Posted by editor on Sunday, 19 May 2013
Columbines (Aquilegia) are members of the buttercup family; perennial wildflowers whose native habitat ranges from the woodlands of North America, Europe and Siberia to the mountains of China.
There are at least seventy species of Aquilegia, including Britain’s native Aquilegia vulgaris. When grown together most can form hybrids, producing a bewildering range of horticultural hybrid varieties of uncertain parentage that go under the general name of Aquilegia x hybrida.
Clump-forming herbaceous perennials with long-stalked, ternately divided basal leaves and erect, leafy stems bearing bell-shaped flowers with spreading, coloured sepals and petals with spurs, on branched stems
Common names include granny’s nightcap, granny’s bonnet and dancing columbine. Names that happily reflect the sometimes garishly coloured hybrids – their delicately pleated flowers waving on tall, wire-thin stems, often with curled and elongated spurs.
Among our favourites are ‘Nivea’ and ‘Black Barlow’. ‘Nivea’ is pure white; an upright plant to 80cm, with divided, light green leaves and abundant, creamy-white flowers 5cm in width, with short, curled spurs. It comes true from seed, and looks lovely in small colonies. June-July. 76 cm.
By way of a complete contrast Barlow forms are like spiky pompoms and are actually a full double stellata form. These ancient forms have been cultivated for many centuries, and include Nora, Blue, Black, Purple, Christa, and Rose Barlows.
Black Barlow’ is a particular favourite – an upright perennial, with grey-green divided leaves and distinctive, pompon-like, deep purple flowers in early spring and summer. June-July. 90cm.
- South, North, east or West facing
- Exposed or sheltered
- Moist but well drained
- Neutral, acid or alkaline
- Loam, chalk, sand or clay
- Propogate by seed sown in pots in a cold frame as soon as seed is ripe or in spring
- They can also be propagated by division in spring but the plant will be slow to recover
Suggested planting locations and garden types
- Cottage/informal garden, flower borders and beds
- They make excellent cut flowers if picked when half open
Though all columbines want well-drained soil, other cultivation needs vary with variety. A. alpina (alpine) types, which grow in mountainside scree, prefer a rich, gritty soil. A. caerulea, which grow naturally on mountainsides and in arid landscapes, can survive in sandy, poor soil, though they thrive in garden loam with a little more water than their native habitat offers. Caerulea varieties tolerate more sun than our native A. canadensis, which is predominantly a woodland plant that likes dappled shade.
Posted by editor on Friday, 17 May 2013
While enjoying the sunshine and spring flowers there’s serious work to be done to get your garden ready for summer – and one of the main tasks on the to-do list is staking!
If you haven’t already done so, start staking and training your taller herbaceous plants. The vigorous growth of many perennials and climbers often needs a helping hand to prevent them flopping over, and putting plant supports in place early means that even the most obvious ones can be hidden by the foliage in just a few weeks.
Create nest-like supports for your larger herbaceous plants, as well as taller arches and wigwam structures for sweet peas, pumpkins, runner beans and gourds to scramble through! We love edging our beds with the smaller off-cuts too.
At the Garden House we use twiggy sticks (cuttings from your shrubs can be useful here), birch trimmings, straight hazel branches, bamboo canes or willow.
Most of our staking was done under the creative eye of Bea Andrews, ex-head gardener at Sarah Raven’s Perch Hill garden, who has a really natural way of staking plants. Her ideas for supports, both large and small, have given wonderful structure to the garden as you can see in our photos, as well as creating interest as the plants grow (that’s Bea in the grey hat!).
Posted by editor on Monday, 13 May 2013
Having invited several of the best Sussex nurseries along to bring along many of their wonderful and often ‘hard to get hold of’ plants – trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables and succulents – to The Garden House Plant Fair, we had our fingers crossed for clement weather.
Well, as is typical in spring, the weather was sunny, but at times also chilly and windy, with a bit of rain thrown in for luck! Fortunately gardeners are a hardy lot, and tempted by great plants, all manner of garden paraphernalia, beautiful woodblock prints, a plant swop – and the most delicious homemade food at the pop-up café! – we were happily inundated with visitors.
This was our opportunity to join in the spirit of the Brighton Festival and it was a wonderful weekend – our thanks to all the nurseries and exhibitors who took part and to all our helpers and friends.
