Posts Tagged ‘We love…’

We love Asters: Late Summer Colour!

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 9 October 2018

This year’s extraordinary (maybe even becoming normal?) late summer sunshine reminds us that we can continue to enjoy colour in the garden well into October and even early November.

Here at The Garden House we have many late summer perennials still in bloom – Asters, Hardy Chrysanthemums, Japanese anemones, Crocosmias, Salvias, Penstemmon, Dahlias, Sedums and more – and annuals such as Cosmos, Persicaria orientalis, Cleome, Coreopsis and Ageratum are still enthusiastically flowering.

Many of these are in the hot colour spectrum, adding yet more fire to the Indian summer temperatures – pink, red, orange and yellows – and are perfectly supported by a variety of wonderful late summer grasses, such as miscanthus and panicum, which add structure and movement to mixed plantings.  Also the prettier softly tufted grasses such as Lagurus ovatus ‘Bunny’s Tails’ look great interplanted between annuals.

Shrubs such as Pyracantha, Cotoneaster and Cornus mas are also full of fiery coloured berries at the moment.


May favourite: Aquilegia vulgaris

Posted by editor on Saturday, 6 May 2017

Our garden is full of columbines (Aquilegia) this year – ‘dancing columbines’ as my grandmother used to call them.  We love their extraordinary shapes, bright and exotic colour – or even black as night colour!

I’m sure we will see plenty of Aquilegia on our day trip and picnic on 8th June, visiting Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plant Nursery and Bere Mill Farm garden. Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants is a small family run independent nursery based in Hampshire, where they grow a wide range of home produced herbaceous perennials.  

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.

Images: ‘Nivea’ image courtesy of / ‘Black Barlow’ image courtesy of

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

Antique Hunting for your Garden!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 26 February 2017

One of our favourite occupations – aside from gardening of course – is to explore ways to refresh the look of the garden by antique hunting, and early spring is the perfect time for giving your garden not just a planting makeover, but also a decorative one.

Be inspired by some of the items we spotted at one of last year’s fairs – whether you’re looking for some new ‘old’ seating, iron benches, garden memorabilia, statues, garden gnomes, or ornate French fountains – a visit this March to Ardingly Antiques Fair could be just the ticket.

Next fair: Tuesday 07 (£20 entrance) / Wednesday 08 (£5 entrance) March 2017

There’s free parking and hundreds of stands, both indoor and outdoor, and places to buy a casual lunch or beer.  It’s a huge area and you’ll want to explore every avenue, so wear comfortable shoes, and don’t forget to bring some sort of trolley or pull-along to carry your purchases!

South of England Showground, Ardingly, Nr Haywards Heath, West Sussex, SAT NAV – RH17 6TL

  • Tuesday: 9am – 5pm / £20 pp
  • Wednesday: 8am – 4pm / £5 pp (Tuesday ticket allows entry on Wednesday also)
  • Free car parking
  • Dogs are welcome on a short lead

We Love Asters in Autumn

Posted by editor on Saturday, 8 October 2016

At a time when many of the garden’s border plants are fading – early September to mid October – in the Garden House garden the many varieties of colourful asters are invaluable crowd pleasers!

Aster is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae.  Asters are easy to grow herbaceous perennials with daisy-like and abundant starry-shaped flower heads (in fact they get their name from the Latin word for “star”).

The flowers range from white and soft lavender-blue shades to crimson pinks and purples – and are much loved by bees and butterflies!  The plants can be tall and willowy or compact, ranging from 8 inches to 8 feet, depending on the type.



Among many Garden House favourites:

  • Aster x frikartil ‘Monch’ AGM – makes a tidy mound with lavender-blue semi-double flowers
  • Aster x cordifolius ‘Little Carlow’ AGM is bushy with abundant lavender-blue, yellow-centred daisies
  • Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’ has a more horizontal habit and very delicate white flowers with pink centres

You can find an aster for almost any garden and they have many uses, such as in containers, borders, rock gardens, or wildflower gardens.

  • Like full sun or part shade
  • Will tolerate any aspect, exposed or sheltered
  • Happy on most soils, ideally moist but well-drained
  • May need staking (pea sticks are ideal)
  • Cut back in late autumn
  • Pinch back the blooms early in the season to encourage side shoots
  • Or cut back by about one-third in July to keep the plant more compact
  • Propagate by division in spring for the best display of flowers

Local nursery specialists include Marchants Hardy Plants, Laughton, East Sussex BN8 6AJ

Woottons of Wenhasten also have a great selection available by mail-order



Mushrooms, Plant Fairs, GH Courses and all things October!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 12 October 2014

Well, we like to keep busy at The Garden House and the past few weeks have certainly been VERY busy (and highly enjoyable!).

Our Design Your Own Garden: 6-session course, started on 1 October.  The aim of this course is to give enthusiastic amateur designers and gardeners the basic skills, knowledge and confidence necessary to design or revamp their own gardens. Our two other autumn courses covering practical gardening skills are also underway – Gardening for Beginners and The Gardening Year. We’ll track all the activity over the next few weeks and keep you posted as to everyone’s progress!  (Photo below of last year’s students)

On the weekend of 4th/5th October Great Dixter was the ‘go to’ destination for dedicated plant lovers (and ourselves of course!) as this renowned Kent garden opened its doors for the fifth year to leading nursery men and women from across Europe and UK, under the watchful eye of Dixter’s head gardener Fergus Garrett. Among the specialist nurseries was De Hessenhof from Holland, and we were delighted to catch a talk given by De Hessenhof’s owner and nurseryman Hans Kramer, an expert on perennials (video below).

Then yesterday, Saturday 11 October, saw a group of us trekking through the very wet Sussex undergrowth with fungi and foraging expert Geoff Dann! Having primed us the week before with his fascinating talk, Mushroom Magic, held at The Garden House (3 October), Geoff – who is particularly knowledgeable on the more obscure edible species – was brilliant and inspiring, helping us find and identify as many species of fungi as possible, and chatting about fungi and wild food in general.

Finally, to tie-in with all our funghi-related activity, professional botanical art tutor Leigh Ann Gale is holding a one-day botanical illustration workshop tomorrow Monday 13 October with a special focus on illustrating mushrooms – can’t wait to see everyone’s efforts!

Phew, and we’re only half way through the month!

NOTE: we also found this ‘artist’s mushroom’ below – so called as it has a really hard surface and can be used to draw on (as the image from shows).


The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 21 September 2014

JOIN US for COFFEE on FRIDAY 26 SEPTEMBER! – Come to The Garden House and support the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, Macmillan Cancer Support’s biggest fundraising event, where donations on the day are made to Macmillan. In 2013 154,000 people signed up to coffee morning, raising a record £20 million for charity.

Have coffee and cakes with us, and bring your friends! There will be a variety of stalls selling refreshments, plants, jams and chutneys, mosaics and handcrafted and knitted items.  Open 11am to 3pm. Entry: £2 / children free.

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

We love Sempervivums: 10 Reasons Why!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 14 September 2014

At the Garden House we love Sempervivums (houseleeks). Here are 10 reasons why:

They are small. Basically, a Sempervivum is a rosette-shaped hardy perennial succulent about the size of a jammy dodger. (Actually, some are bigger than that – picture a blueberry muffin, even a choc chip cookie. You get the idea.) They can be grown – and will thrive – in the smallest clay pots. So if you only have a doorstep, balcony, or window ledge, as long as it’s sunny you can still grow lots of semps.

They are tough. Sempervivum means ever living. It’s not a cast-iron guarantee but unlike many other succulents semps are hardy. They do need protection from excessive winter wet – a good layer of grit, pushing it in under the collar of the rosette, helps – but mine live outside all year and come to little harm.

They are easy to grow. Give them a sunny spot and excellent drainage and that’s all they need. A compost mix of John Innes No 1 or 2 plus 25% grit is ideal. Plant nurseries may feed semps occasionally to bulk them up but it isn’t necessary. They thrive in poor conditions. S. tectorum is traditionally grown between roof tiles to keep them in place and ward off lightning (the latter unproven). You can plant them in poor dry garden soil at the edge of sunny borders or paths but make sure other plants do not spread over them.

They are pretty. Semps come in shades of pink, lilac, bright red, ruby, brown, grey, grey-green, blue, blue-green, jade and lime. Visit a specialist nursery or look on-line and you will see collections of semps like a selection box of chocolates or a display of fondants or pastel macaroons! And these are just the leaves, not the flowers, so you keep the colours all year round.

They hybridise readily. So if you become obsessed with this particular plant – easily done – you will find lots of varied forms to add to your collection. I have more than 50 in my tiny garden at home. There are about 40 different species, and hundreds of cultivars, some with very little to differentiate them (but that has never held back snowdrop enthusiasts.) Leaves may be matte, glossy, waxy, or covered with fine silvery hairs. S. arachnoideum and cultivars have white filaments like cobwebs across the centre of the rosettes. Some, like S. ‘Reinhard’, have dark-tipped leaves. S. ‘Kramer’s Spinrad’ is green with reddish flecks. Many seem to change colour according to growing conditions, light levels etc, so the same named form may look different at different times of the year or stage of growth. The varied colours make a great contrast either in groups of pots or in the same container.

They are easy to propagate. In fact, they do it themselves. Another common name for them is Hens-and-chickens. Each rosette produces small offsets that cluster tightly round the mother plant or reach out on fleshy extensions. These can be detached up and potted up separately – easiest if they are showing fine aerial roots. If you have top-dressed with grit they will root readily in this.

They are generous. Because of Point 6. above, you will always have more semps to swap, sell, donate, and generally spread the love. Although monocarpic – the central rosette throws up a flower stalk and then dies – with luck it will already have produced plenty of replacements. Remove the dead rosette and the baby plants will spread to fill the gap.

They are ideal for containers. As long as the container has good drainage and the soil is not too deep (put a thick layer of grit, crocks or polystyrene in the base) you can be very creative. Lots of inspiration is available in books and on-line. Sempervivums are mat-forming and architectural, and will fill odd shapes and ‘flow’ down the sides or cracks. As well as in pots, they do well in alpine sinks, on green roofs, and in dry walls.

They are cheap. Probably because they are – as above – small, tough, undemanding, and easy to propagate. The opposite of the delicate divas of the plant world! So you can indulge your plant fever without spending much. Canny sempervivophiles (I just made that word up) choose the plants with loads of babies already attached.

They have few pests and diseases. Slugs and snails may sometimes chomp at the leaves, mainly of the softer-textured types. But top-dressing with grit, growing them in full sun on garden tables, wall tops and ledges, means they are out of the way of molluscs’ preferred conditions. Though in my experience nothing deters a slug or snail from going where it wants to! Semps may suddenly succumb to wet and collapse and die; I’ve found those with longer sword-shaped leaves more likely to do so. The dark-tipped spiny ones seem very self-reliant. They do need some water, though. Unlike greenhouse/conservatory succulents which can last for ages when totally dry, semps will go brown and crisp and die off from the outside edges inwards if left where the rain can’t penetrate at all. If grown in a greenhouse they can get greenfly, but simply putting them outside in the weather will solve the problem.

The Garden House has a large collection of sempervivums. We hope we have tempted you to give these plants a try. 

Words by our good friend and fellow gardener Julia Widdows.

GH Euro Trip: the slightly crazy Villa Augustus!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 31 August 2014

Our only drizzly day in the Netherlands was made so much better by our arrival at the extraordinary Villa Augustus in Dordrecht; yet another new experience to be enjoyed on our Garden House trip earlier this August.

Tumbling out of our coach, grappling with umbrellas and waterproofs (just in case!) we were confronted by an extraordinary building, a robust brick late-19th-century water tower converted in 2007 into a delightfully quirky 37-room hotel.  We certainly like the sound of the rooms here – one, The Giardino Secreto, boasts panoramic views and a secret garden with a gazebo on the roof!

In the grounds the Vegetable Garden Hall and the Watershed Hall retain their industrial character and house the very large and super-busy open kitchen, restaurant and market; the very heart of Villa Augustus.  Here guests sit on a large terrace overlooking the day’s menu to see what organic ingredients have been picked fresh from the garden and have been whisked to the kitchen to be prepared.


The tower is surrounded by gardens – over four acres apparently – to the front a beautifully restrained and formal Italianate box parterre with views to the Dordrecht waterways in the distance, and to the back, the much more informal and spacious organic kitchen gardens with its rows of trained fruit trees, glasshouses and exuberant mix of vegetables and annual flowers.

This is where we found inspiration – whether it was a squash happily nestling in a box hedge, sedums covering a pile of rough building detritus, or the extraordinary way in which the gardeners here tie their courgettes to a stake and grow upwards (we are definitely trying that idea!) – we really appreciated their very different sensibility and approach to design.


What a great place this would be to book for a special anniversary or treat, we loved it!

Villa Augustus, Oranjelaan 7, 3311 DH Dordrecht


Tel: 078 – 63.93.111 / Email:


GH Euro trip: visiting Coen Jansen’s nursery

Posted by editor on Sunday, 24 August 2014

Bags and boxes of towering and colourful perennials tucked into the hold of our coach or wedged carefully behind seats – Day 2 of our Garden House trip to Belgium and The Netherlands included a private visit to the nursery of well-known Dutch plantsman Coen Jansen – and who could resist!

This was a very special opportunity as Coen is highly regarded as one of the country’s most innovative growers of unusual, rarely grown species and new varieties, of mainly late summer perennials – mostly selections he has developed and grown in the nursery.

Coen Jansen talking with Deborah and Bridgitte

Hours were spent wandering up and down the aisles, chatting to Coen about the various plants (especially whether they would be suitable for, in most cases, chalk soils!), and sitting in the sunshine enjoying tea and homemade cake, what a joy!


If you would like to see and possibly buy some of Coen’s plants, he will be one of the cream of British and European specialist plant nurseries setting up stall at Sussex Prairies for a day of horticultural heaven, Sunday 31st August.

Their fourth Unusual Plant and Art Fair will be open 11am to 5pm, hosting a record number of stalls selling wonderful unusual plants, garden accessories and art for your garden.

The Garden House will be there too – so do find us and say hello!

Entrance to the fair is included in your garden entry for the day – Adults £6 / Children £3 / Family ticket £15 for two adults and up to 3 children all visiting together. RHS members are offered a 20% discount, so will be asked to pay £4.80 on presentation of their RHS card.  Ample free parking.

Sussex Prairies, Morlands Farm, Wheatsheaf Road, near Henfield, West Sussex BN5 9AT.


Garden, charity, cake – what’s not to like?

Posted by editor on Sunday, 3 August 2014

STOP PRESS: Due to possible adverse weather conditions tomorrow, 1 Belton Close will ALSO be open TODAY, Saturday 9th.  They’ll still be open on the Sunday however! To confirm – garden will be open Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th, 11am-5pm each day. We love gardens, we all like supporting good causes and we certainly like homemade cakes, so we wanted to let you know about a chance to combine three of our favourite things at a garden just up the hill from us at The Garden House.

Charity open garden at 1 Belton Close BN2 3RY, 10th August, 11am – 5pm

The garden at 1 Belton Close is something of a hidden gem – you can’t see it from any road and it’s tucked away behind a little close of houses. Owners Steve and John are old friends of the Garden House – John is often to be found taking money on the door at our open days and Steve ran our recent social media course.

They’ve turned their L-shaped garden into a real plantsman’s paradise, packed to the brim with colour, especially from tropical planting including bananas, cannas, gingers, dahlias, ricinus and tithonias, plus collections of succulents, aeoniums and alpines. You can also enjoy their kitchen garden, 12m herbaceous border and meet the resident chickens.

Having previously opened in the National Garden Scheme and Garden Gadabout, this is Steve & John’s only open day this year and they’re raising money for a small charity called MPD Voice ( who provide information and support to anyone living with a myeloproliferative disorder (MPD), a group of rare blood cancers, and fund research towards better treatments.

The garden will be turned into a pop-up garden café for the day, with teas and homemade cakes available plus plants and homemade preserves for sale, with all proceeds going to the charity.


You can find more information about the event on the Facebook event page: or if you can’t make the event but you’d like to make a donation to MPD Voice, you can do so via their Just Giving page:

The garden is only about 5 minutes walk from here at The Garden House, off Ditchling Road near The Jolly Poacher pub. If you’re looking on a map, look for Belton Road BN2 and Belton Close is an alleyway between 7 and 9 Belton Road – but Steve and John assure us they’ll have plenty of signage out on the day to help you find your way!

Please help us help our friends and fellow gardeners raise lots of money for this great cause.


Another lovely – and sunny – Open Garden day!

Posted by editor on Monday, 21 July 2014

Every summer the Garden House holds a fantastic and fun event to fund-raise for a local charity, and yesterday we opened our garden gate in support of the Moulescoomb Forest Garden & Wildlife Project –

Old friends and new enjoyed lunch and cakes in our ‘pop up’ tea room, wandered around the various bric-a-brac stalls, bought beautiful plants, delicate hand-carved flying birds, and all manner of hand-made and unique items.  The auction as ever was hugely successful, and we look forward to updating you with the final amount made in aid of this most worthwhile local charity!

















We Love: the Cutting Garden

Posted by editor on Sunday, 6 July 2014

This fabulous picture of our friend Deborah carrying an armful of sweet peas freshly cut from The Garden House inspired me to write about cutting gardens.

At The Garden House we love to bring scent and colour into the house all year long by planning ahead and growing flowers and foliage especially for cutting – bulbs, annuals, biennials, perennials, shrubs trees and climbers.

Summer annuals grown from seed offer the fastest, most colourful and varied blooms – Antirrhinums (snapdragons), Cosmos, Salvias, Gaillardia, Nigellas, Malope trifida, Cornflowers, Sweet peas, Larkspur, Ammi majus, Cerinthe, Scabious  Salvia viridis (annual clary sage), Heleniums – the list is almost endless. What’s more, annuals are generally cut-and-come-again – the more you cut them the more flowers they create as the plants are not putting their energy into creating seed heads.

Add unexpected additions from your border – perennials, tendrils of climbers, alliums, lilies, roses and seedheads. We also grow many different dahlias at The Garden House which make wonderful cut flowers and can be used in many different flower combinations adding drama, scale and colour.

Foliage too is important – cut delicate twiggy branches from shrubs such as pittisporum and young eucalyptus, or use bronze fennel or the limey-green Euphorbia oblongata.

