A very cold and rainy morning but we did get outside to continue tidying the garden and planting.
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 sinks
- Weeding and top dressing pot grown roses
- Checking and cleaning dahlia tubers in storage
lettuces are growing well – time to start making marmalade
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.
- 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:
- Pruning the rose along the fence behind the compost
- Potting on peas and spinach plants and sowing parsley
- Seed sorting
- Pruning the hawthorn tree
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.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
The garden is looking very festive with lots of material being gathered for wreath making.
Vicky deserves to headline this week with the amazing obelisk structure she has built as a support for beans in the new vegetable beds. Vicky is making good progress in developing her version of Petit D’Orsan in Bridge’s garden.
Other activities this week included cutting back the Gunnera leaves and using the huge leaves to fold over the plant to protect the crown of the plant throughout the winter. Clare and Dawn worked on this task.
New box plants were also put around the tulip tree bed by the lawn. They were planted as bare root plants and should bulk out to provide a box tree hedge.
The fig tree by the summer house was also pruned. It had become very large with many of the branches getting tangled with the climbing roses. A few of the larger branches were taken out (not more than a third) and at least every other lateral branch was cut back to the first node and any old wood cut out. Julia K was very organised with this task as this photo demonstrates.
Other tasks included planting some more bulbs in pots, potting on dianthus cuttings, pruning gooseberry bushes and mulching the blackcurrants. A few vine weevils had to be evicted from the pots.
The wood from the tree that came down by the shed has been put to lots of use around the garden. Ally and Lil used a larger branch as edging for the bed.
And finally thanks again to Hilary for providing the most delicious cakes!
This week we talked about hardy and tender plants:
- Hardy plants can withstand winter temperatures down to -15oC
- Frost-hardy down to -5oC.
- Half-hardy down to 0oC
- Tender down to +5oc
Half-hardy plant seed can be sown April-May to miss the last frosts. Ideally sow over bottom heat of 20oC for germination (under-floor heating is perfect!). Although we don’t get very cold winters the British Isles has highly changeable weather which can throw all sorts of challenges at plants e.g. one night frost, next day warm and wet, then very windy etc. with little time to adapt. Where plants are placed in the garden makes a lot of difference to their hardiness – e.g. shelter of a wall, close to house, free-draining soil. Don’t put camellias or fleshy-leaved plants in east-facing sites as they will get damaged when the sun reaches them quickly after frost.
- Cobaea scandens – cup-and-saucer plant. (A tender climber)
- Tibouchina (Conservatory plant)
Both of the above are pollinated by bats in their native countries and have similar flower structures.
- Echeveria (frost tender succulent)
Hates wet but can stand some cold if kept dry. All plants in Crassulaceae family can be propagated from single leaves. Put in gritty compost (or leave dry in a plant saucer) – will produce thread-like roots and tiny new rosette forms at base of leaf.
- Begonia luxurians (tender) Good in pots. Can give a dramatic effect eventually reaching 2m. White flowers.
- Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’ – half hardy annual which was sown late and is just ending its flowering. It is a tall, branching marigold with finely cut deep, rich green leaves. Copper orange bordering on rusty red single flowers are produced usually from July to October.
Seeds like porcupine quills!
Activities in the garden this week:
- Making obelisks
- Rose pruning
- Sowing broad beans, spinach and rocket
- Tending compost heaps
- Pricking out wallflowers
- Bulb planting in pots and top garden
- Tidying and planting ‘winter bed’
- Emptying summer pots and taking cuttings of tender plants
- Tidying willow arch so that winter-flowering clematis is visible
Now is the time to get forced bulbs like Narcissus Paperwhite and Grand Soleil D’Or going for indoor Christmas displays. They should take about 6 weeks from planting. These bulbs can be planted in either soil, stones, gravel, pebbles or glass marbles – they just need anchoring and some water. Containers don’t need to have drainage holes – just need to be about 3-4 inches deep. They look good in glass bowls for example. Put the bulbs in pointed end up on top of the stone layer or in soil with top protruding. They need water to start the growing process. The bulbs don’t need light at this stage and like to be kept quite cool. Check daily to ensure they have sufficient water. When roots start to develop move container to sunny window but try not to let them get too warm or they’ll grow leggy. Once plants flower they will last longer out of direct sunlight. Use twigs pressed into the gravel to support growth.
