Friday 21st November 2014


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.

Plant Identification:

  • Cobaea scandens – cup-and-saucer plant. (A tender climber)

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  • 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




Mary and H






Friday 14th November 2014


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.

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 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.

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  • Camellia – evergreen shrub with glossy leaves. They need an acid soil – so ericaceous compost.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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

ann and vicky Garden 2


  Julai 2

  Karin new fencing

  ann and vicky

Ann  Julia







Friday 7th November 2014

Hilary and Sally

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.

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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.

Plant identification:

  • 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.

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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

Cathy and Clare

Ally and Elaine Vicky



Friday 24th October 2014

We started to think about bulbs to be planted in the garden with plans for  major bulb planting activities in the borders and in pots over the next few weeks. Erythroniums (dog’s tooth violets) will be planted in the newly created woodland garden as they can do well in shade or sun with moist soil. They are perennials which if left undisturbed in the same position will become well established.


        Erythronium oregonum

It is also time to think about planting forced narcissus bulbs for indoor displays – such as Paperwhite or Grand Soleil D’or. They are both very fragrant and easy to grow, and will flower about 6 or 7 weeks after planting. They can be planted in soil and grit or even just water as the bulbs contain all they need for growth.


                 Narcissus Paperwhite

 Grand s

Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil D’Or’

We also looked at some of the tulip bulbs that will be planted in beds and in pots. Tulips don’t need to be planted until November as the colder temperatures help to eliminate any viral or fungal diseases that may be in the soil and could infect the bulbs. If they are to be planted in flower beds then they can be put in holes up to 8″ deep. Deeper planting means they are more likely to survive from year to year. If the bulbs are to be planted in pots they can be planted much more densely just avoiding the bulbs touching each other in the compost. Two of Bridge’s favourites are the bright and vibrant Doll’s Minuet and the creamy Sapporo.

Doll's minuet     untitled

Wallflowers combine very well with tulips – they can be bought now in pots and divided or as bare root plants. Any bare root plants need to be planted out really within a day or so of purchase as the roots will dry out. If they can’t be planted straight away just put them in a pot with soil as a temporary measure. Wallflowers or Erysiums are part of the Brassicaceae family so they are related to cabbages. They are generally grown as biennials although Erysium Bowles Mauve is an evergreen perennial. It has grey green leaves and very fragrant flowers with a long flowering season and likes full sun. It can get rather woody after a few years but is very easy to propagate from cuttings.

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We also looked at Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’.  This is an evergreen shrub that is great in autumn or winter to lighten up a dark corner of the garden. It has bright yellow leaves outlined in green and has tiny white fragrant flowers in autumn.


Ceratostigma plumbaginoides or hardy plumbago is also a very beautiful autumn flowering herbaceous perennial. It has vibrant blue flowers and the leaves turn red or purple in autumn. It is great as an edging plant in borders and needs full sun.


This is also a wonderful time to put together your ‘autumn nature table’ and we looked at some amazing seed pods from tree peonies and also some crab apples from Sue’s Crab Apple ‘Red Sentinel’ which is a good tree for a small garden. Check out Sarah Raven creating an autumn wreath.

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Activities in the garden this week:

  • Making edging for the dahlia beds

Vicky and Sue on fence Vicky

Sue S edging

bed edging

  • Planting out spring onions and lettuces

preparaing the beds

veg beds

  • Planting out wallflowers

planting wallflowers

  • Pruning climbing roses

Katy rose pruning Dinah

  • Sowing hardy annuals – ammi, cornflowers, nigella, calendula, sweet peas

seed sowing



and finally … admiring Julia’s new boots

Julia's boots




Friday 17th October 2014

Late flowering perennials and ‘plants that die well’ was our focus for discussion today. Umbels are particularly good at dying well and provide wonderful structure in the border so think about what needs to be cut back and leave plants that still have architectural interest.


Umbels are defined as ‘an inflorescence in which a number of flower stalks or pedicels, nearly equal in length, spread from a common centre’. They are often flat topped with flower stalks that are splayed like ribs on an umbrella. Examples of umbels are fennel, angelica, cow parsley, ammi, astrantia, flowers of carrots and parsnips.


 Angelica gigas




Umbels at Great Dixter

Plant identification:

We looked at a number of plants that Bridge had collected from her recent visit to Sussex Prairie Gardens in Henfield. The garden is closed now until next June but does include a section within the main garden which demonstrates how prairie planting can be done on a smaller more domestic scale.

