Friday 3rd April 2020


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


Aah!  Well impressed

Plant ident.: Banging on about biennials.

Erysimum cheiri ‘Blood Red’


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

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’ and L. annua

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

 Lunaria annua alba

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


Myosotis sylvatica


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

Jobs for the Week:


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


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


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


Friday 27th March 2020

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

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

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

Friday 20th March 2020


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

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


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

We miss you, Garden House

Friday 6th March 2020

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

Plant Ident.

Fritilleria meleagris


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

Helleborus orientalis ‘Winter Wings’


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

Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’


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

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii ‘Lambrook Gold’


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

Leucojum vernum’Snowflake’


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

Jobs for the week:

Sort out plants in the cold frame and take some cuttings


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

Pot on hardy annuals

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


Here are a couple of hardy annuals

Divide perennials and re-pot

Use an old carving knife to divide the root ball.

Steady now.  That could be interpreted as threatening behaviour.

These are Heleniums. More importantly, they are free Heleniums


Pelargonium Palace 

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

Sort out plants on the second terrace


 With gusto

Pond Management

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

Looks a bit fishy

And how big was the one that got away?



Plant out Anemone blanda and Irises


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

Prune the fig tree

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

Ficus carica before


and after


Job done

Prune the Sorbaria sorbifolia tree

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

Collect seeds from Allium thunbergii


Sow seeds

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

Plant Galanthus nivalis bulbs

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


Plant up containers for spring


Orange primulas will give an immediate shot of vibrant colour

Clean and return tools to the tool shed


Tidy up time

Friday 28th February 2020


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


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


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


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


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

Jobs for the week:

Work on Little Dixter

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



Plant up wire baskets with succulents


Divide Asters to increase stock


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

Make a spring wreath to hang at the entrance gate

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

Seed sowing


Well, at least they’ve found the seeds

Potting-on in the greenhouse


Potting on and on and on……

Organise the gardening books in the Garden Room

Hands up those who want to play librarians

Sow parsley in pots and plant up terracotta pots

It’s not as wet as it looks


It’s wetter

Hunt down heavenly hellebore heads for bowl display




And all just in time for the visitors


Friday 14th February 2020

 Season of Hyacinths and Hellebores

Plant ident.

Aesculus hippocastanum

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


Hardy annuals

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

Ammi majus


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

Eschscholzia ‘Ivory Castle’


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

Ammi visnaga

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


Centaurea cyanus ‘Red Boy’


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

Ridolfia segetum ‘Goldspray’


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

Calendula ‘Indian Prince’


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

Sow hardy annuals


But of course!



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

Rose pruning continues


Clean, sharp tools for the job

We can use those rose cuttings


Propagation: plant the rose cuttings. 

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


Hey presto!


Then it’s just a waiting game


Tidying borders and perennials



Prune and tie-in new growth on roses

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


I thank you

Work on paths


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


Create a new bed for the new rose

Handily situated near the new watering system


Sometimes life is literally a bed of roses


– and Bergenias too


Work in the Engine Room continues


Aka the Compost Heap


Someone has to direct operations…


Plant up terracotta planters with succulents

In the greenhouse

Potting on tender perennials continues apace

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

Tidy up time20200214_125845-1

Snug trugs

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


I got the lying on the table job

I’m so good at it

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


Friday 7th February 2020


We’ve passed the Universal Palindrome Day – 02/02/2020 – and very exciting it was too.  Even more exciting though, was our Friday Group outing.  The weather wasn’t in the least mizzly-drizzly at Wisley, thank goodness; on the contrary, it was brilliant, radiant and luminous. Terms frequently used to describe the group itself.

Wisley dazzled, particularly with its Winter Walk


Bark shone in the sunshine

Along the way, we met our old friend Daphne… here she is, looking and smelling  wonderful


Libertia ixioides ‘Goldfinger’ living up to its name


Edgeworthia chrysantha


Exquisitely scented

Iris ‘Harmony’ looking harmonious


And stems of Cornus, lit like fire, with a glimpse of ghostly Rubus cockburnianus beyond.


