Friday 13th March 2015

photo (2)

We looked at a few plants that were flowering in the garden this week.  They included:


  • Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ is a bushy, medium-sized evergreen shrub with oval dark green leaves and, from late winter,  clusters of deep pink buds which open to small white flowers. It has shiny dark blue-black berries. It is a very good hedging plant, very robust and can be chopped back hard.


  • Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is a strong-growing large deciduous shrub  with dark green leaves and clusters of very fragrant, light pink and white flowers opening from autumn to spring, from red buds. This shrub grows well on chalk and attracts pollinating insects.


  • Veronica peduncularis or creeping speedwell provides good ground cover or grows over walls – it has bright blue flowers in spring and bronze tinged leaves.


  • Camellia –  is a popular winter and spring flowering shrub. They usually need acid soil and are easy to grow in containers of ericaceous potting compost. Camellias are woodland plants that grow best in shelter and light shade, although with careful watering they can be grown in sunny positions. They prefer free-draining conditions, with plenty of organic matter, such as leaf mould, incorporated into the soil.

Activities in the garden this week:

  • Measuring and marking out the plot for the new shed

Katy arch

  • Sorting out the herb bed and planting out some summer savoury
  • Preparing trenches for sweet peas to grow under the arches


  • Finishing cutting back the hawthorn hedge

Nanette hedge

  • Sorting out the veg beds (including combing through the grasses)

veg bed

veg bed 2

photo (7)

  • Pricking out lettuce seedlings
  • Sorting out pelargoniums in the greenhouse – cutting back and watering
  • Cutting back the clematis to first set of buds and feeding and gritting the pots

Friday 6th March 2015


Lots to get on with in the garden today so not much horticultural chat and more time for gardening activities.

Lil and Karin continued the work on lowering the hawthorn hedge.


Lil and K

hedge work

‘Pete the Pond’ arrived to work on clearing and sorting out the pond with the assistance of Ann, Julia and Pat.

pond work

pond work 2

The other big task of the day was to take down the old shed and to sort out all the contents. The demolition team particularly enjoyed the challenge and we now await arrival of the new replacement shed.




shed stuff



Other tasks included working in the greenhouse, pricking out and sowing seeds and dividing the oregano.

Friday 27th February

irises ann

Reading week at the Garden House and an opportunity for the Friday group to catch up on any horticultural activities over half term, share book recommendations and listen to a couple of readings from favourite gardening books. Ann had enjoyed a visit to the RHS spring plant and potato fair in London (see photos).

snowdrops ann

potatoes ann

Other recommendations included Piet Oudolf’s new garden in Bruton, Somerset, a bark trail at Wakehurst place, the gardens at Eltham Palace, Wilderness Woods in East Sussex and Bressingham Gardens in Norfolk.

Some group members chose to read gardening books-

Cathy etc

Dinah and Karin

Others continued with some gardening activities:

  • sorting out the cold frames
  • sowing seeds
  • and Ruth, Hilary with some help from Susie continued to work on reducing the height of the hawthorn hedge


Karin and Sh


Happy Birthday Dinah!


Friday 13th February 2015


Ann gave a talk to the group today about growing begonias. Ann has grown begonias very successfully in pots in her garden, they will grow well in shade and are not susceptible to damage from slugs and snails.

begonias ann

Begonias are a genus of about 900 species but Ann focused particularly on tuberous begonias including in particular pendula begonias which have a cascading habit and a long flowering season. They often have dark green pointed leaves and the flowers are in small clusters. The tubers are kept dormant over winter in frost free conditions in the same way as dahlias. In March/April they can be put into a shallow seed tray, hollow side up and covered with compost and kept moist.


They then need to be kept in warm enough conditions such as a greenhouse or conservatory. When the leaves start to show they can be potted on, they need to be hardened off and planted outside in mid May when there is no danger of frosts. They should be fed every week once they are in growth with a high potassium feed such as tomato food. They can be potted on and can grow quite large.

begonias ann2

The tubers will need to be lifted before the first frosts. Tuberous begonias can be propagated by dividing once shoots have started to appear on the tuber, making sure when cutting the tuber that each piece has at least one bud and some root.

begonias ann3

So lots of good advice on growing these plants and the pictures from Ann’s garden above show just how beautiful they can look in the right place.

Activities in the garden this week:

  • Sorting out plants for the new shrubbery area and potting on as needed


  • Sorting out plants in the greenhouse and potting on hebe cuttings

hebes sweet peas

  • Repairing the arches over the path


  • Taking hardwood cuttings and also sorting out the sempervivums
  • Planting out strawberry plants into old wheelbarrow, this was first filled with crocks and compost and then after planting topped off with straw.
  • Starting work on lowering the hawthorn hedge – it needs to come down by about 1m so that plants in the borders either side have more light and moisture.

And finally the latest creative structure from Vicky and a birthday present for Bridge- a chair made out of wood from the pine tree that came down in the garden. The seat will be used for planting.


