Posts Tagged ‘Propagation’
Posted by editor on Saturday, 18 February 2012
Horticulture-speak can be a bit mystifying if you’re new to gardening and vegetable growing, so we thought we’d explain a few of the terms you’re most likely to come across:
Intercropping - This growing method is where quick maturing plants are grown in between long-term crops – for example sow a row of radishes next to your parsnips, lettuces or spring onions in between rows of brassicas.
Catch cropping - This is when a quickly maturing crop is grown in the interval between harvesting one main crop and sowing or planting another. Suitable plants for this would be spring onions, radishes and lettuces.
Cut and come again - A range of leafy vegetables can be grown as ‘cut and come again’. This term describes a method of harvesting the young leaves as-and-when when you need them. Harvesting little and often prevents plants from maturing and ensures several harvests of small, tender, mild-flavoured leaves over a long period of time. You can grow many of these all year round, although you may require a heated propagator, windowsill, greenhouse or polytunnel. I like to grow ‘cut and come again’ leaves in the greenhouse in the winter so that they are available if you want a quick bowl of salad.
Amaranth, basil, beetroot, chicory, coriander, chard, corn salad, dandelion, endive, komatsuma, land cress, leaf celery, lettuce, mizuna, mustard, pak choi, parsley, purslane, radicchio, red kale, rocket, sorrel and spinach are all suitable and you can mix these together and grow them in polystyrene boxes if you have seed left over from the summer.
Vegetables usually grown for their roots such as beetroot, radish and turnip also have leaves that are tasty when harvested young.
Cropping squares - This is a method used to grow sweet corn. As the plants are wind pollinated they should be grown in blocks rather than rows, 45cm (18in) apart each way.
Successional sowing - This is a way of avoiding gluts and shortages of produce. By planning and sowing seed little and often in batches, it is possible to ensure plants are ready to harvest in succession throughout the growing period. Quick-maturing vegetables, including carrots, French beans, peas, salads and spinach, are best sown regularly in small batches. This will produce a continuous, fresh supply of these crops. For plants that are prone to bolting, such as coriander, rocket and spinach, successional sowing is especially crucial.
You may choose to grow some longer-fruiting crops such as courgettes, cucumbers, runner beans and sweetcorn in two batches to ensure you have plants well into autumn. Choose a assortment of cultivars for nonstop cropping. Quick-maturing ones such as lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and carrot ‘Adelaide’ are ideal for successional sowings, but later-maturing, main-crop cultivars are also useful and, once mature, often remain in good condition for longer. Successional sowings are usually made at fortnightly intervals, but this may vary depending on environmental conditions. In practice, this means that lettuce may only need to be sown every three weeks in early spring, increasing to once a week in warm, and moist summer weather.
Plants that do not need to be successionally sown include those which produce fruits over a long period such as aubergines, peppers and tomatoes; those which store well, such as onions and pumpkins; and winter vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and leeks that need a long season to mature and can then be left in the ground to be picked in stages.
Earthing-up - The drawing up of soil around plants, usually with a draw hoe or drag fork. It is carried out on potato crops to prevent greening of tubers and blight infection; also used on brassicas to prevent wind-rock, on leeks and celery to blanch the stems, and in layering and stooling of fruit-tree rootstocks, to encourage the formation of roots on the earthed-up shoots.
Cloche - A low portable unit constructed of glass or rigid-plastic panes on a wire frame; used for the protection of plants and to advance growth. The term is also applied to plastic film stretched over wire hoops, a construction alternative known as a low continuous polythene tunnel.
Forcing - Forcing is a method by which a plant’s leafy growth, flowering or fruiting is speeded up using a change of temperature and exclusion of light to encourage or ‘force’ the plant into growth. In the case of rhubarb or chicory this entails covering the bulbs or crowns with a large pot, dustbin or decorative rhubarb forcer. Plug any holes to exclude light.
Commercial forcing is carried out in specially designed greenhouses or sheds, often with additional bottom heat. In the domestic garden forcing is usually improvised in greenhouses and frames, or achieved with the use of forcing pots to cover individual plants.
Specially prepared bulbs, such as hyacinths, can be forced to provide a steady supply of bulb flowers from late December through April. The bulbs must be planted and kept in a cold dark place until the first signs of growth.
