All posts by annieunsworth

Friday 31st May 2019

The photo below gives a little clue about the main topic at Friday Group this week.


The group were joined by, amongst others, Charles, Gertrude, Cecile, Paul, Geoff and Albertine.  All very exciting.  We need to go straight to the Plant Ident.







For the Plant Ident., there were posies of rosies to consider:

Rosa ‘Dublin Bay’


A beautiful, velvety, deep red modern climbing rose.  Repeat flowering.  Vigorous.  Keeps its colour well, even in full sun.  Sadly, no fragrance, but it’s a stunner. (h. 2.4m x w.1.5m)

Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’


This, on the other hand, has SCENT in abundance!  A vigorous rambler, some might say rampant, with delightful little double flowers, soft pink fading to white.  A Moschata rose (h.7.5m  x  w.3.5m)

Rosa ‘Blush Noisette’


A climbing Noisette rose.  Clusters of very pretty, small, scented, blush-pink roses.  Long flowering season. (h.2.1 m  x  w.1.2 m )

Rosa ‘Warm Welcome’


A patio rose with small semi-double flowers.  Does well in a pot.  On the patio.  Bright orange isn’t for everyone, but its light scent with dark foliage makes it an attractive proposition. (h.2.7m x w.1.8m)

Rosa ‘Parkdirektor Riggers’


This hybrid modern climber was apparently bred for use in tropical gardens – so it tolerates strong light and heat.  Semi-single red/crimson flowers grow in clusters.  Good autumn hips – and, with support, can be grown as shrub. (3m x 2.4m)

Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’


This Gallica rose is a beauty.  It can get mildew as it grows very densely, so clever pruning is key.  Prune it in layers, so that it grows at different heights.  This will allow more air to circulate and will result in the quartered blooms growing all over the bush.  Sounds terribly technical, but really it isn’t.  Fabulous scent.  (1.2m x 0.9m)

Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’


This China rose is on the trellis at the far end of the garden next to the wisteria.  A true delight, this soft pink climbing polyantha rose is just perfect at the moment.  (7.5 x 6 m)

Rosa ‘Albertine’


A Wichurana rambling rose.  Double flowers of golden-apricot/pink grow on a very vigorous plant.  (4.5m x 2.4m)

Rosa ‘Highgrove’


You can tell from the name that this one has real pedigree (introduced by Peter Beales Roses for Somebody’s private garden in Gloucestershire).  A prolific, repeat-flowering modern climber – and, in the right place, it can be grown as a large shrub.  Sumptuous, deep garnet-red with glossy green leaves.  Subtle fragrance. (2.4m x 1.5m)

Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’


A stunning shrub rose, bred by David Austin, and named after the famous garden designer.  Old Rose scent.  Could this be Britain’s favourite?  (1.5m x 1m)

Rosa ‘Schoolgirl’

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Modern Climber.  Repeat flowering.  Well scented.  (3m x 2.4m)

Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’


This is a wild rose cultivar, as should be apparent from the leaves.  A tall shrub rose with orange-red single flowers and pronounced anthers.  Come the autumn, it produces the most fabulous flagon-shaped hips – provided it hasn’t been dead-headed by an overly-enthusiastic gardener.  Lovely amongst informal plantings.  (2.4m x 1.5m)

Rosa ‘Geoff Hamilton’


A warm, soft pink in colour, the flowers change from cupped to rosette-shaped.  Strong- growing and disease resistant, it has a light Old Rose scent.  Repeat flowering.  Another David Austin introduction, named for the much-loved former presenter of Gardeners’ World.  (1.5m x 1m)

And here are some of the above having a lovely time out in their natural habitat.  Can you name them all?  Answers on a postcard please….







As far as roses are concerned: 1. Know your rose, so you know when to prune it.  2. Plant the graft 2.5cms below the surface of the soil.  3. Feed  4. Weed  5. Water, water, water.

Jobs for the week:

Cut back the chrysanthemums


Tall plants can be reduced by up to 50%; cut back to above a node.  Cuttings can be taken from the plant material.  Where cuttings have flower buds, pinch them out to encourage growth.  By the way, chrysanths are one of the top favourites on the menu for slugs and snails.  Just saying.