There are all sorts of clever ways to keep flowers that have been cut lasting longer in the vase – searing with boiling water, crushing etc  – but frankly who has the time. Treat your cut flowers as a transitory pleasure, if they survive only a few days, so be it, enjoy them while they last and then cut a new bunch!

Think of the cutting garden as a functional space, You’ll need to find a part of the garden that’s sunny, maybe slightly tucked away; make sure the beds are not too big, so that you can step into the bed or stretch across to cut, and don’t forget to consider a good water source (preferably collected rainwater) for periods of drought.  The RHS website offers some useful advice.

Plan ahead for next year by ordering your seeds – we sell many different types at The Garden House shop just email us and we can post to you.

If buying seeds online Derry Watkins’ Special Plants Nursery is a great source of slightly unusual seeds, also Sarah Raven’s website is a good source (her book The Cutting Garden is both inspiring and practical).

If you simply don’t have the space but love the idea of having bunches of fresh garden flowers in your house (rather than those flowers flown in from Europe and beyond), or for a special occasion such as a wedding, then consider buying from local cut flower sellers. Among others, consider Sussex Cutting Garden, Sweet Peas Direct, or The Real Flower Company.


Plant of the Month: Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’

Posted by editor on Monday, 9 June 2014

Much of the talk at Chelsea Flower Show centered on the purple, plum and maroon colour trend that featured in several of the gardens this year.  One variety in particular stood out for us – the Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’ (commonly known as Gooseneck Loosestrife).  Above image: Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’

In their review of the 2014  Chelsea show garden trends, The English Garden magazine’s writing team wrote: “The dark burgundy spikes of Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’ appeared on Hugo Bugg’s gold-medal winning rain garden and the Brewin Dolphin garden by Matthew Childs, among others. Well-performing dark plants will always be in demand for garden borders with a bit of extra oomph, and this loosestrife is a really special addition, which flower continuously from May to September. Silvery foliage offers a wonderful contrast to the flowers. The plant reaches about half a metre in height and width, and will spread slowly if given a moist soil in sun or part shade. Butterflies and bees love it, and so did we, whether planted with pale blue irises or alongside an astrantia of a similar purple-red tone.”

Lysimachia atropurpurea is a biennial or short-lived perennial of the family Primulaceae and should not be confused with the noxious weed Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). Its flowers are a rich burgundy-purple shade with contrasting crinkled grey-green leaves marked with pale veins.

  • Easy to grow and fully hardy
  • Mid-to late summer flowering (it makes an excellent cut flower)
  • Full sun or part shade
  • Height: 24-36 in. (60-90 cm), spacing: 
15-18 in. (38-45 cm)
  • Will tolerate pretty much any spoil type from sandy to clay, though it prefers average moisture levels to reasonably moist (incorporate lots of organic matter when planting)
  • Great for border or container planting; looks particularly wonderful if massed together in a swathe through a deeper border
  • It is very attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

There are many other plants within this dark hued palette that we like to use, either within the border, to accent and show off other colours, or individually in containers.  Some of our favourites are Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’, Sedum ‘Matrona’, Rosa x gallica Charles de Mills, Cosmos atrosanguineus (chocolate cosmos), Aquilegia vulgaris Black Barlow, the statuesque Angelica gigas – and there are many more – from Dahlias to Heucheras, Phormiums to Sambucus nigra, Ipomoea to Ajuga.




Check them out, we hope you’ll become fans if you’re not already!


PHOTO CREDITS: Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’; Angelica gigas –

Garden House Specialist Plant Fair – Saturday 7th June

Posted by editor on Friday, 6 June 2014

As part of the Chelsea Fringe we are holding a special Garden House Plant Fair on Saturday 7 June.  Visit us to view a variety of specialist plant stalls, selling all manner of vegetable seedlings, Dahlias, succulents, herbaceous perennials as well as trees and shrubs.

Plus, we will be serving delicious food, homemade and cooked in our outdoor clay oven!

Opening dates: Saturday 7 June, 11am to 5pm. Come with friends and family!

Entrance: £2:50 – children free

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

We love: Pete the Pond

Posted by editor on Saturday, 10 May 2014

Such a joy to have local expert Pete Birchall, aka Pete the Pond, impart his boundless knowledge and enthusiasm as he got down and dirty at The Garden House last Saturday.

Pete discussed the importance of wildlife ponds, introduced us to the myriad creatures that inhabit our ponds, and talked about pond plants – from the desirable to the invasive! – and their purpose in maintaining the eco-balance of a wildlife-friendly and attractive pond.

“Pete’s enthusiasm, knowledge and passion were infectious and inspiring. Nuggets of advice combined with brilliant anecdotes all made for fab morning. We left wanting more  – and an urge to clear out our ponds!,” says participant Mark Price.

Pete became the official Pond Warden of his local area, Willingdon and Jevington in East Sussex, in 2000 when he joined the Pond Warden scheme that was set up by BTCV and Southern Water to help save Britain’s ponds.

To date he estimates that he has built and cared for over 60 ponds, and has surveyed, paddled and waded in many more! As well as pond building Pete also renovates ponds by de-silting and clearing them of unwanted weed and replanting with new home grown plants; cleaning and replanting the pond area to create the perfect pond environment.

So little surprise that he is affectionately known as ‘Pete the Pond’ – we look forward to welcoming him again to The Garden House at some point!


Chelsea Fringe at the Garden House

Posted by editor on Thursday, 1 May 2014

We are delighted to be part of the Chelsea Fringe and have invited two of our favourite artists/tutors to teach courses during the Fringe celebrations using the early summer garden as inspiration.

 Waterworks: Mondays 
26 May, 2 and 9 June, 1.30 – 4.30pm

Kate Osborne will show you how to be more expressive with your artwork! 

 She says: “I now work very freely in watercolour, with the minimum of compositional drawing; this gives the paintings an unpremeditated 
look, which attempts to express the beautiful but transitory nature of the 
subject matter.”

With Kate’s support you will investigate various ways of using watercolour, mixing it with other mediums such as crayon, watercolour sticks, ink, wax and collage, and using these expressively create your own images.
See Kate’s website for more inspiration – but contact us to book!

Cost:  £100 – to include tea and cake

 Paper Collage: Wednesdays 21 & 28 May, & 4 June , 1.30 – 4.30

Through her work in paper collage, Jane Robbins combines her lifelong interests in flat pattern, patchwork and found objects – mixing them together to produce new decorative images. 

Collage is a flexible and forgiving method of producing a creative image, as well as being completely engrossing, and you will be inspired by Jane’s own work and method.

With Jane’s gentle encouragement you will enjoy the process of experimenting with paper collage, and with the three sessions have the time and peace to produce a final framed piece of work.   
 See Jane’s website for more inspiration  – but contact us to book!

Cost:  £100 – to include tea and cake

 Wine Tasting:  Saturday 17 May, 6pm until 9pm

Join us for what promises to be a great evening to launch the Chelsea Fringe in Brighton!

Wine-tasting with expert Henry Butler of local Brighton wine merchant The Butler’s Wine Cellar. We’ll be working our way through a selection of fine wines recommended by Henry who will talk about the different grapes, countries of origin, styles and pricing

Cost: £25.  Places are limited so do book soon!


Chelsea Fringe events in Brighton, look out for:

Handlebar Gardens: Sunday 18 May at 11am

Plant up your bike basket and pedal your garden on a family-friendly bike ride and recycle your plants to brighten the city.

All welcome, just turn up at the Velodrome, Preston Park and convey your plants in convoy to the Velo Café at the Level (then on to Kingswood and Milner estates, behind Circus St, to be replanted!

For more info –


Have a go at Hard Landscaping!

Posted by editor on Monday, 21 April 2014

Well it’s almost finished, and what a big undertaking it has been!  I’m talking about our beautiful new pathway, created from a patchwork of recycled paving, old Victorian terracotta tiles, pebbles – and a lot of hard work – it must be almost 80’ long!

The project has been undertaken largely by the women of the  ‘Friday gardening group’ under the creative eye of GH friend Vicky (who incidentally also designs our amazing leaflets and seed packet covers), and with the muscles of Joseph!

Like so much of the hard landscaping at The Garden House, which has been created organically bit-by-bit over the years, this path not only makes for a highly practical and safe through route (the old grass and often mud path was treacherous at times!), but is also testimony to the ‘we can do it’ determination of the women involved.

Hard landscaping is not for everyone, and some projects definitely need some expertise, such as our outdoor wood-burning oven, below – but once you realize that other projects can be relatively simple and decorative, such as our pebble ‘compass’ in the top garden and decorative mosaic stepping-stones, below – it’s very satisfying to have a go!




At Easter we enjoy flowers and cake!

Posted by editor on Thursday, 17 April 2014

Easter in the Garden House is all about spring flowers, about potting on seedlings and preparing the ground for planting – it’s also about Simnel cake which we love (see our favourite recipe below!).

Margaret’s Easter Cake (Frangipane/Almond Cake)

Our friend Margaret passed away recently; she had been gardening at The Garden House for many years as one of the regular ‘Friday group’ of women who keep this wonderful garden looking at its best.  Margaret’s particular gardening loves were roses, knot gardens and garden history.

We love Margaret’s delicious version of the traditional Simnel cake; a cake typically eaten during the Easter period in Great Britain, Ireland and some other countries.


For the base:

  • 8oz rich shortcrust pastry (use ready-made Jus-Rol sweet shortcrust)
  • Apricot jam or conserve

For the cake mixture:

  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 4oz unsalted butter
  • 1 tbls plain flour
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Orange flower essence (optional)

For the almond paste topping:

  • 8oz ground almonds
  • 8oz caster sugar and icing sugar (roughly half/half each)
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1tsp lemon juice

Method – Cake:

  • Medium oven 150c or gas mark 4
  • Roll out pastry and line an 8” tart tin (no need to pre-bake)
  • Coat bottom of tart with apricot jam or conserve (about 1 tbls)
  • To make cake mixture, beat the sugar into the softened butter
  • Fold in almonds and flour, then gradually add in eggs beating as you add
  • Add a few drops orange flower essence (optional)
  • Pour mixture into tart and cook for approx 40-45 mins
  • Set aside to cool

Method – Almond paste topping:

  • Sift icing sugar into a bowl, add caster sugar and ground almonds, mix together
  • Stir in the beaten egg and 1 tsp lemon juice to make a fairly stiff lump
  • Cut off a piece and make 12 small balls of paste (eleven marzipan balls represent the true disciples of Jesus; Judas is omitted – in some variations Christ is also represented, by a ball placed at the centre.  We suggest, to make cutting easier, use twelve balls around the edge)
  • Smooth the remaining paste over the cooled cake
  • To finish, giving that slightly ‘toasted’ colour, put under the grill or back in the oven for 2/3 minutes until lightly browned.

 Spring in The Garden House:








Staking Your Tall and Unruly Plants

Posted by editor on Thursday, 3 April 2014

Getting going with your plant supports is such an important activity at this time of year, as suddenly all the perennials are coming to life and seem to be growing an inch or more a day!

At The Garden House we’ve recently run several invaluable workshops on how to create your own natural plant supports using hazel, birch and willow.

Bea Andrews, ex-head gardener at Perch Hill, Sarah Raven’s garden in Kent, led an excellent workshop on the practical aspects of staking using hazel and birch pea-sticks. These materials are excellent for when you really want the supports to become almost invisible once the plants have grown, so while looking very organic and decorative now, they will ‘disappear’ once the plants get going.

Then on Saturday 29 March, a group gathered in the wonderful sunshine to make highly decorative round willow plant supports and curly-top fences with Sussex-based willow and basketry artist Jackie Sweet. These look wonderful and are ideal for keeping plants such as delphiniums, peonies and asters just where you want them!


They certainly require some dexterity and experience to make, but once you’re underway, are remarkably quick to create.  We had a fantastic day – interspersed in true Garden House style with a delicious lunch, and tea and cake!



Jackie recommends buying willow from Musgrove Willows, willow growers and suppliers of all sorts of basket-making materials, based in Somerset.

She also brushes the finished pieces with an exterior grade furniture oil, allowing the pieces to dry for a few days before pushing into position in the garden or vegetable patch.

This is the perfect time of year to begin to stake your tall or unruly plants before they put on a lot of growth, so have a go!




Trip to Amsterdam and Bruges

Posted by editor on Wednesday, 12 February 2014

If you are looking for a fun and relaxing holiday, and you love plants and gardens, join the Garden House trip to Bruges and Amsterdam, leaving Monday August 4th and returning Friday August 8th.

Da Kas restaurant

Our trip will include visits to:

  • Piet Oudolph’s private garden –
  • Coen Jansen’s nursery – 
  • Villa Augustus –
  • A private garden(s) near Bruges designed by Chris Ghyselen –
  • Bruges canal trip
  • Amsterdam flower market
  • Supper in the Garden Room at De Kas restaurant  –
  • Plus two other suppers, one in Bruges and one in Hummelo, Holland.
  • Four nights bed and breakfast in 3 star hotels
  • Packed lunch on the first day
  • Transport in good quality coach, using Eurotunnel

The cost of the trip is £675 per person, with a supplement of £124 if you would like a single room.

Villa Augustus

If you would like to join the trip contact us soon, as we have already some bookings from Garden House friends who came on previous trips to South Africa and Berlin.

We always have a fantastic time on our trips so do come along!


Plant of the Month: Lewisia Cotyledon

Posted by editor on Sunday, 9 February 2014

Lewisia Cotyledo (Family: portulacaceae) is an evergreen perennial flowering plant originating in the north-west USA. It grows from a taproot and produces a basal rosette of many thick, fleshy oval- or spoon-shaped leaves. In spring to early summer it throws up panicles of starry flowers in glowing shades of yellow, orange, amber, pink or red on stems 4-12 inches tall.

It needs sharply-drained neutral to acid soil, and so at the Garden House we planted three Lewisias in a large terracotta pan in ericaceous soil mixed with grit. Lewisia must be protected from winter wet, so we planted each rosette at an angle so that rain would not pool in the centre of the leaves.

It can best be grown in alpine house conditions, in containers, or outside in a rock garden or in crevices in a wall, providing the soil is neutral/acid. It needs a free flow of air and grows in sun or light shade. In hot gardens it does better with some shade in summer.

Propagate by removing offsets in summer.

Protect from wet, slugs and snails, and look out for stem rot and mealy bugs.

RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Time for Happy Seed Hunting!

Posted by editor on Saturday, 25 January 2014

Due to the mild weather we’ve had here in Brighton, we’ve had a surprising number of plants in flower over the past few weeks – we counted over thirty different flowering plants on Christmas day (!) and now early bulbs and snowdrops are starting to make a welcome appearance.

One of the things we love to do during the cold months is to choose seeds for the spring, experimenting with new varieties of flowers and vegetables.

New plants we’ve spotted include, from America, a new cherry tomato called ‘Rosella’ – the claim is that it has an intensely fruity flavor and can be grown both inside and out.  Maybe plant with basil as an ideal accompaniment – the problem is basil is not fond of our climate, however we have spotted a new variety called ‘British Outdoor’ which we’ll be trying – it is even supposed to endure light frosts so should be interesting!

Two new vegetable varieties are a carrot with very red flesh called ‘Atomic Red’ – the colour apparently intensifies with cooking – and a new lettuce called ‘Intred’ which looks very much like a colourful ‘Little Gem’ with red on it’s outer leaves and a pink heart.

The UK’s biggest and longest running community seed swop event, Seedy Sunday, is taking place in the Corn Exchange in Brighton on Sunday 2nd February.  It’s a brilliant place to pick up new, old and exciting varieties of seed, and even to swop seeds of your own for free!

The Garden House will be there along with many other exciting stalls.   There are also talks, see Seedy Sunday Talks Programme 2014 – talks include local gardener and garden writer Steve Bustin offering an informal introduction to basic sowing and growing for beginners (or those feeling a little rusty); Peter May from Brighton Permaculture Trust talking about their collection of Sussex varieties of apple trees at Stanmer Park; and Bob Flowerdew, one of the UK’s foremost proponents of organic gardening and a regular panellist on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time – Bob will be talking about organic gardening.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Plant of the Month: Sarcococca confusa

Posted by editor on Saturday, 7 December 2013

Sarcococca confusa (sweet box) is a species of flowering plant in the family Buxaceae, related to the common box and probably native to western China.

This fantastic evergreen shrub, growing to 1m (spread 2m), gives a fountain of green all year round and is a must for the winter or woodland garden or shady border, particularly when under-planted with cyclamen or hellebores. To fully appreciate the fabulous, vanilla-like fragrance plant in moist, well-drained soil close to an entrance or path.

It has simple and lustrous dark green leaves and almost inconspicuous, very sweetly scented, creamy-white flowers from December to March.  The flowers are followed by red, purple or blue-black berries which may persist into the following winter.

S. confusa is one of the largest and bushiest of all the sweet box but is still ideal for as neat, clipped edging borders and works well in containers. It is fully hardy, compact and will eventually form a dense thicket. It has a suckering habit so keep this in check.

  • Likes partial or full shade, any sheltered aspect
  • Moderately fertile, humus-rich, moist, well- drained soil
  • In late-winter or early-spring lightly trim or prune back shoots that spoil the plant’s symmetry
  • After pruning apply a generous 5-7cm (2-3in) mulch of well-rotted compost around the base of the plant.

Photo: ‪

Catch the Colour at Nymans Gardens

Posted by editor on Saturday, 16 November 2013

Catch the colour before it goes!  If you live in Sussex, Sheffield Park is bound to be on your ‘must visit’ list; but for beautiful colour, fine trees, a wonderful walled garden and a fascinating family history, another National Trust garden, Nymans, is hard to beat.  It’s a Garden House favourite and well worth a visit in any season.


A crisp Saturday morning in November brought out the amateur photographers, all happily catching the extraordinary light as it played through the yellow, orange and red leaf displays.  Fortunately there was relatively little damage here following the mid-October storm that swept across the country (unlike the ‘great storm’ of 1987 which wreaked havoc at Nymans!) – though a beautiful Catalpa (Indian Bean Tree) was a casualty .

Late autumn is an ideal time for a brisk walk in the Nymans woods or gardens; an opportunity to excite the children about nature’s extraordinary variety; and a time to note the last of the late summer’s hydrangeas, salvias and fuschias.  The garden’s ‘winter walk’ is just starting to come into its own, fragrant Viburnum and Sarcococca are starting into flower, and even some very early camellias have opened.