Heeling in - If you don’t have time to plant your bare-rooted shrubs or trees immediately it is perfectly safe to ‘heel them in’ until you have time to deal with them. Remove any packaging and soak the roots of the plant in water for several hours, dig a trench that is deep and wide enough to accommodate the roots of the plant. After you dig the trench, lay the plant in the trench with the plant at an angle so that the canopy is just above the trench and the roots are in the trench. Fill in the trench and if necessary apply a mulch.
Soil improver - Any substance dug in to improve soil structure. This is generally organic matter, such as farmyard manure, garden compost, mushroom compost or leaf mould, but could be an inert substance such as lime or gypsum.
Posted by editor on Saturday, 15 October 2011
This has been a fantastic year for sweet peas, we’ve been picking them since the end of June and here we are in mid-October and there are still plenty left for a few bunches before we finally pull the plants out of the ground!
Now is also a really good time to start your next year’s sweet peas, so here is our growing guide:
- you could sow your seeds next March, however we prefer to sow anytime from October until Christmas, (growing sweet peas over winter will produce stronger, more robust plants)
- sow two seeds to a pot – we usually use card toilet-roll tubes or long thin pots as sweet-peas really like a long, cool root run (as do all plants in the Leguminaceae family)
- push seeds in to about 1” below the surface of multi-purpose compost and water in well
- you can cover them with newspaper to keep the light out – if you have a heated propagator this can speed up germination but we don’t usually bother – they always germinate really well with a bit of warmth, fingers crossed, from the sun at this time of year!
- mice love the seed and could easily eat your whole crop overnight (!), so if you’re troubled by mice we suggest you soak the seeds in liquid paraffin, or for a more organic solution use seaweed fertilizer or lay holly leaves on top of the pots
- check for germination every day. Once the seedlings appear, keep them cool at about 5 degrees centigrade – this promotes root and not stem growth. A cold greenhouse, or cold frame is ideal, but your plants will be fine in a light potting shed
- when there are three or four pairs of leaves, pinch out the leader (the growing tip) using your finger and thumb. This will reduce the height of the plant and encourage side shoots making the plant bushier.
- try not to molly-coddle your plants too much – growing them on ’hard’ will help them to be much tougher plants and will also be less susceptible to slug damage. Keep them in a cold frame, greenhouse or sheltered spot until next March when they can be planted out
We have some fantastic cultivars of sweet pea available at The Garden House, including L. Mattucana, the original sweet pea and quite special. Come along on Friday between 3pm and 6pm and we can show you how we grow ours.
Our sweet peas are £2.00 for 15 seeds. We also have the following varieties for sale:
Angela Ann – attractive almond pink sweet pea on a white back ground – it won the National Sweet Pea Societies Clay Cup in 1993.
Beaujolais – truly beautiful lightly scented flower with large rich deep burgundy maroon colour
Elizabeth Taylor – large, clear mauve flowers with wavy petals, heavily scented
Charlie’s Angel – outstanding blue overlaid lavender and very good for cutting. Large blooms and classic sweet-pea fragrance
Geranium Pink – slightly scented salmon pink blooms
Claire Elizabeth – relatively large, scented white flowers, slightly ruffed with pink edge picotee. Flowers age to darker shades.
Cupani - sometimes known as the original sweet pea, the oldest known sweet pea and is thought to have been sent to England in 1699 by Sicilian monk Francisco Cupani. Cupani still bears it’s original characteristics of delicate bicolour blooms and intense perfume
Diamond Jubilee –pure white flowers grown in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Come over to The Garden House on Friday, 3-6pm, and find out more!
Location: The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT.
Posted by editor on Monday, 10 October 2011
Autumn sowing is suitable for hardy annuals (plants which are sown and flower and die in one year). Some of these annuals can be sown directly in the ground, and will withstand most frosts. Others are not quite so robust – they can be direct sown, but covered with cloches or horticultural fleece when frost is forecast. Alternatively, they can be sown in pots and kept frost-free over winter.
The benefit of sowing in autumn, and not spring, is that you’ll have a much earlier flowering display. At The Garden House we sow ours over the next couple of weeks in cell trays and leave them in the greenhouse until they have germinated. When they are big enough, about 5cm, transfer them to individual pots such as 7cm square pots and then leave them outside all winter – if really bad weather is forecast we put them in a cold frame or back in the greenhouse.
This way you get really hardy plants that flower for months on end. We plant them out in March. Ten plants in each variety you choose is enough for most gardens, but sow fifteen of each in case you lose any over winter!
We’re selling hardy annual seeds at The Garden House – do come along any Friday afternoon to buy seeds or plants or for advice about growing hardy annuals. Spend time looking at our books for inspiration, and enjoy a cup of tea and some homemade cake!