Cuttings going into the greenhouse

Continue to plant and stake the dahlias

Dahlias need air and light to grow effectively, so pinch out their central growing stems, or they will get long and leggy.  This will promote the growth of side shoots.  Cut out all stems to the base, except for five strong growing stems.  Counter-intuitive it may be, but you will be glad later on.


Now that’s what I call a stake-out

Remove leaf axils on bush tomato plants

An axil is the point between the upper side of a leaf and the stem from which it grows.  . Buds develop in the axils of leaves, removing them stops side shoots and encourages the plant to grow straight up and the trusses of flowers to develop into bigger fruits.  Start feeding the tomatoes from now.  (We use Maxicrop organic liquid feed.)  The tomatoes need plenty of space to grow, so make sure they are in a big pot.


Have these two straightened up at all since last week?

Prune Ribes speciosum

Also known as fuchsia flowering gooseberry.  Who knew?  A near-evergreen shrub with fuchsia-like flowers and ruby-red fruits later on.  Take out any dead wood and quite a lot of the old growth from the base.  Clip back recently flowered branches – but, because it grows with a loose, upright habit, endeavour to maintain a relaxed shape.  The shrub, not you.


We’ve certainly cut that one down to size!

Make wigwams and plant with Rhodochiton atrosanguineus and Thunbergia alata

Add white ammi and cornflowers.

Re-plant the alpine roof garden

A very gritty compost mix is necessary to avoid all likelihood of the dreaded Soggy Bottom Syndrome.  Cold they can do; damp they cannot do.

No yodelling allowed.



Oh dear.  That doesn’t look great, does it?

Job underway


Ready to re-plant


Nearly there…


Admirable alpines

Descend from the mountainous region with crampons and care.

Plant a ‘display in a tray’


Once again, horticultural grit mixed with compost will ensure good drainage.  And, as in the Great British Bake-Off, watch out for S.B.S. (cf. alpine roof, above)


Success!  Succulent succulents

Work on the cut flower bed


Cut flowers and dead head plants as necessary.  Replace anything that has gone to plant heaven.  Check the string support system.  Weed.  Water, water, water.

These will look nice in the studio


And stake cornflowers in the adjacent bed.  Use a figure of eight string tie to attach them gently but securely to the stake


Exactly so.

Pot pelargoniums on into terracotta pots

Weed, feed and water


Never fear.  We are in complete control


Oooh!  Finished with grit too!

And back in the studio, there were these……

Picotee sweet peas.  In a jug.


The scent of summer round the corner

















Friday 24th May 2019

Bridge was inspired by her visit to Chelsea this week; lots of greens used everywhere, informal plantings and beautiful, layered textures.  Andy Sturgeon and Sarah Eberle particularly impressed with their gold-medal gardens, with Andy’s going on to win best in show.


Surely this is a candidate for best garden?

So, this week, the Plant Ident. was all about Chelsea-inspired plants.  Here they are in all their loveliness:

Valeriana officinalis


Not to be confused with Centranthus ruber and Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’, the red and white valerians commonly seen in cottage gardens, this one is the true valerian.  It’s official.  Growing on tall, erect stems to about 1.5 metres, it is a herbaceous perennial which loves to bask in the sun, but likes a moist soil.  The clusters of white flowers borne on the top of the plant are sometimes tinged with pink, and the serrated leaves are striking.  Self-seeds freely.  Best grown from seed as it has a tap root, so doesn’t transplant easily once established.

Dianthus cruentus


Known as ‘field pink’, this herbaceous and (largely) evergreen perennial can be grown from seed.  Loves the sun and loves chalk, so good in rock or gravel gardens.  Its dark crimson flowers are stunning, and are loved by bees and butterflies.  The leaves are grass-like and bluish-green in colour.  Cut back after flowering.  Don’t let it get wet and soggy, for goodness sake, or it will keel over.