Areas of the garden are being put to bed, borders tidied and tender plants lifted, leaving an emerging skeleton of sculptural seed heads and pods, bringing focus to the structure and bark of the many unusual varieties of trees and shrubs.  The dogwoods (Cornus sanguinea) and the bark of Acer griseum are richly red and coppery.

Nymans is home to 26 ‘champion’ trees – trees that are the tallest, oldest or largest examples of the species in a given region.  It is also home to many plants collected from the wilds of China or Japan by Ludwig Messel, who in 1890 bought Nymans house and its 600 acres, and his head gardener and avid plant-hunter, James Comber.


Don’t forget to check out the well-stocked plant centre – many of the plants are propagated in the Nymans glasshouses, where even now preparations are being made for next year’s displays and plantings.  Or if the weather is less than clement, you’ll find a toasty welcome in the excellent second-hand book-store with it’s log-burning stove!



Plant of the month: Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’

Posted by editor on Thursday, 31 October 2013

You may well be surprised at our choice this month as Pampas Grass is a bit of a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ plant, especially when stuck out on its own in the middle of a lawn or front garden!

Yesterday we visited Sheffield Park to see the autumn colour (though due to the lack of cold nights and sunny days the trees have been slow to change) and took these photos – and now, having seen this amazing plant at it’s best, we’ve decide that we definitely love it!

Our favourite cultivar is Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’, a more compact and free-flowering variety of this much-maligned ornamental grass. It is perennial and evergreen and forms a compact clump of narrow rough-edged arching leaves 45cm in length, with erect stems bearing dense silvery or pink-tinged flower plumes that are excellent for drying.

Unlike other cultivars this is considered a dwarf form as it only reaches 1.5m (5ft) high in late summer and therefore is better suited to requirements in smaller gardens.

  • Grow in any fertile, well-drained soil in full sun (give it ample space to develop into a specimen)
  • Protect crowns of young plants in their first winter
  • Cut and comb out the previous year’s stems and dead foliage annually in late winter or early spring
  • Always wear stout gardening gloves when working with pampas grass to protect hands from cuts caused by the sharp leaf margins
  • Propagate by division February to April

This architectural plant is suitable for several situations including city and courtyard gardens, gravel gardens, coastal or cottage/informal gardens and prairie gardens.  Also flower borders and beds, and cut flowers.

So happily it’s not just a plant for 60s swingers – why not learn to love it, grow it in your garden and bring the Pampas Grass back into fashion!

Make some Piccalilli this autumn!

Posted by editor on Thursday, 17 October 2013

Here at the Garden House we have been busy making Piccalilli, a British interpretation of Indian pickles that harks back to the mid 18thcentury.  It is essentially a mix of vegetables and spicy seasonings, particularly mustard and turmeric which give its distinct yellow colouring, and is delicious with bread and cheese.

 There are many many versions, but we particularly love this recipe from Pam the Jam – Pam Corbin, who with fellow preserver Liz Neville, now runs the Preserves course at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s  River Cottage.

Ideal for using up all our green tomatoes that haven’t ripened – and, having no yellow mustard seeds, we used black ones which added a little visual ‘extra’. Those of you coming on our courses and workshops may have a chance to sample some!

This great illustration shows the Piccalilli label as used by Crosse & Blackwell around 1867.






  • 2kg washed, peeled vegetables – select 5 or 6 from the following: cauliflower or romanesco cauliflower, radish, green beans, cucumbers, courgettes, green or yellow tomatoes, tomatilloes, carrots, small silver-skinned onions or shallots, peppers, nasturtium seed pods
  • 100g fine sea salt
  • 60g cornflour
  • 20g ground turmeric
  • 20g English mustard powder
  • 20g ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp crushed cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
  • 1.2 litres cider vinegar
  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 100g honey

Cut the veg into small, even, bite-sized pieces. Place in a large colander over a bowl, and sprinkle with the salt. Mix well, cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool place for 24 hours, then rinse the veg with ice-cold water and drain thoroughly.

Blend the cornflour, turmeric, mustard powder, ginger, mustard seeds, cumin and coriander to a smooth paste with a little of the vinegar. Put the rest of the vinegar into a saucepan with the sugar and honey and bring to the boil. Pour a little of the hot vinegar over the blended spice paste, stir well and return to the pan. Bring gently to the boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes to allow the spices to release their flavours into the thickening sauce.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully fold the well-drained vegetables into the hot, spicy sauce. Pack the pickle into warm, sterilised jars and seal immediately with vinegar-proof lids. Leave for about 6 weeks before opening. Use within a year.

Main photo courtesy of Humble Crumble where Gareth has posted another excellent Piccallili recipe.



The Magic of Mushrooms

Posted by editor on Monday, 7 October 2013

Foraging fanatic Geoff Dann spends his autumns accompanying small, self-assembled groups (families, groups of friends, couples) on walks in search of fungi, usually on public access land.   He also gives talks, and last Saturday Geoff was at The Garden House talking about mushrooms.

Who knew there were so many and who knew they could be so fascinating?!  Apparently there are 3,000 plus species of fungi in the UK alone.  Geoff had brought with him the most extraordinary selection of mushrooms and a few funghi, all picked in a three-hour session around his home-base Hastings.

Defined by the weather, generally the mushroom ‘season’ runs mid-September to mid-November. Geoff talked us through the legality of foraging, the importance of sustainability (leaving some behind!), responsibility with regard to where and how you forage – and of course, most important, which are edible, which simply don’t taste nice – and, which are deadly – there is no antidote to the fairly common Deathcap and the almost as deadly Destroying Angel (though apparently these are not poisonous to deer or rabbits, though they can be to dogs).

The distinguishing features of fungi are numerous –  smell being very important, to location (certain fungi grow symbiotically with certain trees), the area’s soil type, the way in which certain fungi ‘colour up’ when cut, whether they have gills or pores (from which the spores escape), the spore ‘print’ (when cut in half and placed on paper, how the spores colour and spread) – and so much more.

The evening was made all the more enjoyable as Bridge and Deborah regularly disappeared into the kitchen to pan-fry in butter various mushrooms, really delicious.  Our supper, generously included in the talk, was a simple salad served with a delicious Mushroom Bread (taken from a delightful old cookery book, recipe below), and yet more of Geoff’s sample mushrooms.

Geoff is also very knowledgeable about wild plants – and roadkill!  Not for the vegetarians among you, he says: “I got into eating roadkill without really thinking about it. It was a December 23rd back in about 2002, and I had a few guests coming for Christmas Dinner. I had been planning on popping into the local supermarket on Christmas eve and buying whatever they had left over and going cheap (foraging, sort of…), but on my way to work over the downs from Brighton to Burgess Hill I passed a dead deer. I had to do quite a big circle to get back on to the slip road where I’d originally passed it at 60mph. It was a roe doe, and still warm, which was a big help when it comes deciding how long it had been there. Suffice to say that although I did not poison any of my guests, this first one was very much a learning experience.”

Geoff also collaborates with landowners to offer longer foraging courses for larger groups and is available for foraging and fungi/plant ID sessions at all times of the year.  To check out Geoff’s excellent blog and website CLICK HERE.







Exotic Mushroom Magic

Posted by editor on Saturday, 28 September 2013

Mushroom season is upon us!  Just a reminder that we have local forager Geoff Dann giving an illustrated talk at The Garden House on 4 Oct at 7pm.

Back on 14 Sept Bridgette attended one of Geoff’s master classes at the Brighton Food Festival – an introduction to the edible and poisonous wild fungi of Sussex with– and she said it was really fascinating.

The selection of species available at this time of the season is pretty good, so if you’re already booked on the Garden House workshop do bring any fungi growing in your garden or near where you live – Geoff will attempt to identify anything anybody brings!

Exotic Mushroom Magic:

Join us for a light supper and an entertaining illustrated talk on all things fungal by Brighton-based wild mushroom expert Geoff Dann, and sample some of the more unusual and exotic species of edible wild mushrooms that can be found in Sussex (as well as other more well-known ones).

Cost: £25 – to include a delicious mushroom-themed meal and a glass of wine.

This is an evening talk – 7pm to 9.30pmPlaces are limited so do contact us as soon as possible.

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

To find out more about Geoff go to

Come to our Macmillan’s Coffee Morning!

Posted by editor on Saturday, 21 September 2013

Come to The Garden House and support the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, Macmillan Cancer Support’s biggest fundraising event, where donations on the day are made to Macmillan. In 2012 115,000 people signed up to coffee morning, raising a record £15 million.

Have coffee and cakes with us, and bring your friends!

There will be a variety of stalls selling plants, jams and chutneys, mosaics and handcrafted and knitted items.  Open 11am to 3pm.

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

Plant of the Month: Eryngium

Posted by editor on Thursday, 12 September 2013

Every garden needs contrast – of leaf shape, height and colour – and no plant is more exciting at this time of year than the spiky silver or metallic blue ruffs of Eryngium.

Commonly known as sea hollies, Eryngium are in the family Apiaceae. Some species are native to rocky and coastal areas, but the majority are grassland plants.

Numerous hybrids have been selected for garden use, of which E.× oliverianum and E.× tripartitum have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

These annual and perennial plants have hairless and usually spiny leaves. Their conspicuous spiky basal bracts surround a prominent, cone-like centre of tiny flowers.

  • Hardy and easy to grow
  • Flowers July to September
  • Full sun is essential as is protection from winter wet
  • Grow in dry, well-drained soil that is poor to moderately fertile – acid, alkaline or neutral sand, loam or chalk
  • Height: 90cm
Spread: 45cm

Eryngium look great when planted in bold clumps among grasses, in a sunny border or gravel garden. They also work well in coastal gardens.

The seedheads make a very attractive feature in the garden so are usually left over winter.  Or cut and spray for Christmas decorations.

Summer visit to Millenium Gardens at Pensthorpe

Posted by editor on Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A few days ago we were fortunate enough to visit the Millenium Gardens at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Fakenham, Norfolk. Designed by Piet Oudolf, this acre of planting displays a magnificent array of colours and textures, demonstrating the effectiveness of planting perennials in large bold and flowing groups.

The design of the borders is breathtaking – swathes of Persicaria collide with billowing Deschampsia; Miscanthus stand tall and erect next to the densely planted Echinacea which are drenched in butterflies and bees; Japanese Anemones grace the front of the borders along with Geranium wallichianums.

The gardens here invite you to simply stand and look – to watch the colours change from the midday vibrancy of the Heleniums to the glistening shades of the early evening reflecting off the Asters.

Set in 600 acres of Norfolk countryside in the tranquil Wensum valley, Pensthorpe is suitable for everyone – if you are visiting Norfolk don’t miss it!


Also in Norfolk is one of our favourite nurseries, Woottens of Wenhaston.  They’re currently offering the Woottens Wildlife Selection – a collection of late flowering plants specifically selected to attract bees and butterflies into the garden.

One of each of the following in 2 litre pots for only £24.68. That is 20% off the normal prices:

  • Agastache Black Adder – lilac flowers open from dark purple black buds July-Oct. Ht 75cm. Any well drained not bone dry soil. Sun. Useful for its vertical lines. Unlike many Agastache this is reliably perennial.
  • Echinacea purpurea Magnus – wide, purplish red reflexed petals with a prominent bronze boss. July-Sept. Ht. 90cm. Sp. 25cm. Sun, well drained soil, beware of slugs, good with grasses, handsome brown seedheads, loved by bees.  AGM (Award of Garden Merit).
  • Sedum Matrona – purplish green leaves, red stems and pale pink flowers. Aug-Sept. A stately matron indeed, much used by Piet Oudolf, good seedheads. Ht. 50cm. Sp. 40cm Sun. Any well drained soil. AGM.
  • Aster x cordifolius Little Carlow – wonderful lavender blue flowers Sept-Oct. Ht 120cm. Sp. 50cm. Sun, moist soil, mildew free. AGM. This is a stunning plant and looks great with Nerine bowdenii.
  • Verbena bonariensis – endless small mauve flowers July-Nov on a tracery of tall branching stems. A lovely see through plant. Ht. 150cm. Sp. 60cm. Sun, good drainage, self seeds. In cold areas take cuttings in autumn. AGM.

Woottens Plants, Blackheath Road, Wenhaston, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 9HD. U.K. Telephone: 01502 478258 Fax: 01502 478888

email : web:


Digging by Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

Posted by editor on Sunday, 1 September 2013

(IMAGE: Painting by Barry Mullan

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.


Under my window, a clean rasping sound

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:

My father, digging. I look down


Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds

Bends low, comes up twenty years away

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills

Where he was digging.


The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.


By God, the old man could handle a spade.

Just like his old man.


My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.

Once I carried him milk in a bottle

Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up

To drink it, then fell to right away

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods

Over his shoulder, going down and down

For the good turf. Digging.


The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.


Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.



Sussex Prairie Garden Unusual Plant & Art Fair

Posted by editor on Thursday, 29 August 2013

This Sunday 1 September we highly recommend that you visit the 3rd annual Sussex Prairie Garden Unusual Plant and Art fair.  Garden owners Paul and Pauline McBride will be hosting a record number of stalls selling unusual plants, garden accessories and art for your garden.

Specialist nurseries include:  Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, Nymans Nursery, Phoenix Perennial Plants, Rapkyns Nursery, Usual & Unusual Plants, Blueleaf Plants and many, many others.

We’ll be there too, so do come along and say hello – and find out about upcoming garden House workshops and courses!  

For exhibitor listing and layout of stands CLICK HERE.

The fair will be open from 11am to 5pm on Sunday 1st September 2013. There is ample free on site parking.

Entrance to the fair is included in your garden entry for the day – adults £6, children £3. Family ticket £15 for two adults and up to 3 children all visiting together.

RHS members are offered a 20% discount to the fair, so will be asked to pay £4.80 on presentation of their RHS card.

Sussex Prairies Garden, Morlands Farm, Wheatsheaf Road (B2116), Near Henfield, West Sussex BN5 9AT  0044 (0)1273 495902


The pleasures of drawing in the garden…

Posted by editor on Friday, 16 August 2013

At this time of the year there are so many things to be doing in the garden – clearing collapsed areas, sprucing up containers, summer pruning, laying turf – better still drinking Pimms with friends – or even drawing!

On our latest workshop there was no Pimms involved, but there was plenty of creative sketching going on as a small group worked with chalk pastels under the watchful eyes of Brighton-based artist and illustrator Debbie Hinks.

Taking inspiration from the beautiful Garden House garden Debbie demonstrated how to use chalk pastel to create light, tone, colour and texture.  Also how to carefully observe and compose a drawing, whether taking in a wider landscape or homing in on a smaller area or detail.

The results were fantastic, by experimenting with different papers and using pastel sticks and pastel pencils everyone managed to create the most amazing and spontaneous drawings.

Debbie has been an illustrator for over twenty years, she also teaches life drawing and mark making at Northbrook College, Worthing. To find out more go to and








We love: dahlias!

Posted by editor on Friday, 9 August 2013

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – we love their exuberance, their beautiful colours and their multitude of exotic forms.  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 flowerpots, 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.


What a wonderful summer!

Posted by editor on Friday, 26 July 2013

What a wonderful summer it’s been so far – if one discounts the endless heat and humidity (are we ever satisfied?), rampant blackfly, wilting plants and endless watering!  Here’s hoping August will be as pleasant, but with a bit more rain to make us gardeners happy.

We’re off on our summer holidays now so no further website updates for the next two or three weeks, But we thought we’d leave you with some great photos of our very successful Open Garden earlier this month in aid of local charity Spiral.  It was a simply beautiful day as you can see from the photos; so many people visited and enjoyed the garden, stayed for lunch or delicious cakes – and gave very generously at our annual auction (our auctioneer Graham doing a great job as always!).

We raised £3,700 overall, amazing – everyone’s hard work was so worthwhile! Another very special Garden House day…



Open Garden and Pop-Up Cafe in aid of the Parkinson’s charity

Posted by editor on Monday, 22 July 2013

SAVE THE DATE – our friends Steve and John are having an Open Garden and Pop-Up Cafe in aid of the Parkinson’s charity – 28th July, I Belton Close, BN2 3RY – do go along and support!

Fancy a day at Gravetye Manor, Weds 1 July?

Posted by editor on Sunday, 30 June 2013

Our popular ‘hands-on’ Summer School kicks off on Monday 1 July – a week of behind the scenes gardening at three inspirational gardens and nurseries.

On Wednesday 3 July we’ll be heading over to the inspirational gardens at Gravetye Manor, home of the creative, innovative and revolutionary gardener William Robinson who from 1884 spent his remarkable life as a professional gardener and botanist.

Summer 2010 saw the appointment of Tom Coward as Head Gardener, his task to conserve and re-create Robinson’s work while also progressing the garden in homage to his experimental style of gardening. Having worked for 3 years alongside Fergus Garrett at Great Dixter, Tom’s experience has proved second to none in tackling this project.

Suitable for all levels of horticultural knowledge and skills – learn from, and work with, the experts as we talk to head gardeners and owners about their particular gardens or garden businesses.

Even if you haven’t signed up for the week, we have a few places left – so if you’d like to join us at Gravetye – please contact us ASAP!

Brighton and Hove Open Gardens; weekend of 29-30 June

Posted by editor on Thursday, 20 June 2013

From small city centre courtyards to expansive open spaces, Brighton and Hove Open Gardens (BHOG) sees over 70 private gardens and community spaces open to the public over one weekend in June. The event raises money for The Sussex Beacon, an HIV charity based in Brighton.

The Garden House will be open, as will many of our favourite local spaces.  This is such a great way to spend a weekend, so why not take a trip across the city visiting inspiring green spaces, enjoying someone else’s hard work and picking up new ideas!  Don’t forget – many of the gardens, including our own, will be offering all manner of homemade cakes, strawberries and cream, and other delicious refreshments!

29-30 June 2013, from 11am-5pm

There are garden trails to follow in Hove, Montpelier, Fiveways and Roundhill, Preston Park and Surrenden, Stanmer, East of Brighton, Rottingdean and Seaford.  

Weekend ticket price: £10 in advance, £12 on the day, children under 12 go free.

Buy your tickets online CLICK HERE today and get a map of the gardens through the post – the last date for posting is Thursday 27th June. In the meantime you can plan your visit ONLINE.


We love: drawing on our iPads!