To Autumn by John Keats
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Posted by editor on Sunday, 12 June 2011
At The Garden House we have a variety of geraniums in bloom, many looking fantastic and coping well with the drought – one of them is a favourite, Geranium ‘Orion’. It is planted prominently in our herbaceous beds, its striking violet-blue flowers really stand out, supporting the gorgeous roses (especially wonderful next to Rosa mundi) and other herbaceous perennials. What a special and easy plant, it flowers superbly all summer long…
Common name: Cranesbill ‘Orion’
Cranesbills, Geranium, comprise a genus of around 300 species of annuals, biennials and herbaceous, semi-evergreen, sometimes tuberous perennials. They are sometimes confused with the genus Pelargonium, commonly, though mistakenly, known as geranium.
Herbaceous perennial: Fully hardy, it is in the Pratense group of hardy geraniums.
This stunning cultivar has attractive, highly dissected leaves (medium green, slightly hairy with paler more hairy reverse) that almost disappear from sight when the plant is in full bloom.
It bears large violet-blue flowers up to 5cm (2in) across, with fine dark red veins with white at the centre. It starts flowering in May and can go on until the autumn.
Height & spread: 80cm (31in) high x 170cm (67in)
Soil: Fertile, well-drained to moist
Aspect: Full sun or partial shade. Cranesbills are found in all except very wet habitats in temperate regions. They are generally easy to grow. Compact perennials, to about 15cm tall, are good for a rock garden; trailing, spreading or mat-forming plants are effective as ground cover in a woodland or wild garden. Taller, clump-forming species and hybrids are suitable for a border or among shrubs.
- Perfect for underplanting roses or filling the front of a border, coping well in full sun or partial shade.
- Water freely in the growing season. This plant is fast-growing and will benefit from a late summer chop to tidy up its habit and encourage production of fresh foliage and extended flowering.
- Plants may be damaged by vine weevil and sawfly larvae, slugs and snails. In dry conditions powdery mildew may be a problem.
- By seed – sow in containers outdoors as soon as ripe or in spring.
- Lift and divide large colonies in spring.
It has deservedly received the Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Posted by editor on Sunday, 24 April 2011
Some bulbs, like daffodils and jonquils, are fine to leave in the ground season after season. However tulips are best dug up and left to dry out. Some tulip bulbs are not winter hardy, hence in cold climates those bulbs should be lifted and stored to be used the next season.
After flowers have finished, cut off the spent flower stems but do not cut back the foliage. Ideally leave in the ground for 2-3 weeks as the period of time after blooming is when tulips use energy to build strong bulbs for next year’s blooms. If you cut off the leaves before they died down naturally, the bulb will not have the reserves to grow and flower the following season. Tulips, unlike daffodils, do not require foliar feed in order to build up the bulb.
With a garden fork carefully prise them from the soil. All physically damaged bulbs should be discarded.
Wash any remaining soil off the bulb and then place as a single layer in a basket or tray that has enough air move through it. The bulbs can also be stored in a paper bag. Carefully label each bag or tray especially if you have different varieties.
Store in a dark, cool and dry place that is well ventilated. Make sure that the temperature is constant. Check regularly and remove any bulbs showing signs of mildew or rotting. Shaking the bulbs in a plastic sack with a little fungicide is a good measure of prevention.
Store until autumn when you can begin to divide the bulbs and replant. The best way to nourish your tulips is to lay down a top dressing of bone meal in the autumn to enrich the soil.
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.
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
- 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!
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’ – www.seedfreedom.net - 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.
Posted by editor on Sunday, 30 January 2011
Seedy Sunday celebrates its 10-year anniversary – 10 years of swopping seeds, hunting down disappearing or heritage varieties of flowering plants and vegetables. It is the UK’s biggest community seed swap.
Seeds are provided by the people who have grown them – volunteers and other gardeners donate saved seeds which are bagged up before the event – the seeds come in all shapes and sizes, often with stories attached!
Open-pollinated, ‘heritage’ varieties are often no longer commercially available, but are naturally well adapted to local growing conditions – as well as being tasty and colourful. At the seed swap, experienced local growers are on hand to advise on the practicalities of seed saving and growing from seed, and there are films, displays and talks to inspire you to go home and get growing.
Also on offer – seed potatoes to info on recycling and wildlife, plants and bulbs – make this an ideal kick-start to spring!