Equisetum hyemale


Affectionately known as the ‘Lego plant’, as its sections can be pulled apart then reassembled.  Odd!  Rough horsetail loves damp, boggy conditions – though perhaps best not to place it where it will sit constantly in water.  (Think the expression is, ‘it’s a marginal plant’.)  Very architectural, its vertical stems are ringed with black, horizontal bands; it grows to about 1 metre.  It can be invasive, so take care and keep it under control; maybe in a container (could look very posh) or in a mesh basket if grown at the edge of a pond.  Apparently, it’s hardy even at 500 miles inside the Arctic Circle, though temperatures in Sussex rarely drop to those levels.  At the moment.  Who knows what May occur in May?  Anything can happen in the next half-hour.

Melica altissima ‘Alba’


An ornamental grass whose airy inflorescences dance in the slightest breeze, providing interest and movement in the border or under trees.  It likes dry shade, so is worth having for that alone.  Easy from seed, professionals who are trying to sell it, describe it as “gently spreading”.  Estate agent jargon for “quite invasive”.  But, it has to be said, beautiful.  A favourite at Chelsea, it is great for flower arranging.  Divide clumps in the spring – if you’re not too busy flower arranging.

Orlaya grandiflora


Plenty of these were to be seen in Sarah Eberle’s Resilience Garden at Chelsea this year.  In Bridge’s view it’s one of the best umbellifers to be had, and she loves it.  A hardy annual, the white lace flower needs to be grown from seed every year, starting either in the autumn (which will usually result in a larger plant), or alternatively, it can be sown in the spring.  Lovely feathery foliage.  A brilliant cut flower.


Astrantia ‘Roma’


The common name for Astrantia is ‘Masterwort’ or ‘Hattie’s pincushion’ – and this one, ‘Roma’, was very popular at Chelsea 2019.  A beautiful cultivar of the type, the pincushion-like flowers of this herbaceous perennial are washed with pink.  Selected and much appreciated by Piet Oudolf, one of the leading figures of the ‘New Perennial’ movement, ‘Roma’ is longer flowering and more vigorous than many other Astrantias.  Cutting it back after flowering should result in a second flush of flowers later in the year.   Some people seem to be able to grow it anywhere, but many find that partial shade and a moist humus-rich soil are best.

Jobs for the week:

Make up more pots for summer

Fill to the brim with banana plants, ginger, petunias…..Cram plants into containers for summer displays with impact, then don’t forget to feed and water them regularly throughout the season.  In the metal basin below, for instance, there are yellow Crocosmia, orange Bidens ‘Beedance’, Tagetes linnaeus ‘Burning Embers’, Dahlia variabilis ‘Bishop’s Children’ and Helichrysum petiolare ‘Gold’.  Thrillers, fillers and spillers.


Now that’s what I call packing them in

Helichrysum petiolare ‘Gold’


This one’s a spiller

Tagetes linnaeus ‘Burning Embers’


And this one’s hot stuff

Now let’s get a move on everyone, time is precious, we need to get out there!

I’m going as fast as I can



Preparing to plant up pots


Work on the vegetable bed

Thin out the carrot seedlings; weed, weed, weed (as per); pick the radishes – they are ravishing and ready to eat



Radish, anyone?

On the rockery

Tame the Euphorbia plants and seedlings which threaten to take over the area.  Remove in those places where they are overpowering the Helianthemums.  Try to re-home if possible.  Elsewhere, completely remove the old flowering stems of Euphorbias which are now beginning to look a bit seedy.  This will create space for the fresh, new foliage to grow.

Continue working on the cut flower bed

The plants have been fed, watered and laid out on the bed within the string grid which will support them.  Stakes around the edges hold the whole thing securely.  We hope.  Ensure plants are upright, centred, and, once planted, that they are firmed in for maximum stability.  Afterwards, gently raise the net a little.  Water in.


It’s back-breaking work


We can’t actually stand up at all now!

Bring us cake!

How about birthday cake?


‘Happy Birthday’ a capella

for someone’s special day

Clear remaining tulip bulbs 

Add compost to the bed and prepare to…


Plant dahlias 

Thin to 5 stems per plant; this will result in bigger flowers.  Plant sunflowers to come through the dahlias.  Stake, water in and feed.  Later on, zinnias will join this happy planting scheme.


Firmly firming in

Meanwhile, somewhere close by, someone is checking on his compost heap –


He calls it “quality control”

A reminder

It’s always essential to be careful with spellings when it comes to horticultural nomenclature.  Just one vowel can make so much difference.  This, for instance, is



whilst this, is catnap


Has that cat moved at all today?