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Kate Osborne has taught watercolour painting at the Garden House but this was very different. Our group had varying experience of painting and drawing and doing both on iPads, ranging from none (me) to quite a bit, though not with the programmes Kate helped us with on this enjoyable course.

 iPad paintings by Kate Osborne

In the morning Kate introduced us to Brushes 3, and after lunch to Procreate, which I think we found even more flexible, and more fun. She showed us how to choose colours from an infinite palette, and the incredible range of ‘brushes’ you can use to make marks, from gel pens to Chinese brushes to ones that will decorate your page (screen) with Victorian wallpaper or bubbles or grids…or really anything in the world. The choices are so many and varied – you can alter so many factors in each brush – that we only dipped our toes in. We experimented like mad and pooled our knowledge.

Red pepper by Ally P.

We learnt that you can also create and save your own brushes from an imported photo or image: so if you take, for example, a photo of an old stone wall you can make a brush that splashes bits of old stone wall about. My head is still reeling.

Kate demonstrated importing a photo to draw over or alter, and helped us manipulate layers to get different effects. She had brought a number of inspiring books, and some of us went out into the garden to photograph flowers and leaves and interesting structures and textures to experiment with. The iPad can be used as a camera and sketchpad on the go, very portable and flexible. In all, the whole day was a great experiment and just the beginning of a lot of fun. Without getting into your old painting clothes. As Kate pointed out, for once there was no mess and no clearing up!

Words and top iPad painting by Julia Widdows (Garden House fan and friend!) / Inspiring iPad paintings by Kate Osborne below:






























We love: the alliums in Hove Park

Posted by editor on Sunday, 9 June 2013

What a delightful surprise to see swathes of alliums in Hove Park this month.  Earlier fields of snowdrops and rivers of golden daffodils have been followed by hundreds of alliums standing above meadow-like grass and feathery cow parsley in a beautifully naturalistic planting.  Well done to Brighton & Hove City Parks Department.

In B&H we have six Green Flag Award winning parks – criteria being: a welcoming place; healthy, safe and secure; clean and well maintained; sustainability; conservation and heritage; community involvement; marketing; and management.  The parks are Easthill Park, Hove Park, Preston Park, Kipling gardens, Stoneham Park, and St Anne’s Well Gardens.

Of course we’re huge fans of alliums at The Garden House – they are so easy, and keep coming back year after year with little or no trouble once planted.  Back in May 2011 we feature Allium cristophii as our Plant of the Month – it’s definitely one of our favourite perennial ornamental onions!




Create Structure in your Garden

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!).




Phew, we’re exhausted, what a great weekend!

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)

Bruce Jordan of Big Plant Nursery near Steyning

Pauline and Paul McBride of Sussex Prairies (Garden House workshop on 28 Sept, see DIARY)

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!

Garden House Plant Fair Weekend, 11 & 12th May

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

Bread Making at Real Pâtisserie

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 12 March 2013

While not exactly gourmet gardening, making your own bread touches on many of the things we love about our outdoor spaces – smell, touch, hard work, wonderful results and something you can share with friends and family!

A couple of Saturdays ago a group of Garden House friends visited the bakery at Brighton’s Real Pâtisserie for another of our highly successful bread-making workshops.

We donned blue hairnets and aprons and under the patient and very informed guidance of head baker Tom enjoyed a unique baking experience, learning about the ingredients and the traditional skills that go into creating wonderful fresh breads for our own family kitchens.

Real Pâtisserie is an independent bakery specialising in traditional French bread and cakes, and renowned for their extensive range of artisan breads – making sourdoughs in the time-honoured way, hand moulding every loaf and creating a range of speciality breads picked from the traditionally popular loaves of France, Spain and Italy.

We made four different bread types – focaccia, traditional French cob, multi-cereal loaf and sour dough – with the opportunity to take some ‘starter’ sour dough home with us.

Hard work, but really satisfying – and on a cold February day, actually rather more fun than gardening!


We love: early spring at the RHS London Show

Posted by editor on Thursday, 21 February 2013

Early spring is a wonderful time to visit the RHS London Shows held in the RHS Horticultural Halls at Greycoat Street and Vincent Square. They are always a real treat, with beautifully considered displays, books, garden paraphernalia, plus of course specialist nurseries often selling rare, unusual or hard to get hold of plants and bulbs.

Several stands were bulging with spring bulbs – all looked stunning with many new cultivars on display.  We also loved the hellebore displays.

Pennard Plants were selling heritage and heirloom seeds – some with fantastical names, such as a lettuce named Fringe-Headed Drunken Woman – it will be interesting to see how that turns out!  A sweet pea name Mumsie also took our fancy.

Being plantaholics we enjoyed a great day out and reminded ourselves not to leave it too long before another visit.  The next spring show will be the RHS London Orchid & Botanical Art Show, 12-13 April 2013. To buy tickets in advance, CLICK HERE



Snowdrop time…

Posted by editor on Sunday, 10 February 2013

A visit to Marchants Hardy Plants nursery for their ‘snowdrops weekend’ was a wonderful way to kick-start our spring garden visits (though relentless rain on Sunday proved a bit of a dampener to our enthusiasm for the new season!).

The Marchants garden itself was awash with delicate swathes of snowdrops peeking up over the mulch and lighting up the beds and bare hedgerows; and in the ‘potting palace’, an exquisite display of special varieties set in moss, with nearly 40 varieties available for sale.

Galanthus are more commonly known as snowdrops. They are perennial, herbaceous plants which grow from bulbs and are found growing wild from Italy to Turkey, mostly flowering in the depths of winter.  They are very hardy. The common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, is in fact not native to UK. It arrived during the 17thC and has made itself at home here, often spreading to form huge colonies.

True collectors, Galanthophiles, relish the subtle and not-so-subtle differences of the many single and double forms – the plant and leaf form, the central green markings, the way in which the bloom hangs from the thread-like pedicel, the shape of the six tepals (three outer, three inner tepals – it has no petals).

If you would like to receive the Marchants snowdrop list by email, please CLICK HERE for their contact & catalogue request page making sure you tick the ‘Snowdrop availability’ box.  For more information on this wonderful nursery visit

Here at the Garden House we’re also enjoying the quietly emerging early spring buds and flowers.  At this time of year, it’s like a game of hide-and-seek as you have to move leaves and trim away spent grasses to reveal, not just snowdrops, but early crocus, anemone, narcissi – and just starting to push up are the leaves of miniature Iris reticulata and of Iris “Katharine Hodgkin’ (one of our favourites). Our many varieties of beautifully subtle hellebores are in flower now too.

Planting & growing snowdrops:

  • Snowdrops are best bought and planted while actively growing – growers call this planting ‘in the green’ – ensure they are planted at the same depth as they were growing before they were lifted from the ground – the point where the green leaves start to turn yellow should be level with the soil surface
  • With pot-grown plants, the surface of the compost should be level with the soil
  • They do not like hot, dry positions preferring part shade
  • Snowdrops can be naturalised in grass under trees where they look spectacular alone, or mixed with crocus. They will make handsome clumps in a shady border or under a hedge or among shrubs
  • Plant in well-drained, moisture-retentive soil with plenty of humus
  • Where bulbs are planted in grass do not cut the grass until after the leaves have died back. Divide large colonies immediately after flowering while the leaves are still green
  • Flowering period: January and February
  • Hardiness: fully hardy

Diary dates:  

Join The Garden House special visit to the Winter Garden at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden: Friday 22 February.  This is a daytime coach trip, for more info CLICK HERE

Snowdrop Days at Pembury House: NGS Open Garden – Pembury House, Ditchling Road (New Road),  Clayton, nr Hassocks,  Sussex,  BN6 9PH: See the snowdrop displays on 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 February.  Special Hellebore Day, Friday 8 March (all dates 11am-4pm).  CLICK HERE for more info on Pembury House

Marchants Hardy Plants, 2 Marchants Cottages Mill Ln, Laughton, East Sussex BN8 6AJ Tel: 01323 811737 / web:

Feedback on our Creative Photography workshop!

Posted by editor on Monday, 4 February 2013

Surely the best way to judge a successful workshop is by the feedback one receives.  Laura Dodson’s Creative Photography workshop held last Saturday was one such success. 

Using the beautiful Garden House setting as inspiration for practical exercises exploring composition and lighting techniques, Laura helped her students to capture wonderful images of natural textures, garden details and plant patterns – see just a few of them here!

We look forward to welcoming Laura back soon – we’re planning a new workshop and 6-week course later in the year, dates will be on our DIARY soon!

“Really valuable day – learnt a great deal more about my camera, and found the sessions on composition and light helpful. Beautiful setting, and lunch…fab.”

“I so enjoyed the day and you’ve opened up my camera to me!  Now I realise just how much I don’t know but am looking forward to practicing what you’ve taught us. So inspiring and informative – you’ve been so generous with your time and knowledge.”

“I found it easy to ask questions. This is the beginning of a big journey into photography – thank you for not making it too complicated. I like doing it, getting feedback and doing it again.”

“Excellent course – I learnt so much and it has given me the confidence to play around with my camera. What a lovely day, a nice group of people and lovely food. Thank you!”

“A great day. Got me thinking about noticing light and framing shots. Thank you.”

“A lovely course, very informative and at an understandable level. Everyone was wonderfully friendly and the environment tranquil and a delight to be part of.  Many thanks.”


“Excellent day – very cold but lot of cool stuff to photograph once I got my eye in! Learnt loads about how to make better use of my camera. Wonderful lunch and shortbread.”

“Fab day! Lots of very useful tips and tricks to take away. Gained confidence to make more of my settings on both cameras.”

After many years developing her photographic skills at college and running a camera club, Laura established her photographic career in 2001, working both in the studio and on location.  Since then she has taught photography at The Friends Centre in Brighton and Portslade Community Centre, and now provides a unique learning experience: ‘Fotos On Foot’ photography tours and classes.


Meet Val Bourne, Award-Winning Garden Writer

Posted by editor on Sunday, 27 January 2013

Val Bourne is an award-winning garden writer, photographer and lecturer.  She gardens on the wind-swept Cotswolds at Spring Cottage – high above Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, her third of an acre garden is managed without using chemicals – something Val has always believed in. She is a hands-on gardener and a committed plantaholic.

Meet Val at The Garden House on Saturday 2 March and learn how to succeed at vegetable growing, including what varieties to sow and when.  Her Ten-Minute Garden Diaries (published September 2011) distill thirty years experience of gardening and they explain to gardeners when to tackle important jobs.

To BOOK and for more info CLICK HERE

Val has been gardening naturally for thirty years or more and wrote about her previous Oxfordshire garden in her award-winning book The Natural Gardener published by Frances Lincoln in 2004. It explains how a plant-packed garden functions successfully without chemical intervention and the purpose behind the book was to encourage others to become green gardeners too. Her latest book The Winter Garden was published in October 2006 by Cassell Illustrated and it describes how to make your garden shine in winter. Colour in The Garden, published in September 2011 by Merrell, is a practical guide to blending plants.

Val writes for The Daily Telegraph, Saga Magazine, The Oxford Times, the Hardy Plant Society Journal and many other magazines.


We love: hardy Cyclamen

Posted by editor on Saturday, 19 January 2013

Cyclamen are looking wonderful at this time of year.  They have been flowering their hearts out for several weeks now at The Garden House, their brilliant pink (though some are white) flowers highlighting the more monotone shades of the winter garden.  In terms of flowering time, they are simply brilliant value for money at this time of year and are incredibly easy to grow!

Despite the weather we’re working in the garden and there are signs of growth everywhere.  We have Cyclamen for sale as well many other typically winter shrubs and perennials, including Sarcococca, Skimmia, Cornus mas, Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, Helleborus niger (our January plant of the month) and evergreen Euonymus. The plants are priced at between £4.50 and £6.00.  If you are interested in buying then please email us to arrange a time to visit the garden and make your purchase.  We are also selling some very striking ironwork plant supports made by Lorraine Philpot at the Firle Forge.

Even our Garden House cat Aniseed can be seen admiring them!

Facts about Cyclamen:

  • in the Primulaceae family, and therefore are surprisingly related to primulas and cowslips
  • they are tuberous perennials with rounded, sometimes angular, leaves which are often attractively mottled
  • the nodding, characteristically shaped flowers have 5 reflexed and twisted petals, often with dark markings at the base
  • most species need shelter from the wind and driving rain, also shade in varying degrees – all need well-drained soil
  • they are normally seen under trees, in lightly wooded areas, in rockeries, or against hedges
  • they self propagate fairly quickly eventually creating beautiful drifts
  • most common is Cyclamen hederifolium, but we particularly love Cyclamen coum
  • C. coum is a perennial to 10cm, with rounded leaves sometimes marbled with silver on the upper surface, it’s flowers are 2cm in width, deep pink, with a purple blotch at the base of each lobe, open from late winter

Join us on our outing to Cambridge University Botanic Garden on Friday 22 February to see early snowdrops and narcissi and so much more. This tranquil and inspirational garden has over 8,000 plant species and nine national collections and is particularly worth visiting in the winter as it is designed to showcase a remarkable array of plants with interesting bark foliage, stem colour, flowers and fragrance.  CLICK HERE for more INFO.

We visited Pelion in Greece in late October and were delighted to find cyclamen growing in the wild.

Plant of the Month: Helleborus niger AGM

Posted by editor on Wednesday, 9 January 2013

This herbaceous, clump-forming plant is a really welcome visitor at this time of year – this picture was taken in December in Brighton! – it is very unusual for this plant to actually be in bloom at Christmas, or indeed early January, despite its common name of Christmas Rose. This particular specimen is in a container against a wall and presumably this is why it is in flower so early.

Helleborus niger is a hardy plant in the Ranunculaceae family (the buttercup family). It is a semi-evergreen perennial growing to 30cm, with leathery, dark green leaves and 1-3 pure white or pink-flushed white, bowl-shaped flowers up to 8cm in width and has won the Award of Garden Merit.  As with all plants in this family if ingested it may cause severe discomfort and can also be a skin irritant.

The Victorians used to cover their Helleborus niger plants with bell jars to force them into flower at Christmas.

  • Ultimate height – 0.1 – 0.5 metres
  • Ultimate spread – 0.1 – 0.5 metres
  • Time to ultimate height – 2-5 years

Unlike most Hellebore varieties that tend to thrive in shade, the H. niger prefers some sun.  It enjoys neutral to alkaline soils that are moist, fertile and humus-rich, so is ideal for heavy clay in partial shade. Provide shelter from strong, cold winds.

Mulch annually in autumn and remove as the flowers appear. As the plants may be affected by hellebore leaf spot like all plants in this genus, it’s a good idea post-Christmas to get out into the garden and remove all the faded or damaged foliage that are showing signs of damage.

Although not the easiest Hellebores to grow but it is really worth having a go as they bring cheer in darkest January. We love them for their pure white flowers; they look beautiful if brought indoors in January when we support the heads with some hazel or birch twigs.

Join our Winter Solstice Celebration – Friday 21 December

Posted by editor on Thursday, 20 December 2012

If you are looking for some special last-minute Christmas presents then come along to our Winter Solstice celebration on Friday 21 December, from 4pm – 8pm.

We’ll have original and gorgeous gifts for sale including a range of natural skin products, hand crafted gifts, Christmas breads, preserves, foliage wreaths, plants and fresh flowers.  Winter shrubs and plants will be on sale, also silver birch branches if you are looking for an alternative to a Christmas tree! And for a special gift, why not buy a gardening enthusiast some pre-loved vintage tools?

Garden House vouchers for our exciting 2013 craft and garden-related courses and workshops will also be available!

Pop in on the way home from work – there will be food and mulled cider as well as a bit of carol singing to get you in the Christmas spirit!

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


Christmas Wreath heaven…

Posted by editor on Sunday, 16 December 2012

Our Christmas wreaths are fat and round,

Made of the woodsy things we found.

We tied brown cones upon the green,

And stuck red berries in between.

Upon the wreath on our front door,

We tied red ribbon from the store.  (Anon)





Cool Yule: Taking Orders Now

Posted by editor on Sunday, 2 December 2012

Our favourite festive bakers Cool Yule (the wonderful Steve Bustin and John Williams) are again baking like crazy to fulfill orders for their totally delicious Cool Yule Christmas Cakes, Bread, Jams and Chutneys.  Homemade and richly delicious, all the items come beautifully packaged and make wonderful presents.

Cool Yule will have a stand at our Winter Solstice Fair on Friday 21 December.  Plan ahead – as always we expect their delicious fare to disappear very quickly so we strongly advise pre-ordering to avoid disappointment!  See list below.

To order your Cool Yule Christmas Cakes, Bread, Jams and Chutneys please complete this FORM OR email your order to






































Now open, Lindy’s beautiful B&B…

Posted by editor on Friday, 2 November 2012

If you’re booking a Garden House course or workshop why not make a weekend of it and stay at a local Brighton B&B?  Garden House friend Lindy Craig-Hall and her husband have a beautiful family home (the children have all grown up and gone she stresses!) overlooking the extensive green and trees of the wonderful Preston Park.

This late Victorian house has a very English country home feel, yet The Garden House and Brighton’s city centre are just walking distance away.

The décor is charming and comfortable and highlights Lindy’s love of vintage furnishings, textiles, mosaics and ceramics mixed with more contemporary paintings.

Lindy is also a keen gardener opening her garden regularly for the local Garden Gadabout open gardens weekends.  The large garden is on several levels; nearest the house, stunning bright pink painted and pot-covered steps lead up to the next level of lawn and perennial beds, then up a few steps again to another lawn, the greenhouse, summerhouse and seating where you can sit back, relax and enjoy.

The accommodation comprises of two bedrooms with use of your own bathroom (roll-top bath!) as well as a first floor sitting room, perfect for relaxing and unwinding in your own space within this stylish and comfortable house.

Another Lindy touch is the homemade cake and fruit in your room as well as the usual tea and coffee making facilities.

Lindy is charging £75 for a double and £45 single, but if people stay longer than one night the charge goes down. Breakfast is continental and served with delicious fruit salad with organic yogurt.

You can contact Lindy direct – tel: 01273 564746 / email: or through The Garden House when you book your workshop – if you are staying with Lindy, you’ll receive a 10% reduction on your Garden house booking!

We love: Nigel Slater’s vegetable patch stew

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 23 October 2012

One of our favourite cooks and foodie author is Nigel Slater, he of The Kitchen Diaries, Tender, Real Fast Cooking and his wonderful biography Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger.  This recipe is an easy fail-safe supper or lunch dish – and ideal for using up any late summer gluts of tomatoes, courgettes, peppers and aubergine.

