wealthy, discerning clients to use in their gardens.   Best in shaded woodland areas, camellias are elegant, evergreen, plants with exquisite flowers, which require acid soils to thrive.  They flower from winter through spring and can successfully be grown in pots, provided ericaceous compost and acidic fertilisers are used.  It’s best to use rainwater for watering where possible, as tap water contains calcium – especially in hard water areas.  Flowers can be single, semi-double or double and have different forms (e.g. paeony, anemone, rose).


‘Little Bit’ has anemone-form flowers.  Grown in a pot at Garden House, it can also be used in the border, against a wall or as a specimen plant.  Prune as required in the spring, after flowering.

Camellia sasanqua ‘White Pearl’


Another early-flowering variety, this one is semi-double.  Glossy, dark green leaves show off the white petals perfectly.  It’s a good idea to avoid an eastern aspect when planting camellias, as the morning sun can burn their buds, leading to a loss of flowers.

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

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This deciduous dogwood looks amazing when planted in quantity, as here at Wakehurst Place.  In recent years, this shrub has become very popular – and rightly so – as the winter garden is lit up by its flame-coloured stems.  Dogwoods love soils which hold moisture and so tend to do well in clay; they are wonderful planted near water or in groups in the border.  Plant in full sun and only prune once the plants are well-established, then cut back hard at the end of March.  Mulch muchly.

Lonicera fragrantissima

Also known as the winter-flowering honeysuckle, this shrubby plant grows quite big, sprawls, doesn’t look particularly beautiful – and yet, and yet.  From January – March small white flowers appear on leafless stems.  Smell them and you’ll understand.  Gorgeous!  Likes a fertile soil which is moist but well-drained.Prune as soon as it finishes flowering.

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’


Another top smeller.  A beautiful, evergreen shrub with gold margins edging the leaves; it likes a sheltered, sunny site.  The small clusters of pink/purple flowers are wonderfully fragrant.  It’s an expensive plant as it is hard to propagate.  Spendy, but worth it.  Top tip: whilst at Wakehurst, after enjoying the dogwoods, continue on to the Himalayan Glade, where you will be able to inhale the lemony-perfumed deliciousness of these daphnes.

Helleborus argutifolius


The Corsican hellebore is an evergreen, herbaceous perennial and one which garden designers frequently include in their planting portfolios.  Bridge prefers this to the perennial “stinking hellebore”, Helleborus foetidus.  (With a name like that, who wouldn’t?)  Pale green flowers are suspended over dark, glossy leaves with serrated edges.  Can take sun, shade and most soils – but for preference, errs on the side of neutral to alkaline soils.  To appreciate the flowers fully, remove faded or damaged leaves when the buds begin to open.

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’


This upright, hardy, deciduous shrub can reach around 3 metres, and is another perfumed delight.  Reaching for the skies, its bare stems produce clusters of small, pink flowers before small, dark green leaves reappear.  Not especially exciting later in the year, this fabulous viburnum is a great plant for the winter months as it is so long-flowering.  Plant near a path or gate to enjoy the scent.  Remove old/damaged/weak branches after they have flowered – and mulch around the base.

Jobs for the week:

We need to crack on with work in the garden because Garden House will be opening its doors as part of the National Garden Scheme on March 8th 2019. Do check out the famous Yellow Book for further information, or visit the website

Pot on rooted cuttings


Hedera helix ‘Goldheart’.  Done.  Boom.

 Plant up the newly-prepared, raised vegetable bed


Meticulous planning and execution


Delicate handling


Satisfaction.  A good job, well done.


Broad beans (‘Aquadulce’).  All in a row.

Prick out hardy annual seedlings into 7 cm pots


Ridolfia segetum, unless I’m very much mistaken.

Work on Little Dixter


Think Christopher Lloyd; we want the complete experience.




Weed tulip beds.


Somehow, the phrase “Hoe, hoe, hoe!” comes to mind.

Check the coldframes for unwelcome visitors


 Like this little critter


Pinch out tips of ammis etc. to encourage growth

Pot on sweet pea seedlings


Plant tulbaghia bulbs near viburnums


 Plus various other jobs



Sort veg./ flower/salad/herb seeds 


Now how did they manage to get an indoor job?

Plant out wood anemones and a few more tulips (the last ones!) in the winter bed

Re-pot rooted streptocarpus cuttings

Pot them into a bark/compost mix.  And we also need to check the heated matting is working in the greenhouse.




In winter

all the singing is in

the tops of the trees

Mary Oliver