Friday 15th May 2020

This week Friday Group was given another virtual tour around a fellow member’s garden. Such a treat – great design, beautifully planted and clearly much loved. It featured a change of level at the rear of the garden, a lawn with a meandering path, a summer house, a greenhouse, a pond, roses and many cottage garden plants.  Evergreens provided form and structure.
Here are some of the highlights:
Acacia 
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The glorious Mimosa tree in full flower showing off masses of fragrant yellow flowers. Native to Australia, it flowers from February to May.  Now, that’s a long-running show.
Acer palmatum ‘Inaba-shidare’
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Deciduous. A wonderful Japanese Maple with feathery, filigree, purple/burgundy foliage which turns bright crimson in the autumn.  An excellent specimen tree.
Betula utilis jacquemontii ‘Grayswood Ghost’ A.G.M.
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The multi-stemmed Himalayan Silver Birch has glossy green leaves which turn yellow in the autumn months.  It is particularly known for its stunning ghostly-white peeling bark.  So tactile! Deciduous; it grows best in full sun or part shade.
Phillyrea latifolia
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The Green Olive tree, planted and grown here as a hedge.  With its tight, lush, evergreen foliage, it’s a terrific plant; according to its owner, it only needs trimming once a year. Hardy and highly recommended. 
Pinus sylvestris ‘Nana’
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The Dwarf Scots Pine is an evergreen conifer which can apparently live for up to 1,000 years. Sadly, we have yet to breed gardeners who can do the same. A fantastic, slow-growing, compact tree, suitable for sites where low maintenance is a priority.  Its distinctive flaking bark is orange/red-brown in colour, whilst the foliage is glaucous- blue/green. Needs full sun.
Jobs for the week:
Dead heading
Essential to encourage longer flowering in plants such as geums and other herbaceous perennials and annuals
Stake hardy annuals as necessary
Ammi majus and Cornflowers grow very tall and will do better with a little support.  As we all do.  Wire twist ties covered with brown paper are good for this job.
When growing hardy annuals, cut the emerging central flower out
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This will encourage a bushy plant with more side shoots. If your neighbours ask what you’re doing you say (and here, repeat after me), “Oh, this? Just removing the apical dominance.”  Then waft indoors, modestly but confidently.
Above: the hardy annual Corn cockle – Agrostemma ‘Alba’. Note the fabulous markings, which look like embroidery.
Feeding and watering
Difficult to be precise when there are so many plants which have different needs – but this is where getting to know your individual darlings will pay off. Succulents don’t like too much water – yet roses can’t get enough. Generally speaking, use pelleted chicken manure to establish plants when planting them. About a small handful in a large planting hole, mixed in with good soil and compost. Feeding can be with Maxicrop Seaweed Concentrate (diluted), every couple of weeks. Roses love Uncle Tom’s Tonic, as does Uncle Tom.
Plan and plant up summer pots and troughs
Be daring.  How about Angelica with Aeoniums? Then you can move on to the ‘B’ section. Thinks about some new colour combinations (not talking underwear here). Oranges and purples?
Now is a good time to prune evergreens
For example – Griselinia, Pittosporum, Holly etc. We have now passed the magic date of 15th May when, hopefully, the danger of frost is over. (No liability accepted.) Feed and water the evergreens afterwards. Rosemary can be cut back too – but don’t cut into the old wood.  Prune it hard back to above where a couple of leaves are growing.  Use the opportunity to take some tip cuttings: cut under a leaf joint, giving a tip about 5 cms long. Take off the bottom leaves and insert into a small pot of gritty compost.
Continue to harden off half-hardy annuals, some of which can start to be planted out now
Keep a watchful eye on the temperature.  Don’t plant out the half-hardies which notoriously HATE the cold, like Rhodochitons, Mina Lobata and Morning Glory. Basically, you have to be like an over-anxious parent and hover over your seedlings day and night, being careful not to let them get too cold, too wet, too hot, too dry or too leggy. Exhausting. But this is why gin was invented.
Start a new project – how about a Rose Meadow?  
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At Garden House roses are being planted along with Verbena bonariensis, Gaura lindheimeri, Orlaya grandiflora, Helichrysum, and annual grasses.  One of the roses is Rosa ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (see below). A stunner. The charity Perennial have advice on Rose Meadows and Peter Beales roses are always a good bet.
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Sow biennials now
Much cheaper than buying the plants themselves.  Foxgloves, Wallflowers and Verbascums can be started off now to flower next year.
Take note of any gaps in planting 
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Plan to fill them with suitable plants next year. Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’ (above) is a good filler for what used to be called the ‘June gap’ – but which is now the ‘May gap’.  Perennial Dutch Irises are stylish – and you can never have too many Alliums.
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Harden off and plant out tomato plants
They can go into large containers to grow into big, sturdy plants. Place them near a sunny wall for maximum warmth, sun and protection. Water well, but don’t over-water. They love being fed too. See advice on being an over-anxious parent above. Now is the time to bring that home-made watering can into use (The plastic milk carton.) Keep a note of the date of last feeding on the carton itself.
Watch out for slugs and snails
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Some plants are a magnet for them.  Hostas are a particular delicacy, as are all your carefully sown salad crops. Use grit to discourage the slimy blighters. Be like Scar in The Lion King and “Be Prepared”.
The Chelsea Chop
If you can’t give yourself a haircut, for goodness sake do at least cut back your bushy herbaceous perennials. Things like Sedums, Geraniums, Heleniums, Asters and Phlox. Seems a tad scary, but this will prevent them from flopping and exposing their bare middles. ‘Nuff said. It will also encourage more flowers and sturdier growth.  I wish a haircut could do as much for me.
Lay in enormous supplies of gincake and chocolate. With the amount of weight this blogger has put on over Lockdown, no wonder it’s called bulk buying.
And………. rest!

