Friday 25th October 2019

We’re a seasonal lot at Friday Group and although we’re always thinking ahead, planning and planting for the future, never let it be said that we don’t take time to enjoy the here and now.  20191027_145531 (1).jpg

In view of this, today’s Plant Ident. was all about berries.  It’s a very berry year.

Cornus alba ‘Kesseleringii’


This vigorous, deciduous dogwood has dark red, almost black, stems which contrast well with other coloured barks and stems in the winter garden.  Its oval leaves turn a lovely mahogany-red in the autumn, and small white berries follow the tiny creamy-white flowers.  Likes a moist, well-drained soil.  Chop down to the ground in April to encourage fresh new growth with intensely coloured young stems.  Seems harsh, but pays dividends.

Cotoneaster horizontalis


Aka the fishbone Cotoneaster, the reason for which is obvious when you see a good specimen: its stems grow in an easily identifiable herringbone pattern.  A really structural, tough, deciduous shrub, it is loved by bees (for its little pink flowers) and birds (for the small, bright red berries which they enjoy in the winter).  Will self-sow easily.  Can be encouraged to grow upwards against a wall.

Malus sylvestris


One of the Rosaceae family, commonly known as the Crab Apple.  The fruits are wonderful for making crab apple jelly as they have a high pectin content.  There are many cultivars of these small, useful trees to choose from and their fruits can vary in colour from yellow through to gold, orange, scarlet and dark red.  They are a good choice for a small garden as they offer year-round interest in addition to the fruits: long-lasting flowers, good autumn colour, attractive to birds and insects – and they are self-fertile.  Plant one!

Rubus Fruticosus


The native wild blackberry is a vigorous, thorny, suckering plant.  Creates a good habitat for wildlife, but would normally only be grown by a gardener as part of a mixed, wild, country hedge.  There are now named cultivars which have been developed for growing in gardens for their fruit – several of which are thornless.  Lovely to harvest the blackberries in late summer and enjoy them ‘au naturel’ (‘in the nude’??) or in a crumble.

Crataegus monogyna


The common Hawthorn, native to the U.K., is a small, rounded, spiny deciduous tree with small, green, distinctively lobed leaves.  Masses of small creamy flowers appear in the spring – a familiar sight in country lanes and along roadside verges – and are followed by little berries (or haws) which turn red in the autumn.  Good as part of a mixed hedgerow and very attractive to bugs and birds.

Crataegus laevigata

Sometimes known as the Midland Hawthorn, and actually not dissimilar to the common one, this variety is a very beautiful form of Hawthorn.  Its leaves are more deeply cut and it holds two seeds within each haw or berry.  Laxer in growth than its more common cousin.  Loved by Garden House.



Firethorn is a genus of thorny, evergreen shrubs which are a common sight in many gardens and municipal plantings.  That’s because they do their job well.  Tough, ornamental and practical, their autumn berries come in a range of colours, from yellows through to oranges and fiery reds.  Frothy white flowers, adored by insects, appear earlier in the year and the foliage is a deep, glossy green.  They can be clipped, trained and shaped (prune back to two buds from the main stem in April), or left to grow a little on the wild side.  Birds love to nest in them.  Will tolerate all sorts of conditions and are cheap to buy.  Common, maybe, but star performers.  Don’t diss them.  Don’t miss them.


Ilex aquifolium 

These long-lived native trees are of enormous importance to wildlife.  They are generally dioecious, with male and female flowers on different plants; berries are only produced on the female trees when there is a male tree nearby.  Nectar, pollen and, on the female trees, bright red berries attract pollinators and birds alike.  The leaves are evergreen and glossy, often prickly at the edges.  Used to decorate houses over the Christmas period, holly was seen as a fertility symbol and also as a charm against evil spirits.


To see a splendid display of holly, visit the Holly Walk at Kew.

Iris foetidissima


Stinking Iris?  An unlovely name which sounds like a character from a Harry Potter book.  But check those berries out.  What a shiny, zingy, orange!  They generally remain as seen above through the winter, bursting out of their pods – birds generally ignore them – and add a bright splash of colour to the winter garden border.  A plant which some consider to be rather a weed, it is tolerant of a wide range of growing situations and soils.

Euonymus europaeus


Such an eye-catching tree at this time of year.  The Spindle has lovely pink capsules which split open to reveal orange berries within.  A colour clash that works.  This is a native tree that has dense hard wood – originally used for making spindles for the spinning trade.  The foliage turns a dramatic shade of red in the autumn. Joe Swift has recently declared this to be one of his favourites for autumn, the best cultivar being ‘Red Cascade’.  They grow well in chalk, but will tolerate most well-drained soils.