Friday 30th January 2015


We had some discussion on planting snowdrops as now is the time to plant snowdrops (Galanthus) ‘in the green’. They can be planted in partly shaded areas but do need good drainage so put some grit into the planting hole and ensure that they are kept watered through the summer months. Snowdrops should be planted in clumps and if planted now they should flower well next year. The Chelsea Physic Garden is famous for its snowdrop displays.

African violet cutting violet

African violet cuttings can also be taken now – they are easy to do. Choose a healthy leaf with a leaf stalk (petiole) and insert it into gritty compost, put a plastic bag over the pot to help with germination and seedlings will develop at the base of the leaf which can then be transplanted.


We also looked at cyclamen coum plants that have been bought for the Garden House. They grow in shade, often under trees but do need moisture to help them get established. They can also be grown in pots if there is good drainage.

Things to do in the garden in February:

  • Time to order dahlia tubers or other bulbs and tubers for summer e.g. begonias, gladioli. There is a plan for shades of orange dahlias in the Garden House next summer.

IMG_8402 (2)

  • Antirrhinums, Nicotiana and sweet peas can also be sown now

We majored on weeds this week – weed identification and weeding the beds in the garden. Weeds are obviously just plants in the wrong place and if left can take over and inhibit the growth of other plants. They can be removed by pulling up, hoeing or restricted by covering a bed (i.e. on the allotment over winter) or mulching heavily. It is good to be able to identify weeds from their leaves as they are emerging – they can look quite different as they grow taller. Many weeds can regenerate from just a tiny fragment left on the ground so when weeding do put weeds straight into the trugs for disposal and not into the compost.

Some of the weeds to look out for in the garden are:

  • Hairy bittercress is very common and an annual. The leaves can be eaten in salad.

Cardamine hirsuta

  • Groundsel – a bushy weed that bears small yellow flowers- several generations  can be produced in one growing season


  • Alkanet – is part of the borage family and is like a hairy tall forget me not


  • Creeping buttercup – thrives on wet soil and spreads very quickly and can form a dense network of shoots and runners. It is easy to confuse with geraniums as the leaves look similar.


  • Wild geums – need to be distinguished from the cultivated varieties. The wild geums have much small flowers.


  • Cleavers or otherwise known as goosegrass or sticky willy -has small hooked hairs which grow out of the stems and leaves


  • Rose bay willow herb is a very attractive plant but can take over – it grows in clumps to a height of about 1.5m

rose bay

  • Ground elder is a very fast growing pervasive perennial that can crowd out other plants

ground elder

Activities in the garden this week:

Weeding and also some seed sorting and making pots for seedlings

PatLil and Cathy

Nanette seed sortingMary making





Friday 23rd January 2015

A very cold, frosty but bright day. Before venturing out into the garden we looked at a selection of winter twigs and discussed how to identify them.


Alder – the Alder is monoecious which means that it produces both male and female flowers on the same tree. The male flowers or catkins are a dark yellow brown colour, about 2 inches long when open. The female flowers are red and much smaller. When fertilised, these become green fruits, which gradually become woody and eventually release small, reddish brown seeds. The cones may remain on the twigs until spring so helping with identification in winter.


better alder

  • Ash – the buds on an ash tree are black in colour and are often called witches’ fingers. Ash trees are generally dioecious i.e. there are separate male and female trees.

ash tree

  •  Beech – beech stems have vary long pointed buds, set at an angle from the twig/stem. The leaves wither in the autumn but may remain on the tree throughout the winter – especially on hedging or younger trees.

beechbud american_beech_twig

  • Oak – buds on winter twigs tend to be clustered near the end of the winter twig; they have rusty brown over-lapping scale leaves.


  • Hazel – male and female flowers are found on the same tree with the yellow male catkins and tiny crimson tufty female flowers.



  • Sycamore – the buds are arranged in opposite pairs along the twig


  • Hornbeam – belongs to the birch, hazel and alder family


  • Prunus (cherry) – can be identified by clusters of buds from which flowers will develop


A useful reference on twigs and buds from the woodlands trust can be found here.

Activities in the garden this week:

  • Making bird feeders, the recipe can be found on RSPB website

Karin and Katy

Bird feeders







Suzanne bird feeder

  • Cutting back the Phormiumit needs reducing by about one third

pruning phorium

  • Wisteria pruning and continuing pruning the rose at back of the garden

Ann pruning


  • Pruning Rosa glauca and making some hardwood cuttings


  • Digging up strawberries under the raspberries
  • Emptying cold frame and also potting on sweet peas
  • Sorting out edging to paths


We then celebrated the achievements of Dr Nanette Hoogslag with delicious orange and almond cheesecake and maple and apple ginger cake plus hot fruit punch



fruit punch


Friday 16th January 2015

A very cold and rainy morning but we did get outside to continue tidying the garden and planting.

Plant identification:

  • Helleborus sternii


A hybrid between H. argutifolius and H. lividus. Upright stems of attractive slightly mottled foliage grown throughout the year. Green flowers tinged with pink and purple. It enjoys a sunny spot in well-drained soil (acid/neutral/chalk) and may self-seed once established. Bred at Highdown Garden, Worthing, the chalk-pit garden developed by Sir Frederick and Lady Stern.