And The Garden House will be there too, with seeds, bulbs and some wonderful dahlia varieties!
For more information on the Seedy Sunday campaign, go to www.seedysunday.org
Venue: Hove Centre, Hove Town Hall, Norton Road, Hove, E. Sussex / 10am-4.30pm / £2 entrance
Posted by editor on Sunday, 2 January 2011
Galanthus is a small genus of about 19 species of bulb commonly found throughout Europe and western Asia in upland woodland and rocky sites. Galanthus bloom mainly from late winter to mid-spring, though in their natural habitat they often flower just as the snow is starting to melt.
The name Galanthus is derived from the Greek words gala, meaning milk, and anthos, meaning flower, in allusion to the colour of the flowers. The plants are more commonly known as ‘snowdrops’, from the German Schneetropfen – this common name refers to a style of earring popular in the 16th and 17th centuries in Germany.
One of the best and boldest of the snowdrops, with rounded bell-shaped scented flowers, is variety ‘S.Arnott’ – a favourite of ours!
- Family: Amaryllidaceae
- Height & spread: 15cm (6in) x 8cm (3in)
- Form: Bulbous perennial
- Soil: Moist but well-drained, moderately fertile
- Aspect: Cool shade
- Hardiness: Fully hardy
This snowdrop is vigorous, with narrow, grey-green leaves 7-16cm (3-6in) long. It has large white flowers, which have an inverted V-shaped green mark at the tip of each inner tepal. They are 2.5-3.5cm (1-1.5in) long, strongly honey-scented and are produced in winter and early spring. They look wonderful planted with dark-leaved plants, like Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ or with bright yellow winter aconites, or carpeting the woodland floor under a flowering witch hazel.
Cultivation: Snowdrops grow well in cool shade in any humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil that does not dry out in summer.
They are prone to narcissus bulb fly, which will tunnel into the bulbs and destroy them, and also grey mould (botrytis), which will appear on the leaves but then rot the bulbs.
Propagation: Sow seed as soon as ripe in containers in an open frame, though as Galanthus species readily hybridise the seed may not come true.
Propagate by twin scaling in summer. With this technique a bulb is cut into pairs of scales, each of which produces bulblets.
Lift and divide clumps of Galanthus “in the green”, as soon as the leaves begin to die back after flowering. Replant each bulb individually, at the same level as before, in holes sufficiently wide to spread out the roots.
When all else is bare, it lifts the spirits when you spot patches of snowdrops appearing under shrubs and trees…
If you want to see many, many varieties of Galanthus growing wild (including many rare varieties) – join us on 12 February for an early spring visit to the stunning gardens of Anglesey Abbey. Truly a garden for all seasons – but particularly beautiful in February when it is at it’s most spectacular, and drifts of white snowdrops and yellow aconites add colour to the frosty landscape (details in the DIARY on this website)…
Posted by editor on Sunday, 26 December 2010
“No passionate gardener, even though distracted by the prospect of Christmas family gatherings, will have their minds totally divorced from what’s going on out there. Where shall they get their inspiration? Of course, we rely on the successes of others – I do that myself – yet what we are offered of a practical nature is minimal. So, the actual practice of gardening (taking cuttings, how to dig, how to prune, and suchlike) becomes increasingly neglected. If teachers themselves are uninterested in practice, there will soon be no one to teach the skills required for good hands-on gardening, and they will atrophy and be lost.
There is, thank goodness, a public demand for these skills, yet the actual demonstration of them (in contrast to books about them, which are never so immediate), and the opportunity to try them out for oneself, is increasingly rare.
…when meeting examples of the new generation, I am sometimes enormously encouraged. Genius and inspiration are inevitably in short supply, but those who have it keep coming along. Some are passionate about plants from the start.
…but there are others, scarcely less valuable, who, having started off in the wrong direction and decided that the rat race is not for them, switch careers (at considerable material deprivation to themselves) and become passionate gardeners and careerists in gardening, when verging on middle age. They bring to gardening an unstoppable dense of direction, intelligently applied. And they keep coming along.
But the hands-on skills still need cherishing, their value recognised and rewarded as they deserve.” Taken from Christopher Lloyd’s book Cuttings (a wonderful book – a favourite of ours – full of musings, knowledge and marvellous insights into gardening at Great Dixter).
We at The Garden House wholeheartedly agree with Christopher Lloyd’s thinking – and will be running several courses in 2011 that teach practical gardening – fun, inspiring, hands-on and rich in horticultural knowledge!