Stunning stems


Then into The Glasshouse Gallery, to see The Giant Houseplant Takeover…..

Monster sights


Lemony delights


And one or two frights



I mean, that’s no way to treat your guests

Moving quickly on… through the entrance hall and into the living room. The phone’s off the hook and there’s a fire in the grate – but no-one’s about.

Help yourself to a book


Plant yourself in a chair. Make yourself at home.


Perhaps a game of chess?


In the kitchen, time stands still.


And in the dining room, the plants are running amok



We loved the cake stand, the vintage ivy-leaf crockery and the popping bottle of champagne.  Those bubbles!


The candles burn brightly


And after-dinner drinks await

Then a lovely long bath before bed. Or maybe a shower?


Time to turn in. Loving the eiderdown.


In the morning, there’s time to look at the paintings.




Given time, they’ll grow on you


Then on through the rest of the gallery




Amazing Amaryllis



All the rage, don’t y’know


Here’s the recipe


Wonderful Wisley. Passionate about plants


And we are too






Friday 31st January 2020

The last day of January


A bowlful of beauty

Things are on the move at G/House


Not this little chap, though

Plant ident.

Chaenomeles japonica


Japanese quince, (not to be confused with the Quince tree, Cydonia oblongata), is an easy shrub which provides a lovely shot of colour from early to mid-spring.  Pink or red flowers emerge on the bare, thorny stems, followed by green leaves.  The fruits, which come later, are edible. Part of the Rosaceae family. Will cope with any soil in any planting position, and can be trained against walls to grow upwards. Attractive both to us and to wildlife. Prune lightly in April to keep in shape – cut back ‘sticky-out-bits’ to 2 buds. Put one on the list, and, please, do write in if too much technical jargon is being used here.

Callicarpa bodinieri


Aka the Beauty Berry.  For obvious reasons.  Little violet beads are held in clusters from autumn onward, and remain on the shrub over the winter after the leaves have dropped. Planted en masse in the sun, they can stop you in your tracks. Rather a boring plant for the rest of the year, but a real zinger right now. Any soil, any aspect.

Magnolia no-idea


It’s a Magnolia, of that we can be sure.  But which variety this one is, remains a mystery. Magnolias are ancient creatures, and were one of the first flowering plants to appear.  Their spectacular blossoms emerge from buds which are like little furry sleeping bags.  So tactile. The flowers can vary from goblet to tulip to star-shaped, and from white to pink, red/purple, pale yellow and more. There are many different types of Magnolia, from shrubs to trees, from evergreen to deciduous; some petite and others just humungous (technical term). Most prefer a slightly acidic soil, but there are some which positively prefer an alkaline one. Breathtaking when seen from below, against a blue sky on a sunny spring day. They have some of the most beautiful scents you will ever come across. Visit Nymans Gardens in West Sussex for spectacular displays.

Interesting fact no. 973: they were originally pollinated by possums. (Does someone make this stuff up?)

Cyclamen coum


Such a joy to see from December and on through the dark grey days of winter.  Best in well-drained soil under deciduous shrubs and trees, where they benefit from light before the canopy of leaves grows. Varying in colour from white, pink, mauve to deep purples, they also have attractive, heart-shaped leaves – ‘Pewter Group’ is one particular cultivar with notable markings. If left undisturbed and happy, Cyclamen will naturalise – apparently, the seed is transported by ants who love the sugary coating. (Not possums?)

Jobs for the week

Planting up winter containers

See Cyclamen above. To enjoy in the theatre that is Little Dixter; later in the season, they will be planted out into the garden.



 Check out those birch twigs. Very fancy.

Bellis and Polyanthus in long tom pots join the display. Spot the Cyclamen.


Plant three new Hellebores 


Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Carol’.  Planted by just the right person.