Have a break.  Once you have completed your Latin For Horticulture homework, maybe move on to Japanese?  That’s what’s happening at Garden House. Check the labels.

For some, this Lockdown has clearly gone on for far too long.
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Sayonara

Friday 8th May 2020

The wonderful Paulownia tomentosum at Garden House
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Run out of things to do in Lockdown?  Given up on learning the banjo?  Mandarin homework too difficult?  Turned out yet another rubbish watercolour?  Take heart, my friends. There are Garden House tasks to accomplish, should you choose to accept them.  But first, the all important –
Plant Ident.
This week we were given a virtual tour round the beautiful garden of one of our very own Friday Group members. And it was simply lovely. Design, planting, atmosphere – it had it all. One area was selected for particular study –

Erodium pelargoniiflorum 

The Pelargonium-flowered storksbill, native to the Pyrenees and belonging to the Geraniaceae family.

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Perennial, although a bit on the tender side. Looks like a geranium and is a lovely thing; its white flowers have maroon markings. Lax habit. Likes sun, but not wet, and prefers a neutral / alkaline soil. Good for pollinators. Self-seeds gently or can be propagated by basal cuttings from April – September. Add it to your list. 

Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’ AGM

Bishop’s Hat or Barrenwort.  Belongs to the Berberidaceae (Barberry) family.  Native to Europe and Asia.

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A vigorous, rhizomatous perennial which has bright yellow flowers held upright in an open spray.  They are more easily seen if the leaves are removed in late winter. The leaves are the plant’s best feature – beautifully shaped and opening light green with red tints. Really tough, good ground cover and will tolerate dry shade. Propagate by division after flowering or in the autumn.

Athyrium pictum ‘Silver Falls’      

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The Painted Lady Fern, native to eastern Asia, belonging to the Cliff Fern family (Woodsiaceae).  A deciduous fern with creeping rhizomes. Grey-green fronds have purple-red midribs, and are heavily overlaid with silver and a central, purplish flush that develops. More silvery than Athyrium pictum (the Japanese Painted Fern) and keeps its colour for longer. Likes a shady sheltered site. Propagate by division in spring

Aquilegia formosa  

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Aka, the Crimson, Red or Western Columbine is a form of Granny’s Bonnet. Part of the Ranunculaceae family and native to North America. The name ‘formosa’ means beautiful and this lovely plant is certainly that.  Best raised from seed, its red and yellow flowers give a pop of colour in the border, and have a light, airy quality.  A short-lived perennial. Likes sun or part shade.

Thalictrum delavayi album   

Another great plant from the Ranunculaceae family, Chinese Meadow Rue is a favourite in this garden.

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Not in flower yet, but its foliage is attractive, with deeply divided pale green leaves. Beautiful, airy white flowers create a frothy haze in the summer border. Can reach up to 2 metres in height, so needs support. Likes a rich, fertile soil in part or full shade and not too dry.  Seed heads look good and it also makes a striking cut flower. Herbaceous, so dies down in the winter. Can divide in the spring or autumn if required.

Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ 

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Related to the edible buckwheat, Persicaria is from the Polygonaceae family. A dramatic and vigorous plant (estate agent’s jargon for “it’s a thug”) which grows to the owner’s height in her garden, but is kept in check.  Exotic purple-crimson foliage is the main attraction as the white flowers are nondescript.  Cut back in late autumn when the plant dies back.  Grow anywhere, but good in light shade; propagate by cuttings or division.

Saxifraga x urbium AGM       

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Known from the 17th century as London Pride, this is part of the Saxifragaceae family. Bishop Walsham How (1823–1897) wrote a poem to the flower rebuking it for having the sin of pride. When told the flower had the name because Londoners were proud of it he wrote another poem apologising to it! A song by Noël Coward, celebrated London Pride and the plant became very popular in World War II.  Much loved in this garden, it forms a mat which provides great ground cover, with a mass of small pale pink rosette flowers.  A beautiful cut flower. Grows anywhere, even deep shade.  Easy to propagate by offsets.

Jobs for the week:
Finish removing flowered tulips bulbs from pots
… and also from the borders if required. You can let the foliage die down naturally and keep the bulbs somewhere cool, airy and dry until next year.
Start to cut back Euphorbias
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As they go over, cut their flowering stems back to the base of the plant. Remember to take care as you do this job as the sap is toxic and an irritant to the skin, so full protective armour is required, including goggles. In keeping with the times, let’s call it P.P.E.
Plant up summer containers
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At Garden House, drought tolerant plants like Pelargoniums, Argyranthemums and Acidanthera murielae are being used as far as possible. Trailers such as Helichrysum and Plectranthus (above) are invaluable.
Feeding plants
At this time of year, regular feeding makes a huge difference to their performance. A dilution of Maxicrop organic seaweed extract is ideal.  Why not adopt the idea of using an empty, plastic milk carton and punch some small holes in the lid. This creates a magnificent, if somewhat utilitarian, watering can with a fine rose spray. For free. We like that.
Feed your Roses
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Uncle Tom’s Tonic is good. (Although my own Uncle Tom’s tonic was called whiskey.)
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Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’ demonstrating the floriferous results of skilful pruning earlier in the year.
Continue to harden off half-hardy annuals and tender perennials
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Take them out in the day and back into the greenhouse/cold frame/under the bed at night. The 15th May isn’t far away, if that’s the date when you normally begin to plant out your tender lovelies.
If your seedlings are becoming etiolated…
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Etiolated = long and leggy, like these Cosmos. As a rule, because they aren’t getting enough light. Try to get them outside during the day, or at least turn them around by 90 degrees each day to ensure they get as much light as possible. (It’s a time-consuming business, this gardening lark.)

When you plant them out, fill a module tray full pf compost and strike off the excess.  Ensure that you plant each seedling deeply. Coil the long root and stem all into the planting hole in a single cell. This is better than having an unstable long-stemmed seedling. Charles Dowding, the No-Dig guru, has some good You-Tube videos on this subject.

Spray SB Plant Invigorator on seedlings (including veg.) 
Reduce Dahlias to five stems
This will encourage bigger and better flowers.  First take your Dahlia.
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Take off all but five stems
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To increase your stock, pot up the cuttings; trim the stem just below a leaf joint
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Chrysanthemum cuttings can also be taken now.
Other plants looking good at Garden House
Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’: a tough, long-flowering self seeder. Essential.
Anchusa azurea ‘Loddon Royalist’. Bluer than blue Alkanet.
Tulbaghia ‘Purple Eye’. The delicate, slender-leaved ‘Society Garlic’. Gorgeous.
The Cynara Cardunculus is magnificent…
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But just take a look at that Wisteria alba!
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Perfection!

Friday 1st May 2020

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Lockdown continues.  As do Zoom meetings.  Friday Group remain supportive, encouraging and inspirational.  Photos provide proof.

 

 

Plant ident.

Tulbaghia ‘Purple Eye’

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Known as ‘Society Garlic’, this Tulbaghia is a clump forming perennial with slender leaves and pale lavender flowers which have a deep purple centre.  Suitable for borders or containers – it is valuable as it flowers for a long time,  Full sun and fertile, well-drained soils suit it beautifully.

Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’

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Scarlet flowers held on long stems bloom prolifically from mid-spring.  Regular dead-heading prolongs their lengthy flowering period – and, in fact, they may flower again later in the season.  Plant in full sun.  Good in most soils, including sandy ones.

Euphorbia x arendsii

A cross between E. walichii and E. griffithii ‘Dixter’, this splendid specimen flourishes and glows in the sunshine, which helps to develop its wonderful colour.  Clump-forming and fully hardy, grows to around 120 cms tall.

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Astrantia ‘Buckland’

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Masterwort is best grown in semi-shade. Compact umbels of pincushion-shaped flowers are surrounded by bracts – in this instance, the flowers are a delicate shade of pink, whilst the bracts are white with green tips. A good cut flower which dries well. Grows to around 90 cms.

Angelica taiwaniana

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A spectacular architectural plant, with purple-bracted umbels of creamy white flowers which are followed by perfumed seeds.  Fabulous foliage. Will grow in sun or partial shade.  Monocarpic, which means it generally takes 3 years to flower, rather like Echiums.  Sets seed and dies after flowering.  Makes a real statement in the border – but why not try it in a pot?  Go mad in Lockdown and give it a go.

Tasks for the week:

Pull out Spanish bluebells
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So inferior to our own dear native bluebells. The invaders have wide, strappy leaves and flowers all around the stem. The natives (see below) have slimmer leaves, delicate flowers on one side only, are a darker blue and more fragrant. Sounds like the judge’s reflection on Mary Archer in his summing up of her husband’s court case.
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Plant out Gladioli
Not too late to order them from somewhere like Parkers’ Wholesale.  At Garden House,  ‘Espresso’ and ‘Plum Tart’ are being planted amongst Stipa tenuissima.  (Sounds like a particularly good coffee break.)  Also being used is Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’, a species glad.
Take tulips out of their pots
Once they have finished flowering and either a) get rid of them b) plant them into borders or c) put them into boxes to dry out to be re-planted later in the year.
Replace said tulips with summer bedding
First take out about 30 cms of compost, mix some new compost with organic feed such as pelleted chicken manure and put into the pots. Harden off bedding plants gradually before planting out. At Garden House, the magic date is 15th May, but other dates are available.
Pot on cuttings (e.g. of tender perennials) and seedlings 
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Tender perennials include things like Pelargoniums, those prized potted plants posing in the Pelargonium Palace.  Don’t forget to water and label.  You think you’ll remember what they are.  You won’t.
Don’t plant Dahlias out just yet
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However, do take cuttings if you so wish. Leave 5 stems on the original plant to promote better and larger flowers. Take cuttings from under a leaf joint, insert into gritty compost and they will hopefully develop and flower next year.
Grasses
Time to give your grasses the Leonard of London treatment. Use an afro comb to channel your inner Teasy-Weasy and remove old thatch from the plants. Apply the horticultural equivalent of conditioner – a handful of pelleted chicken poo, and water well. Luxuriant and gorgeously glossy growth should result.
Sow beetroot and other vegetable seeds
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Radishes, French beans and Runner beans.  Have a go at something new – Sweetcorn?  Squashes?  Sow half-hardy annuals: Cosmos, Zinnias etc.
Cut back the long growth of Penstemons and also Allium leaves
Tidies things up if they are looking tatty.
Finito!
Now relax and enjoy it all.  Here we enjoy a beautiful Iris we fondly call Iris ‘Liz Bradshaw’
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Well done, gardeners all! Time to head for the teapot and the Hobnobs.

Friday 24th April 2020

Lockdown continues. Baby Boomers have become Baby Zoomers. Times are strange, but in the Garden House garden? – well, it just keeps on growing and doing its thing.

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Plant ident.

Tulip acuminata

Not Tulip ‘Hakuna Matata’, although your troubles will certainly disappear once you acquire and contemplate it flowering in your garden.

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This spidery, delicate beauty is a perennial species tulip.  A bit spendy, but so worth it.  Why not invest some money in these bulbs and experience for yourself the frenzy of the seventeenth century’s tulip mania?

Allium cowanii

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Garden House rates this hardy perennial as a ‘good doer’. It very usefully appears just as the tulips go over.  About 40 cms in height, sprays of pure white flowers are held aloft supported by wiry stems. Long-lasting, good as cut flowers and a magnet for pollinators, planted en masse they are super duper.