Absolutely I have

And now the month of May is nearly over, and just around the corner –

Sumer is icumen in….





Friday 17th May 2019


Plenty to do in the garden today.  More light means more growth and more plants.  Still, if there’s one thing we do know, it’s that you can never have too many plants.

We’re beginning to think about the cut flower bed, and the range of hardy annuals that have been sown to fill it.  Which leads us seamlessly onto the week’s……

Plant ident.

Ammi majus


How marvellous to have an opportunity to use the word ‘umbellifer’.  Very much as it sounds – an umbrella-like froth of flowers over long stems.  The umbels themselves are actually made up of many tiny flowers held together on stalks and they are attractive to many pollinators in the garden.  And to humans.  Coming from the Apiaceae family (e.g. celery, carrot, parsley), good examples are fennel and cow-parsley.  Tall, airy, elegant – the umbel is not at all humble.  This one is a pretty annual, growing to about 1 metre.

Cow parsley


This is it in the wild.  Grrrr!

Orlaya grandiflora

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A superior kind of umbel, this.  Makes a lovely cut flower.  One of Bridge’s favourites.

Ammi visnaga


These were sown last autumn and overwintered under cover, then potted on into FP7s, and later, FP9s.  Now these hardy annuals are ready to be planted in the cut- flower bed.  They have a larger, denser umbel than Ammi majus.

Daucus carota ‘Purple Kisses’


This is a beautiful flat-topped umbellifer, whose common names include ‘wild carrot’, and the rather more elegant, ‘Queen Anne’s lace’.  The cultivar ‘Purple Kisses’ produces attractive crimson/blackcurrant and white flowers on long stems, perfect for flower arranging.  Attractive to insects.

Euphorbia oblongata


Aka Euphorbia palustris ‘Zauberflote’, this is Sarah Raven’s top recommendation when it comes to growing hardy annuals for cut flowers, particularly for foliage – “my number one all time favourite and most picked plant”.  Praise indeed.  It’s easy to grow from seed and flowers continuously from spring right through to the autumn, provided it is picked regularly.  Its acid green flowers complement so many others, and in cut flower arrangements, it provides bulk and structure.  Actually a short-lived perennial, but frequently grown as a hardy annual.  But.  Beware!  Euphorbias have a milky sap within, which can cause an allergic reaction on the skin.  Keep those gloves on, and handle with care!

Jobs for the week:

As you can see, this week it’s all about putting in the work –

Work on the cut flower bed


Looks like a complicated game of noughts and crosses.  Oh no, hang on – it’s a horticultural version of that game ‘Sequence’. (Recommended)


Now you each take a plant in turn, and decide where to place it…..


Now what?

Orlaya to quadrant 5:4.  Victory!

Work on the vegetable bed

Stake the broad beans, with a kind of cat’s cradle grid of twine.  Try not to make a dog’s dinner of the cat’s cradle.  (I think we’re talking macramé.  Who’d have thought it?)  And while you’re at it, could you plant some kale and purple beans?  And make a teepee for the beans.  And give the bed a bit of general t.l.c.


Is she having a laugh?

Well, we’d better crack on



Knit one, purl one, knit one….

Work on Little Dixter

Who’s on it this week?


Oh, heck.  It’s the dynamic duo.

Re-pot tomatoes


Take cuttings of succulents 

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Echeveria glauca, looking fabulous crammed into a wavy-topped pot.  A great plant in the conservatory, if kept in full light and warmth – and fabulous on a south-facing patio for the summer.


Busy making offspring

And here they are!


Snip off at the stem with a sharp pair of secateurs or snips.  Push into a very gritty mix (about 50:50) of compost / horticultural grit.  Succulents will stay looking succulent, provided they have very good, sharp drainage and are kept fairly dry.  They can cope with cold spells, but hate being wet.  Like us, really.


Gone for cake

Work on remaining big pots


I’m working.  I’m working.

Work on removing those blasted tulip bulbs. 

Funny how we are less keen on them by this stage.

Set out dahlias to harden off.  Watch out for slu-s.