Nigel Slater’s vegetable patch stew

Serves 4, and preparation and cooking time is approx.1 hour.

The trick here is to avoid the temptation to cook this like a stew with all the ingredients lumped in together. It takes longer to cook them separately, but the individual attention allows each ingredient to keep its own character. You end up with layers of flavour rather than a casserole.


Olive oil

Large aubergine, halved and thinly sliced

3 halved and sliced courgettes

4 (orange and red) peppers

2 onions, peeled and roughly sliced

2 garlic peeled and crushed

Marjoram, parsley and thyme

3 medium, quartered tomatoes

12 or so cherry tomatoes

500ml jar or pack tomato passata or crushed tomatoes

3 bay leaves

Basil leaves


  1. Heat a shallow layer of olive oil in a large, low sided pan and brown the aubergine on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Fry each of the other vegetables separately in the order above, adding more oil as necessary, until each is pale gold. Remove as each one is ready and set aside.
  3. When you reach the onions, cook in the same way along with the garlic but when cooked, don’t remove from the pan. Add the herbs, along with the tomatoes and allow to cook a little before transferring the cooked peppers back into pan.
  4. Add the passata and leave to simmer, with the lid on. When the sauce is reduced a little transfer the aubergine and courgettes back in to the pan along with the bay leaves and season.
  5. Taste – leave to simmer for a few more minutes. Stir gently with a handful of torn basil leaves and serve.


My perfect watering can!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 14 October 2012

Is it possible to have too many watering cans? I have been looking for the perfect watering can for years and here it is!

It’s simple bright green and plastic (above) – certainly not the most attractive, but so far it’s the most efficient!  It pours really well and doesn’t leak – and there’s a knob on the top where you can keep your rose so you don’t lose it – clever.  It’s by Decco, holds 10 ltrs and cost £6.94 (a bargain!).

As you can see from all these photos, we’ve been buying and trying many over the years and have accumulated a vast array of all shapes, colours, sizes and efficiency. All have memories attached – some were inherited or acquired, some were given by friends, but most just found their way here and stayed!

Those of you who have visited The Garden House will know we’ve a large garden and what seems like hundreds of pots to water, and when the weather turns dry – as it has so often over this strange year between the downpours – we have to do loads of hand-watering!  This is often down to the wonderful ‘Friday Group’, a group of regular Friday morning volunteers who learn as they work in the garden tackling all tasks with humour, enthusiasm and seemingly boundless energy.

If you have photos of your favourite watering can and can tell us a bit about it (how, where, why!), email it to us and we’ll post an update.  Email:


Plant of the Month: Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’

Posted by editor on Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Our suggestion this month is the wonderful Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ of the Asteraceae family, and common named the ‘perennial sunflower’. 

It is one of those plants that never fails to lift the spirits, and is irresistible to butterflies!  Reassuringly it has also been given the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by the Royal Horticultural Society, so you know it’s going to perform well.

Helianthus can be tall, erect annuals, tuberous or rhizomatous perennials, with coarse simple leaves and large daisy-like flower heads.

‘Lemon Queen’ is a strong-growing and bushy, with coarse, dark green foliage and a multitude of pale yellow ray florets about a dark yellow central disk 5cm wide, flowering in late summer and autumn.

This delightful and much-loved plant grows best in full sun in any sheltered position (not in shade or north-facing aspect).  It looks beautiful planted in large swathes, prairie style; but equally works well when planted in smaller city or courtyard gardens, coastal, cottage or informal gardens.

Helianthus love moderately fertile, humus-rich, moist but well drained, neutral to alkaline soil in full sun, and need a long hot summer to flower well. They may need support.

  • Hardiness: H4 (hardy)
  • Propagate by division in spring or autumn
  • Pruning: Cut back after flowering
  • Pests: Can get slugs and snails
  • Diseases: May be affected by powdery mildews and sclerotinia diseases


Visit the Great Dixter Plant Fair

Posted by editor on Monday, 1 October 2012

One of our very favourite gardens Great Dixter is holding its annual Plant Fair next weekend, Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 October.

This is a particularly special event as it includes some European nurseries that one wouldn’t normally see over here – Domaine de la Source from France (Asters), De Hessenhof (herbaceous) and Kwekerij Arborealis (shrubs and trees) from Holland, and Chris Ghyselen from Belgium (Perscaria).  Also many excellent UK specialist nurseries.

There will be talks by the nurserymen about their plants throughout the weekend.  Click here for the Timetable of Talks.

For more info email: or check their website


A day of domestic bliss and screen-printing heaven!

Posted by editor on Friday, 28 September 2012

Last Saturday’s ‘Domestic Bliss’ textile print workshop with local designer and maker Kate Strachan was a great success.  The day was sunny and bright – always a good start! – and the students keen to roll up their sleeves and get printing!

The idea was to create a design inspired by The Garden House garden, then to interpret this design and create a simple one-colour screen, and finally to print onto tea towels or canvas bags.


“It was quite one of the most enjoyable days I’ve spent for a long time.  You walk through the gate into a different world, don’t you?  Unexpected, quirky and beautiful, more than a bit of rurality in the city somehow… 

The day was like an injection of creativity for me and I was inspired to draw for the first time in ages. The spirit of the place has really stayed with me, proof that a garden is best when it completely reflects the personality of its owner.  Kate was delightful too, the other people all had interesting reasons for being there and it was amazing what everyone achieved in such a short time!  Oh and lunch was delicious too!”  Jaine M.


For inspiration Kate brought along a variety of everyday domestic objects printed with her own delightful designs.


We were skillfully guided through initial sketches, selecting and drawing up a design and cutting paper stencils. After a simple introduction to the process of textile screen-printing, we rolled up our sleeves, donned our aprons and got working.


“Bridgette and Deborah’s Garden House is an oasis of quirky creativity and warm hospitality: everywhere you look there are beautiful planting combinations and madly creative garden sculptures and furniture.

A day spent in their company kickstarts your creative juices and warms up your friendship batteries. Kate is an encouraging and thoughtful teacher, and her screen printing day brought out the best in all of us — we were liberated to explore our individual creativity, and it was an absolute pleasure to meet and spend the day with such an interesting bunch of students.”  Jackie G.

Kate teaches fashion and textiles part time and produces her own pieces using mainly vintage fabrics or linen, and makes limited edition silkscreen prints on textiles and paper.

Her work references the utility era, the simple obviousness of a useful household item. It plays with the convention by which we identify an image with the thing it represents and encourages practical application but with some enjoyment!

We love: fiery autumn colour

Posted by editor on Monday, 24 September 2012

Heading out in The Garden House garden last Saturday – the last deliciously sunny day for a while I suspect – we were struck by just how much dramatic and fiery autumn colour remains to be picked and enjoyed.  The jewel tones of the season are deep purples, rusts, scarlet and gold.

In between the rustling buff and golden grasses and seedheads: Helenium with their orange-red flowers, the flat heads of golden Achillea (yarrow) and simple sprawling nasturtiums – all looking simple and unpretentious, yet still wonderfully rich and bold.

Sadly the dahlias are pretty much over, though sedums are still looking strong and will go on for a while yet (though this week’s heavy rain is bound to batter them!), asters are still flowering, and happily even a few cosmos remain.

Given that we can and often do enjoy early autumn warmth and sunshine, it is really worthwhile considering interspersing grasses with perennials that will extend the flowering year.

Winter pansies and ornamental chillies make a great display in the front garden pots.



Propagating Pelargoniums

Posted by editor on Saturday, 15 September 2012

Pelargoniums are native to South Africa and are tender perennials – in other words, they need to be kept frost free over winter.  Some of the more common bedding varieties do sometimes survive outside but the rarer types tend to die at the merest hint of a frost.

Propagating pelargoniums is easy, with almost fail-safe results!  If you propagate your pelargoniums rather than growing on last years plants you’ll have more flowers and much stronger plants and September is a really good time to start taking cuttings if you want really good results.

How to do this:

  • September is the ideal time to start propagating as the plants are at a very active stage of growth which means they will root very quickly.
  • Make your cut underneath the node or leaf joint as this is where there is an accumulation of hormones, which will help your cuttings to make roots.
  • Take a 1½in-3in cutting using a very sharp knife (a razor blade rather than a kitchen knife).  You are most likely to succeed if you keep cuttings small.
  • Use a mix of two-thirds peat to one-third grit – this will make a really free draining mix and will stop the plants from rotting off.
  • Do not cover them as you would when propagating other tender perennials – again this will allow the cuttings to develop roots before quickly without getting diseases such as grey mould.

They should root with two to three weeks. You’ll know they have done so by new growth at their tips. Turn over the pot and check for new white roots.

Take them out of the propagator and pot on if before October.

If it is already October, don’t pot on but feed and keep them cold and dry through the winter, to pot on in spring. They’ll grow fantastically and you’ll have lots of plants to put out in the garden.

To see a fantastic collection of Pelargoniums visit Woottens of Wenhaston in Suffolk, it is wonderful and a favourite nursery of ours!

Plant of the Month: Stipa gigantea

Posted by editor on Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Having recently spent the day at the Sussex Prairie Garden plant fair and seen some fabulous plants there, I thought I should tell you about one of our favourites – Stipa gigantea – the giant oat grass.

We find it to be a very useful architectural plant, and you can see this magnificent grass growing in various locations throughout Sussex Prairies.

Stipa gigantea is a member of the Poaceae family.  It is one of the largest feather grasses and is said to be one of the most magnificent of all the ornamental garden grasses. It makes a really good ‘see through’ plant and is brilliant for growing with cut flowers, giving a light and airy feel, together with swaying movement.  This plant with its golden colour looks particularly beautiful when the low level sun shines through on a September morning.

Its narrow (3mm) leaves form a large tuft of basal foliage while the loose, open panicle flowers are held high above the foliage on stems 2.5m high during June to August and persist well into the autumn and winter months. Overall height and spread is 2.5m (8ft) high x 1.2m (4ft) wide.

The specific epithet gigantea appropriately describes the tall stems, while the common name ‘golden oats’ accurately describe the oat-like panicles of flowers which are golden when ripe.

Stipa species and cultivars are all easily grown in any moderately fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Native to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, they happily grow in Britain and northern Europe, and most are hardy to at least -15°C though many will not survive the winter in conditions where the soil is waterlogged.

Plants should establish quickly and, once growing well, need little attention apart from cutting back of the foliage during the winter to tidy it up before the new flush of growth appears in the spring.

Once established Stipa gigantea is drought resistant and not troubled by pests or diseases.

Like many grasses Stipa can be propagated from seed or division. Sow seeds in container in a cold frame in spring, or divide plants in mid-spring or early summer.

Do give it a try – even in a small garden it can provide a real wow factor!

PHOTO: thank you to Woottens of Wenhaston


Sussex Prairies; plant and art fair

Posted by editor on Saturday, 8 September 2012

Last Sunday the wonderful Paul and Pauline McBride invited over 60 specialist nurseries, artists and makers to set up their stalls dotted in and around the vast perennial beds that make up the Sussex Prairies landscape.

On the left, Bridgette Saunders with Paul Seabourne

We set up our stall to meet and talk with new people, happy to tell them about the exciting upcoming Garden House workshops, courses and talks – everything from our 8-week Gardening for Beginners courses, to an evening talk with Ed Ikin, head gardener at Nymans, and a Green Roof Workshop where you can not only learn about green roofs, but actually plant and take away your own green-roofed bird box!

On Saturday 29 September we’re returning to Sussex Prairies for our Designing with Plants at the Sussex Prairies Garden Workshop – an exploration of what makes for dream planting partnerships – looking at colour, shape, texture and architectural forms of plants.  See DIARY for more details.

Our stand also featured mosaic pieces by Brighton-based mosaicist Sue Samway and a great selection of specialist perennials propagated by Paul Seabourne.

Hard to believe, but the borders at Sussex Prairies were planted only 4 years ago in 2008, and all 30,000 of 600 different varieties have been carefully logged and recorded!   The sweeping beds planted in the shape of a spiralling nautilus shell encourage exploration and adventure and visitors are able to roam through narrow pathways in amongst the mighty plants to further enjoy the experience. The plantings consist of large groupings of each variety, planted in a free flowing style, which contrasts leaf forms, stems, stalks, flower shapes and textures.

Even as some of the planting fades and begins to go over, there remains the rusty and blackened colouring of the seedheads and grasses.  In many ways quite as attractive as the late summer Heleniums, Rudbeckias and Sedums.

On the weekend of 15/16 September another unusual event is taking place at Sussex Prairies: the Blackfoot Lodge and Spirit of the West will be camping in the garden with their teepees, totem poles and buffalo skins. Visit and talk with them about the native American way of life anytime between 1pm and 5pm

Sussex Prairies, Morlands Farm, Wheatsheaf Road, Henfield, West Sussex, BN5 9AT

The Collector Earl’s Garden

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Earlier this year we visited the amazing gardens at Arundel Castle in West Sussex.

Before the present 18th Duke and Duchess moved permanently to the Castle in 1987, the gardens had been largely neglected. Over the intervening years the Duchess, together with the head gardener, has transformed the 2 acres allocated to the gardens. The centerpiece of this restoration is the new formal garden, conceived as a light-hearted tribute to Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), known as ‘The Collector’.

It is set in a third of the area of the Georgian and Victorian walled kitchen garden and was designed by the very creative Isabel and Julian Bannerman (, with the enthusiastic support of the Duchess.

The garden is divided into formal courts with a centre canal pond and tufa-lined cascade. It is quite unlike anything we’ve seen before, a wonderful mix of eccentric grandeur and rusticity, and rich with historic references.

The domed pergola and fountains are based on those seen in the garden vista in the background of the famous Mytens portrait of the Countess of Arundel and are constructed from green oak giving a somewhat robust rustic charm.

The grand centre piece is the rockwork ‘mountain’ planted with palms and rare ferns to represent another world, supporting a green oak version of ‘Oberon’s Palace’, a fantastic spectacle designed by Inigo Jones for Prince Henry’s Masque on New Year’s Day 1611, flanked by two green oak obelisks. This contains a shell-lined interior with a stalagmite fountain and gilded coronet ‘dancing’ on top of a jet of water.

The garden has many less grandiose areas and details too. There’s a stumpery (very much a Bannerman trademark), and a pleasantly informal kitchen garden with its restored glasshouse – and even a living willow arbour (they must have got that idea from The Garden House, no?)


We loved its restrained planting, completely over-the-top green oak statuary, honest rusticity and humorous (even kitsch sometimes) charm.

Admission to The Collector Earl’s Garden is included within the standard admission prices. To find out more:

Just an idea…

Posted by editor on Friday, 27 July 2012

It’s just an idea, and we’re testing the water – to find out whether our lovely gardening friends out there would be interested in going on a garden-focused holiday next year?

Following two very successful Garden House organised trips to South Africa in 2010 and Berlin in 2011, we’re thinking of Grenada for 2013!  If you are interested, let us know!

Grenada is one of, if not the, most beautiful Caribbean island, and with year round sunshine and temperatures comfortably in the twenties, it is an ideal paradise island to explore.

The Garden House holiday (May 26 – June 2, 2013) will be based at the award winning and acclaimed Calabash Hotel – welcoming, friendly and with five star accommodation, and also a great place for the garden lover.

In 2012 the Calabash Hotel supported the award-winning exhibit created by Suzanne Gaywood at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  The exhibit won Gold – this was the tenth Gold for Suzanne who says: “each year we try to convey some of the magic and much of the floral diversity of Grenada.”

She has in fact won Gold no less than 10 times with stunning displays of exotic plants that grow abundantly on this volcanic island with its fertile soil, abundant rainfall and wonderful climate, in which spice trees grow alongside tropical and sub-tropical plants of every description.

Beautiful beaches along 75 miles of coastline washed by Caribbean and Atlantic waters – Grenada is an island of warm seas, lush rainforest, volcanic landscape, brilliant vegetation, outstanding flowers, and the lingering smell of fragrant spices.

The hotel has just thirty suites, all spaced round a sea-facing horseshoe within eight acres of lush tropical gardens. Each suite is beautifully decorated and has its own balcony or patio, where your room attendant will serve your breakfast.

Our stay will be half-board, so will include dining a la carte in the hotel’s exclusive Gary Rhodes Restaurant.

There is also a delightful spa, a beach bar, swimming pool, gym, tennis court, occasional evening entertainment and free wi-fi. Their service (as experienced by friends of ours earlier this year) is second to none with nothing too much trouble for the friendly and helpful staff.

Of course we will ensure that you are able to explore the wonderful vegetation and fascinating culture of the island. Example tours include:

TOUR 1 – visit Noelville, where the nutmeg producers/Chelsea Flower Show coordinators are located. Then to the Grand Etang Rainforest to walk the short nature trail guided by a local plant expert and admire the outstanding plants that showcased at Chelsea including orchids, anthuriums, heliconias and gingers, and finishing at the Grand Etang Crater Lake with a picnic lunch, provided by the Calabash Hotel. On the way back to the hotel you will stop at the Annandale Waterfall, where you can dip your feet in, hire guides to ‘jump’ from the top into the falls, or just observe the natural beauty of it.

TOUR 2 -
 dinner theatre at The Spice Basket where you’ll enjoy a musical and theatrical story told through the passion of dance, pulsating music and drama.

- visit Smithy’s gardens, then journey up the West Coast to the town of Guoyave where the local ‘Fish Friday’ is held – and where a few streets are closed off and vendors sell seafood and flowers of all sorts (check out the Smithy’s Garden florists)!

- visit to the capital St. George’s to wander around, go to the vegetable and craft market and to enjoy lunch on the delightful waterfront, The Carenage , at  the ‘Ocean Grill Restaurant’.

Well, that gives you an idea of what COULD be in store for May 26 – June 2, 2013 – if you’re interested, do let us know!


Open Garden for Charity – Saturday 14 July

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Garden House will be hosting its annual charity event, as always in aid of a local charity.  This year we are supporting Brighton & Hove Sands, a small group which relies heavily on the dedication of its valued volunteers to provide the level of services that parents and their families need when they experience the death of their baby. Part of a national charity, Sands (Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Society), the Brighton & Hove group provide support in the Brighton, Hove and Worthing areas.