Rosa banksiae ‘Lutescens’

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A near thornless, rambling rose and one of the very earliest to flower. Growing to about 10 m, it produces small, single, scented yellow flowers.  At Garden House, it’s situated on the terrace, where it provides a spectacular display in April / May.  Prune after flowering to shape and to keep in check. R. banksiae ‘Lutea’ is a double-flowered version of this.

Erysimum cheiri ‘Old School’

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A beautiful short-lived perennial wallflower, which flowers for months on end. Soft yellows, mauves and purples combine to great effect and make a wonderful planting in full sun on their own or, better still, interplanted with tulips.  Plant densely and in quantity to generate maximum admiration.

Myrrhis odorata

Sweet cicely is a terrific option for dry shade.  An aromatic, herbaceous perennial, it has umbels of white, frothy flowers and fern-like leaves.  Can be used as a sweetener when cooking rhubarb or the leaves can be added to salads – they have a mild aniseed flavour.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’

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This glorious Honesty cultivar was featured in the blog for 3/4/20, and look at it now!

Tasks for the week:

Apply liquid feed to growing annuals and also to tender perennials like salvias and pelargoniums, such as Pelargonium tomentosum

Begin hardening off plants which are growing under cover.  Take them out during the day and tuck them back up at night until the temperature is reliably warm
Prune evergreens once all danger of frost has passed; Eleagnus, Euonymous, Box and Viburnum tinus will all respond happily to haircuts now. Water and feed them too.
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Prune spring flowering shrubs such as Kerria, Forsythia and Honeysuckle once they have finished flowering
Sow salad crops in bowls, colanders and boxes.  Don’t forget to provide drainage. Can be left outside now.  (This means it will certainly snow next week.) Salads can also be sown direct into the ground, but may appreciate a little protection.
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Deadhead daffodils and tulips  Use a trug for maximum Country Gardener style.  Play soft background music.  Eat a Flake.
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Plant out any species bulbs which have flowered in pots.  Feed and label.
Cut back Hydrangeas to a pair of buds and maybe thin them a little. Softwood cuttings can be taken now and should root fairly quickly.
Continue to prick out seedlings once their first true leaves have appeared
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Order bulbs for next year and plant. E.g. Lilies, Eucomis etc
Sort out compost heaps Turn them. Lovely stuff.
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Water, water, water (especially pots) and don’t forget to add a liquid feed every couple of weeks.  Maxicrop seaweed extract is good.
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Take cuttings of plants to increase your stock for free.  New shoots of perennials will root well. Remember to plant the cuttings deeply and firmly
Plant out perennials.  Dig some pelleted organic chicken manure into the planting hole  before planting. Water in well; label.
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So, there we are. That little lot should keep us all busy and out of trouble for a few days.
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Well, some of us, anyway.

Friday 3rd April 2020

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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!

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Aah!  Well impressed

Plant ident.: Banging on about biennials.

Erysimum cheiri ‘Blood Red’

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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.

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Myosotis sylvatica

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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:

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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.
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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.
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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
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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!
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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  
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Stake Broad Beans
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The plants need support as they grow. These are a crimson -flowered variety.
Continue to sow half-hardy annuals
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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
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Gradually pot tomatoes on, into the next pot size up. 
Order Lilies, Nerines, and Acidanthera for later colour
Yum!
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Parkers Wholesale catalogue is one good source of bulbs like these
Plant out perennials and comb through grasses
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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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A few snips and… see what the poor plant looks like now
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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.
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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
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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 
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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
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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
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She is!

Friday 20th March 2020

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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
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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
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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’
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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’
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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.
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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:
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Everything is coming to life
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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
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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
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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!

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Pot on cuttings of tender perennials, eg Pelargoniums
Stake broad beans with canes and ‘cats’ cradle’ string ties
Stop to admire the prim primroses
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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
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Bring out stored Dahlias and pot up; keep in greenhouse or frost-free place
Now, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labours
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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

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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’

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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’

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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’

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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’

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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 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?

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Really?

Plant out Anemone blanda and Irises

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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

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and after

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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

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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.

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Plant up containers for spring

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Orange primulas will give an immediate shot of vibrant colour

Clean and return tools to the tool shed

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Tidy up time

Friday 28th February 2020

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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….

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Plant up wire baskets with succulents

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Divide Asters to increase stock

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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

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Well, at least they’ve found the seeds

Potting-on in the greenhouse

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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

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It’s wetter

Hunt down heavenly hellebore heads for bowl display

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Exquisite

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And all just in time for the visitors

 

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