Cotoneaster frigidus ‘Cornubia’


This deciduous, bushy shrub can also be trained into a small specimen tree.  Prolific flattened heads of white flowers precede vivid red berries, which remain on the tree for a long time before the birds descend.  The flowers are attractive to bees and other pollinators.  No wonder it has been awarded an AGM by the RHS.

Jobs for the week:

Plant up bowls of Narcissi for indoor flowering.


Three types of bulbs are being used this year: Paperwhites, Grand Soleil d’Or and Avalanche.

These should come into flower within 6-7 weeks of being planted.  Put a good layer of compost in the bottom of a bowl – it doesn’t matter too much about drainage because this is a short-term arrangement and the bulbs are generally disposed of after flowering.  Nestle the bulbs in – a good number will mean a good display.


Plant them up to their necks and top with grit or moss.  Add birch twigs as the stems grow, for support and a touch of professionalism.  Keep outside or in a cool place until it starts to get really cold, or they will grow too quickly, then bring in and keep frost free.  Keep an eye on the developing plants – try not to give them too much heat too quickly.  Gradually bring into warmer conditions.

Decorate as the artist in you dictates.  Lights? Baubles maybe?  But for heavens sake, keep it tasteful.

Take cuttings of tender perennials


Salvias, Pelargoniums, even the glorious Tibouchina (below).  Using clean, sharp tools, take off softwood side shoots from the plant.  Remove any flowers/some leaves, use a dibber to make a hole to insert the cutting.  Firm in gently.  Compost mixed with vermiculite provides an excellent open mixture for cuttings.


Liberate the Libertias

Free free…


Set them free

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This is Libertia ‘Goldfinger’, a useful evergreen herbaceous perennial.  Looks good in pots and, if you run to that sort of thing, urns.

No one seems to be using this table…


So, I might as well…


Ahhhh!  And…. relax.

Plant Anemone coronaria ‘Hollandia’ and Ranunculus Picotee ‘Cafe au Lait’

These are both in the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae.  They need soaking for a good 2 – 3 hours to re-hydrate them  Here’s some being prepared earlier….


Looks like dog food

At best


Once rehydrated, place the Anemones about five to a one-litre pot, smooth side down about 4 cms deep, and keep in a frost-free greenhouse or cold frame.

After the Ranunculus have been rehydrated, sit them on a compost-filled tray in a greenhouse or cold frame.  Once the shoots start to appear, pot them up spacing them a few centimetres apart and about 5cms deep.   About five in a one-litre pot.



Dig up dahlia tubers and store


At Garden House, the dahlias are taken out before the cold weather bites to make room for other plantings.  Remove the plants from the soil, cut back top growth, store in a cool dry place to allow the tubers to dry off (but not dessicate).  Keep the right labels with the right tubers!




The everlasting compost heap

Constant and careful attention makes the best growing medium money can’t buy.


And who are the lucky people in there this week?


People grow about 2 cms taller after just one session on the heap.  Fact.

Should we still have cakes at break?



Well, it wouldn’t exactly be a cake-break without them, would it?

Can’t talk.  Mouth full


Not have cake? Whose half-baked idea was that?

Discussion ends

Wrap up the exotics

Or ‘put the bananas in pyjamas’, as the practice is also known.  Cut the leaves off and wrap them up warmly in horticultural fleece.  Cannas and Gingers too, please.

From this…


to this…


to this….


It’s time to go to sleep

Some need a bedtime story


Until next year then

Collect berries and prepare them for stratification

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Sounds scary, but it just means the seeds need a cold spell before they can be tempted into growth.  Use a pestle and mortar to remove the seeds from the berries; sieve and wash; put seeds into a plastic bag with perlite and compost; place in the fridge; don’t mistake the mixture for granola.


Stratification is the game, germination is the aim.  Some seeds can take weeks, months or even years to break their dormancy.  Think teenagers.  Once the first signs of growth are there, remove from bag and pot on.  Exciting stuff.  Here we are taking on Rosa pimpinellifolia.

Plant bulbs of Iris reticulata into pots


Drainage will be necessary.  Put some old crocks into the base of the pot, add multi-purpose compost.  Plant the bulbs at about twice their depth.  Finish with a layer of grit.  Label!


Perfect symmetry

Dismantle sweet pea arches and make new wigwams

Entirely without the aid of a safety net.


Remove the old structures. Rake the beds.









I couldn’t agree more

Au revoir









Friday 18th October 2019

October, and autumn is in full swing.


Seeds, berries, hips and haws everywhere

And on the Nature Table this week…


Now there’s a blast from the past!

This week for the Plant Ident. we looked at rock, alpine and other similar plants.  An alpine is a plant which naturally grows in an alpine climate – high up and above the tree line.  Some rain is fine, and they can cope with low temperatures but, crucially, they must have good drainage as they hate standing in cold, wet soil.  Don’t we all?