The group support bereaved parents and families by phone, email or face to face. They also run group meetings once a month at locations in Hove and Worthing, where bereaved parents can share their thoughts, feelings and experiences.  More information on the group can be found on their website,

B & H Sands supports both Brighton’s Princess Royal, and Worthing hospitals by funding and supplying memory boxes to all bereaved parents, and providing national Sands training to local healthcare professionals. One of their aims is to be able to fund and supply a new type of cold cot to each hospital which allows parents to take their babies home, or spend longer with them whilst in hospital.

If you would like to donate anything to our auction or if you would like to have a stall at this event then please let us know ASAP – stalls cost £20 (For SANDS).

Afternoon Open Garden:

  • Opens 2pm – £2 entrance per adult (children free) – tea, cakes and stalls
  • 4.30 pm – the Grand Auction – amazing items to bid for – see list below!

Evening supper:

  • Supper will be served at 7pm – £20 for three courses, wine available by donation – this will be a sit down supper with waiter/waitress service (menu below).
  • To book a table please email us or call on 07729037182 for a booking form – places are limited so please contact us ASAP!



Hummus and baba ganoush dips with bread and olives

Gazpacho or hot seasonal soup (weather dependent!) with Real Patisserie bread

Main courses:

Roasted Vegetable Couscous with Harissa-style Dressing .

Fish pie with dill and a seasonal salad


Fresh raspberry trifle

Cherry Clafoutis


  • Holiday home in North Norfolk – sleeps up to 15 converted old chapel with luxury accommodation – limited availability during school holidays
  • Stay in two bedroom villa in Fuerteventura – sleeps four – with pool
  • Stay in stone cottage in Skye – sleeps 5 – limited availability during school holidays
  • Kate Osborne watercolour framed print of hens
  • Voucher for four donated by Southern Water, for the famous Brighton Sewer Tour
  • Two seats in Amex stadium box for one Brighton and Hove Albion football match, courtesy of Southern Water
  • Haircut by Nikki Ward
  • Herbal skin care kit made by local herbalist
  • Bushcraft activity experience at Stanmer Park for up 10 children – aged 7 -11 years with experienced leader
  • Two volume RHS plant encyclopedia
  • Italian taster lesson
  • Home made vegetarian meal for four delivered to your home (Brighton and Hove)
  • Home made Greek meal for up to 6 people in the Garden house
  • 2 hours gardening from four members of the Friday group
  • Half a days gardening from approx 15 people to transform your garden

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


Please come along and support this very worthwhile charity.


A Day to Remember

Posted by editor on Saturday, 7 July 2012

When Debbie Hinks was wondering where to hold her 50th birthday party – she knew that she wanted a gossipy, relaxed, sunny atmosphere for her special day (Debbie was SO lucky with the weather) and where she didn’t have to worry about offspring.  She soon realized the ideal solution was just around the corner!

“I chose The Garden House as a venue having experienced the charm and beauty of the garden when I ran a pastel drawing workshop back in June, and I knew it would be perfect.

I was thrilled when Bridge and Deborah agreed to host my party on one of their precious Sundays off!  Then when Bridge and Deborah produced the lunch it was so lovely – beautifully laid out, fresh flowers, pretty un-matching crockery, embroidered tablecloths – gorgeous food! – and chickens roaming freely much to our amusement. Everyone LOVED it!

I invited 20 girlfriends, we all drank far too much fizz, reminisced, and laughed a lot – especially me!  In Bridge and Deborah I feel like I’ve made two dear friends, nothing was too much trouble.  I’ve got some lovely memories of a special day, and I’m still smiling now.”

Check out Debbie’s website for info on her drawing courses –

Curl up with a book…

Posted by editor on Sunday, 24 June 2012

When heading out into the garden isn’t the best option (will this wind and rain ever stop?), or when I get those 3am awakenings when the mind just won’t still itself, I’ll often reach for one of my many gardening books.

Most are modern books, recently written and covering the endlessly diverse subjects of design, planting and what do when – New Gardening by Mathew Wilson, Dan Pearson’s Spirit, Garden Design Details by Arne Maynard, and anything by John Brookes and Noel Kingsbury spring to mind, though there are so many more. The musings of the incredible Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto inspire, amuse and inform quite uniquely no matter how many times I read them (Christopher Lloyd’s Cuttings is a particular favourite).

Recently though, I have been reading a few second-hand gardening books. I thought I’d tell you about three of them. Two were gifts and one I picked up second hand from Much Ado Books in Alfriston, but treasures can also be found when scouting around boot sales and charity shops.

One Lousy Free Packet of Seed by Lynne Truss (she of Eats Shoots and Leaves fame!), her debut novel published 1994. A tale of absurdity, farce and a particular Britishness.  From the inside fly leaf: “Osborne Lonsdale, forty-eight, writes for Come Into the Garden.  He contributes a weekly celebrity interview column called ‘Me and My Shed’.  His small, intense friend Makepeace is a professional book reviewer and part-time pathological liar.  Together they travel to Honiton, by the A303, in a Fiesta van, in bleak November.  Osborne is unwittingly adored by Michelle, the frustrated chief sub-editor, who writes him kinky ‘readers’ letters’ after work for her own amusement.  Lillian, the editor’s lazy secretary, who hates Michelle, mischievously sends them on.  Tim, the deputy editor, knows nothing about anything, but worries anyway”…and so it goes on.

Better Gardening by Robin Lane Fox, published 1986, was a gift from a friend to whom I had to confess that I had never heard of him. Wikipedia notes that he is “an expert gardener, he is the gardening correspondent of the Financial Times and a noted opponent of garden gnomes” – so really I should have!

From the inside fly leaf – “In this memorable book, Robin Lane Fox draws on his wide experience to pick and discuss better plants, bulbs, trees and shrubs for beginners and experts alike.  Wherever possible, their sources and cheap means of increase are listed.  The result is not only an encouragement to try new plants or begin a garden-plan with confidence.  It is filled with advice from an observant eye and is written with a style, humour, and sense of romance which have long delighted his weekly readers and place this book beside the best of English garden literature.”

A Little History of British Gardening by Jenny Uglow, published 2004, is an excellent read, rich with historical facts yet humble and humorous detail too: “Did the Romans have rakes?  Did the monks get muddy?  Did the potato seem really, really weird when it arrived on our shores?”

From the inside fly leaf – “This lively ‘potted’ history of gardening in Britain takes us on a garden tour from the thorn hedges around prehistoric settlements to the rage for decking and ornamental grasses today.  It tracks down the ordinary folk who worked the earth – the apprentice boys and weeding women, the florists and nursery gardeners – as well as aristocrats and grand designers and famous plant-hunters.  Coloured by Jenny Uglow’s own love for plants, and brought to life in the many vivid illustrations, it deals not only with flowery meads, grottoes and vistas, landscapes and ha-has, parks and allotments, but tells you, for example, how the Tudors made their curious knots; how housewives used herbs to stop freckles; how the suburbs dug for victory in World war II.”

So if the great outdoors doesn’t offer warm distraction, maybe turn up the heating and curl up with a good second-hand book as though it were December rather than June!

Visiting Jupiter Artland…

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 19 June 2012

On a recent visit to Scotland I was taken to Jupiter Artland, a contemporary sculpture garden in the grounds of Bonnington House outside Edinburgh.  It was absolutely wonderful, atmospheric and very special.   There are works by many leading artists, Andy Goldsworthy, Anthony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Marc Quinn among others, all of whom have been commissioned to create a piece within a particular setting, the topographical location being a crucial feature.

The very beautiful landforms by Charles Jencks welcomes one and they are stunning.  They celebrate the life of the cell, the basic unit of life, and the way in which one cell divides into two in stages. From above, the layout with the mounds, the connecting causeway, and the central rill, plus the four lakes on the outside, symbolise the cells early division into membranes and nuclei.

You are given an illustrated map and your journey continues through a very lovely wood, with ferns unfurling and magnificent trees, you can choose which direction to take, on the hoggin paths, to discover such an amazing diversity of pieces, which please, stimulate, frighten and challenge.

Inside the gallery we saw the remains of a piece of ephemeral art by Anya Gallaccio, Red on Green, where 10,000 red roses had been laid and are now decaying.  “Fragrant, soft and velvety the voluptuousness of the roses en masse evokes romance and decadence that is slowly allowed to blacken like scabs and die”.  On my visit the roses still gave off a faint musky fragrance, but were papery-looking and faded, and evoked a sense of sadness. 

The atmosphere of Jupiter Artland is magical.  As well as the fabulous walk through the pieces of art, delicious food is served from a 1950’s retro-American catering caravan – and the shop is interesting too!

Robert and Nicky Wilson, who own Bonnington House and have set up Jupiter Artland, are part of the Wilson family that own Bach Flower Remedies.

It is certainly well worth a visit, as is the city of Edinburgh.  My sister lives in Stockbridge in Edinburgh as is offering Bed & Breakfast during the Edinburgh festival.  If interested, contact Deborah at

All about roses…

Posted by editor on Friday, 8 June 2012

I doubt if there is anything about roses that Simon White does not know. He has worked for multi-medal-winning Peter Beales Roses in Norfolk for 30 years, but said that when he started there he didn’t care much for roses, but was just looking for a job! This was Simon’s second workshop for The Garden House, and he is a storehouse of rose-related facts and insider stories.

We began with a comprehensive A-Z of Roses, accompanied by lots of pictures, which gave us a good grounding in the many different types of rose. Already we were noting down the names of old favourites, must-have unfamiliar ones, and desirable new introductions. Simon’s message was that roses are a very versatile plant: there is something for every situation. Particularly useful was the knowledge that shrub roses grown against a wall or fence will climb up while still flowering beautifully from the base.

From where I was sitting, the fragrance from a bucket of cut roses standing just outside kept wafting in. They had featured on the Peter Beales stand at Chelsea the previous week and were still in amazing condition. We passed them round to look at their colours and forms and tried to describe each one’s distinctive scent. Then we were given a demonstration of the professional method of propagating roses from tiny buds on to rootstock. We were also shown how to plant a rose to get it off to a good start, especially in our local chalky soil or to avoid rose replant disease – apparently the secret is all in a cardboard box.

The very full and informative day ended with a walk around Bridgette’s garden, rose-spotting. Although I’m very familiar with the garden from working in it each week with the Friday group I was still surprised by the number and variety of roses growing there – although Simon was reluctant to spend time on any that had been bred by their famous rival rose-growers (whose initials are D.A.)

Go pots for the Jubilee!

Posted by editor on Saturday, 2 June 2012

Going crazy for the Jubilee may not be your thing, but it’s still a great opportunity to play around with the lively red, white and blue theme in your garden…

If you nip down to your local garden centre, it may not be too late to rustle up some red, white and blue bedding plants and even perennials to plant up a couple of pots or window-boxes (ideal for your front garden if your street is planning a party!).

The RHS website has some brilliant ideasthe following info is from their website: 

Patriotic displays of red, white and blue-flowered plants are traditional favourites for British celebrations. Below is a selection of plants recommended by the RHS and the Horticultural Trades Association, who have been working together to promote the brightest and best to garden centres and nurseries for the summer celebrations.

  Red White Blue*
Ageratum     x
Antirrhinum x x  
Begonia x x  
Begonia Semperflorens Cultorum Group  




Begonia × tuberhybrida  




Calibrachoa x x x
Celosia x    
Cleome   x  
Cosmos   x  
Dianthus x x  
Diascia x x  
Fuchsia x x  
Heliotropum     x
Lobelia erinus x x  
Nemesia x x x
Nicotiana x x  
Osteospermum   x  
Pelargonium x x  
Petunia x x x
Salvia splendens x x x
Salvia farinacea   x x
Scaevola     x
Verbena x x x
Viola × wittrockiana (pansy) x x x
Viola x x x
Zinnia x x  

*’blue’ plants include shades of mauve and purple, as there are few true-blue flowers.

Images are from:

Northampton Chronicle and Echo

One Good Thing by Jillee – who also suggests painting your pots in red, white and blue!

Bill Flowers – love those ‘over railing’ pots!

Flaming Petal 


Textile Craft at The Garden House AOH

Posted by editor on Monday, 7 May 2012

Over the next few weeks we’ll be highlighting the wonderfully creative artists and makers showing at The Garden House every weekend in May; our first are textile makers Mandy Murray and Janie Jones.

Mandy grew up surrounded by the fabrics of her parent’s upholstery business, later becoming increasingly interested in textile history, particularly the functional textiles of ordinary women.  She started collecting patchwork quilts, finding more beauty, poignancy and meaning in simple red and white blocked quilts made from flour sacks, than in the more intricate embroideries of the parlour.

The social history behind these and other hand stitched objects fascinates her and inspires her own textile work created from old printed cottons and inspired and influenced by all those nameless women, by folk art, and by the beauty of, and her love of, gardening…

Mandy works with old and new fabrics, patchwork, applique, machine and hand stitching, recycling old stitching into her designs.

Janie Jones work is inspired by antique books and vintage images – hand printed cotton twill, cards, notebooks and silk ribbons – all created using much loved collage techniques and French typography.  Find Janie’s work on Etsy shop:

Click here for more info and our full list of artists and makers.  ALL MAJOR CREDIT/DEBIT CARDS ACCEPTED (not AmEx)

We love: Mosaics in the Garden

Posted by editor on Monday, 30 April 2012

At the Garden House we love a mosaic or two – especially in the garden! Sue Samways is a self-taught mosaicist with a love of gardens who has created many pieces for us – stepping-stones, mosaic-covered tabletops and mosaic-covered pots.

In 2001 she was commissioned to create mosaic-covered stepping-stones for a bronze medal-winning garden for children at the Hampton Court Palace flower show. Sue’s passion is for creating new from old – she uses pieces imbued with history, her favourite commissions involve taking people’s much-loved but broken china and creating new and unexpected treasures.

Visit the Garden House every weekend in May, 12.00 to 18.00, to see Sue’s work plus that of a wonderful group of artists and makers who are exhibiting work inspired by gardening and the garden.  Located in a former market garden, we offer a unique setting for decorative and practical pieces of work by blacksmiths, potters, a basket maker, paper artists, wood workers, sculptors and painters.  Click here for list of artists.

Mosaics enhance any garden space, being both functional and beautiful – at the Garden House Sue will be selling mosaic-covered stepping stones and flowerpots (other work, including mosaic-covered mirrors can be seen at 31 Preston Park Avenue on the Fiveways trail).

Sue has published articles in Making Magazine, she sells small pieces at RT Home in the North Laines, and regularly runs her very popular one-day workshops at the Garden House.

If you’d like to learn more about this colourful craft, book early for our next mosaic workshop, Design and Make a Mosaic Mirror, on Saturday 10 November. Sue will inspire you to experiment with colour, pattern and texture to create a totally unique mirror to decorate your home or to create as a gift (the perfect Christmas gift?!) – how wonderful!

Perennial Supports – be creative!

Posted by editor on Thursday, 19 April 2012

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.  In March 2011 we wrote a post on decorative staking, CLICK HERE to read it again!

And note that we’re opening for the first time as one of Brighton’s myriad Artists Open Houses!  Our garden will be host to many wonderful artists and makers showing and selling all manner of garden-related items – including Annemarie O’Sullivan’s willow balls and wigwams, and blacksmith Lorraine Philpott’s naturalistic structures – all ideal as plant supports…

Euphorbias, so useful in the garden

Posted by editor on Monday, 9 April 2012

Spring in the UK has been wonderful, certainly in the south, with extremely warm weather enjoyed, but at the same time rather troubling with the hosepipe ban, along with freezing temperatures on a couple of mornings this week!  Our gardens and the countryside have changed dramatically over the last ten days.

I spent the last week of March in the Pelion, Greece where the change in season has been slower, more typical and less extreme, with warm days, cool evenings and a recent history of plenty of rain.  The wild meadows were glorious.  One of the main contributors to this visual treat is the Euphorbia characias, with its zingy green punctuating the blooming of more delicate flowers.

Euphorbiaceae is the name given to one of the largest families in the plant world, with about 300 genera and 7,500 species and sometimes commonly known as spurges. Euphorbia range from annual to perennial plants, and from woody shrubs to trees – all share one feature in common, a caustic, poisonous milky sap.  The botanical name Euphorbia derives from the Greek Euphorbus, the name of the physician to king Juba II of Numibia (52-50 BC – 23 AD), whose stomach disorder may have been treated with Euphorbia resinifera (one of the more “cactus” looking species).

Euphorbias can play a many roles in the garden, with a species for most situations: Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae brings early interest in a woodland border, with its bright green, unfurling, tips; architectural, tall, clumps of Euphorbia characias sub. wulfeniiJohn Tomlinson can give structure, form and focus in an early spring border; Euphorbia griffithii ‘Dixter’ with its brilliant red/orange bracts adds colour and drama to a summer border; the Euphorbia myrsinites is low growing, offering soft grey/green sharply defined leaves and great contrast to more colourful plants in a gravel garden or in a very sunny border;  Euphorbia polychroma, with its acid- green star shaped flowers looks wonderful coupled with maroon planting, and the  Euphorbia oblongata is a great background staple in your cutting garden.

Think about bringing Euphorbias into your garden – the biggest warning being to be take care of the sap!

We love: Composting

Posted by editor on Saturday, 31 March 2012

If you want to garden organically, save money, and – so important right now – save water, think seriously about composting your garden and household waste.  Even in the smallest garden, using your own compost you can grow plants, fruit and vegetables without chemicals – and it’s free!

What you CAN compost:

  • Pet manure and bedding
  • Vegetable peelings
  • Uncooked kitchen scraps, eggshells and fruit skins
  • Dead flowers
  • Hedge and grass clippings
  • Coffee grounds and spent tea bags
  • Wood ash
  • Natural fibre fabrics
  • Nettles
  • Shredded paper and cardboard
  • Human hair

What you CANNOT compost:

  • Plastic bags, foam and plastic packaging
  • Medicines and chemicals
  • Spray cans, metal cans
  • Disposable nappies and synthetic fabrics
  • Glass bottles
  • Cooked food
  • Weeds
  •  Heavy root material, branches and some straw-like grasses may take just too long to compost so are best left out

WHERE to make compost:

  • You can buy a huge variety of types and sizes of compost bin, you can even just build a heap and cover it over with some polythene or cardboard – however a bin of some sort is neater and easier to manage.
  • Site your bin in a sunny or semi-shaded position, and on bare earth or turf
  • It should be easily accessible (maybe positioned so that you can access with a wheel-barrow), and have a lid or cover

HOW to make compost:

  • Aim for a balance of materials, and aim to add to the bin in layers at regular intervals (every couple of days or so)
  • Keep the material damp, but not over wet or it may not produce a very pleasant end product
  • Turn occasionally – you may have a compost bin that turns on an axle, or use a special tool which you push into the compost, twist and pull out again, thus bringing the lower levels up to the surface – in this way you can also tell whether the lower layers have composted
  • If you have two or more bins, you can rotate – fill one bin then turn it into the next bin, then start filling the bin you have just emptied – and so on…

The best compost is loose, rich, dark brown and earthy smelling – this can take from as little as two months to a year depending on conditions and content.  It is ‘black gold’ and positively the best feed, mulch and soil conditioner you can create. 