We also looked at some evergreens – they are very important in garden design and can be the backbone of the garden providing structure.
- Taxus baccata fastigiata ‘Aureomarginata’ or Golden Irish yew-is a large, bushy, upright evergreen shrub with erect shoots bearing radially arranged, dark green leaves. Ultimate height 2.5 – 4 metres.
- Thuja plicata ‘Zebrina’ or Western or Pacific red cedar. Thuja are fast-growing evergreen trees of narrowly conical habit, with flat sprays of tiny, aromatic, scale-like leaves and small knobbly cones. Zebrina has flat sprays of aromatic leaves with creamy yellow bands.
- Camellia – evergreen shrub with glossy leaves. They need an acid soil – so ericaceous compost.
- Myrtus communis subspecies tarentina -a small evergreen shrub of dense growth, with small, narrowly ovate leaves, and pink buds opening to white flowers followed by white berries. It is very fragrant.
- Viburnum tinus is a dense, evergreen shrub with dark and oval, glossy leaves. It is a popular for hedging and bears strongly fragrant pinkish-white flowers.
- Viburnum davidii is a small spreading evergreen shrub, with elliptic, deep green, leathery, three-veined leaves and heads of small white flowers followed by long-lasting blue-black berries.
- Prunus lusitanica variegate or Portuguese laurel is a dense, bushy, spreading, evergreen shrub or small tree with dark red shoots, glossy, dark green leaves and, in early summer small, fragrant, white flowers followed by red fruit that ripen to black.
- Choisia ‘Aztec pearl’ is a small evergreen shrub of open rounded habit, with bright green leaves. Flowers are fragrant, white, tinged pink in bud, in small clusters in late spring, and again in autumn. It grows to 1.5 – 2.5 metres and is good for smaller gardens.
- Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata’ is a sized evergreen shrub with leathery leaves narrowly edged with cream. Small white flowers in spherical clusters, followed by black fruits.
Activities in the garden this week:
- More work on edging the beds
- Sowing winter salads in greenhouse
- Planting blueberries in ericaceous compost in pots
- Planting allium spiders, and cutting back nepeta and geraniums in sunken garden
- Lifting and storing dahlias
- Planting out plumbago
- Maintaining Little Dixter
The Friday gardening group is back in action after the half term break and we talked about the many things there are to do in the garden at this time of year- cutting back, raking up and collecting leaves, planting shrubs or perennials whilst the soil still has some warmth, taking in and protecting plants like pelargoniums that are not frost hardy, planting winter bedding and getting the bulbs in the ground. If you have heavy clay soil then add a mulch to the garden now, for chalk soils it is better to add a mulch in spring so the nutrients will not all be washed away by rain.
We had some discussion on making leaf mould and compost. Leaves can be collected and kept in a chicken wire enclosure or even just in a black bin liner with some holes punctured to allow the air in, they will take about a year to rot down. Leaf mould is an invaluable mulch or soil conditioner and can also be added to compost or used on its own for some plants.
Compost is a valuable source of nutrients that plants need for growth and compost heaps need a balance of carbon and nitrogen – so there needs to be a mix of vegetable kitchen waste and plant matter which are nitrogen rich and cardboard and paper or wood ash that are carbon rich. Lots of interesting suggestions about what should or shouldn’t be added to the compost heap. Top tip from Vicky is to add old jeans which break down rapidly or human hair or feathers. Don’t add potato peelings as you may get potato plants popping up all over the garden.
- Pelargonium Tomentosum- a spreading plant with velvety, peppermint-scented, heart-shaped leaves and small clusters of tiny white flowers. It will need to be kept frost free over winter.
- Heuchera ‘Prince’ has bronze purple leaves and produces tall purple stems with small white flowers in the spring. It can be planted out in the garden in full sun or partial shade.
- Callicarpa giraldii ‘Profusion’ or Beauty bush is a medium-sized deciduous upright shrub that grows to 3m in height. It has small lilac flowers and purple berries in compact clusters. It can be grown in full sun or partial shade.
Activities in the garden this week:
- Sorting out and cutting back some of the pelargoniums in the greenhouse to slow down winter growth
- Making cuttings of Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’, the perennial wallflower
- Sowing peas in guttering to put in greenhouse
- Making edging around the redcurrant bed
- Sowing sweet peas
- Planting white narcissi and erythronium bulbs in woodland garden