Sort out the Potting Shed

Needs a good tidy up.  Let’s keep everything neat and in the right place.


Think Marie Kondo. Do these old bits of wood spark joy?


Yes they do!

Pelargonium Palace 

Clean out the greenhouse; dead-head plants – but don’t cut them hard back just yet; check for aphids and other nasties. Spray mealy bugs with diluted horticultural soft soap or diluted eco-friendly washing-up liquid. Alys Fowler suggests dabbing the little blighters with a paintbrush loaded with vodka. Surely, there are better uses for that liquid. Drink it, for example, and you just won’t care.  A.F. also recommends S.B. Plant Invigorator, a non-toxic pesticide/fungicide/foliar feed.  Safe to use on edible crops too. Can be applied to plants affected with whitefly, greenfly, aphids, woolly mammoths and mealy bugs. Do it early in the season, before ladybirds appear, or they will get hit too.

Must remember to get this proofread, in case of silly mistakes.


They’ve been invigorated just by holding that S.B.Plant Invigorator spray.

Remove leaves which have reverted to plain green on the variegated ivy

Some members are so proficient, they can do this by touch alone.


Planting under the arches

Digitalis lutea to go in along here.


and here


Weeds out. Plants in.


Indoors for cake.  Too mizzly-drizzly out there.


Continue work on the herb bed 

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Foxtail’


Is everybody happy?

Oh yes. Ecstatic!


You bet your life we are.


She looks rather boxed in.

Weed and mulch the Lion’s Head bed near the arches


What a difference!

Work on bed under the crab apples.  

Self-sown seedlings of Nigella ‘African Bride’ now appearing in quantity. Thin out and transplant small clumps into pots.  Care needed, as they have a long tap-root.


Deep concentration

Plant Stipas on the back bed by the apple tree


So much better than being allocated the compost heap today

Alpine troughs

Check through, weed, add plants as required.  As usual it’s the attention to fine detail that sets everything off


This is what they call ‘a clean sweep’.


Paths become more visible when the stones are glistening


Yet another productive session, despite the misty-moisty rain.  And, of course, our complexions are now totally hydrated and perfect!


It’s all good




Friday 24th January 2020

Heading the bill this week:

Narcissus papyraceus


The support act is Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’

Sounds like a Death Metal band

Plant ident:

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’

Aka ‘Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick.’  Don’t ask.  If you were to meet it in the summer, you might pass it by with a pitying glance, but the structure of its winter silhouette is fabulous.  Golden-yellow catkins grace the small tree from late winter until its rather nasty-looking leaves appear. Pity. The Corkscrew Hazel can only be propagated by grafting, not cuttings.

Ranunculus ficaria


Or, Common Celandine.  Many consider this to be a weed, a true weed and nothing but a weed.  Looks innocuous enough, but the little brute is invasive and then some.  The tiny nodules (tubercle/bulbils) on the roots, are on a mission to take over your garden and then the world.  However, they come and go in a flash, and their bright yellow flowers can be a welcome sight in the grey days of winter.  But not recommended, unless you absolutely love weeding.  Try its naughty relation Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’ instead.

Valerianella locusta


Corn salad. Pull the bally stuff out. Nuff said.

Grevillea rosmarinifolia


An evergreen, prickly, acid-loving plant from Australia.  Hates chalky soils!  Loves poor sandy soils. Thrives on neglect.  Good for hedging and coastal areas.  Its needle-like foliage resembles that of Rosemary, and it has curiously-shaped bright pink/flame coloured flowers.

Euonymous japonicus


Somewhat ubiquitous – and regularly seen in unglamorous public spaces like car parks, this tough little bruiser is nonetheless worthwhile.  A good windbreaker, great for coastal planting and has those fascinating pink berries from which bright orange seeds burst.