Activities this week included:

  • Planting out wallflowers in rows
  • Planting out broad beans
  • Planting out garlic in modules
  • Planting lilies in pots and short-stemmed tulip bulbs in alpine sinksSue - mint


  • Rose pruning

Hilary pruning Mary shed


  • Weeding and top dressing pot grown roses

 Sally Ann potting up

  • Checking and cleaning dahlia tubers in storage


lettuces are growing well – time to start making marmalade

seville oranges

Friday 9th January 2015

The Friday group is back in action again after the Christmas break and it was a lovely bright day for being out in the garden. We talked about plans for the garden during the forthcoming year which will involve developing a shrubbery at the bottom of the garden, the remains of the pine tree will come down and a new shed will going in. A number of people commented on early daffodils that are blooming now in Brighton parks – these are likely to be Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ which flower in January.


Plant identification:

  • Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’  is a large evergreen climber with dark green leaves. The cup shaped flowers are heavily speckled with maroon  and appear during late autumn, winter or early spring. They have good silky seed-heads. It is part of the Ranunculaceae family which includes buttercups. In the Garden House this clematis grows up the willow arch.


  • Lonicera fragrantissima, winter flowering honeysuckle, is a bushy deciduous shrub that grows to 2m, with simple leaves  and pairs of very fragrant cream flowers in winter and early spring. It is good to plant it among shrubs that provide good interest over the summer months as it can look insignificant when not in flower.


  • Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’ or yellow bark dogwood is a medium sized deciduous shrub with yellow stems that are at their brightest in winter. It will grow well in almost any soil but likes wet conditions.


  • Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ or Siberian dogwood has slender red stems that become bright crimson in winter. For best stem colour cut the stems back hard in March/April to about 2-3″ and apply a thick mulch.


It is also a good time to take hardwood cuttings from cornus.

Activities in the garden this week:

  • Cleaning the greenhouse


  • Pruning the rose along the fence behind the compost


  • Potting on peas and spinach plants and sowing parsley
  • Seed sorting
  • Pruning the hawthorn tree

Ann and S




Friday 5th December 2014


Discussion this week focused on festive winter displays as well as jobs to do in the garden now. Helleborus niger or Christmas rose is a favourite for indoor table displays as it flowers between December and March. They are fully hardy but can be slightly more difficult than other hellebores to keep going in the garden. Whilst indoors they need to be kept well watered and not too warm and can survive a couple of months of being inside. Their flowers are unusual for hellebores as they are upturned rather than nodding. They are best planted in clumps in the front of a sunny but sheltered border. They can also be planted amongst spring bulbs.


Remember to cut any old leaves from hellebore plants in the garden as this will greatly improve the look of the flowers when they emerge on the plant in spring. Now is also a good time to propagate Globe artichokes or Cardoons, young shoots with roots can usually be found among the old stem bases in late winter/early spring. These can be carefully pulled or dug away and replanted elsewhere.


Also check sweet peas that have been autumn sown in pots as they can get leggy and will need the shoots pinching out to promote bushier growth.


Hardwood cuttings can also be taken now and – we looked at cuttings taken from a Cornus (dogwood). Hardwood cuttings root more slowly but they need little attention. Choose stems that are firm and hard but not too thick. The length of the cutting should be at least 6″. Make a cut straight across the stem just under a node and the second cut at an angle above a node, making an angled cut will ensure you know that it is the top of the cutting. Moisten the base of the cuttings in water and then make a slit trench with a spade. Sprinkle in some grit to ensure good drainage and insert the cuttings about 4″ apart only leaving a third of the length of the cutting above ground. Firm the soil around them and water in well – ensure that they are not allowed to dry out during the summer months and also make sure you keep the weeds at bay. It can be useful to take such cuttings to establish a hedge in an allotment for example.

images 2

Shrubs apart from Cornus that easily root from hardwood cuttings are Buddleia, Forsythia, Privet, Philadelphus, Ribes, Hydrangea, Viburnum, Roses, Salix etc


Cornus stems are great for winter interest and colour now, they need to be cut back in April to retain their vibrant colour.

Activities in the garden this week:

  • Sue and Julia made a decoration for the garden house side door

Sue & Julia

  • Clare and Mary did some bed edging – using up more of the pine tree that was cut down in the summer


  • Vicky continued to build her twin obelisks for the veg beds

twin towers 2 twin towers

  • Some veg seeds to be sown in modules – spinach and spinach beet. Ruth also planted out some more wallflower plants


  • Val and Sharon continued with pruning the fig tree

Val 2

  • More bulbs were planted in top garden, hanging baskets were sorted, paper white bulbs were planted and a table display with bulbs and a hellebore was put together.

bulbs in pots Karin


Mandy and Nanette Lil & Nanette

The garden is looking very festive with lots of material being gathered for wreath making.

Christm,as foliage

Christmas foliage 2

christams geenery


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