We’ll pop those in next week

And just add a little compost to the bed to prep it for the dahlias…


Enough is enough

Work on pricking out zinnias


Painstaking work, but we’ll have zillions of zingy zinnias

And elsewhere in the garden this week….?

Performing just behind the greenhouse, for your delectation, we present –

Rosa ‘Pompon de Paris’


Pretty as a picture.  Pink perfection plus
















Friday 10th May 2019


The last of the tulips

Nearly time to remove all the tulip bulbs from the garden.  At Garden House, we tend to lift them after flowering to make room for the next exhilarating planting scheme.  They can either be disposed of or, alternatively, after shaking off the dirt, left in trays lined with newspaper so the leaves dry and die off, feeding the bulb as they do so.  Any remaining soil is then removed from the bulbs, to ensure they are really clean, dry and not diseased, before they are stored somewhere dark, warm and well-ventilated.  Come autumn, they can be replanted in the ground.

Plant ident.

Clearly Friday Group have hit a purple patch, because today we looked at:

Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’


There are many different types of allium – and this is one of the best .  Stunning when planted in a drift, they have the most beautiful spherical flower heads and add a sophisticated verticality to borders.  (Going all art-house here, ladies and gentlemen.) Later, their seed heads continue to provide interest; they can be cut, dried then sprayed for effortlessly superior winter decorations.  Here, they float above a sea of brilliant white stocks.  They also look wonderful planted with nepeta, aquilegia – or simply as part of a mixed border.

Cotinus ‘Grace’


The smoke bush.  A fantastic deciduous shrub; Bridge considers ‘Grace’ to be the best of the cultivars.  Plant in full sun to fully appreciate the oval leaves (which turn from purple to red in the autumn), and the purple/pink haze of tiny, summer flowers which resemble billowing smoke.  In a good way.  Goes well with lime greens like euphorbia and tiarella.  In the winter, cut back to a bud about 45 cms from the ground. This keeps the plant in shape (it can get big) and encourages better leaves and colour.  Invaluable for flower arrangers.

Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’


Purple sage is an upright, perennial shrub with aromatic leaves.  As they emerge, the leaves are purple in colour, but become an attractive grey-green as they age. In the summer, spires of blue/mauve flowers are produced which bees make a bee-line for.  Prune lightly after flowering.  Often used in herb gardens or Mediterranean planting schemes,  it loves full sun and is drought resistant.  The leaves can be used in a variety of ways, both fresh and dried.  Basically, a cracking plant.  Be wise.  Plant sage.

Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’


Heucheras are semi-evergreen/evergreen, perennial plants in the Saxifragaceae family.  Tough growers, they are very good in a partly shaded position (although they don’t like dry soil), and look great both in borders and pots.  What’s more, apparently they aren’t attacked by slimy, creepy things.  Woohoo!  Many cultivars of heuchera are now available, following on from the popular ‘Palace Purple’, coming in a wide range of stunning foliage colours, such as ‘Marmalade’, ‘Lime Marmalade’, ‘Caramel’, ‘Midnight Rose’ and ‘Obsidian’.  The latter has wonderful, glossy, dark black/purple leaves and stalks of airy cream flowers in the summer.  A beauty.

Ajuga reptans


The creeping bugle provides an excellent mat of ground cover and performs well both in sun and semi-shade.  It’s best in a moist but well-drained soil.  It has small, upright spikes of blue flowers in the spring/summer, which complement its dark green leaves.  Bridge has seen this with crocosmia growing through it, to great effect.  From the Lamiaceae family, they are ‘stoloniferous’ – meaning they send out runners (stolons) to establish new plants. (For example, strawberry plants are stoloniferous.)  As with heucheras, many different cultivars are now available: ‘Burgundy Glow’, ‘Atropurpurea’ and the darkly handsome ‘Black Scallop’, shown above.

Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’


The delicate filigree leaves of this outstanding black elder are one of the main reasons for growing it.  Pink flower clusters appear in early summer, followed by berries in the autumn, which can be used for wine making.  Additionally in that season, its leaves turn a deep red, making this small, hardworking, deciduous tree excellent value for money.  Grow in full sun to partial shade in any soil.

Jobs for the week:

Basically, it’s more or less a case of emptying every pot in the garden, adding new multi-purpose compost, plus some pelleted chicken manure, and re-planting with a host of goodies.