  • Echinacea purpurea ‘Virgin’ – or white coneflower. They are sturdy and easy to care for and need full sun or partial shade. They have large and fragrant blooms from July to October which are very attractive to butterflies.


  • Amsonia or ‘bluestars’ are clump forming herbaceous perennials. In spring they have star shaped blue flowers, the foliage stays green in summer but in autumn it turns yellow/bronze


  • Panicum elegans ‘Frosted Explosion’ an easy to grow dramatic frothy grass which is good with cut flowers. It is an annual that can be grown from seed – sow indoors in seed trays from Feb to April, prick out and harden off in May and it will flower from July to Sept.


  • Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ or switch grass. It is an upright clump forming grass with red/ brown leaves that are blue /green when they emerge in spring. In autumn they turn a deep burgandy. It has red/pink flowers which later turn beige.


  • Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ is a feather reed grass. It is a clump forming perennial that loves shade and stays upright, it grows to 90cm


  • Rudbeckia triloba is native to United States, it gives a fantastic late summer/autumn display and is good combined with grasses. It can tolerate shade.

rudbeckia triloba

  • Aster lateriflorus horizontalis, has stiff stems set with small, dark green leaves and forms compact, bush-like plants. By October, they are a  mass of tiny, silvery flowers with clover-pink, fluffy centres. grows to 61 cm. It is used in Great Dixter as hedging

Gt Dixter)

  • Aster ericoides – a white aster native to N. America and Mexico

aster ericoides

Activities in the garden this week:

  • Further compost work – digging out the heap and spreading on beds
  • Cutting back the euphorbia
  • Making more fence hurdles for the veg beds
  • Sorting out the path to the shed
  • Clearing bed at end of sunken garden
  • Clearing the ammi and cutting back aquilegia
  • Taking more rosemary and fuchsia cuttings
  • Planting out the panicums
  • Maintaining Little Dixter

Suzanne and Val Lil

Hilary Julia

Vicky planting out

Ruth and Sally


 N & K

Compost 2

inside compost 2


Friday 10th October 2014

Dixter 2 wild carrot

Lots of discussion about a recent visit by some group members to Great Dixter and how inspirational and extraordinary the garden is even in the autumn in the pouring rain. The plant identification featured some plants bought at their plant fair.

Plant identification:

  • Thalictrum yunnanense- a low growing clump-forming Chinese perennial  with upright slightly hairy slender stems to 60cm tall. It has whitish flowers, from tight pinkish buds. It likes full sun or part shade in any type of drained soil and will do well on chalky soil. Flowering July to August. Thalictrums are a genus of about 130 species and are part of rununculaceae family, common name is meadow rue. Most thalictrums are tall and excellent background plants in the border.


  • Begonia modestiflora- a hardy perennial that does well in shade. Begonias are a genus of about 900 species and many cultivars of fleshy annuals, perennials, evergreen shrubs and climbers including some succulents. (See picture of begonias in Ann’s garden)


  • Fuchsia  ‘Pumila’ is an upright, bushy, deciduous, compact shrub with  dark green leaves and throughout summer, small red and purple flowers. It is hardy and good for low hedging.


  • Cotinus coggygria Golden spirit. This smoke bush has  golden-yellow round leaves that turn coral, orange and red in autumn. In July and August smoke-like plumes of green flowers appear. It needs a sunny spot and well drained soil.


Activities in the garden this week:

  • Sorting out compost bins
  • Refreshing Little Dixter
  • Emptying cold frames
  • Starting work on an ‘Orsan’ inspired vegetable garden – planting spring cabbages and leeks
  • Pruning rose in woodland garden, planting out the thalictrums and Japanese anenomes
  • Taking cuttings of hebe and fuchsias
  • Panting out foxgloves in sunken garden

Hils Hils 2

The compost team, Hilary and Lil, at work

Lil 2 Lil

Mary, Clare and Sharon working on new woodland garden


Clare and S

Karin admiring pelargonium sidoides

karin & peli

Ali and Susan planting foxgloves in sunken garden


Ann and Sue worked on Little Dixter this week


New fencing on veg beds



vicky cat

Friday 3rd October 2014

We discussed plans for the garden over the forthcoming year – there is still quite a lot of colour in the garden but when the flowers in cut flower beds are over this area will be used for vegetable growing. The bed at the back of the garden near the shed will be planted with shrubs and plants that thrive in shade will be planted under the cherry tree in top garden.

Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’

We also talked about  salvias which are part of the lamiaceae family. The genus of salvias contains about 900 species including annuals, biennials, herbaceous and evergreen perennials and shrubs. They are usually grown in sunny sites and many are aromatic and most have distinctive square stems. They can be fully hardy to frost tender. Julia talked about the BBC Gardeners World’s 25/9/14 visit to Great Comp Garden, Kent which holds the national collection of salvias. Recommended as the hardiest for British gardens are: Salvia ‘Jezebel’ (bright red flowers ) and Salvia x jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder’ (dark purple flowers).

Plant identification:

  • Dahlia ‘Honka’ an unusual dahlia with starry flowers

Dahlia Honka

  • Zauschineria californica ‘Dublin’, (California fuchsia). This is a spreading, deciduous dwarf sub-shrub that grows to  25cm in height.


  • Salvia patens – a half hardy annual with deep blue flowers, it needs full sun  and well drained soil.


  • Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Beaute Nivelloise’, a vigorous, clump forming perennial that can be grown in full sun to partial shade. It is fully hardy and will flower from June – September.


Activities in the garden:

  • Planting asters
  • Clearing cold frame
  • Pruning back under the arches
  • Pruning the Charles de Mille roses
  • Starting work on making a shrub bed at end of the garden
  • Maintaining Little Dixter
  • Working on top garden and taking out and potting up plants that are not doing well
  • Propagation of roses by harvesting rose seeds
  • Taking mint root cuttings

Hil Mandy_6440

Lil Susan_6441


Cake eating6444

photo (2)

photo (3)


Friday 26th September

The Garden House held a workshop on roses last Saturday which Cathy described as an inspirational day. Feedback from the day included a reminder that now is the time to prune ramblers and climbers. Rambling roses usually flower once whilst climbers repeat flower during summer and autumn although there are exceptions to this. Climbers also tend to have double flowers and ramblers look more like wild roses and are more vigorous. Climbers are best grown over arches and up walls and trellises whilst ramblers are best grown through trees. Both climbers and ramblers tend to flower better if they are trained as this promotes more flowering shoots. So in autumn stems can be bent into shape,tied and looped around arches or other supports. Ramblers can be pruned by cutting out old wood at the base (removing one in three of old stems) and fanning out the stems, climbers need the main leaders reducing and pruning back the side shoots to about 6″. It is from these side shoots that the flowers will grow. It is good to give the plants a boost after pruning by adding a mulch of manure and compost and feeding again in spring. One tip for planting a rose in a site where an old rose has been taken out is to dig a cardboard box sized hole and plant the rose in the box surrounded by lots of compost.

We also looked at some rose hips. Rosa rugosa can have white or pink flowers and can be grown as a hedge. Ramblers don’t need dead heading and have attractive hips.

Rosa Rugosa

Rosa pimpinellifolia has creamy white flowers and blackish hips.


Plant identification:

Paul brought along a wonderful selection of plants that look great in the garden now including a number of asters. The purple/blue of asters combine very well with yellows and oranges of rudbeckias. Asters are very flexible plants for late summer and autumn with their foliage often looking good before the flowers emerge. They also flower for a long time. They like sun but can survive well in semi shaded areas.

  • Aster laterifloris horizontalis has stiff stems with small dark green leaves and tiny silvery flowers with pink centres. It looks lovely in naturalistic or more formal planting and can grow to 60cm.

aster l h

  • Aster turbinellus has arching growth and grows to about 5’or 6′ feet tall. It can loose leaves lower down and flowers at the top so is good at the back of the border.

aster tur

  • Aster blue star is more compact growing to max of 4′ with lovely lavender blue coloured flowers.

aster blue star

  • Aster Kylie is very sprawling with masses of semi double tiny pink flowers

aster Kylie

  • Rudkeckia triloba is a very reliable self seeding biennial and gives a long display of flowers. It is very attractive to butterflies.