Osmanthus x burkwoodii


The calmly elegant Osmanthus is a great garden shrub. Evergreen, bears small, beautifully scented, flowers in spring and responds well to pruning and to having its canopy raised.  Full sun or partial shade.  Likes all sorts of soil types, including chalk.  Very tough and very useful.

x Fatshedera lizei


A cross between two plants of different genera, Fatsia and Hedera (Ivy), the Fat-Headed Lizzie can be encouraged to climb or recline.  However, it won’t cling like ivy, so ideally needs a little support.  Produces flowers like those of its parents.  Evergreen and best in shade or semi-shade.  Responds well to hard pruning.  Interesting Fact no. 972:  it’s fine as an indoor plant too.  Interesting Fact no 973: it’s fly pollinated.

Jobs for the week:

Nothing to do this week.  It’s winter, so we can sit around, read magazines, drink coffee and eat cake.

Just kidding.  There’s always something to do

Construct new teepee to support Rosa ‘Wollerton Old Hall’

First make the teepee.  Then prune the rose and tie-in to new structure.


Exemplary knot-tying skills

Nota bene


Or maybe that should be Knota bene?


Jokes in Latin now?

Prune Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Using clean, sharp pruners, take the three oldest stems right down to the base.  All deciduous shrubs can be cut hard back in this way around now.  So, we go from this…


to this


Which will look and smell wonderful indoors.  A win – win situation.

Prune Wisteria

Dealing with Wisteria can be a bit of a mysteria.  Needs pruning twice a year – once now, and again later, during the summer.  For now, the laterals on the main stems need to be shortened.  Take back to about two buds.  The long, whippy growth can be dealt with later in the year.


Cripey! That looks like a serious piece of kit.

What’s it called?



A feminist discussion on the inappropriate naming of tools followed


Clear the area around the pond

Cut back dead material and do a general tidy up.


She’s literally reflecting


Work at an angle of 45 degrees

Then it’s on to the paths and some precision weeding.  It takes years of training to achieve this level of perfection.


And hours of osteopathy to recover from the after effects.


Work on rockery 

Things have got a little out of hand and somewhat overgrown.



It is looking rather crowded. One might, perhaps, opine that this garden feature has become ever so slightly overplanted? Best to keep ones opinions to oneself. One might find oneself working in the compost heap next week

I’m saying nothing


Lips sealed.

Plant alpines in two wine boxes

Holes have been drilled into the box bases. Use a free-draining mix of compost and horticultural grit. Let your creative urges run wild


But first, find the grit

Plan the layout of the plants


Slate will complete the alpine vibe


Wine box upcycling at its best


Now that’s a bonzer job! Must be an Australian wine box.

Sow more Lathyrus odoratus

To extend the flowering season, successional sowings of these seeds are needed – thus sustaining summer Sweet Pea scent. Super!


Then it’s time for a quick look around the garden


Sow radish seeds into compost in lengths of guttering

Sounds strange, but works like a dream.  Put the guttering into the greenhouse for an early crop.  So easy to slide out.


Work on the herb garden

Tenderly tend the herbs. Weed, cut back, tidy.  Plant Oregano


Pray it survives

Transplant Gaura lindheimeri 

We have grown the cultivar ‘Whirling Butterflies’ from seed, and the seedlings will now be moved into pots. Gauras are beautiful short-lived perennials, generally lasting from 3 – 5 years.  Those already growing in the garden need cutting back now.


Oh dear! More praying going on in the greenhouse….


All is well


Plant up containers ready for the G/H Open Day for the National Garden Scheme 

Winter plants like Hedera and Polyanthus can go in, and some Narcissi too. Those dratted squirrels have already eaten the tops of the crocuses which were planted in them last year.  Now it’s personal.




Cut back old leaves on Hellebores. Tidy up the Periwinkle

And feed the Hellebores with a little pelleted chicken manure.


Not sure who’s winning here; that periwinkle seems to be growing even as it’s being cut back.


Pretty as a picture

Excuse me?


Oh, but not as pretty as you.


Glad we got that sorted out.  Categorically.












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