As mentioned in last week’s blog, we’re aiming to produce something along these lines in a variety of containers.


She makes it look so easy

The principle is basically this.  You need 3 types of plant in your container:

1) foliage  2) focal point / statement and 3) trailers.  In other words (and here we quote Sarah Raven), fillers, thrillers and spillers.

Fillers could include plants such as Begonia luxurians or Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’.


Thrillers would be plants like Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita’ (the castor oil plant) or Lavendula dentata, giving a wow element as they grow.  A spiller might be something like Helichrysum petiolare, a terrific little scrambling, silver-grey plant often used in pots and hanging baskets.  Good value, because it can easily be grown from tip cuttings.


So, first, find your compost

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Oh dear.  Looks like someone else got there first.  This means a stealthy prowl around the garden in a bid to nick a trug of compost without being spotted.  It could all turn very ugly.

The containers can be filled with all sorts 


…from lettuce to pak choi


…. and courgettes to tomatoes

Plants, of course.  There’s such a range to choose from


Silver-greys and greens. (Spot the tortoise.)


Pinks and variegated



Vibrant greens


Mauves and magentas

Make your choice

And then it’s a case of out with the old…


(The technical term for this is:

‘Putting your back into it’)

…and in with the new


A masterclass in re-potting


and in tranquil mindfulness

Inevitably, there are occasional disagreements


But good sense and good humour usually prevail


Thank goodness!

Cake time


The flapjack-maker expressed concern that her baked goods were uneven.  We couldn’t comment because we’d already eaten them.

Back to work

Watering?  Of course!  Gently does it.


And horticultural grit for that professional finish?


Never without it, my dear

Oh, I say!  A trio!


Or should that be ‘hat trick’?

They’ve gone bananas with that pot below


It’s going to be huge

We can’t wait

Meanwhile, elsewhere at Garden House…

Cercis siliquastrum in full-blown flowering mode


Pink perfection
















Friday 3rd May 2019

“Farmers fear unkindly May; frost by night and hail by day.”  Flanders and Swan definitely knew their weather patterns.


But the garden is looking great.  Frothy euphorbias contrasting with purple honesty.  Everyone visiting over the weekend of the National Garden Scheme opening was impressed, in spite of the inclement weather.  The tulips even hung on to their petals.



And £1,500 was raised for charity.

Plant Ident.

We looked at pelargoniums and geraniums.  They are different, and this can be confusing since many pelargoniums are often labelled as ‘geraniums’.  This is why it’s so important to label things correctly, using binomial nomenclature (the two-term naming system).  In Latin, no less.

Both pelargoniums and geraniums are from the family Geraniaceae, but whereas geraniums are hardy perennials and can stay in the garden all year round, pelargoniums cannot, because they are tender.  This means that they can’t be left outside once frosts are on the way, or they will die.  They can be grown easily from cuttings.  Often used in summer bedding schemes – in the ground, in window boxes, hanging baskets and pots – they also make attractive summer houseplants.  This one is typical of the type:


There are also trailing pelargoniums – think Switzerland and chalet balconies awash with red and pink flowers in the summer.  These are usually ivy-leaved.

Pelargonium peltatum



You can also get scented-leaved pelargoniums.  A delight.  Choices include lemon, rose (Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’), orange, apple, nutmeg, , camphor….  This one is:

Pelargonium tomentosum


Its velvety leaves are soft to the touch.  It’s impossible not to want to rub them, and this releases a delicious peppermint scent.  It has small white flowers, and is tender.  So it can’t overwinter outside, because the cold and wet will do for it.  You’ve been warned.

True geraniums, on the other hand, are tough types and true outdoor plants.  As hardy herbaceous perennials, they grow outside and remain in the ground all year, dying back in the winter and re-surfacing from dormancy in the spring/summer.  Their common name is ‘cranesbill’, because the shape of each seedpod looks like the beak of a crane.  Easy to grow, great for ground cover and frequently used in mixed borders.  Chop hard back after flowering, then feed and water them; you will be rewarded for your efforts with another display later in the summer.  Propagate from divisions in the autumn.