Good drainage can be provided by using a very gritty soil.  A mix of half horticultural grit and half multi-purpose compost is fine, as is a mix of one third grit, one third m-p compost and one third John Innes no. 2.

Provided the above criteria are met, they can be left outside all winter, although it’s wise to try and protect from too much rain, unless you want to stand outside with an umbrella over them every time the skies open.  Try putting them under the eaves of your house or under a porch during the wet months.   Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Hosta venusta


An adorably tiny little Hosta!  Or, botanically speaking, a miniature Hosta cultivar.  This is the smallest of the Hosta species: glossy, dark-green, ovate leaves complement the lavender/violet flowers which form in late summer/autumn.

Cotula hispida


Mat-forming perennial with feathery, silver-grey leaves.  a spreader.  Has bright yellow button-shaped flowers in the spring/summer.  Needs a sunny, well-drained position.

Sempervivum ‘Royal Ruby’    


Houseleeks are not true alpines, but need similar treatment.  They are small, hardy, low-growing plants needing sun and good drainage.  The rosettes have long leaves which turn an attractive dark red.

Armeria maritima ‘Rubrifolia’


A lovely little cushion-forming plant with dark red-bronze leaves and deep pink flowers.  Commonly known as Thrift.  As the name suggests, it’s a good performer in coastal areas.

Sedum pachychlados


A spreading alpine with small rosettes of blue-grey leaves.  White flowers in the summer.

Planting up alpine sinks

Most of us don’t have an alpine house to display a collection of these beauties, but alpine sinks are a perfect alternative, as it’s possible to create the conditions needed for the plants to thrive.  Moreover, troughs can easily be raised to enable better appreciation of these tiny horticultural jewels.  Wendy Bates from Rotherview Nursery near Hastings (a Chelsea Gold medallist!) recently ran a workshop at The Garden House demonstrating how to plant up hypertufa alpine troughs.  She favours either a traditional planting with rocks or using slate to create a ‘crevicing’ effect.


So, obviously, one of our jobs for the week had to be: –

Planting up alpine troughs.

First mix up the gritty compost


In with the hard landscaping


Impressive.  With no hesitation, he’s going for the creviced look

Meticulous attention to planting detail


Finishing off with a layer of grit



Loving it


Now that’s just showing off.

And now for something completely different

At this time of year, it’s a good idea to:-

Take cuttings of tender perennials  

Tender perennials will not survive outside over the winter, but by taking cuttings now, you can ensure there will be a good stock of plants for next year.  Some plants can, of course, be brought indoors, but space can be a problem unless you have a set of splendiferous glasshouses.

Cuttings are easily taken from the side shoots of tender perennials.  Take off a side shoot, cut just below a leaf node and remove some leaves to prevent too much water loss (transpiration).  The cutting should be around 5.0 – 7.5 cms.  If the remaining leaves are particularly large, some can be cut in half.  Ensure tools are clean and sharp.

Oak-Leaved Pelargonium cutting


Note how the cut has been made just below a leaf node.

Verbena bonariensis cuttings


Insert the cuttings around the sides of a pot filled to the top with multi-purpose compost mixed 50:50 with perlite (helps drainage).   Use a small dibber to create the hole and put the stems in right up to their remaining leaves.  Firm in and label!  Place on a heated bench or in a propagator.  Failing that, try a warm, well-lit windowsill.  Rooting can take place within 3 -4 days.  Some find that a plastic bag tied lightly around the pot is helpful. Or experiment with half a clear, plastic bottle inverted over the pot.


No room!  No room!  I got here first.  Taken root and everything.

Plectranthus ciliatus

Take a few of these little lovelies

and you can go from this…


…to this, by next summer


Amazing, but true.

We call it ‘plants for free’…

that’s propagation for you.

The danger is that they may rot off, so keep an eye on them.  Squirt with a little water every day to keep them moist, but don’t overwater.  When rooted, pot each cutting on into its own pot, using just multi-purpose compost this time.  Plants such as Salvia, Rosemary and Lavender are easy to propagate too.

Labelling the Lavender cuttings



A creche of potential baby plants

Other jobs for the week

Sow hardy annual seeds


Cover with a fine layer of compost or vermiculite.  Label and water carefully.

Put prepared hyacinth bulbs into forcing jars

Use gloves, as some people are allergic to handling the bulbs.  Prepared hyacinth bulbs have been refrigerated and therefore tricked into thinking that they have been through a winter.  Sit the bulb in the neck of the jar so that it is just touching the water.  Place in a cool, dark place (maybe a shed or garage) for 8 – 10 weeks; white roots will begin to grow.  When the hyacinth shoot has reached about 5 cms, bring the jar back into a cool, light room.  The hyacinth will then be able to develop slowly and will flower for a long time.  Too much warmth, and the plant will grow too quickly.