- Second Time Gardener 8-week course; starts 2 February
- Garden DIY Workshop; 5 February
- Garden Design with Peter Thurman; starts 7 February
- First Time Gardener 10-week course; starts 21 March
- Growing Vegetables 6-week course; starts 30 March
And there will be more hands-on courses and workshops throughout the year - check in DIARY for more details!
Posted by editor on Friday, 10 December 2010
There are many shrubs that will add colour through these darker winter months, including dogwoods (Cornus) which, if pruned hard in the spring, produce fantastically coloured young stems the following winter as the leaves fall.
A great choice is Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ which has rich orange, red and yellow stems and forms a thick, suckering shrub. This cultivar looks really vibrant wonderful on a clear sunny day.
- Common name: Common dogwood, common cornel
- Family: Cornaceae
- Height & spread: Up to 1.5m x 0.8m
- Form: Upright deciduous shrub
- Soil: Tolerates a wide range of soils and locations, but prefers moist soil
- Aspect: Full sun for best winter stem colour
- Hardiness: Fully hardy to -15˚C (5F)
It is a very robust shrub that spreads by suckering to fill spaces. Its winter colour is shown to greatest effect when grown in front of a dark background, also when grown with other colourful dogwoods with contrasting stem colours.
The young stems are a brilliant orange-yellow from autumn through to spring, with red tints on the sunnier sides of the stems. As the new leaves appear, the stems turn a yellow-green, bearing bright green leaves that can turn a brilliant yellow in autumn. White flowers, borne in dense flat cymes, are produced in summer followed by dull blue-black fruit.
Cultivation: Will grow in a wide range of soils and locations, but will give the best winter stem colour if grown in full sun. It is ideal for growing alongside a pond or stream as it prefers moister soils.
To maintain good winter stem colour, Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ should be pruned down to 2-3 buds above the base in spring. To maintain a good framework only a third of the stems should be pruned each year, and these should be the oldest stems each time.
Propagation: Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ is ideal for taking hardwood cuttings from in autumn.
To see this amazing plant in all its glory join us for our visit to Anglesey Abbey in February – see DIARY on this website for more info.
Posted by editor on Sunday, 26 September 2010
We love autumn! It’s always hard to choose between the joy of new growth in spring, the pleasure of a warm summer (if we’re lucky!), and the season of greatest change – autumn…
Autumn smells different, it looks stunning (I’m thinking the drama of leaf colour change), and it’s time for wrapping up warm and putting the garden to bed. But of course, nothing stops, we’re also thinking ahead – forcing bulbs to flower at Christmas, propagating our favourite plants, sowing hardy annuals, and planting bulbs and new plants whilst the soil is still warm.
At The Garden House we have some great autumn workshops and visits coming up.
On Wednesday 20 October, a visit by coach to Sheffield Park and Garden to savor the stunning colour change as the many rare trees and shrubs turn yellow, gold and red…(10am to 3pm / £25 pp for National Trust members and £34 pp for non-NT members).
Then on Friday 22 October we have two events:
- Firstly, The Garden House will be open from 3pm to 6pm. Do come along with a friend – we’re offering FREE demonstrations on seasonal tasks like propagation and bulb-planting, with useful hand-outs to take away with you – and we’ll have a variety of bulbs for sale, also tea or coffee and homemade cake for sale (£4.50 pp).
- Following that, in the evening, one of our favourite local artists, Jo Sweeting, is holding a pumpkin carving workshop (6.30pm-9.15pm / £42 pp, or £40 each for two people booking together – supper and wine included). This will be a brilliant evening – Jo is an amazing sculptor, working more typically in stone – and her carved pumpkins are just so different and inspiring!
All the details of these and other great autumn/winter workshops and courses are in our DIARY…check it out!
Posted by editor on Monday, 24 May 2010
This excerpt from the late Geoffrey Smith’s Easy Plants for Difficult Places (David & Charles 1967) is featured in Garden Wisdom by Leslie Geddes-Brown, a wonderful compilation of writings by many of Britain’s best admired and loved garden professionals:
“Of all this beautiful genus, Paeonia mlokosewitschii is my particular favourite. Not only is it the first to flower in this garden, but from the glaucous-green leaves to the primrose-yellow flowers, 5-6″ across, it is a breathtaking sight when in full bloom. Compared to the species already described this is a dwarf, only 15-18″ high. The flowers appear in May, rather than later in other more sheltered gardens. Propagation, as with other species, is by seed. A word of warning when sowing seed of any peony, make certain the mice cannot gain access to them or nothing will be left but empty husks.”
