All posts by annieunsworth

Friday 25th May



Friday Group divided into small teams this week and most spent time transforming gardens away from Garden House.  One group, however, remained at home base and instead of our usual plant ident., we took a walk around the garden to enjoy what was in bloom.

Pelargonium “Attar of Roses”– the leaves give a distinctive rose scent when rubbed gently between the fingers.

Pale yellow irises keeping cool in the pond.


Proving its worth in the May sunshine is the mauve beauty Geranium pyrenaicum.  Tall branching stems of self-sown Valeriana officinalis hold their clusters of white flowers above attractive, finely divided foliage









….whilst the rock rose Helianthemum “Wisley Pink” looks terrific in the rockery, demonstrating why it thoroughly deserves its R.H.S. Award of Garden Merit status.

Alliums stand to attention outside the greenhouse


Also out is the invaluable long-flowering shrub rose Rosa x odorata “Bengal Crimson” with its relaxed, deep crimson single flowers and dark green leaves. It thrives in fertile soil in sun or light shade.

Jobs this week:

  • Pot on courgettes, gourds and pumpkins
  • Take out tulips and replant with agrostemmas, antirrhinums and annual pennisetums.  Stake taller plants as necessary using a figure of 8 tie so as not to damage the plant stems
  • Plant out black peony poppies, white cosmos and pink nicotianas.  The poppies need to be planted deeply and spaced about 1 foot apart
  • Plant purple fennel, Ammi majus and escholtzia



















Meanwhile, in gardens not too far away…..







Happy days.

Friday 27th April


Spring seems to be taking its time this year, but nothing deters the intrepid Friday Group other than lack of cake.  We were keen to know when dahlias and half-hardy annuals could be planted out, but Bridge urged caution as cold temperatures can be the kiss of death.  Plants can start to be hardened off on warmer days, but until all danger of frost is past, it’s better to hold off planting out these tenderlings.

The tulips at Garden House have been looking spectacular, but once they start going over we shall lift them to make room for our next plantings.  To keep bulbs from one season to another, you can let their leaves shrivel before lifting them, then remove the leaves, clean the bulbs and lay them in something like a vented mushroom box.  This can be kept in airy, cool, dark conditions.  Fat, healthy bulbs should be fine until the following November, when they can be planted out again.  Some bulbs survive successfully left in the ground, but they need to be planted deeply and in soil which does not get waterlogged.

Plans for the next few months at Garden House include planting a mini prairie garden and growing pink, purple and silver plants for beautiful summer pots.

Our Plant Ident. this Friday consisted of these spring-flowering beauties:

Ficaria verna “Brazen hussy”

Known also as Ranunculus ficaria “Brazen Hussy”, the lesser celandine is closely related to buttercups.  It is a tuberous perennial with deep black-bronze leaves which contrast well with its bright yellow flowers borne in spring.  Best in full or part shade.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Nature, Flower, Landscape, Plant, Tree

Flower, Bloom, Bluebell

In spring, under the emerging tree canopy, bluebells carpet woodland floors with an spectacularly intense shade of blue.  The nodding English bluebell, with its sweet fragrance and narrow bell-shaped flowers with rolled back tips, is not to be confused with the paler Spanish bluebell,  Hyacinthoides hispanica.  This is altogether larger, more upright,  and has flowers which are rather more conical in shape.  Cross breeding with non-native bluebells is one of the main threats to native bluebells.

Primula veris

Cowslip Spring Flower Pointed Flower Flowe

Related to the primrose, and closely associated with English folklore and tradition, the delicate common cowslip is an early spring flower found in meadows, woodlands and hedgerows.  As many of these habitats have been lost or put under pressure due to human intervention, cowslips have suffered a serious decline in their numbers.

Anthriscus sylvestris

Cow Parsley Blossom Bloom White Meadow Wil

Cow parsley is a common British wild plant found flowering on roadsides and hedgerows from spring to summer.  It has fern-like leaves and umbels of tiny white flowers.  There is a pretty form of cow parsley with deep purple-maroon leaves called Anthriscus sylvestris “Ravenswing” – perfect for a cottage garden scheme.  Likes well-drained soil in full sun or dappled shade.  A short-lived perennial, it seeds readily.

Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'


  • Jobs this week:

Preparing for the Fiveways Artists Open Houses month in May


Re-potting hardy annuals; clearing, cleaning and tidying Little Dixter

Planting astrantias and geraniums in the winter bed to provide summer colour.



Planting out pulmonarias and other perennials in “Paul’s bed”



Pricking out seedlings in the greenhouse, ensuring they are centred in the pot



Removing Spanish bluebells, weeding and tidying ready for planting.