Prepared bulbs can also be grown in compost or just grit as they have all the food they need within the bulb itself.  Plant up to the neck of the bulb and follow the same procedure as above.

Re-pot Abutilons into clay pots.


Label. (Make a note of the colour if possible.)  Water and finish with a layer of grit; place in the greenhouse for the winter.

Would anyone like some quinces?


We might!


Pot on rooted willow cuttings. 

These are Salix purpurea ‘Nancy Saunders’.


Have they been watered?


Bear with, bear with…

Make a wreath from autumnal pickings


Don’t worry, it’s going to look glorious



Awesomely autumnal



Friday 11th October 2019

After successful forays into other people’s gardens last week, this Friday we returned to home territory.


And the Plant Ident. was all about grasses, many of which are looking spectacular now.  There are several good books on the topic, including Designing with Grasses by Neil Lucas and Grasses, Ferns, Mosses and Lichens by Roger Phillips.

It’s helpful, at this point, to remember the old adage:-

Rushes are Round, Sedges have Edges and Grasses are Glorious!

They do make a lovely display, both inside and out.


We’re talking verticality, impact, structure, shimmer, long periods of interest, movement,  inflorescence and seedheads.

Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’


The dwarf form of the ubiquitous Pampas Grass; a robust perennial, evergreen grass in the Poaceae family.  A bit sad when grown as a solitary specimen, perhaps, but magnificent when planted in bulk to catch the sun as part of a planned border.  Then its great white plumes of feathery beauty, held on erect stems, form an eye-catching feature from summer through autumn.  Lovely when planted with other grasses; has also been seen grown very effectively in large black pots.  Hardy and wind resistant.  Cut to the ground in spring.  Good for cut flower arrangements.  (h 1.5 m x w 1.0 m)

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’


A terrific deciduous grass (dies back in the winter).  Very useful, as it tolerates partial shade as well as full sun, and can therefore light up darker areas of the garden.  Fairly low growing, (to about 30 cms), its slender leaves are striped yellow and green.  Likes well-drained but moist soil.  Good as edging and in pots.  Add well-rotted compost to the soil when planting and as a mulch in early spring.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Rosi’


A very architectural, late-flowering plant – in fact the Miscanthus Genus can flower well into the winter.  Has upright silvery-pink flowers.  Clump forming, deciduous and very desirable. Grows best in full sun in most well-drained but moist soils; cut back to about 15 cms in February.  (h 2.0 – 2.5 m)

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Punktchen’ is also highly recommended; its bright green leaves are marked with golden-yellow horizontal bands (h. 1.2 m)


Panicum virgatum ‘Warrior’


Switch Grasses are true North American prairie plants.  They look great en masse, providing interest, height and movement from late summer right through to winter.  After rain, droplets cling to the flowerheads and they glitter! ‘Warrior’ has very slim stems which hold delicate sprays of tiny purple flowers.  Other good varieties include ‘Shenandoah’ and ‘Heavy Metal’.  Deciduous.  (h. 1.2 m x w. 1.0 m)

Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’


Chinese Fountain Grass. Hardy.  Likes full sun / partial shade.  This one needs moisture to get established and seems to particularly like clay soil!  A clump-forming perennial which produces arching spikes of creamy-white/purple – brown flowers looking like furry caterpillars!  Evergreen, but cut down in late February for fresh new growth.        (h. 0.6 m).  Pennisetum orientale is a variety that will grow on chalky soils.

Stipa tenuissima ‘Pony Tails’


Mexican Feather Grass is easy to grow from seed and will then go on to self seed around the garden.  Especially good for winter interest as the flower heads waft about in the breeze, providing movement.  Treat them as you would a pony’s mane – groom them!  Comb through to remove old and dead stems (in late summer), then sit back and watch them perform.  Maybe wear a cowboy hat.  Grows to about 0.6m tall.  (Bridge actually prefers Stipa tenuissima ‘Wind Whispers’, which is slightly taller and more graceful.  The ‘Pony Tails’ beg to differ.)

Jobs for the week:

The Compost Heap

It’s wet.  It’s unpleasant.  But there’s work to be done on the compost heap.

Guess who’s up for the challenge?


Guess who isn’t.

It’s fine if you dodge the raindrops


Getting properly stuck in.


Black gold, that is.

Winners of the Bridge Saunders Prize for commitment


and a welcome break for both


Organise and label the bulbs ready for planting

All 1.3 million of them.


Think we’ve found some

But we’ll need another few dozen trugs, that’s for sure.  There are Aconites, Crocuses, Irises, Muscari, Narcissi, Tulips, more Tulips, Hyacinths, species Tulips, Alliums, more Tulips……


This could take some time

Sow sweet pea seeds


First fill the root trainers with compost


Push a couple of seeds in

Label and water lightly

Then into the greenhouse with them –


and wait for the magic to begin

Pot on plants.  Place in the cold frame. 


