Archive for March, 2011

Prop up your plants!

Posted by editor on Monday, 28 March 2011

Now is the very best time to get your plant supports into place.  With growth on most perennials just starting, you can clearly see where the plants are and more easily get stakes or supports into position.

Of course, not just tall perennials – climbers, certain roses, even vegetables like broad and runner beans will need careful staking to avoid the plants collapsing as they grow in heavy rain and winds.

Some of our favorite materials and effects:

  • Simple and relaxed – consider birch or hazel twiggy sticks, bendy and easy to twist around to create loose supports.
  • Dramatic – tall supports like wigwams or tripods – use straight hazel sticks pushed firmly into the ground and tied at the top.  Wrap wide mesh or twist soft twigs around the bottom half of the structure to give seedlings something to cling to as they grow.
  • Metal structures – we prefer rusted metal, though in the right setting stainless steel can look very dramatic – metal can be formed into wonderful natural shapes mimicking seed heads or leaf structures, blending with the plant shapes themselves.
  • Wooden structures – obelisks can look very good in more formal settings, often best painted in soft mid-tones.
  • Arches and arbors – made from young living willow.  Pushed firmly into the ground and watered in well, willow will root very easily to form a living structure.  As it grows, twist and plait in the shoots to form a robust structure.
  • Practical supports – simple grids made using bamboo canes are perfect for the cutting garden where practical considerations are more important than aesthetics.

We love creative and decorative supports – maybe hang small bits of mirror, glass or foil milk bottle tops from your structure to move and glitter gently with the wind.  Paint bamboo canes or panels of wooden trellis in bright colours and use amongst the flowers in your cutting garden – or why not use rusted bed-springs to support your broad beans in the vegetable patch?!

The key thing is to let the support structures flow with your planting, give great thought to which material suits your planting, enjoy building your structures and be experimental.

The Garden House opens for NGS (National Garden Scheme)

Posted by editor on Thursday, 24 March 2011

Visit the delightful and inspiring Garden House garden on the afternoon of Sunday 27 March!

While an all-year-round opening is neither practical or desirable for smaller garden owners, the long running National Garden Scheme allows many proud gardeners the opportunity to show off their skills for a couple of days each year – and all for good causes.

The Yellow Book’ Scheme, as it is known, was established in 1927 and so has a long history of people opening their gardens to the public. The scheme supports a variety of charities including Macmillan cancer care, Marie Curie nursing service and Perennial – the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society.

We will have plants, dahias and seeds for sale.  Plus, of course, a range of delicious homemade cakes and refreshments!

Opening times: 1pm to 5pm. Come with a friend! You can also find out about the many workshops and courses that are on offer at The Garden House as well as meeting our hens and seeing the progress that we have made in the garden over the past year!

Location: The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT

Plant of the Month: Daphne

Posted by editor on Friday, 18 March 2011

Daphnes are invariably grown for their delightfully fragrant flowers, which most have in abundance, but some are grown for their foliage, fruit, or upright, rounded or prostrate habit.

Daphne as a genus consists of about 50 deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen species, from Europe, North Africa and Asia. Their natural habitats range from lowland woodlands to mountains. There are many species and cultivars in cultivation, and some are at their best in the depths of winter, when there is little else to compete with.

  • Family – Thymelaeaceae
  • Height & spread – 1.5m (5ft) high and wide
  • Soil – Moderately fertile, humus rich, well-drained soil
  • Aspect – Full shade to open
  • Hardiness – Hardy in some areas, may require protection in winter

Of the deciduous cultivars D. bholua var. glacialis ‘Gurkha’ displays pink-flushed white flowers. Another Daphne that flowers without the obstruction of leaves is D. mezereum, or mezereon as it is sometimes called. A flush of colour appears in late winter through into early spring before the leaves begin to grow. The purplish pink blooms, or white in the case of D. mezereum f. alba, cover the spreading stems that can reach up to 1.2m (4ft).

Daphne odora is a rounded evergreen shrub and another wonderfully scented example that flowers in the winter and early spring. It has clusters of white flowers edged with carmine and darkly glossy evergreen leaves.

The cultivar ‘Aureomarginata’ AGM has leaves with narrow, irregular yellow margins, it was awarded an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) for its scented flowers and variegated foliage. It bears fragrant, deep purple-pink and white flowers, to 1.5cm (1/2 in) across, in terminal, sometimes axillary clusters of 10-15 or more, from midwinter to early spring. These are followed by fleshy, spherical red fruit.

The hardiness varies as well as the leaf retention, flowering period and shade tolerance.

Daphnes grow well in borders or in woodland settings and once planted do not like to be moved. They will also perform well in containers. To gain the maximum pleasure from growing daphnes, plant them near paths and buildings where both the sight and scent of their flowers can be easily admired and appreciated.

The inner bark of the daphne can be used to make good quality paper, and rope. All parts of the plant are poisonous and skin contact with the sap can cause dermatitis in some people.


Daphne prefers a cool lime-free well-drained sandy loam and a sunny position.

It succeeds in neutral soils and tolerates partial shade. Some species also succeed in quite deep shade. At least some forms, especially the sub-species D. bholua var. glacialis tolerate alkaline soils. It flowers well when grown in dry shade, and likes plenty of moisture in the growing season.