Geoffrey Smith (1928-2009)
Posted by editor on Monday, 19 April 2010
We’re very excited to tell you about The Garden House Plant School. For the first time, we’ve created a course designed specifically to help you further develop your knowledge of plants and their families.
The course starts on Weds 9 June, and runs over six Wednesday evenings, from 6.30 to 9.00pm.
This will also be a very special opportunity to talk with the experts! We have invited plant experts Graham Gough, Julie Hollobone and Peter Thurman to each lead one of the evenings as guest speaker.
Julie Hollobone – is assistant editor of Gardens Monthly, a horticultural lecturer and author of an excellent book on propagation, Propagation Techniques. Julie will start the course by reminding us how plants work, investigating several different plants from a botanical point of view, and identifying their characteristics to aid classification into plant families.
Peter Thurman – is a horticultural and arboricultural expert, who has used his knowledge of plants to create thrilling borders and garden designs. Peter will be talking about ‘designing with plants and planting plans’. (note our lead photo of his stunning Betula/Cornus border!).
Graham Gough – supported by his partner Lucy Goffin, Graham created the magical garden and nursery at Marchants Hardy Plants in Laughton, Sussex. He is a great speaker and hugely knowledgeable, and will talk about plants he couldn’t survive without! That evening will be spent at his nursery, where we can see his ‘can’t live without’ plants in situ.
The course will also focus on selecting plants for the appropriate site – in Beth Chatto’s words finding “the right plant for the right place” – and on how to use colour to its best advantage in the garden.
And finally there will be a session of exchanging information about plant families where each participant, having home-studied a plant family in depth, will share their knowledge with the group.
The course starts Weds 9 June and runs for a total of six weeks. The cost is £280 to include a light supper and glass of wine on each of the evenings.
This very special course is limited to eight people only, so please do book early. For more details and booking form, go to DIARY on this website.
Posted by editor on Wednesday, 14 April 2010
Pricking out seedlings, hardening off and sowing outdoors. There’s still time to sow more half-hardy annuals and vegetables. If you haven’t already, sow under glass courgettes, marrows, pumpkins, sweetcorn and greenhouse cucumbers. Outdoors, sow beetroot and turnips, peas and broad beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots and chard amongst others. Continue to sow lettuce and salad leaves.
Seeds sown a few weeks ago should be sprouting now and ready for pricking out.
- Fill a seed tray with moist John Innes No 1 potting compost or similar.
- Firm the soil then mark out planting holes with a pencil or dibber, approx 1-1-1/2” (2.5-3.5cms) apart each way.
- Gently ease out a small clump of seedlings, with some of their compost (a small plastic plant label is ideal for this delicate task). Hold each seedling by one of its leaves and tease it away from the others (never handle by the stem).
- Lower the individual seedlings into their planting holes and firm the compost around each. Take care not to damage the roots.
- Label, then water with a fine mist sprayer. Place out of direct sunlight for a day or two, then move into the light. Keep the compost moist, but not wet.
Once established – four to eight weeks after pricking out – harden off young plants.
- Move the tray or pot to a sheltered spot outdoors in fine weather, bringing back indoors at night.
- After a week or so, leave outside permanently, but protect from harsh weather and shelter at night.
- A cold frame is an ideal place to harden off young plants. For the first few days, open the frame slightly, during the day only. Increase ventilation gradually, until by late spring the cold frame is completely open.
All hardy annuals and most half-hardy annuals can be sown directly outdoors.
- Prepare the soil: In autumn, work in some compost or well-rotted manure. Come spring, as soon as the soil is reasonably dry, break up the soil further, sprinkle in a good general-purpose fertilizer, then rake thoroughly creating a fine, crumbly tilth.
- In dry weather moisten the soil a day or two before sowing, then again two or three days after sowing.
- Sowing in drills: Make shallow drills approx 1-1.5cms deep (for planting distances check the seed packet carefully). Sow thinly to avoid too much thinning later. Cover seeds by running the tip of the hoe along the ridge of the drill, then tamp down to lightly firm the soil.
- Once seedlings appear, start to thin out the weaker seedlings.
- Sowing in borders: Prepare a sketch plan of your desired layout, and mark out the sowing areas with a trail of sand or the edge of a hoe.
- Scatter seeds over the area, then rake over gently.
- As with sowing in drills, water the area in advance then again a few days after sowing if the weather remains very dry.