Don’t worry – the plants, not you!

Take cuttings of tender perennials

These need to be placed on warmth to encourage rooting


Hang on – what’s that dark furry thing in the background?

Aniseed!  Testing out the heated matting?


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 I do this every year.  Quality control.

Prick out seedlings


Centaurea and Agrostemma will both feature in the garden next year


Beautifully centred and labelled

Mark out salad beds in greenhouse border

Fork over and rake border.  Use canes to divide up the beds.


Sow seeds and plant salads of: Mizuna, Rocket, Swiss Chard.  Label!

Work in the Pelargonium Palace

It’s a plastic-free zone, so plants need to be potted into clay pots


What a lotta terracotta



A quick stop to admire this little beauty



Sow seeds of Physalis, Scabious, Nigella papillosa ‘African Bride’, Papaver rhoeas…and more


Note that the tiniest seeds benefit from a light covering of vermiculite.  The pots are having a paddle to soak up some water

Let’s just see how things are doing in the greenhouse before we go…

All present and correct

Somebody’s still looking very cosy


Good camouflage, Aniseed!


Until next week



Friday 4th October 2019

Autumn bliss


Here’s the thing.  If ‘oct’ indicates the number ‘eight’, why is October the tenth month of the year?  A little conundrum to take your mind away from the everyday worries of climate change, shifting politics, global economics and what to have for dinner this evening.  For a minute or two at least.

This week we went walkabout and worked in other people’s gardens.  Always a fun thing to do, provided we keep our surrealist tendencies in check.  Usually there’s someone about to keep an eye on things…


…and a good job too

Here’s one group, receiving their instructions


On your marks…get set…

And they’re off!

Cut back annuals


to go


Plant up a shady bed

Liriope ‘Silvery Sunproof’




Nandina domestica 


Add ferns and pieces of wood

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Some plants can stay exactly where they are


How’s it looking?


My goodness.  That does look good


Yes, it does –


but I really must get on.


Now apply the same idea to the raised bed on the other side of the garden.

Plants for a sunny site

Alchemilla mollis and Sedum spectabile ‘Stardust’


and maybe Pennisetum?


Et voilà!


And from another angle?



Plant Agapanthus in a sunny spot

This looks promising


The fairies will keep an eye on them

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We will!


Some Agapanthus remain happily in their pots20191004_122327.jpg

Hard-core weeding

And here are the hard-core weed-excavator-experts


Their knowledge of weeds can literally be measured in bucketloads

One bucket


Two buckets


A bucketload of buckets


It’s all great fun, but is it time for tea yet?


Now that sounds like a good idea


Tools down!

I give you…


The Team!

(Just a short break, mind!)

The challenge: prune Arbutus unedo. 

Aka the Strawberry Tree


Weed the ‘holding beds’


Adding the finishing touches


A second hard-working group tame a trellis of triffids





And after



Now for the wall…

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Action shot


Let’s deal with this too, before we go

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A few snips and it’s like Elvis –

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“It’s all good”

Meanwhile, in a garden not too far away…

There are bulbs are going in


Lay them out

Don’t forget to plant them


We won’t!



So, a successful day all round.  As one garden owner put it: “Friday Group were brave and wonderful”.  One feels a F/G motto coming on.

And, by the way, ‘October’ was the eighth month of the ancient Roman calendar, which was replaced by the Julian calendar in 45 BCE.   It then became the tenth month!  The Julian calendar was itself replaced by the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century.

(Let’s hope it comes up in a pub quiz.)

Autumn bouquet 


Back to our usual venue next Friday






Friday 27th September 2019

OK.  Three guesses.  What season are we in now?


Beautiful and bountiful


Almost as nice as…..


But we’re getting ahead of ourselves

Plants and their names

All plants belong to a family, and the plants within that family have certain things in common.  However, they might not be immediately obvious to the naked eye!  For example, the Rose family (Rosaceae) is comprised not only of Roses, but also of Cotoneaster, Prunus, Alchemilla, Sorbus and Rubus, to name but a few.  As a rule, the flowers in this family all have five sepals and five petals.

Who knew?

The largest family among flowering plants is that of the Asteraceae.  Other families  include Ranunculaceae, Papaveraceae and Solanaceae.  Check ’em out!


This is such an important issue in horticulture and something we revisit every year at Friday Group.  The reason plants have Latin names (as well as common ones) is not to scare or intimidate gardeners, but so they can be specifically and universally identified.  Latin is an unchanging language and by using the system of ‘binomial nomenclature’ (a way of naming all living things), devised by Carl Linnaeus in the 18th century, we can specify exactly which organism we are concerned with.  Common plant names can vary from place to place and country to country, but the Latin name of a plant means that it can be uniquely identified anywhere in the world.