Activities in the garden this week:

  • Cutting back the large Phormium ( New Zealand flax)
  • Further work on developing a woodland garden in top garden
  • Continued work to clear, cut back and weed under the arches and in large borders
  • Potting up jasmine and fuchsia cuttings in greenhouse and continue to sort out pelargoniums for over wintering
  • Planting up newly bought roses in pots


                             Paul’s plant stall


Bridge describing to Ann her plan for woodland garden

Bridge and Ann




                                  Mandy foraging


                         Ruth and her favourite heleniums

Sue and Formium

                  Sue cutting back the Phormium


Friday 19th September 2014

We had some discussion about our favourite plants or flowers at the start of the group. A favourite of Clare’s is Hesperantha or Schizostylis as they used to be called (common name is river lily). They are plants native to S. Africa and Zimbabwe and are great for late summer and autumn colour. They need a sheltered sunny place with moist but well drained soil. Plants can be divided every 2/3 years in the spring.


hesperantha 2

We looked at a range of bulbs. Now is the time to plant alliums outside and forced hyacinths for indoors if you want hyacinth flowers for Christmas. Other spring bulbs such as daffodils, crocus, muscari, tulips should be planted outside either in beds or in pots from October to December before first frosts. A bulb is essentially a collection of modified leaves which contains all the food that is necessary for growth – which is why hyacinth bulbs for example can be grown just with their roots in water.


  • Cyclamen hederifolium are the easiest of cyclamens to grow and are frost hardy. Cyclamen corms can be planted in autumn or spring. A corm is an adaptation of a stem. The corms should be planted when in growth and the tops of the corms should be level with the soil or only just submerged. Cyclamens do best in shade as they are essentially a woodland plant.

cyclamen 2 cyclamen corm

  • Fritillaria imperialis grow to 3′ and need full sun and is part of the Liliaceae family. Plant in autumn and they flower in April and May.


Activities in the garden this week:

  • pruning back and tidying the area underneath the arches and other beds near the steps
  • maintaining the ‘Little Dixter’ display outside the garden room
  • sorting out and potting on the baby sempervivums in top garden
  • taking cuttings of dianthus
  • taking out old lavender plants from top garden under cherry tree and taking lavender cuttings
  • potting up violas and taking cuttings
  • autumn lawn care – scarifying, aerating and mowing plus edging the lawn


Elaine cutting back the outdoor lightsKaty

cake cake 2 (2)

cake 3 (2)

Happy Birthday Clare


Friday 12th September 2014

Welcome to the first Friday gardening group blog of our new gardening year.  It was good to see the garden again, catch up with returning group members and  welcome new ones and get going with our gardening discussion and activities for 2014/15.

We discussed planned projects in the garden for the year ahead which will include replacing the old shed and landscaping the area around the shed and making a woodland garden around the cherry tree in the top garden. There is also a plan to prune back the large hawthorn hedge to try to improve the light and drainage in the big borders. A new development will be a ‘hot box’ for the greenhouse to help with propagating and Bridge will be giving advice on seed collecting and propagation techniques. There will be a number of open days throughout the year including plans to open for the National Garden Scheme, the Garden Gadabout and our own Friday Group charity event in July.

Plant ident:

  • Tulbaghia ‘Hazel’ Tulbaghia is a South African genus and is commonly know as Society garlic. It is a bulbous or rhizomatous perennial with linear leaves and umbels of star shaped flowers. It can be planted in beds or pots and propagated by seed or division in spring. It is known to be snail proof. Tulbaghia ‘Hazel’ has pale brownish pink flowers and flowers from June to the first frosts. It can grow to a height of 60cm. The more common variety is Tulbaghia violacea which has pale purple flowers.
Tulbaghia 'Hazel'
Tulbaghia ‘Hazel’
  • Cobaea scandens  This climber is commonly known as the cup and saucer vine. It is a vigorous perennial climber which is usually grown as an annual as it is quite tender. It has fragrant bell shaped flowers which change from greenish- white to purple and show themselves from August until the first frosts. It comes from Mexico and needs a sheltered sunny wall or trellis. It is pollinated by bats.
Cobaea scandens
Cobaea scandens
  •  Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’ A tall, branching marigold with finely cut deep, rich green leaves. It has copper orange bordering on rusty red single flowers which are produced from July to October. It is a half hardy annual and grows to 70cm. Can look very good with dahlias.
Tagetes Cinnabar
Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’
  • Ilex crenata ‘Golden Gem’ or Japanese Holly. ‘Golden Gem’ is a low-growing, compact dwarf evergreen shrub of spreading habit with small, golden yellow leaves.
Ilex crenata 'Golden Gem'
Ilex crenata ‘Golden Gem’


Activities in the garden this week:

  • Weeding, dead heading and tidying up the borders
  • Sorting out pelargoniums and putting them in the greenhouse to overwinter
  • Cutting back the summer  fruiting raspberries
  • Dividing sanguisorba plants
  • Cutting back ivy and sorting out plant display in front of garden room

Ruth on division duty


Lil and Dinah


Sharon and Val

Katy and Dawn


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