Pond clearing


All done for another week!

Friday 20th April

Our first day back after the Easter break and Friday Group were straight into preparing for Garden House’s N.G.S. opening on 21st/22nd April.  Before we got busy, however, we had time to do a plant ident.   Herbs were the items in question this week – they are plants whose leaves, seeds, or flowers can be used for flavouring, food, medicine or perfume.

Myrrhis odorata

Sweet cicely is an aniseed-scented, herbaceous perennial with fern-like leaves.  It produces white umbel-type flowers in the summer followed by attractive seeds.   Good for growing in dry shade, it has the great advantage of not being enjoyed by slugs.  Can be used as a sugar substitute and is particularly good when cooked with tart fruit such as rhubarb.

Valeriana officinalis

Valeriana officinalis

Common Valerian, or “All-Heal”, is an upright herbaceous perennial which can grow to 1.5 m and has sweetly scented white or pink flowers. It is well-known for its sedative/ relaxing qualities and is used to make tea as well as syrups, ointments and salves.  Good to add to the compost heap too!

Levisticum officinale



Lovage is a herbaceous perennial with a lovely, delicate flavour.  An umbelliferous plant, it is in the same Apiaceae family as celery, parsnips and carrots – and can be used in cooking as a substitute for parsley or celery.  It has hollow stems, leaves like a large flat-leaf parsley and green-yellow flowers that are followed by golden-brown seed pods. Easy to grow from seed, it can grow up to 2 metres in a flowerbed.

Anethum graveolens




Dill is a large hardy annual with attractive ferny foliage and sprays of yellow flowers in the summer. Taste-wise it is like a combination of fennel, anise and celery.  Its leaves are often used in soups or salads or as a seasoning for fish and sauces. It can be used as a foliage filler in flower arrangements.

Rosmarinus officinalis Prostratus Group


This type of rosemary is a compact evergreen shrub of prostrate habit with narrow aromatic leaves.  It grows well in poor well-drained soil in sunny conditions – and in spring and summer it bears small blue flowers.

Jobs this week:

Dead-heading and tidying


Sorting the salvias


Getting the veg.plot in order



Taking a moment to enjoy the garden


…..not to mention the cakes!



All ready for a top quality Visitor Experience (we hope).

Friday 12th January 2018

Cold and grey weather, but life is always sunny at Friday Group.  This week we heard about an inspirational group run by The Brighton and Hove Food Partnership which uses Garden House as a venue to meet, share and enjoy working together in the garden; a couple of Friday group members volunteer their help.  A short film has been made about the group – please see link:

No real plants for this week’s identification, but instead a quiz on virtual plants (i.e. recognizing plants from photos).

Photos reproduced here –  and answers below.



1.  Hyacinthus orientalis

2. Erica carnea “Springwood White”

3. Cerinthe major

4. Galanthus nivalis

5. Daphne odora “Aureomarginata”

6. Erysimum “Bowles Mauve”

7. Narcissi “Paperwhite”

8. Nerine bowdenii

9. Cosmos “Purity”

10. Hippeastrum “Lemon and Lime”

11. Calendula officinalis

12. Echinacea purpurea

13. Campanula lactiflora

14. Hamamelis mollis “Pallida”

15. Cornus “Midwinter Fire”

16. Helleborus hybridus

17. Lathyrus odorata

18. Nigella damascena

19. Primula “Gold Lace”

20. Chaenomeles japonica

21. Dahlia sp.


Jobs in the garden this week:

Digging over beds in big border and adding leaf mould, taking care with established bulbs.  IMG-20180112-WA0014.jpg

 Planting Sarcococca confusa, heathers and colchicums in the terrace bedIMG-20180112-WA0005.jpg

Tidying the pond area and skimming off duckweed (easier said than done)



Generally tidying the rockery area; re-positioning stones and doing some planting IMG-20180112-WA0007.jpg

In the greenhouse, some hardy annuals (Escholzias) need potting into FP9s

Pruning Rosa “James Galway” and tidying the flowering currant








The cold frames had been mended and needed sorting through.  Organising contents into keep/nurse/discard


Planting out broad beans and peas in straight lines in bed behind greenhouse.  Placing them under cloches.  Cutting back dahlias


Sorting out seeds and keeping the home fires burning






Friday 5th January 2018

A wet day which gradually cleared to blue skies and sunshine in the Brighton garden.  A good omen for Friday Group’s 2018 gardening sessions, we hope.  For plant identification this week, Bridge showed us a number of plants with especial interest for the winter garden.

Plant Id.