Two of the best known are Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and Geranium ‘Rozanne’, with its large violet/blue flowers, but there are many types:

Geranium sanguineum ‘Pink Pouffe’


Low growing and spreading, this ‘bloody cranesbill’ makes good ground cover.  Its name comes from the red colouring which the stalks and seed capsules take on in the autumn.  The leaves can turn red too.

Despite the cultivar name, it would be a shame to sit on it

Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’

This robust little chap flourishes in sun or partial shade in most soils.  It flowers over a long period, and is pretty drought-resistant.  Lovely small purple flowers and striking deep red stems.

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Geranium phaeum ‘Samobor’


A beautiful geranium, with dark blotched foliage and delicate, dark maroon/purple flowers held above the large leaves.  The colour gives rise to one of its common names: mourning widow.  Also known as dusky cranesbill.  Thrives in dry shade, so is really useful in some of the most challenging areas of the garden.  Will also grow in sun and can cope with damp shade.  Invaluable.

Geranium maderense 


There’s always an exception to the rule, and this is it.  Although a true geranium, this one originates from Madeira (the clue’s in the name).  As a result, it’s not very hardy in most parts of the U.K., so it’s best to grow it outside in a pot in the summer and keep it frost free in a conservatory or greenhouse over the winter.  Worth growing for its size and its splendidly exotic-looking leaves.  Produces beautiful magenta-pink flowers and makes for a real talking point.

Planting containers

Next week at Friday Group we will be planting up containers.  Bridge went all Blue Peter on us and produced one she had made earlier.

This container is for a sunny situation.  In the base are drainage holes with a layer of broken pieces of polystyrene.  This helps drainage and reduces the amount of compost required.  The container was filled with multi-purpose compost and a handful of pelleted chicken manure.  In the middle of the trough is:

Cynara cardunculus


Otherwise known as the cardoon.  Silver-grey and gracious.  With a name like Cynara cardunculus, you would be too.  Here it is, growing outside in the garden.  Right next to our old friend ‘Bill (the geranium) Wallis’.


On the right is a spreading foliage plant:

 Plectranthus ciliatus


The incised leaves are green on top and dark purple underneath.

Another ‘spiller’ is:

Helichrysum petiolare


A small-leaved silver-grey plant with soft, felted foliage.

And another focal point:

Senecio ‘Angel Wings’



This white/silver foliage plant makes an eye-catching feature with its bright downy-soft leaves.  Drought resistant and tolerant of coastal conditions, it should love its home in Brighton.

Add Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ and an ivy-leaved trailing pelargonium or two and…..


Ka-boom!  You should end up with something like this.

Time to head outside and get on with-

Jobs for the week:

Apply copper tape bands to hosta plant pots to deter slugs and snails.


But does it work?


Look! Neither a slug nor a snail in sight.

  • Re-pot pelargoniums and grit the surface


True grit.  And don’t forget to water


The pelargoniums on stage in the top garden.

Looks like a start of term photo.

  • Construct a fernery
  • Pot up hostas in terracotta pots 



Looking particularly cool this season: The Ferns


The Class of May 2019



  • Pot on seedlings; water


Looking classy too

  • Tend the Compost Machine

And who drew the short straw this week?


Aha!  It’s you two!


But actually, this is the beating heart of the garden.  So in fact they are more surgeons than gardeners.  Not so much shovel as scalpel.  Respect.

  • In the greenhouse

Dig out the chrysanthemums and take cuttings.  Grow on in the greenhouse.


  • Little Dixter

Remove flowered bulbs like muscari and narcissus from pots

Clean staging and set out new arrangement


It’s an ongoing project

  • Prick out seedlings (there are lots) in the greenhouse
  • Pot on tomatoes

That should keep them busy



It did!


  • Take cutting of erysimums

That’s wallflowers to you and me


Who are you calling wallflowers?  Down tools!

