The Garden’s Looking Glorious!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 16 April 2017

Come and visit The Garden House – we are opening for the NGS (National Garden Scheme) on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th April.   It’s a wonderful time of year to visit our garden, the tulips are looking glorious and there are so many late spring flowering plants well underway. Come and see for yourselves what flowers, vegetables and fruit we’re growing and see the progress that we have made in the garden over the past year. Plus the newly restored and replanted pond is look fabulous!

All over the country, almost 4,000 gardens will be opening under the NGS Yellow Book scheme raising money for a number of nursing and caring charities.

We will have plants, seeds and homemade treats for sale. Plus, as always, an excellent range of delicious homemade cakes and refreshments!

Open: Saturday 29 & Sunday 30 April – 11am to 4pm – entrance £3.50 (children free) – come with a friend!

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

We’re so pleased with our newly restored pond!

Another Garden House outing to consider is our day trip and picnic on 8th June, visiting Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plant Nursery and Bere Mill Farm garden.

Having had Rosy Hardy come here to the Garden House several times and give brilliant talks about plants we are delighted to at last be visiting her fabulous nursery.  Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants is a small family run independent nursery based in Hampshire,, and they grow a wide range of home produced herbaceous perennials.  Do have a look at their website for the fabulous array of unusual cultivars of well-loved plants.

We are also visiting Bere Mill Farm (, an eighteenth century water mill, which is close to Rosy’s nursery and recommended by her as a wonderful garden to see.

Cost: £68 to include coach travel and lunch.  BOOK ONLINE NOW. If you are unable to pay online, please contact us to find out about alternative ways of paying.

Location: Leaving 9am from The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT

The Much Maligned Bergenia!

Posted by editor on Saturday, 8 April 2017

Here at The Garden House we love bergenias, although in some quarters they are considered rather ‘old-fashioned’ and even boring! As you may know we are planning an exciting trip to the gardens of Norfolk and on our way back we’ll be dropping in to the marvellous Beth Chatto gardens in Essex. (Garden House visit to Norfolk 14-16 June)

So bringing the two together – Beth Chatto and bergenias! – we noticed this charming  and informative blog post on the Beth Chatto website, see below. Hopefully they will not mind us reproducing part of it – CLICK HERE to read the rest!

Bergenia, Beth Chatto’s Garden…

Indispensable elephant’s ears, bergenia

Elephant’s ears, bergenia are one of the most indispensable and widely used evergreen plants here in Beth Chatto’s garden but there are few plants that seem to provoke such polarising views amongst our visitors.

Unfortunately, the genus does suffer from the fact that many people consider them untidy, rather boring and a perfect home for slugs and snails.

Very often seen in large sprawling mats of creeping rhizomes and fitting of this such bad press perfectly is Bergenia x schmidtii, which has no winter foliage colour to speak of and flowers so early in the year that it is often damaged by inevitable frosts. 

Bergenia, Beth Chatto’s Garden…

Elephant’s ears, Beth and Christo

With a natural instinct to support the underdog, I consider it my duty to inspire the sceptic gardener to look favourably upon the humble elephant’s ear and what better way to start than remind ourselves it was this very subject that proved to be the catalyst for the friendship between Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd, the owner of Great Dixter in Sussex. The heavy soil and enclosed, dense style of the planting at Great Dixter is not ideally suited to growing bergenia. Consequently, Christo, in his classic book “The Well-Tempered Garden” had little time for bergenias, a view to which Beth felt obliged to pen a letter in their defence. Christo replied, inviting her to “come for lunch” and so began a mutual friendship based on similar values and interests but above all on a shared passion for plants.

So often consigned to dark, shady areas, where they grow but will never give of their best, as they really do need the opposite, maximum light and exposure in order to colour well in the winter and we find they grow best in open areas on our poorer, drier soils where they form an essential feature of our drought resistant Gravel Garden. They really are the hosta of the dry garden, giving us the large bold leaf so desperately needed for contrast with plants such as thin-leaved grasses, lacy silver foliage plants or spiky plants. All adapted to survive dry conditions to which the leathery elephant’s ears are a perfect foil.

Bergenia, Beth Chatto’s Garden…

Bergenia, The Garden House garden…





Josef Frank: Patterns, Furniture, Painting

Posted by editor on Friday, 24 March 2017

You still have time to catch this exciting and vibrant exhibition – it’s on until 7 May 2017, at the Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey Street, London. We loved it, such a fresh and exuberant approach to furnishings, and all inspired by Josef Frank’s many wonderful drawings and watercolours.

This is the first-ever UK exhibition of the textile world of Josef Frank (1885-1967) who designed the most extraordinary and creative prints most of which are based on fantasised flower and plant forms.