The Garden House sells many hardy and half-hardy seeds – see SHOP on this website for more details. Our seed packets are beautifully illustrated by Brighton illustrator Vicky Sharman – see PICTURES on this website to view the individual seed packets.
Posted by editor on Thursday, 8 April 2010
Simple, affordable and productive – now is the time to get seed sowing! The only successful means of propagating annual plants is from seed. Most perennials also grow well from seed, however cuttings or division are usually quicker methods of growing these plants.
Hardy annuals – amongst others consider Ammi majus, Cornflower Black Ball, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, Eschscholzia californica, Marigold Indian Prince, Nigella damascena ‘Miss Jekyll’ and Sweet Pea Matucana – these do not need heat, so a cold greenhouse is fine.
You can also sow Verbena bonariensis and Nicotiana mutabilis Marshmallow now, but only if you have a propagator or heated greenhouse as these need heat to germinate.
Half hardy annuals – like Cleome Helen Campbell, Sunflower Earthwalker, Cosmos Sensation Mixed, Erigeron karvinskianus and Zinnia Envy can also be sown now until early May.
And don’t forget salad seeds – fast growing and ideal for sowing every fortnight are Lettuce Freckles, Lettuce Marvel of Four Seasons, Lettuce Red Salad Bowl…
Raise seedlings indoors:
By sowing under cover in a cold greenhouse or on a warm window-sill, plants can be brought to flower a few weeks earlier.
- Scrub out your pots and seed trays and rinse thoroughly
- Use specially formulated seed compost (never use potting composts which contain fertilizer that might burn delicate seedling roots
- Sow seeds thinly over the surface – generally sow seeds at a depth equal to their thickness – very small seeds need only a fine covering of soil, larger seeds can be planted deeper
- Very small seeds can be mixed with a little sand before sowing – this makes them easier to see and spread evenly
- Sweet peas prefer minimal disturbance so we sow seeds singly in cardboard toilet roll ‘pots’ – once germinated and 4-5” tall, they can be planted outdoors in their toilet rolls – these soon disintegrate
- Water the compost from below, standing the tray in water until the surface of the compost appears wet, then remove the tray
- Don’t forget to label your seeds!
- Cover with glass or polythene (wipe daily to remove condensation), or newspaper (for warmth without the condensation)
- Stand container in a warm place (possibly an airing cupboard) checking daily until the first seed leaves appear, then remove the cover and move container into the light, maybe on a bright window-sill
- As soon as the first true leaves have developed, the seedlings are ready for pricking out
In a few days time, look out for our Sowing Seeds: Part 2 – pricking out seedlings, hardening off and sowing outdoors.
The Garden House sells packets of all the above seeds, and many more – see SHOP on this website for more details. Our seed packets are beautifully illustrated by Brighton illustrator and Garden House friend Vicky Sharman – see PICTURES on this website to view the individual seed packets.
Posted by editor on Wednesday, 10 March 2010
“Rushes are round, sedges have edges, and grasses are glorious”. So said expert grower Monica Lewis at last Saturday’s Garden House workshop!
Enthusiastic and hugely knowledgeable, Monica talked the group through the seemingly endless and largely irresistible variations. So, why grasses?
Grasses are versatile, an almost essential component in any modern planting scheme. They rustle delicately in the wind (the larger the leaf the more noise they make) and change colour according to season, light levels, sun and shade, rain or frost. They can be used as hedging, as low-level edging for pathways or beds – they can be planted as ribbons through beds to give visual continuity, or used to create a stunning backdrop for contrasting perennial planting. Some are evergreen, some deciduous. Many grow well in containers.
There are also annual grasses, easily grown from seed, which mix beautifully with hardy annuals in the cutting garden.
The last ten years has seen grasses return to fashion in a big way. Naturalistic prairie-style planting – developed in Germany, Holland (think Piet Oudolf) and North America – sees blocks of tall grasses and statuesque perennials mingled together to form flowing borders of late-flowering colour.
To see this style of planting at close-hand, visit the stunning 6-acre Sussex Prairie garden near Henfield, Sussex (featured on this website 24.11.2009). Here the large borders, planted by owners Paul and Pauline McBride, combine perennials with huge drifts of ornamental grasses, including varieties of Miscanthus, Panicums, Molinias, Sporobolis and Penisetum. For open days check www.sussexprairies.co.uk
Monica Lucas talks about ‘cool growers’ and ‘warm growers’. Cool growers flower in late spring and early summer (propagate in spring and autumn), whilst warm growers flower in summer and autumn, keeping most of their dried flowers all winter until broken down by the weather (propagate in spring and early summer).