Fiona Wemyss of Blue Leaf Plants in Kent (Garden House workshop on 7 June, see DIARY) www.blueleafplants.co.uk
Bruce Jordan of Big Plant Nursery near Steyning www.bigplantnursery.co.uk
Pauline and Paul McBride of Sussex Prairies (Garden House workshop on 28 Sept, see DIARY) www.sussexprairies.co.uk
Plantsman Paul Seabourne (will be selling plants again at the Garden House 29/30 June)
Deborah in charge at the very busy pop-up cafe!
Vicky watering in the greenhouse – packed with annuals and vegetable seedlings!
Posted by editor on Sunday, 5 May 2013
Next weekend we’re joining in the spirit of the Brighton Festival, but in a uniquely Garden House way! Visit us on 11 & 12 May, 11am-6pm, for a wonderful weekend of specialist plant buying.
We have invited many of the best Sussex nurseries to bring along many of their wonderful and often ‘hard to get hold of’ plants – trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables and succulents. This is the perfect time to top up and refresh your planting plans, and the growers will be on hand to offer their knowledgeable advice as to the selection of right plant, right place!
We also have a small selection of makers selling ironwork, plant supports, pots, restored garden tools and a variety of garden paraphernalia.
Plus a pop-up cafe selling delicious homemade food – and a plant swop – bring along a plant to exchange!
- Blueleaf plants – wonderful succulents
- Big Plants – exotics
- Garden House plants – shrubs, perennials and annuals
- Paul Seabourne – perennials and annuals
- Sussex Prairie – grasses and perennials
From left: Lorraine Philpot, Adele Scantlebury, Chris Burchell Collins
- Adele Scantlebury – woodblock prints
- Amanda Saurin – specially made Garden House soaps and scrubs
- Chris Burchell Collins – contemporary nature-influenced ironwork
- Deborah Goodwin – all manner of gifts and garden paraphernalia
- Ian Swain – beautifully restored tools and garden equipment
- Lorraine Philpot – naturalistic ironwork garden supports
Bring friends and family, and enjoy a great day out!
Location: The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT
Posted by editor on Monday, 29 April 2013
Spring is finally upon us – the rising sap is almost palpable throughout the garden as the buds start to open at last and reveal their bright green leaves or soft scented blossoms. The insects have become busy, seeking out food after the long winter and seeds have at last begun to germinate.
Plants to look out for at the moment in the garden are the delicate wild or species tulips – these always come back reliably and often self-seed throughout the beds. Next year they are going to be the ‘must haves’ when we look at the bulb catalogues!
These tulips may have smaller flowers but they are still among the best for value as many of them are reliably perennial in the garden – often spreading to form large displays. The earliest flowering species – Tulip humils and Tulipa turkestanica – start in late February whist Tulipa sprengeri is the last tulip to flower in late May.
Lamium orvala is another early spring favourite. It’s a wonderful plant with spikes of large, velvety purplish pink hooded flowers, like those of the wild dead nettle. Each whorl of flowers in divided by large, heart-shaped mid green leaves. A spring delight that thrives in part shade in well-drained soil and will give flowers through to June.
Prunus ‘Tai-Haku’, the most lovely of early flowering cherry trees has blossoms usually about 2in across that are at least double the size of the average cherry blossom – huge, pure white, straight-edged flowers. An ancient Japanese tree, sometimes called the great white cherry, it had become extinct in Japan, but has been revived from a single specimen found in a Sussex garden.
This tree grows well on chalk and has amazing autumn colour – it’s leaves turning yellow and orange. It is suitable for a smallish garden, although it’s spread is more than it’s height – and don’t plant too close to paving, cherries are shallow-rooting trees and will cause havoc with foundations and paths if planted too close. Suckers may form at the union with the grafted plant. These are clearly visible about 6in above the soil level and need to be removed.
Also out at the moment in The Garden House garden are clumps of pure white bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’; arching wands of Solomon’s seal; and, growing under trees, the bright blue flowers of Brunnera and Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’ (the best cultivar to my mind).
And finally the delightful Epimedium, which has the most delicate of flowers, visible high above the leaves of this aptly named ‘Bishop’s mitre’. Look closely at the flowers and you will then see why it is related to Berberis and Mahonia – strange but true!