The Austrian-born architect moved to Sweden in 1933, where he developed his colourful brand of modernism, working with Estrid Ericson on furniture, glassware, lighting and interior design ideas. Together they redefined what is regarded as Swedish Modern. The exhibition, in association with Millesgården Stockholm, highlights Frank’s vibrant fabric designs for Swedish textile manufacturer Svenskt Tenn alongside a number of his previously unknown watercolours.




Coastal and Mediterranean Gardening

Posted by editor on Thursday, 16 March 2017

Being Brighton gardeners we’re very conscious of the challenges that face those of us with exposed or  southern coastal gardens. A year or two back we visited the amazing Ventnor Botanic Gardens on the Isle of Wight and met Irene Fletcher who worked at the Ventnor Botanic Gardens and who, over the years, has designed and made a number of coastal gardens on the Isle of Wight and in Sussex.

We thought that now might be a useful time to recap on her advice. At the time Irene showed us many slides depicting everything possible for coastal growing from low spreading succulents to fluffy acacias and epic echiums – she also had a few useful pictures of planting that didn’t work in exposed and chalky sites.

Valerian (centranthus ruber)

Ventnor Botanic Gardens has a stunning Mediterranean garden built on terraces where the soil had earlier been removed to make beds elsewhere in the gardens. Plants there grow in very free-draining chalk and rubble, and are planted to show how they thrive naturally in the wild rather than purely for decoration. The garden has a shelter belt of trees and hedges and is backed by higher ground so has its own microclimate, even within the mildness and optimum light levels of the Isle of Wight.

Irene identified the main characteristics that protect plants from the desiccating effects of sun and salt winds:

*      narrow leaves

*      with waxy or farinaceous layers

*      perhaps covered in tiny white hairs that trap salt

*      white surfaces to reflect the sun and prevent burning

*      aromatic – containing volatile oils that help stop the leaves shrivelling and being eaten

*      flexible stems that bend rather than snap in strong winds

*      shrubs typically have secondary buds in the leaf axil so that if the first set of leaves are damaged others grow readily all along the stems

*      tubular flowers protect the pollen

*      other flower forms may look flimsy, but they are rapidly replaced over a long season to give the plants a good chance of setting seed.

We learnt that salt spray can travel up to 10 miles inland in very windy weather (!) and, settling on leaves, draws out the moisture (reverse osmosis) leading to brown marks and shrivelling.

Yellow horned poppy (glaucium flavum)

Another good tip was that small species tulips from Greece and Turkey, and gladiolus byzantinus, are suited to dry baking sites, unlike our native bulbs. Also, plant Mediterranean herbs like lavender and rosemary in the spring as they do not like to start with their roots in cold or winter wet. All the plants Irene mentioned do better on poor well-drained conditions and may be short-lived if your soil is too well-nurtured. They include many of the native species that thrive and self-seed along the south coast in shingle beaches or chalk cliffs – horned poppy (glaucium flavum), hardy annual poppies, wild thyme, wild carrot, sea cabbage, valerian (centranthus ruber) – as well as more unusual ones from New Zealand and South Africa as well as all around the Mediterranean.

I went away with pages of plant names, many of which I realise are the ones that do best in my garden, so instead of finding them a bit too reliable and boring I am going to treasure them!

Words: by Julia Widdows


March gem: Iris unguicularis

Posted by editor on Sunday, 5 March 2017

Our lead picture was taken today but this lovely miniature iris has been in flower for about a month now.  What a favourite this little gem is!

There are many types of Iris, rhizomatous or bulbous perennials, all with narrow leaves and erect stems bearing flowers – and wonderfully, you can have an iris in flower in late winter, spring or early summer.

Iris unguicularis, often called the Algerian winter iris, flowers in late winter.  It is a vigorous evergreen rhizomatous perennial to 30cm in height, with copious dark green leaves and very fragrant, deep violet flowers 5-8cm in width, the falls marked with white and deep yellow at the base.

It has been given the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS, meaning it has done consistently well in growing trials – and is a real beauty to find flowering in these recent very cold days.

Growing conditions:

  • Requires full sun and can cope with a south-facing, east-facing or west-facing situation but likes the shelter of a sunny wall
  • Suggested planting locations include banks and slopes, city or courtyard gardens, coastal, cottage or informal gardens.  It also grows well in flower borders and beds, making a delightful cut flower.  Patio and container plants or wall-side borders
  • Grow in well-drained or sharply drained neutral or slightly alkaline soil
  • Propagate by division from midsummer to early autumn, plant immediately in flowering positions
  • Comb out the old leaves with a hand fork to expose the flowers
  • Cut back after flowering