Helleborus argutifolius

Corsican Hellebore, Hellebore, Blossom

Also known as the Corsican hellebore, this evergreen herbaceous perennial has serrated leaves and beautiful pale green nodding flowers.  It is in the Ranunculaceae family, and is therefore related to both clematis and Japanese anemones.  It is slug resistant and therefore very useful to gardeners!

Sarcococca confusa

Image result for sarcococca confusa image

This useful evergreen shrub is lovely in the winter garden with its fragrant white flowers and shiny dark green leaves.  “Christmas box” also produces shiny black berries and is good in a pot.

Erica carnea

Erica carnea

This winter flowering heather is tolerant of chalk as well as acidic soils, making it a good choice in many areas.  Purple and white/silver varieties can look very attractive together.  If it gets leggy, the plant can be planted in a deep hole in the spring to encourage the production of rooted cuttings.  This process is known as “dropping” heather.

Colchicum autumnale


Commonly known as autumn crocus  – or “naked ladies”, because their flowers emerge long after the leaves have died back – these are dwarf deciduous perennials and are poisonous if eaten.

Galanthis nivalis


Snowdrops are one of the first bulbs of the year to bloom and spread mainly through bulb division, especially in woodlands.  They are perennial flowering plants and there are some very distinctive and sought after named forms collected by “galanthophiles”.  Flower heads can be single or double.

Cyclamen coum

Close up of Cyclamen coum flowers.

A tuberous hardy herbaceous perennial which has handsome heart-shaped leaves and beautiful flowers – ideal under shrubs and trees. Where happy, they will self-sow and create a carpet of flower. They also look good in shallow “pans”. Slugs and snails tend to leave them alone.

Iris foetidissima

Iris foetidissima

The Gladwyn or “Stinking” iris has rather dull pale mauve flowers but attractive bright orange (poisonous) seeds are produced from its seed pods in the autumn and remain through the winter months.

Helleborus niger

Helleborus flowers in early spring

Commonly called the Christmas rose or black hellebore, (its seeds are black), this semi-evergreen flowering perennial is also part of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).  All parts of it are poisonous.  Helleborus x ericsmithii is a jewel of a plant created by Eric Smith many years ago, from a cross with Helleborus niger.  It has large white flowers tinged with pink, but is worth growing for the silvery sheen of the foliage alone.

Skimmia japonica “Rubella” 

Seasonal red skimmia flowers, winter, evergreen shrub (Skimmia japonica 'Rubella')

A popular compact evergreen shrub in the winter garden, “Rubella” (the male plant) has dark red flower buds which persist through the winter then open in the spring.  Best on acid soil or in a pot with ericaceous compost. Wakehurst Place holds the National Collection.

Viburnum bodnantense “Dawn”

This upright deciduous shrub is a good choice in the winter months as it bears deliciously fragrant dark pink flowers on bare stems from November through to March.  Viburnum tinus is a commonly seen shrub, easy to grow, but can look untidy unless kept well pruned.

 Lonicera fragrantissima


A  winter-flowering shrub with the most wonderful, delicate, slightly lemony, perfume.

Vinca major

purple periwinkle flower

A vigorous low-growing evergreen plant, the long-flowering periwinkle is frequently chosen for its ability to act as effective ground-cover.

Daphne odora aureomarginata



A compact evergreen shrub with dark green glossy leaves edged in yellow.  It has the most wonderful scent and is highly rated by Bridge.  Spendy, but worth it!

Iris unguicularis

"Lazistan Iris" flower in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Its Latin name is Iris Lazica, native to Northeastern Turkey and Georgia.

The Algerian iris is a plant much recommended by Bridge.  It grows from a rhizome to reach about 30cms in height and has scented deep violet flowers.

Cornus sanguinea “Midwinter Fire”

Dogwoods are a terrific asset to the garden in the winter months when their stems catch the light.  Plant in groups in full sun for best effect.  “Midwinter Fire” is a variety which has bright orange-red and yellow stems.  Cut back in spring.


Clematis cirrhosa “Freckles”

  • This evergreen woody climber has bell-shaped flowers produced from late autumn onwards, cream/pale yellow in colour speckled with bright maroon “freckles”.  Attractive seed-heads follow. 

    Jobs in the garden

  • Weaving a fence for protection and decoration
  • Planting up bulbs in bowls with compost, grit and adding moss on top for decorative purposes
  • Potting on hardy annuals (calendulas in this case) into 1 litre pots


  • Upgrading the Bug Hotel to a 5-star establishment
  • Checking over pulmonarias in pots before planting them out into the garden for spring flowering
  • Potting on sweet peas in the greenhouse.