Fergus Garrett at The Garden House

Posted by editor on Monday, 26 March 2012

A hugely inspiring and very relaxed talk by Fergus Garrett took place at the Garden House on the strangely warm evening of 23rd March. This was about as far as you could get from a formal talk followed by Q & A in a conference room or village hall. We began with a drink, while the palest of spring flowers around us in the garden lit up the dusk, then moved inside to share a gorgeous meal as Fergus talked and showed slides of plants, plants, and yet more plants!

Many of the photos were taken at Great Dixter, where Fergus is director, having taken on the mantle of Christopher Lloyd after his death in 2006. Others were of striking plant associations and gardens from all over the world. Some were of the same small areas as the seasons progressed, showing how forms and colours changed as clever successive planting moved on with a mix of annual bedding and perennial framework. The bleached and frosted colours of late autumn and winter were particularly impressive. This style of gardening needs good planning and intensive input, but Fergus was keen to show the experimental side of Great Dixter, the importance of observing, reviewing and changing things in a garden to keep it fresh, in the spirit of its idiosyncratic creator, but not preserved in aspic. 

We were surprised to discover that Fergus was originally a local boy, and once worked for Brighton Parks Department before moving on and up, through National Trust gardens and the South of France, before being head-(gardener)-hunted by Christo. Both shared a love of bold colours, which Fergus jokingly put down to his early Parks experience. We were treated to a shot of a pile of Christo’s shriekingly colourful polo shirts, and heard that he yearned for a black-and-yellow wasp-striped number. We also learned of his love of tucking new plants into odd corners and crevices to “see how they did”; and the important role of self-seeders in the garden at Dixter, letting things place themselves and fight it out, and culling if necessary. All this was very heartening to hear.

Fergus is supremely knowledgeable and without hesitation reeled off the names of numerous plants, many of which were new to me, though often species cousins of more familiar garden plants. I scribbled notes in the semi-darkness and was amazed to find them readable next day. Well, sort of. Some of his favourite plants included: the architectural Ferula communis (a giant fennel that does not seed around like its relative foeniculum), Miscanthus ‘Cosmopolitan’, Echium rusicum,  Agave attenuata (swan-necked agave), and loose-formed plants which thread their way through others, such as Erigeron annuus, Ammi visnaga, Tagetes patula ‘Cinnabar’, and Campanula patula. Not forgetting the little daisy which is everywhere at Great Dixter, Erigeron karvinskianus.

We came away impressed by the enthusiasm and energy of a very famous gardener, and in such a friendly and intimate setting – altogether an unforgettable evening.

Words: Julia Widdows; photo of Deborah, Fergus and Bridgette: Dulcie Lee

Decorative stained glass workshop…

Posted by editor on Monday, 19 March 2012

As you walk through your garden, something sparkles and catches your eye.  How wonderful if it is an artwork you have made yourself…

Last Saturday’s stained glass workshop led by Annie McMullan offered just that, a thoroughly enjoyable day learning a new craft and taking the resulting stained glass decorative panel home: “This is going to hang in my garden where it will catch the light.  I can’t believe I achieved this all in one day!”

Fused glass ‘flower pictures’ were made in advance by Annie – the students selected one of these then picked out complementing colours of stained glass to go with it, and under Annie’s experienced eye they then cut the lead and soldered the panel together.

Annie said: “What a fantastic and enthusiastic group of women, they all learnt the skills really fast.  Although initially a bit uncertain about cutting glass they soon overcame their fears and were cutting with great skill!

Some particularly loved the leadwork part of the workshop where you cut the lead to hold the glass into place, while others did very well using the soldering iron.

By the end of the day everyone had produced a beautiful piece of stained glass. I think everyone should all be very proud of their achievements.  The day was a real mixture of creativity, concentration and fun.”

Wonderful, another successful Garden House event!  Check out Annie’s website

We love: heavenly Hellebores

Posted by editor on Sunday, 26 February 2012

Hellebores (sometimes known as the Christmas or Lenten rose) are perennial garden plants with beautiful, elegant flowers. At the Garden House we have some wonderful varieties and we increase our stock by buying a couple of new ones every year.  We also collect the seeds and hope that one day we will have a cultivar that is worth naming!

Hellebores are brilliant for brightening up shady areas during late winter and early spring. Some species are grown for their striking evergreen architectural foliage such as H.foetidus and H.argutifolius. They also have a long flowering period so, although often expensive, they certainly earn their keep!

Hellebores prefer to grow in rich, well-drained soil in dappled shade. Avoid planting in very dry or waterlogged soil. Provide shelter from strong, cold winds. Try to plant them on high ground so that you can appreciate their flowers, which are often hanging down – the story being that when Christ passed the hellebores on his way to the cross they hung their heads in shame.  Much breeding work is being done to try to raise their heads so that we can enjoy their subtle and very elegant flowers!

These flowers are often hidden by the large leaves, so ensure they can be seen clearly by removing a few older leaves from the centre of the clump (traditionally this is a job that is supposed to be done on Boxing Day!).  At the same time remove any dead, diseased or damaged foliage that can harbour hellebore leaf spot, an unsightly fungal disease.  The other reason for exposing the flowers by removing the leaves is that this will also help insects to pollinate the flowers and ensure good seed set for new plants that can be propagated from the resulting seed.

Keep them well watered during dry spells and mulch them every year with leaf mould, chipped bark or other organic matter in autumn. This is really important, as with many plants that flower in the winter they can be neglected.  If they don’t produce many flowers apply pelleted chicken manure or fish blood and bone in the spring.  They make great container plants, but again don’t forget to feed them with a high potassium fertiliser such as Maxicrop to encourage flowering.

The best way to look after Hellebores is to cut the flowered stems to ground level for H.foetidua and H. argutifolius and with oriental hybrids deadhead them as with other perennials.

Buy Hellebores from Ashwood Nurseries  – they specialize in raising many beautiful cultivars.  Our favourite way to display them is by cutting a few flowers and floating them facing upwards in water – a real February treat!

We love: the London Road Station Partnership

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 21 February 2012

We recently connected with a fantastic local initiative, the London Road Station Partnership – a group made up of neighbours living near the lovely nineteenth-century London Road station, just outside the centre of Brighton. Not only do we love them, we admire them too!

Through their local Residents’ Association (DRARA), these friends and neighbours got together with Southern Railway in April 2011 to set up a station community partnership. They now garden on two small plots on either side of the station building. In one, growing shade-tolerant ornamental plants and in the other, edible plants in raised beds.

The Garden House was delighted to contribute a couple of attractive planters to enhance the plot as it develops.  They even blogged about us!  Click here.

Meeting regularly to work on the gardens, usually on a TUESDAY between 3pm and 5.30pm, they’ve said they’d be delighted to welcome anybody who’s interested in community gardening, particularly if you live nearby.  To check out the daily Workdays diary of tasks, click here. 

The LRSP are also hoping to develop displays showing aspects of the history of London Road Station and residents’ memories of it.  To find our more or get involved, you can contact LRSP at or through their blog.

Baking bread in chilly January…

Posted by editor on Monday, 30 January 2012

While not exactly gourmet gardening, making your own bread touches on many of the things we love about our outdoor spaces – smell, touch, hard work, wonderful results and something you can share with friends and family!

Last Saturday a group of Garden House friends visited the bakery at Brighton’s Real Pâtisserie for a bread-making workshop.  Click on Pictures (top navigation bar) and take a look at all the photos of the day! 

We donned our blue hairnets and aprons and under the patient and very informed guidance of head baker Tom enjoyed a unique baking experience, learning about the ingredients and the traditional skills that go into creating wonderful fresh breads for our own family kitchens.

Real Pâtisserie is an independent bakery specialising in traditional French bread and cakes, and renowned for their extensive range of artisan breads – making sourdoughs in the time-honoured way, hand moulding every loaf and creating a range of speciality breads picked from the traditionally popular loaves of France, Spain and Italy.

We made four different bread types – focaccia, traditional French cob, multi-cereal loaf and sour dough – with the opportunity to take some ‘starter’ sour dough home with us.

Hard work, but really satisfying – and in the freezing middle of January, actually rather more fun than gardening!

Plant of the Month: Garrya eliptica

Posted by editor on Friday, 13 January 2012

Garrya eliptica is more commonly known as the Silk Tassel Bush, an excellent evergreen shrub providing a long period of interest throughout the winter, and especially good for January colour. It has attractive leathery leaves and from November to February produces decorative silky tassel-like grey-green catkins measuring 20-25cm long, a wonderful sight on a cold winter’s morning.

Garrya should be grown in more sheltered sites, in a shrub border or against a wall, in full sun or partial shade – it will thrive in any soil. It is fully hardy, will tolerate pollution and is well suited to coastal conditions and may even tolerate temperatures as low as -10 c. Height and spread of 4m (12ft) x 4m (12ft)

It was named after Nicholas Garry, Secretary of the Hudson’s Bay Company who assisted David Douglas in his explorations of the Pacific North-West in the 1820s, and can be found growing naturally in woodland in western USA, Central America and the West Indies. The name eliptica means eliptic, referring to the shape of the leaves. There are 13 species in the genus, the females produce purple brown berries on separate plants from the male, but the male catkins are what make this plant so appealing.

Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ is a particular favourite – a lovely form with dark sea-green, slightly larger leaves and silver-grey catkins up to 20cm (8in) long.

Pruning, if needed, should be done in mid spring to remove shoots that spoil symmetry and dead or damaged growth.  It can be susceptible to fungal leaf spot and also wind burn.


New Year Gardening Quiz: PART 3

Posted by editor on Sunday, 8 January 2012

Take part in our three-part Gardening Quiz and join us for FREE on our visit to the wonderful winter garden at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens on Saturday 11February OR on our day trip to Woolbeding Gardens at Midhurst, West Sussex on Friday 20 Aprilfirst entry received wins!

Introduce a new friend to The Garden House and they will receive a 10% discount on their first booking!


1.Araucaria araucana is better known as what?

  • Tree of Heaven
  • Dragon tree
  • Monkey puzzle tree

2. ‘Iceberg’ is NOT a type of what?

  • White arum
  • Lettuce
  • Rose

3. Camellias belong to which plant family?

  • Heather
  • Iris
  • Apple

4. What is a cloche?

  • A cover to protect plants
  • A type of fruit
  • A way of digging

5. Jasper Carrott could be linked to which of these vegetable varieties?

  • ‘Chantenay Red Cored’
  • “Webbs Wonder’
  • ‘Gardener’s Delight’

6. What is the Latin name of the yellow winter jasmine?

  • Jasminum nakediflorum
  • Jasminum nudiflorum
  • Jasminum bareiflorum

7. The traditional Christmas tree – Picea abies – is what type of conifer?

  • Fir
  • Pine
  • Spruce

8. Why would you cover carrots with horticultural fleece?

  • To keep them warm in winter
  • To stop the being attacked by carrot root fly
  • To hide them from view


Print off each of the four quiz parts, ring around the correct answer, add your name and address (of course!) – and post to Bridgette and Deborah at The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT

Answers must be received by 25th JANUARY – and we’ll announce the winner by the end of January – best of luck!

Last thoughts on the past week’s Christmas festivities…

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Before we welcome in the New Year (and we’re so looking forward to it, we’ve so much going on!) – a final view on Christmas from all of us here – the words of  Pam Ayres, as ever, amusing, dry and so so right…

Goodwill To Men – Give Us Your Money by Pam Ayres

It was Christmas Eve on a Friday

The shops was full of cheer,

With tinsel in the windows,

And presents twice as dear.

A thousand Father Christmases,

Sat in their little huts,

And folk was buying crackers

And folk was buying nuts.

All up and down the country,

Before the light was snuffed,

Turkeys they get murdered,

And cockerels they got stuffed,

Christmas cakes got marzipanned,

And puddin’s they got steamed

Mothers they got desperate

And tired kiddies screamed.

Hundredweight’s of Christmas cards,

Went flying through the post,

With first class postage stamps on those,

You had to flatter most.

Within a million kitchens,

Mince pies was being made,

On everyone’s radio,

“White Christmas”, it was played.

Out in the frozen countryside

Men crept round on their own,

Hacking off the holly,

What other folks had grown,

Mistletoe on willow trees,

Was by a man wrenched clear,

So he could kiss his neighbour’s wife,

He’d fancied all the year.

And out upon the hillside,

Where the Christmas trees had stood,

All was completely barren,

But for little stumps of wood,

The little trees that flourished

All the year were there no more,

But in a million houses,

Dropped their needles on the floor.

And out of every cranny, cupboard,

Hiding place and nook,

Little bikes and kiddies’ trikes,

Were secretively took,

Yards of wrapping paper,

Was rustled round about,

And bikes were wheeled to bedrooms,

With the pedals sticking out.

Rolled up in Christmas paper

The Action Men were tensed,

All ready for the morning,

When their fighting life commenced,

With tommy guns and daggers,

All clustered round about,

“Peace on Earth – Goodwill to Men”

The figures seemed to shout.

The church was standing empty,

The pub was standing packed,

There came a yell, “Noel, Noel!”

And glasses they got cracked.

From up above the fireplace,

Christmas cards began to fall,

And trodden on the floor, said:

“Merry Christmas, to you all.”

The virtual world meets your garden!

Posted by editor on Friday, 4 November 2011

As keen iPhone users we’ve been doing some research into just a few of the garden-related apps out there.  There are literally thousands, most not that good, many US-centric, some are free though undoubtedly the better apps do cost.  Below are just a few recommendations – if you have any other apps that you find useful, do let us know!

Top of our list is the RHS Grow Your Own iPhone app designed to help you choose and grow fruit and vegetables – however much space or time you have. The base application is free and covers the 20 most popular varieties of fruit and veg. You can buy additional content bundles to extend the content of the app (£1.79 each).  We think this is a superb and very useful resource when you’re perhaps visiting a garden or don’t have your veg books to hand.

Also useful for the vegetable garden is Garden Planner v1.8 (£2.49) – this gives you the ability to add your own produce to the app and also add this produce to the plot planner, my garden and favourites functions.

Landscaper’s Companion (£2.99) boasts over 9,000 photos, 16 plant categories – it is somewhat US-centric, though still very useful for a UK garden.  You can view information such as water usage, size, and sun requirements. Most have a short description of the plant along with cultivation information, common uses, and any problems they may have. Each plant entry includes beautiful pictures, or you can add your own picture to each plant.

Garden House friend Steve B recommends Garden Journal (£0.69) – it’s a great on-the-go app for capturing photos and essential data as a garden visit or trip unfolds.  Or use it to quickly track your garden as each season evolves, making notes as you go. When your journal entry is complete you can save it on your iPhone or you email your entries, along with the attached photo, to anyone you would like to share the moment with.

Another Garden House friend, Maggie L, recommends TreeId (£2.39).  This app is listed in BBC Countryfile’s top 10 apps, and is a comprehensive field guide to identifying trees found growing in the open countryside and natural woodland of the British Isles. All species native to the British Isles are covered, also naturalised species. Listings include data on family, genus, status, distribution, ecological value, location, soil preference, timber, firewood, diseases, medicinal and other uses.

If you want to find out details over 2,000 plants and see more than 9.500 colour pictures then the Botany Buddy Tree & Shrub Finder (£6.99) could be the app for you. It is pretty expensive but the interface is very slick and the whole thing is well presented. Apart from the price, the only drawback you might find is that the plants are US oriented, although having said that you should find most of the ones you are looking at even if you prefer native UK plants.

The Collins British Wildlife Photoguide (£5.99) is an interactive version of the popular Collins Complete British Wildlife Photoguide. This easy-to-use guide features more than 1500 species most likely to be encountered (with photo images and text descriptions).  16 categories include birds, amphibians, spiders, wild flowers and fungi.

And finally, Bird of Britain and Ireland (£12.99) – equal parts wildlife guide and feel-good pick-me-up, it features comprehensive information on 271 species of birds, including illustrations and photographs, info on typical behavior, quick searches – and wonderfully, audio recordings of both songs and calls.


Do you need help with your garden?

Posted by editor on Monday, 24 October 2011

If you are wondering what to do with your garden, are unable to identify your plants or have some ideas but are not sure how to go about achieving them, then why not consider a Garden House consultation?  You will be able to ask the experts without fearing that you’re committing to more than you may need!

Bridgette Saunders and Deborah Kalinke combine their considerable experience of both horticulture and garden design for your 1.5 hours consultation.  They are able to recommend designers, hard landscapers, tree surgeons or other experienced contractors to help you to carry out your plans – reputable specialists well known to The Garden House team who come highly recommended and who offer good rates for their services.

Bridgette and Deborah can offer advice on planting and choices of plants, as well as where to find the plants you like – also advice on when and how to complete the seasonal gardening tasks relevant to your garden.

For more information or to arrange a visit, call 0772 9037182 or email



Time to grow next year’s Sweet Peas

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.

We love: Sempervivums

Posted by editor on Sunday, 2 October 2011

We love sempervivums (houseleeks) – they are such easy plants to grow, tolerating cold temperatures but not liking wet weather. Sempervivum means ‘always alive’ – a reference to the fact that houseleeks tolerate extreme temperatures and drought. The hardiness of Sempervivum, and the closely related genus Jovibarba (also known as hen and chickens), makes them excellent, easy-to-keep garden plants.

Sempervivum and Jovibarba species are commonly grown in containers, but they can thrive in engineering bricks with holes, driftwood and tufa rock, because of their ability to grow in very little compost. South-facing rockeries, gravel gardens and vertical walls also make good habitats. The also look good in broken pots.