It grows well in urban areas, tolerating the atmospheric pollution. Plants are resentful of root disturbance and should be planted into their permanent positions as soon as possible. Keep pruning to a minimum.

Aphids, leaf spot, grey mould (Botrytis) and viruses may be a problem.

Photo credit:

We love – dahlias!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 13 March 2011

We love their exuberance, their beautiful colours and their form.  If you haven’t yet switched on to dahlias, do it now, I’m sure you won’t regret it!

  • Plant dahlia tubers (or cuttings) in March or early April, in a generous pot.  Plant the tuber stem upwards, 5cm deep, in a light, frost-free place.
  • Alternatively, plant out tubers in the ground after mid-April 5cm below soil level, when danger of frost has passed.
  • Plant dahlias in a free-draining, open, sunny site, avoiding overhanging trees.
  • Add plenty of organic matter and apply bonemeal to the top 5cm
  • Use good quality stakes – one per plant – canes are too weak.  Tie in plants loosely as they grow.
  • Watch out for slugs, snails, aphids and earwigs.  Upturned flower pots , filled with straw and placed on top of the stake will attract earwigs.  Empty out every few days away from the plants.
  • Remove dead flowers to encourage further flowering and mulch around the plant (spent flower buds are pointed, new flower buds are rounded).
  • Lift tubers at the end of the season when frost has blackened the foliage.
  • Store in a frost-free environment in sand or dry compost.
  • By late February remove from storage and pot off to start into growth for cuttings.

On Friday 18 March, we’re opening The Garden House garden for the afternoon. Drop by for seasonal advice, buy plants and seeds – and we’ll have useful handouts to take away with you.

At 3.30pm we’ll be holding a FREE workshop on dahlias and how to look after them.

Also selling the following fabulous varieties:

  • Rip City
  • Karma Noir
  • Bishop of Lancaster
  • Chat Noir
  • Klondyke
  • Downham Royal
  • Red Cap
  • Nuit d’Ete
  • Café au Lait
  • Arabian Night

Bring a friend and enjoy tea or coffee and homemade cake.  The open afternoon starts at 3pm and finishes at approx. 6pm.  We look forward to meeting you!

We love poultry!

Posted by editor on Thursday, 10 March 2011

You know how it is – you buy a Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ only to discover it’s a common-or-garden pink variety, or you plant a bed with Tulipa “Spring Green’ aiming for a delicate look, only to discover the labels must have got mixed, and it’s stunning, but totally inappropriate, Queen of the Night that are popping up everywhere!

Or indeed, you rear a batch of chicks in your urban garden expecting hens – and what do you get, a flashy, noisy gorgeous cockerel! We all love him, but sadly the neighbours feel less enamoured.

Although The Garden House garden is large, it is nonetheless in central Brighton surrounded by neighbours and friends who understandably need their beauty sleep and like to enjoy peaceful afternoons in their gardens.  So he had to go!

Here he is saying goodbye to Bridgette’s dad.  We think they look fine together.  You’ll be happy to know our fine cockerel is now happily ensconced in more rural surroundings joining the hens owned by local hen keeper Kerry Chilcot.

On Saturday 12 March at The Garden House we’ll be exploring the possibility of hen keeping in smaller urban gardens. Kerry will be leading our one-day theory and hands-on workshop – and discussing suitable breeds, housing and how to keep foxes and other pests at bay. There are so many benefits to be had – hen keeping can reduce your waste, provide rich manure for the garden, give great pleasure and a huge amount of fun – and of course, provide eggs for friends and family!

Seed Bomb Making!

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 1 March 2011

According to global news agency Reuters you can “Forget potted plants and privet hedges; a group of Buenos Aires artists want to make the Argentine capital a free-for-all kitchen garden, turning neglected parks and verges into verdant vegetable patches. Following in the footsteps of “guerrilla gardeners” who have been scattering flower seeds in vacant lots and roadsides in cities such as London and New York since the 1970s, the Articultores group is taking the concept a step further. Armed with vegetable seedlings and seed bombs — seeds packed with mud for throwing into neglected urban spaces, their goal is to provide organic food for city residents.”

Well if Brazil can do it, so can Brighton (and Hove, or wherever)!  Join our Seed Bomb Workshop – on Saturday 26 March – and make seed bombs and seed smudges with Josie Jeffery, followed by a local mapped distribution walk.

Josie runs ‘seed freedom’ – – she recently published a book Seedbombs: Going Wild with Flowers (recently recommended by Alys Fowler in Gardens Illustrated magazine!) – and we love her enthusiasm for spreading the ecological word!

Take a wildflower seed mixture, glued together with a special mud mix, pressed and made into a ball ready to throw into a neglected area of your garden, allotment or urban corner.  There’s no need to even dig a hole – with very little effort you can beautify almost any abandoned or seemingly inhospitable site.

Flowers grown from germinated seed bombs also encourage bees into these areas, and by encouraging more bees to our urban streets and gardens they will also be available to pollinate our food crops.

Join us, it’ll be a lot of fun – and you’ll be enhancing your environment at the same time! Check DIARY on this website for more info.