Friday 17th April 2015

tulip bed 2

The Friday group is back after the Easter break, the garden is looking beautiful with most of the tulips out and looking wonderful. I really like the orange theme this year! We talked about gardens that group members had visited and future plans for the Garden House garden. The  bantams have arrived and are installed in their new abode and a new fence put up at the end of the garden. So the shrub bed is ready to be planted up and new cordon fruit trees put into the end bed. There will be a plant stall every Friday afternoon now and we looked at some of the plants on sale that are great for late spring/early summer:

  • Allium ‘Passion’- these alliums have compact flower heads and grow to 45cms. Alliums are great in the borders to fill the gap after the tulips are over – they flower in May and June


  • Geranium Phaeum is a erect, clump-forming perennial with lobed leaves often with brownish markings and flat, outward-facing dusky purple, lilac or white flowers. They grow well in damp shady places.


  • Dutch Iris ‘Red Ember’ – a beautiful iris with red, brown and purple tones. It is fully hardy, likes full sun and looks good in drifts.


Activities in the garden this week:

Bridge and Ruth

  • Working in the veg bed digging up winter lettuces,  planting out lettuces and red orach and putting up supports for broad beans

veg bed better

  • Planting up the new shrub bed

Hilary lil

shrub bed 2

Elaine julia in bin

  • Planting new cordon fruit tree

planting espalier

Vicky karin



  • Sorting out the greenhouse and pricking out seedlings


  • Sue and Mandy also worked on a beautiful mosaic to cover the wall of one of the beds

Mandy 2 Mandy

mosaic 1

mosaic 3

mosaic 2

27th March 2015

garden view

Before we embarked on activities in the garden we discussed the inspiring talk by Rose Hardy from Hardy’s plants about spring flowering perennials that many of us attended at the Garden House last weekend. She gave a number of suggestions about plants for dry or damp shade and plants for sunnier spots such as:

  • Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Alba’ or white pasque flower. The flowers have deeply cut, feathery foliage, topped by large, bell-shaped flowers. These are followed by fluffy, silver seedheads in summer. Full sun and well-drained soil is ideal so don’t mulch around them to prevent them getting damp. Winter wet and root disturbance is not tolerated and it is a plant that is happy in chalky soil.


  • Geum ‘Bell bank’ produces large quantities of coral pink flowers in late spring and early summer. It is a semi double and is very reliable, growing well in sun or part shade in any soil. It is easy to lift and divide.


  • Bergenia ciliata has white flowers with a pink tinge in spring and large, hairy leaves and is quite a small bergenia growing  30cm x 60cm. It can be grown in sun or part shade  and needs free draining soil.



Activities in the garden this week:

Many of us then spent the rest of the morning making alpine sinks, mixing 2 parts cement, 3 parts sharp sand or grit and 2 parts compost or manure. The pictures tell the story – hopefully we will soon have some photos of the finished sinks planted up with alpines.

box Katy

box sharon

boxes ann sharon

boxes cathy suze

boxes Julia suze

boxes Katy val

boxes Sally mary

boxes Val lil

Other activities included:

  • Pricking out
  • Digging over the shrub bed
  • Edging the beds

greenhouse Julia veg bed

garden view 2

hyacinth bed

And of course eating delicious cake – thanks Ann!

cakes ann



Friday 20th March 2015

hellebores 2

Hellebore flowers in a bowl looking so beautiful and a special feature of the spring garden.

The  group was slightly distracted initially by the possibility of seeing the solar eclipse although the cloudy sky over Brighton early on Friday morning obscured any view.


We did finally get on to matters horticultural. Bridge updated on a successful rose talk by Peter Beales at the Garden House last weekend. Many group members took the opportunity to buy a bare-root rose and the advice was to heel it into the ground straight away as the roots should not be allowed to dry out. When ready to do the planting a large enough hole should be dug and a cardboard box sunk into the hole with some manure or garden compost added. This method of planting also has the advantage of avoiding any disease from previous roses that may have been grown there. The rose can then be planted in the cardboard box with plenty of organic matter so add good top soil or multi purpose compost.


Rosa ‘Souvenir du Docteur Jamain’ – good for a shady north facing position.

Roses need feeding now and then again when in flower with a high potash feed like seaweed. In chalky soils plants can’t access the nutrients so well so do need very regular watering and feeding. It can also be helpful to apply a foliar feed – mix a seaweed feed with water as instructed  and spray it directly on to the leaves. Climbers and rambling roses often do better on chalk soils than  shrub roses that generally prefer clay soils.


Rosa ‘Madame Hardy’ – a white damask rose with lovely fragrance.

Bridge then went on to give a demonstration of how to sow seeds. Generally multi purpose compost is used rather than special seed compost – although it may need sieving.  For very small seeds like nicotiana or antirrhinum it is advisable to add a few of the seeds (they often come in packets of thousands) to a phial of silver sand so it is possible to see where the seeds have been sown. Always over fill a seed tray and then tamp it down before sowing the seeds as it is important that the compost is level to avoid erratic germination. These very fine seeds need light to be able to germinate so just lightly cover the seeds with vermiculite, this prevents the seeds from being dislodged and vermiculite will hold on to the moisture. Then soak the seed tray in a tray of water so that the water soaks up through the compost, alternatively use a very fine rose on a watering can. Remember to keep turning the seed tray once there are signs of growth so that the seedlings grow evenly and do not get too straggly. Bigger seeds can be grown in modules or larger pots to prevent the shock of transplanting and can be pressed down into the compost and then covered up with compost before watering. Always label clearly after sowing.

sowing 6

sowing 3

sowing 2


sowing 7

sowing 9

sowing 8

Activities in the garden this week:

Karin and Nan

  • Sowing seeds including coreopsis and tagetes
  • Feeding the pots and the beds with chicken pellets
  • Vicky and Julia created new edging for a bed


new edging

  • Building a hazel pole structure in bed outside the greenhouse
  • Taking old leaves off the epimedium
  • Removing alliums from shrub bed and taking up the brick paths
  • Planting out peas


  • Sowing lettuce, beetroot and spring onions and preparing a bed for the potatoes

veg bed

  • Sue and Lil also got a good bonfire going

 bonfire 2


Ruth made some lovely ginger cake which was much appreciated.

S and M

And finally a photo to make you smile from Bridge’s daughter Dulcie.


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.


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