For example, a rose could be any number of colours, shapes, types.  However, Rosa moyesii ‘Geranium’ is this particular rose –  

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.

Labels are written as shown, using a fine, black, permanent marker.

Written on the label below is the name of a maple tree.  The first word gives the plant’s genus (a bit like a surname) and the second gives the species.  The species name tells us something about the plant – perhaps its colour/form, where it is from or maybe the person the plant is named after.  Here we can see that this maple tree (Acer) has leaves shaped like the palm of a hand (palmatum).  And we know that it is different from other types of maple tree.


The genus name is written starting with a capital letter, but the whole of the species name is written in lower case.  Other examples of the two-name system are: Helleborus orientalis; Campanula pyramidalis; Lavendula dentata.

When plant breeders develop new plants, often a third name is added, which shows that the plant has been bred by someone and given a name.  This cultivar (or variety) name, is written with a capital letter and is in single quotation marks.  For example: Betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’ and Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’.


At Garden House we place labels in the 12.00 o’clock position, at the back of pots or trays.  When sowing seeds or planting seedlings, we also date the label at the top.

Plant Ident.

This week, Bridge talked about tender perennials – and below are examples of these.  (N.B. Note the labels which accompany them.)

Tender perennials are plants which have lifecycles of over two years PROVIDED they are kept frost-free over the winter months!  They can be kept in a heated greenhouse or indoors in a light and airy place, and can only go out into the garden again when all danger of frost has passed – usually around May (although this can vary from location to location).

One way of ensuring tender perennial plants will survive is to take plenty of cuttings.

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’

The Chinese rice-paper plant is a tender perennial, and one of the best-looking exotics.    It has massive palm-shaped leaves; Architectural Plants describes it as a Fatsia japonica on steroids.


Salvia involucrata 

Salvias are part of the Lamiaceae family, members of which have lipped flowers and square stems – like Mint, Thyme, Phlomis and Lamiums.



Pelargonium ‘Paton’s Unique’


Helichrysum microphyllum


The (species) word microphyllum tells us that this plant has very small leaves.


Plectranthus argentatus


Plectranthus argentatus (the species word argentatus, means silver) is on the right, whilst on the left is Plectranthus ciliatus (careful how you pronounce it).

Jobs for the week:

Underneath the arches

We’re not going to dream our dreams away – because the beds there need weeding and clearing before being planted with Geraniums and Digitalis


Cornus mas

The Cornelian cherry needs its canopy raising – or, if you’re not terribly PC, its skirts need lifting.  Prune back the Philadelphus too.


We’re going in here, here and here…

Prune the Jasmine

It’s growing on one of the arches – and has got very “hairy”.  Cut back leggy stems to two buds.


Short back and sides?


Meticulous clearing up going on here

Work on cut flower border

Cut remaining flowers and remove some plants.  Dig over the bed, add compost, then set out Wallflowers so they can start to get their roots down.  Later, these will be moved to their intended flowering positions.


Work in progress


Labelled too!


Here’s one I prepared earlier

And the genus name?  Erysimum, of course!


Pot on Pelargonium cuttings in the upper greenhouse


Seed collecting

Collect seeds of Hollyhocks and Nigella papillosa ‘African Bride’


Nigella papillosa ‘African Bride’


Plant out Box plants

And plant up an old pair of boots with Sempervivums.  Well, why not?

Hope you used the right boots?


Excellent tool care

Remove teasels from beds

And take out all dead, damaged and diseased material.


Cut flowers to fill jugs in the Garden Room


Echoes of summer


As we worked, the Macmillan Coffee Morning was taking place, and we welcomed visitors in to enjoy the garden, coffee and cake.  Recipe books were on sale too.


It’s essential to check for quality…


Just a small piece, to see if it’s as delicious as it looks

It is!



someone’s been very thorough with their checking


Summer may have gone, but there are upsides to autumn


Friday 20th September 2019


Our second Friday back and we found ourselves basking in the warmth of an Indian summer.  But, this is no time for basking – we’re not sharks, after all.  Let’s get straight onto the

Plant Ident.  

Not so much an identification challenge this week, more a discussion concerning plants and their lifecycles.  We also considered how to define/describe them.  Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Let’s see….



A tree.  Actually this is Prunus ‘Tai Haku’, the Great White Japanese Cherry, up on the top terrace at Garden House.  Spectacular in spring with its clouds of pure white blossoms.  In botanical terms, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated, woody, central stem or trunk.  Usually the stem is a single trunk which is surrounded by a layer of bark.  It generally supports a canopy of branches and leaves overhead.  Two obvious types of trees are deciduous and evergreen.



Small to medium-sized perennial woody plants with multiple stems.  Often rounded in shape, and generally smaller than trees.  Abelia grandiflora (above) is an example – as are Viburnum, Berberis, Hebe, Forsythia and Philadelphus.