In general grasses need a free-draining moisture-retentive soil – and whilst there are always exceptions to the ‘rules’, and many other options, Monica suggests the following:
- Koeleria glauca
- Melica ciliata
Grasses for clay:
- Calamagrostis x acutiflora cvs.
- Deschampsia caespitose cvs.
- Elymus glaucus
- Phalaris arundinaria cvs.
- Briza media
- Calamagrostis acutiflora Karl Foerster
- Calamagrostis brachytricha
- Carex (most cultivars)
- Deschampsia caespitose cvs.
- Hackenochloa macra cvs.
- Milium effusem aureum
- Miscanthus sinensis purpureus
- Molinia caerulea (all cultivars)
- Stipa arundinaria
Key learnings from the workshop:
- For long term container planting, use ½ John Innes soil-based potting compost No2, ½ soil-less compost, a good deal of ½” grit for drainage, and a controlled release fertilizer (such as Osmacote).
- Don’t over-feed (they won’t flower well) – grasses prefer a low-nitrogen soil – so go easy on the chicken pellets or manure, in preference use well-rotted garden compost.
- If you like a plant, but are unsure if it will grow on your soil, buy three and plant them in various locations in the garden. Wherever they grow best, transfer the others – they will have found their home!
- Propagation involves digging out the plant and setting to (carefully!) with a variety of knives, saws, or even an axe, to cut the root ball into small sections ready to pot up for a few weeks before planting out.
- Use a wide-toothed comb to ‘preen’ (not ‘prune’) evergreen grasses – combing out the dead stalks to clear space for new growth.
When pressed Monica told us her personal favourite is Miscanthus Nepalensis – common name: Himalayan fairy grass!
Posted by editor on Saturday, 13 February 2010
Now is just about the last opportunity you’ll have to take hardwood cuttings (it is preferable to start in November, but any time before the new spring leaves start to unfurl, is fine).
Today in The Garden House we were taking cuttings of Sambucus nigra, Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, Salix alba and winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum). Any of the tougher shrubs work well, including forsythia, buddleia, euonymus, kerria, hydrangea, rosemary, yew, willow, dogwoods, weigela, berberis and pyrancantha. Soft fruit bushes too, such as gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and whitecurrants – and some roses: Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, and certain shrub and patio roses.
So collect long straight stems, about pencil-width is ideal, and about 12-18” (30-45cms) long. Make a clean straight cut directly below a leaf node and a sloping cut about 8-10” (20-25cms) above it, cutting just above a leaf node. Snip off any small twiggy side-shoots.
You could dip the cutting into hormone rooting powder, but it’s not strictly necessary.
Plant your cuttings into ordinary garden soil or compost – either directly into a sheltered bed or border about 6” (15cms) apart, or into some fairly deep pots – plant deeply, so that only the top 1.5” (2.5cm) or so is left sticking out. Firm in.
Come late summer, when the cuttings have grown 4-6” (10-15cms) shoots, nip the growing tips out, to encourage bushy growth. Keep watered and leave undisturbed until this time next year, when you should dig them up and space out, or pot them up. Give them another 6 months to a year before planting in their final position.
What better way than to grow your own shrubs as gifts, or for plant sales – it couldn’t be easier – this is also a great way to produce plants in bulk if you want to create a new hedge!
Posted by editor on Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Allotments are not only functional places to grow vegetables, they are also peaceful havens in which you can relax, meet friends and exchange produce and tips.
Bridgette Saunders is an experienced horticulturalist, planstwoman and lecturer. She runs courses on allotment gardening from her home in Brighton and teaches at City College, Brighton and Hove, where she enjoys inspiring her students to grow a variety of plants, both edible and ornamental.
Bridgette’s book Allotment Gardening, published this month, deals with all aspects of the allotment ‘experience’. How to plan and design your allotment, whatever its size and aspect; considering the soil quality; what fruit, vegetables and flowers to plant; how to tackle pests, diseases and predators; and most importantly, what to do when – the seasonal calendar.
The history of allotments is also covered: the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign during the war years, the subsequent decline of allotment-keeping in the 1960s and 70s, and the extraordinary rise in popularity in recent years.
Allotment Gardening is beautifully illustrated with photographs taken by Rhoda Nottridge.
Published: 22 October 2009
Publisher: The Crowood Press Ltd