Time for cake


The icing on the cake


Gardening.  Beauty to enjoy


And delicious things to eat




















Friday 26th April 2019


We’re back!  And spring has not only sprung, it’s bounding forwards apace towards summer.  Heat has brought the tulips out like debutantes at a ball, and there is general concern that they may not hold onto their petals for the National Garden Scheme open weekend.  So the general instruction is, “Don’t breathe whilst gardening today”.  We’ll see how that works out……


But, before we start holding our breath, let’s do the plant ident.:

Narcissus ‘Hawera’


The delicate late-flowered ‘Hawera’ stuns with its lemon-yellow reflex petals, which have a windswept look about them.  The bulbs of this dwarf daffodil produce several slim leafless stems with five or six flowers per stem.  Plant in the autumn in fertile, well-drained soil.

Matthiola incana


The sea stock’s brilliant white flowers seem to float over its grey-green leaves; it’s particularly effective in the low-light of dusk, when its exquisite scent fills the air.  Plant this hardy biennial near a path, where it will be much appreciated.  (Unless you are having to hold your breath for some reason.)

Erysimum ‘Old School’


There are many desirable wallflower cultivars available now, and this is one of them.  Long-lasting orange-pink and lilac flowers combine and look great grown in quantity together with tulips, honesty, herbs or in Mediterranean planting schemes.  Hot, dry sites are best.  It’s a short-lived perennial – so, from May onward, it’s advisable to take cuttings from the side shoots as they grow longer.  If wallflowers get long and leggy, they can be cut hard back, or, alternatively, re-planted very deeply.  The creamy-yellow wallflower below is another good garden performer.


Bridge emphasised the importance of pricking out correctly.  Containers should be filled to the brim with compost, and then any overfill struck off with the hand.  This will ensure a flat surface.  Seedlings should be held by a leaf (not by the stem) as they are removed gently from their tray.  Using a dibber, make a hole in the middle of the compost and drop the seedling into the centre of the hole – planting it deeply enough for its leaves to touch the surface.  Firm gently.  Label the tray, placing the label in the right-hand corner.  Water or mist lightly.

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Jobs for the week:

  • Seed sowing in the shed


It’s not too late to sow zinnia and cosmos seeds.  Sow in a tray or pot – sprinkle them over the surface of the compost.


Sieve a little compost over the seeds (vermiculite is generally only used when seeds are tiny).  Label and water / mist lightly.  Prick out individual seedlings once they appear – or they will quickly run out of nutrients / space.  Very small seedlings, such as alyssum or lobelia, can be pricked out in little clumps – see below.


  • Plant up fruit beds with calendulas and gooseberries



  • Sweeping, dead-heading, general garden enhancement



It all contributes to a tip-top Visitor Experience

  • Sow seeds in vegetable beds


What’s going in?  Carrot ‘Harlequin’, Beetroot ‘Chioggia’ and chard too.  Sounds colourful.

Straight lines, please!


The ever-important labels.  We think we’ll remember what went in.  But we won’t.

  • Take out self-seeded poppies, dead-head, weed, weed, weed


Are you holding your breath?


No need.  No tulips round here.

  • More weeding  


I spy tulips.

And breathe……


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Looking good.




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Well, that all worked out well.

But what happened to the gardeners?



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But the garden is ready and waiting for visitors.





Friday 5th April 2019

Every now and then, Friday Group venture out of their comfort zone and head off to someone else’s garden to dig and delve.  That’s exactly what happened this week – and here are the photos to prove it.  Starting with a trio, to give a brief synopsis of the whole session…

1. Before


2. During


3. And after!


A lovely setting, in a secret location close to Brighton, giving wonderful views from the back garden.  But we have no time to look at views – we’re getting down and dirty.

Clearing beds and tackling that old perennial favourite – ground elder.  Arrgghh!


All that ground elder is grinding us down


But we in F/G are not deterred


Or are we?


Never!  We just keep at it


And triumph!


And we smile too!


We’re just so cheery


Even when we have to support a tree


We are the champions

And here, there’s a bit of archaeological excavation going on.  What on earth have they found?  Nothing sinister, I hope……


Some shallow steps leading down the side of the garden.  Lovely!

Good job somebody’s working hard


Ooh.  This looks promising….


Mmmm…. can we get a closer look?


Oh, I say!


Time for a break everyone!


We don’t need asking twice




Someone boasting about how much cake they ate…


Really?  That much?

Can we come again next week?


Cleared steps, cleared beds, cleared/composted raised bed.



Mission accomplished, team. F-A-B. Back to base.