A tongue twister.  These are even smaller perennial, woody plants, such as Rosemary, Lavender and Sage, with a soft top and a woody base.  When pruning them, it’s important never to cut down into the old stems.  Instead, cut back to about 2.5 cms above the old wood.

white potted purple petaled flower






A perennial plant is one which has a lifecycle of more than two years – so trees, shrubs and sub-shrubs fall into this category.

There are others too, which are the backbone of many garden borders as they are  good, dependable plants which can provide interest over many months:-

Herbaceous perennials


These are non-woody plants with a soft top which die down in the winter but return in the spring (they are deciduous) – and which come back year after year in the garden.  Generally these are the hardy plants found in a traditional herbaceous border, like Sedum, Phlox, Heleniums, Geraniums and (see above) Japanese Anemones.

Unfortunately, there are always exceptions to the rule – and some herbaceous perennials don’t die down in the winter as they are evergreen.  Bergenias and Hellebores, for instance.  Unhelpful but true.

Tender Perennials

Pelargoniums are tender perennials.  As with other perennials, these have a life cycle of over two years.  However.  They must be kept frost-free over the winter months, or they will die!  A heated greenhouse or somewhere light and airy indoors is perfect.  When all danger of frost has passed, they can be brought out into the garden again.  Heliotropes, Argyranthemums and some Fuchsias are also tender.  Basically, tender perennials require tender, loving care.

(N.B. Pelargoniums are NOT Geraniums!  Geraniums are hardy plants which can survive the winter outside.)



Pelargonium Palace



Plants with a lifecycle that takes two years to complete.  Foxgloves are biennials.  After being sown in May, June, July, they can be planted out in October and will flower in late spring/summer the following year.  They grow stems, roots and a rosette of leaves in their first year, and, after remaining dormant over the winter months, form spikes of flowers in the next.  Other biennials are:  Honesty, Sweet William, Wallflowers, Parsley.  They often self-seed.

Hardy Annuals

Hardy annuals don’t need heat to germinate.  By sowing them in pots/modules you have a better degree of control over them as they grow – and, by giving them protection from the elements over the winter in a greenhouse or cold frame, they will grow into bigger and better plants and will flower earlier.   They can also be sown directly into the soil in the  spring, and will flower the same year.  Examples are Calendulas, Cornflowers and Corn Cockles.  There are also other plants not beginning with ‘C’.

These seeds


become these plants.



Half-Hardy Annuals

These seeds need warmth in order to germinate.  Bottom heat, if you’ll pardon the expression.  Once sown in trays, pots or modules, they can be put on a heated mat or in a propagator at a temperature of about 20 – 22 degrees.  Some, like Nicotiana, need to be sown early (February), whilst others, like Cosmos, germinate and grow quickly – and these can be sown later on, in April.  They should be removed from the heat after the first true set of leaves have formed.

Plant out from the end of May, once all danger of frost has passed.


This lovely Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia, is an example of a half-hardy annual, as is Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Sensation Picotee’, shown below


Monocarpic plants 

Now we’re getting properly technical… examples are Echiums and Angelicas.  Plants which have a 3-year lifecycle and die at the end of that period.  They can self-seed.


Definition: a known superfood / remedy for gardeners.  Appears fleetingly, beautiful to behold, but gone in seconds.  Provide in abundance for best results.


Jobs for the week:

Pot up Iris germanica


Looks like fun

Work on Pelargoniums in the greenhouse.

Deadhead; pot on; feed; water; label   


And pot on the Streptocarpus.


(It’s a plant, not a throat infection.)

Prune the raspberries


Cut out old fruit canes and tie in the new canes on which next year’s fruit will be produced.  Weed beds.

Work on Little Dixter

Transform into Great Dixter


Looks Great

Collect seeds from Sweet Peas and Red Orach


Cut back Mints and feed.  Feed Agapanthus plants


Use Maxicrop seaweed fertiliser.


Prune the yew tree 

Then cloud prune the Myrtle into (and I quote) “a blobby, fat shape.”

Those nice people from Niwaki would faint clean away


It takes a lifetime to learn cloud-pruning

No pressure

Sow hardy annual seeds into modules

First take your seeds and some module trays.


Sow onto a compost mixed 50:50 with perlite.


Sprinkle lightly with vermiculite; this is translucent so light can still get through.  Label and water.



Propagate Pinks from cuttings  


Pinks (or Dianthus) are easy to propagate from ‘pipings’.  These are the soft tips of shoots which haven’t flowered.  They should be about five pairs of leaves in length.  Here, pipings are being picked from old Pink plants.  I feel another tongue twister coming on.

Plant the Pinks’ pipings in potting compost.  A 50:50 mix of compost and perlite.


And who amongst you is Mrs Sinkins?  Oh, it’s the Pink!  Got it.  Dianthus ‘Mrs Sinkins’

And here she is –


Pretty Pink pipings – picked, properly prepared, planted and, hey presto, we have propagation.  Prolific and painless.

Sow vegetable seeds

Broad Beans, Chard, Rocket and Winter Spinach?


No problem!

Work in greenhouse

Clear the beds.  Apply some pelleted chicken manure as fertiliser.  Plant out Chrysanthemums.  Label and water.

Blue skies, sun, flowers and Sunflowers












Friday 13th September 2019


New term, new pencils, new faces and a new bottle of Radox.  (Other relaxants are available.)  And a warm welcome from Garden House greets Friday Group as they arrive for the 2019 – 2020 gardening year.  This is the 14th year since the group was first established.  Unbelievable but true.

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So, after an introductory session concerning general info., health and safety, social media, plans for the future, The Toilet, Those Cats , That Tortoise and The Very Important Cake Rota….

Off we go –

This year’s projects will include:

  • Making a colourful border in the Top Garden
  • Creating a rose meadow behind the greenhouse
  • Creating a meadow with annuals at the bottom of the garden

Essential to the process will be blood, sweat and tears.  A bit like blood, fish and bone fertiliser, but more personal.


This lot don’t look deterred in the slightest

Plant Ident.

Bridge showed some examples of annual plants – ones which complete their life cycles within one growing season before dying.  This means they are sown, then germinate, grow, flower, set seed and die within the course of one year or season.  Just to make things more interesting, there are hardy and half-hardy annuals.   Hardy annuals can withstand frost and are often sown in the autumn or early spring.  They can be sown directly into the soil where they are intended to flower.  Half-hardy annuals, on the other hand, need to be sown in a frost-free place, ideally with a little warmth from a heated mat or propagator, and given protection from the cold and wet.  They shouldn’t be planted out until all danger of frost has passed.

Thunbergia alata ‘Superstar Orange’


Aka black-eyed Susan.  Used to be grown predominantly as a conservatory plant, but is now often grown outside in containers  (up a support) or in hanging baskets.  It can also be planted in a sunny, warm and sheltered corner of the garden.  This variety has large yellow-orange flowers with a dark central eye.  It will grow successfully in most soils, and is vigorous, so will climb happily up an obelisk/ trellis  Because it’s a half-hardy annual, it’s tender, so protect from frost.  Sow in March on warmth.

Rhodochiton atrosanguineus


With its purple/mauve bell-shaped flowers and long central purple/black tube, the  purple bell vine attracts much attention.  Sow in January, on heat (the seeds, not you).  It has quite a long germination period, so be patient with this tender lovely.  Grow in containers or in a border in moist, well-drained soil in full sun.  Next year, why not dazzle your visitors with this amazing climber?  They will be well-impressed.

Ipomoea lobata


Named Spanish flag, for obvious reasons, this half-hardy annual climber rollicks away in the summer, producing spectacular red/yellow flowers.  Plant in full sun in containers or well-drained soil.  Dead-heading (removing the old flowers) increases the flowering period.  Sow in April on warmth.

Nicotiana mutabilis ‘Marshmallow’


A lovely variety of the tobacco plant, producing masses of pink, pale pink and white flowers above tall stems from late June through to the end of September.  Once again, dead-heading will prolong the period of flowering.   Sow this half-hardy annual in January on heat.  Looks great in borders grown with roses.  Best in full sun and well-drained soil.

Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Salmon Pink’


A hardy annual.  Scabious is also known as the pincushion flower, and this variety comes in a lovely shade of pink.  It’s great for pollinators, blooms for a long period – especially if dead-headed regularly – and performs well as a cut flower.  Heck, this one is a must!  Grow in full sun in well-drained soil.  Sow in September (for flowering the following summer) or in April/May.

So, that concludes our first five plant idents. of the year.  Learn, revise and beware.  You may be tested.  The Christmas quiz can be fiendish.

Jobs for the week:

Time to get out into the garden which is looking stunning in the sunshine.

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Hang on.  Jobs first – cake later!

This is more like it


Getting properly stuck in

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Or maybe just properly stuck?


This week involved new members familiarising themselves with the garden and all its delights.  From the potting and tool sheds to the water butts and, naturally, our old favourite…

The Compost Heap


Some people love it more than others


Then introductions to Aniseed, of course


Did someone call?

And there’s a tortoise somewhere about


How do you do?

Then on with weeding and dead-heading


Always cut down to the next new bud or leaf


Time for the cake break


Then back to it….

Compostable waste in green trugs can go to the compost heap


Got it!

Green?  Go directly to compost heap.


Black trugs are just for weeds


I see no weeds


Me neither!

Well, in that case we might as well go home.

Until next week…















A weekly account of the activities of the Friday Gardening Group at the Garden House in Brighton