They thrive in a sunny, outdoor position, in well-drained compost, such as John Innes No.1 or No.2, with 25% sharp horticultural grit for added drainage. A layer of grit should be added to the surface of the compost to further aid drainage.

Houseleeks are most valued for their distinctive rosettes of succulent, spirally patterned foliage, although they also bear attractive flowers from spring to summer. Each rosette is a separate plant, and is monocarpic – it flowers once then dies, but is soon replaced by other new rosettes, called offsets. These offsets can be separated and planted up, and will then grow into new clumps.

Sempervivums don’t need feeding, but do benefit from being repotted each year into compost containing slow-release fertiliser.

  • S. calcareum – bears very striking, large, grey-green rosettes, which shade to reddish-brown at the leaf tips.
  • S. calcareum ‘Extra’ – bears large numbers of blue-green leaves in each of its rosettes, each with a distinctive reddish-brown tip.
  • S. arachnoideum – possibly the most famous species, also known as the cobweb houseleek, due to the network of white hairs at the leaf tips. These hairs protect the plant against dehydration and intense sunlight.
  • S. ‘Irazu’ – the attractive purple rosettes of ‘Irazu’ are offset beautifully by their silver leaf margins. The leaves can fade to a duller pink during winter.
  • S. ‘Reinhard’ – a vigorous variety, which forms clumps of upright green rosettes, thrown into sharp relief by the almost black leaf tips.
  • S. ‘Fernwood’ – similar in colouring to ‘Reinhard’, ‘Fernwood’ has larger, more open rosettes. It maintains its colour well throughout the year.
  • S. ‘Squib’ – red houseleeks generally require high light levels to maintain their colour, but ‘Squib’, a dark purple variety, keeps its colour well in winter.
  • S. ‘Moerkerk’s Merit’ – the velvety appearance of ‘Moerkerk’s Merit’ is due to the tufty hairs that adorn the leaf tips. Related to S. arachnoideum, its leaves are a delicate silver-green.
  • Jovibarba heuffelii ‘Angel Wings’ – whereas sempervivums mostly produce red or pink flowers, Jovibarba species produce yellow, more bell-like flowers. ‘Angel Wings’ is a vigorous variety with sharply pointed brown and green leaves.
  • Jovibarba allionii – has long, tapered leaves.  Jovibarba offsets separate from the clump much more readily than those of Sempervivum, and the rosettes are generally more sturdy.

We have some stunning ‘Semps’ for sale at the Garden House – really worth a look for a special present or if you are starting a collection.  Also check out Sempervivums By Post (our main image is from their wonderful website) 

Plant of the Month: Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 27 September 2011

This delightful plant is a member of the Plumbaginaceae family and comes from comes from West Sichuan, in China.  Its common name is hardy plumbago or blue-flowered leadwort.

It is a sub-shrub or herbaceous perennial with a clump forming habit putting on a fantastic burst of rich blue flowers from late summer.  The foliage, which is green in spring and summer, turns to rich purple and red in autumn.  It grows to about 30cms (1ft) high and has a spreading habit.

It deservedly has won the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).  This plant enjoys a south or east facing situation and needs shelter and grows in moist but well drained soil. It will tolerate most soils but does well on chalk.  It looks good on banks and slopes, city or coastal gardens, cottage/informal gardens, flower borders and beds, Mediterranean climates or wall-side borders.

Cut back to ground level any shoots that get frost damaged, or you can cut the whole plant down in March if it hasn’t remained everygreen (depending on where you grow it) and it will shoot again ready to flower again next year.

This is a very useful plant for attracting late butterflies coming to feed, and humming-bird hawk moths are also efficient at extracting its nectar.

The plantsman E.A. Bowles suggests two possible ways in which C. plumbaginoides could have arrived here. The first is that a Mr Smith collected the seeds from the ruined ramparts of Shanghai; the second, which Bowles much prefers, is that seeds were plucked by a soldier as the British Army moved into Beijing.

Christopher Lloyd recommended growing it in dry-stone walls, where its colonising habit eventually results in a cascade of blue.

The Garden House is selling Ceratostigma plumbaginoides plants for £4.20 at our Friday Pop Up Garden Shop. We open every Friday afternoon between 3 and 6pm for tea and homemade cakes.  Entrance is free – take a walk around the garden and buy one of our home-propagated plants!  Location: The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT

Pop up Garden Shop Fridays!

Posted by editor on Thursday, 22 September 2011

NEW! Starting Friday 23rd September, every Friday from 3-6pm we’ll be opening our garden gates and inviting you to enjoy our Pop Up Garden Shop!

We’ll be selling seasonal fruits and vegetables, a great selection of plants, seeds, preserves, eggs (from our own chickens!), mosaic gifts and other garden paraphernalia.

We have a large range of garden books and magazines in our cosy Garden Room – you are welcome to browse and enjoy a relaxing cup of tea and some delicious homemade cake – and of course ask all your gardening questions!

This week’s seasonal produce: apples (cooking and dessert) and pears all picked in our garden.

We look forward to seeing you!

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

Now’s the time to forage and preserve!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 18 September 2011

There is so much to be foraged in the hedgerows at the moment, including sloes, crab apples, haws, rowan berries, wild apples, plums and damsons and of course, black berries.

My favourite thing to do with my ‘forages’ is to make hedgerow jelly.  You can use all of the fruits above and just chop them up, stalks and all (wash them first) – use more apples than anything else, about 50% crab apples or cooking apples and 50% of sloes, blackberries, haws, rosehips, rowan berries etc.

The crab apple, (Malus sylvestris) often found by the roadside is sometimes rather scabby but has a very high pectin content, (that’s the stuff that helps things set).  Lots of the berries are low in pectin and so using this method will help it set well.

The reason I like to make jelly is that it’s so easy!

  • You just boil up all the fruit, use 1kg of mixed berries and 1kg of crab apples.
  • Then you can leave if over night to drip through a jelly bag or a piece of muslin and the next day add around 900g granulated sugar to the juice and slowly, (so you don’t burn it) bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Then boil rapidly, without stirring, until setting point has reached, this should take about fifteen minutes.  I put a saucer in the fridge and take out a teaspoonful of the jelly, put it on the saucer and if it wrinkles when pushed with your finger it is done.

You can also do this with blackberry and apples – it is absolutely lovely!  A real autumn treat.

If you would like to discover the delights of how to make jams, chutneys and jellies then come along to our Preserving Workshop – on Friday 28th October – see our website for more details.

A favourite poem: Wormwood Jam by Tim Cresswell

Before the devil pisses on berries.

Late September Blackberrying down the

scrubs – by high high helixes of razor

wire.  Filling peanut butter pots

with black red fruit.  Brimful.  Soursharp – Inky,

Imploding sweet – squashed by over- eager

Fingers – gashing hands on brambles that could

pull the wool from sheep.  Gambling on low fruit

slashed by Shepherds and Rottweilers.

The kitchen filled with blackberry.  Cauldrons

Of red black boiling glop. I tried to catch

the setting point – risking burns and blisters –

my fingers forming surface crinkles through

bloodthick syrup on a frozen saucer.

Our favourite Apple Chutney

Posted by editor on Friday, 9 September 2011

With thanks to Garden House friend Chris Batt for giving us his recipe for Apple Chutney – a delicious way to use up your glut of autumn fruits, and to give away as gifts for Christmas…


  • 2lb onions, peeled and sliced
  • 1 ¾ pints vinegar
  • 1lb dates or sultanas
  • 4lb apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1tbls ground ginger
  • 1tbls ground cinnamon
  • 1teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1tbls salt
  • 2lb sugar


  • Place onions in pan with 2tbls vinegar.  Cook gently until soft.
  • Stone and chop, if used.
  • Add the apples, dates or sultanas, the spices and half the remaining vinegar to the pan.
  • Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until soft.
  • Add the salt, sugar and remaining vinegar, stir until sugar is dissolved and continue cooking until thick, stirring occasionally.
  • Pour into warm, sterilized jars and seal.  Makes about 5 ½ lb.


Apple and Apricot Chutney: Use the same recipe as for Apple Chutney, but replace the dates or sultanas with 8oz dried apricots.  Soak the apricots overnight in enough water to cover, and chop before adding to mixture.

Mark the date: Sussex Prairies Garden, 4 September

Posted by editor on Monday, 29 August 2011

Well worth a visit – on Sunday 4 September 2011 (from 11am until 5pm) a rare collection of exciting nurseries, artists and crafts people will be coming together at the Sussex Prairies Garden. Over 60 stalls will be displaying a great selection of unusual plants and beautiful pieces for you to buy.

The Sussex Prairies Garden also happens to be one of our favourite gardens, renowned for its dramatic drifts of late summer-flowering perennials.

The Garden House will be there – ready to discuss our forthcoming (and very exciting) Christmas and 2012 courses, workshops, garden visits and talks (evening talk with Fergus Garrett at GH on 23 March 2012!).  We’ll also be selling GH-made preserves and a variety of seeds and plants.

Plant exhibitors include:

  • DESIRABLE PLANTS – Specialising in herbaceous perennials, Epimedium and other woodlanders, Galanthus, Watsonia, Gladiolus, Tritonia and other South African Iridaceae, outh African Erica, Sanguisorba, Geranium, Hedychium and Roscoea.
  • SCARECROW PLANTS – Out of the ordinary plants, English Native wildflowers and plants to attract wildlife. Also hand-made local ironwork and trellis. 07939 272443
  • RAPKYNS NURSERY – All grown in their traditional nursery – a unique and exciting range of quality and unusual cottage garden plants. 01825 830065

Art exhibitors include:

  • ANNEMARIE O’SULLIVAN – whose passion lies in all things woven, knotted and netted, will be showing baskets and larger woven forms.
  • FRANCES DOHERTY  – extraordinary ceramics based on the forms of fruiting bodies, flowers and particularly seedpods. Richly glazed to complement the form and often combined with metal and reclaimed sea defence timber.
  • CHRIS BURCHELL COLLINS – A Blacksmith and Green Woodworker whose work is influenced by the wonderful forms and shapes found in nature.
  • JANINE CREAYE – will be bringing many new small sculptures for gardens and interiors. Stylised and patterned wood carving, stone carving and drawings of natural forms.
  • HOLLY BELL – wheel-thrown functional ceramics including jugs, tea-sets and planters.

And many, many more – a great chance to source some amazing plants and artifacts for you, your house and your garden! For more information visit

Inspired in Edinburgh…

Posted by editor on Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Edinburgh in August means Festival time, and I have just spent three wonderful days enjoying a cultural feast, ­­­­involving the serious, the brilliantly clever, the poignant and the daft, and all thought provoking.

We heard one of three pieces composed and played by Philip Glass, accompanying a mesmerising film, Naqoyqatsi, a series of images about “civilised violence”.

At the Book Festival I particularly enjoyed a discussion between Tom Hodgkinson and Matthew de Abaitua about returning to a simpler way of life, which felt very in tune with what we are supporting here at the Garden House.  Tom’s book Brave Old World, a Practical Guide to Husbandry, celebrates former ways of life, and how to live sustainably, and with humour.

I failed in my mission to see one of the events, Allotment, “exploring the powerful legacy of generations of gardeners”, and actually held in the real Inverleith allotments, but I did manage a few hours in the botanic gardens which are absolutely wonderful, currently with an inspirational exhibition using recycled materials.

Elizabeth Blackadder, well known for her paintings of flowers, in particular irises, has a marvellous and extensive retrospective exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery.

As well as the above, I saw a brilliant expressive production at the Dancebase called Silent, about a homeless person; and a joyful show by four young men from South Africa called Soweto Entsha, which made me determined to return to that wonderful country!

My sister lives in Edinburgh and may be doing bed and breakfast in her very central, and gorgeous, location for next year’s festival, so keep watching this space for more details…

IMAGE:  Anemones and Hyacinths by Elizabeth Blackadder

Poem by Renee McAlister (gardener, and Garden House friend)

Posted by editor on Friday, 19 August 2011

Rudolph and Peter’s Garden, Early June, Late Afternoon 2011

Poem by Renee McAlister (gardener, and Garden House friend)

Alcanet fusing with Geranium.

African daisies shut-shy without sun.

Bristling box with stray branches untrimmed.

Spidery Iris like bee’s eyes: undimmed.

The garden, in thickets of late afternoon,

is unsettled still, but will still with the moon.

Bamboo is bracing. The pace of the breeze

speeds up as it batters the flat leaves of trees.

Buddleia’s budding. Its dark brush will come

and paint purple parapets, spires of plum.

Hazel-shade shadows the dead Bleeding Hearts,

whose slow-beating life will return when spring starts.

Cornus and Hollyhock, safe below Birch.

Cranesbill, through Hebe, continues its search.

Grasping at Fuchsia, Lonicera climbs,

its aroma a rhyme to the Fuchsia’s white chimes.

Cloud Ceanothus that mirrors the sky

in the spring, as it screams out its blue battle cry.

A straggle of Chives guards Begonia’s blooms

while a pale Helichrysum frisks them with fumes.

A wind from the South shakes the sound from the sea

and, though sirens splash shouts through the green, I am free

in the salt-saturated and seagull scared air

watching gold Philadelphus shed petals and care.

The harsh scent of Rosemary drops on the grasses

whose shoulders are hunched, for they hide as time passes.

The courage of Quaking Grass staking its claim

as it eases itself through Tobacco Plant’s flame.

There are boxes of Basil, of herbs and of Pinks.

No longer a wall where the great Ivy thinks

of another wall, other bricks, render and tiles

onto which it can cling, onto which live for miles.

The South facing border is pent up and primed.

Imposing Anemones, growing in lime,

shift their corpulent foliage east and then west

and Verbena unfurls fists of mauve at its crest.

The soft Dusty Millers, all purring and fur,

press their paws in the earth as if to deter

the encroaching Hydrangea with flattened false flowers,

its patterned white plates making meals out of hours.

The chattering Strawbs are absorbing the light

as they gossip of red flesh and talk of the night.

The Cardoon is King, though it waits for its crown,

its cut-silver accent born far from this town.

Spent stars of Allium wait for their kin

to appear in the black of the night’s fleeting skin.

Columbines colonise unconquered soil

and Sedums seem infused with bright, verdant oil.

As Lavender licks at the last of the light

and the sun seethes and settles, bemoaning the night,

and the wind slaps a cold evening hand on my back,

I walk back to the house. We all walk into black.

Flower of the month: Passiflora (the passion flower)

Posted by editor on Sunday, 14 August 2011

At this time of year, hardy Passiflora are in full bloom.  A wonderfully exotic-looking plant, the Blue Passion Flower (P. caerulea) has large white flowers and central filaments of purple, blue and white, followed by egg-shaped, orange-yellow fruit, and flowers from July to September. The fruit are edible, but not very tasty and not to be confused with ones you can buy in the supermarkets!

This vigorous, trouble-free climber looks really good in a tropical planting scheme, and will grow best at the base of a sheltered wall in full sun, although they can tolerate some shade. Even the leaves and tendrils look other-worldlly, deeply lobed, dark green and glossy. It is frost hardy but may need some winter protection in cold areas.  The eventual height is 10 metres.

The “Passion” in “passion flower” refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:

  • The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the Holy Lance
  • The tendrils represent the whips used in the flagellation of Christ
  • The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles (excluding St. Peter the denier and Judas Iscariot the betrayer)
  • The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns
  • The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail
  • The 3 stigmas represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance)
  • The blue and white colours of many species’ flowers represent Heaven and Purity.

There are many other beautiful passion flowers but many of them need to be protected and are best grown in a glass house or conservatory.

Being easy to grow they require little maintenance, but if you don’t want them to reach too high, plant in pots or tubs and let them grow up and cascade over an obelisk.

Choose three to five of the strongest shoots, tying them in to horizontal wires. Once the plant is established, cut back the flowered shoots immediately after flowering to within two or three buds of the permanent framework of the plant. In spring remove dead, misplaced or overcrowded stems.

If you want to find out more about passion flowers, Passiflora: Passionflowers of the World by Torsten Ulmer and John M. MacDougal is a really good read.

My magnificent cauliflower!

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 2 August 2011

This photo was sent into us by Juley, who attended one of our Garden House practical gardening courses.  We can’t claim all the glory of course (our amazing horticultural teaching skills!), but we did think it was a magnificent crop, and just goes to show what you can achieve when ‘growing your own’!

Diary of a Garden House visit to Berlin

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Last week, eight enthusiastic gardeners, led by the wonderfully energetic and patient Bridgette and Deborah, set off for Berlin – our mission, to take in Berlin’s key sights and experiences, and visit some excellent and varied gardens.


Our visit started with an orientation tour of central Berlin, taking in the Brandenberg Gate and Hotel Adlon (site of Michael Jackson’s notorious baby dangling), Unter den Linden, the Tiergarten, some remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall near Checkpoint Charlie with a sobering exhibition about Nazi Germany, and further on a stretch of the wall sporting bold upbeat political murals. We saw the Reichstag, now one of the most modern of government buildings, following a five-year transformation by Sir Norman Foster (1994-1999). We then retired to our delightful Heckers Hotel for a little r & r (and to the bar next door which served possibly the strongest gin and tonic on record!).

Our first meal in Berlin, at a traditional German restaurant, was made all the more memorable by the proprietor Ramona, who not only recommended the best dishes (no short cuts, the roast potatoes must be eaten!) but treated us to a rendition of God Save the Queen as she danced through the restaurant, lights dimmed, brandishing a sparkler. She had once appeared on Birds of a Feather and could recite her lines word for word. It was a hugely entertaining end to our first day!


By bus to the Botanic Gardens to meet botanist Beae Senska, our informative and enthusiastic guide. The Botanisher Garten has the largest plant geography section in the world and with almost dizzying speed we worked our way through Europe, Asia and the Americas. Particularly impressive were twelve unique rock gardens representing different mountain regions, steppe, dune and heathland. There were so many highlights, but one my favourites was the medicinal plants section, beds arranged in the shape of a human body, and the fragrance and touch garden including Mediterranean herbs and pelargonia and the heady scent of the Heliotropium peruvianum.

We visited The Jewish Museum that afternoon. It is housed in a spectacular building designed by Daniel Libeskind, the concept of which is to show both tragedy and continuity in the Jewish experience and by means of changes in perspective and floors and walls which slope, to show a world out of balance. It was a very moving visit and our remarkable guide Karin Grimme brought alive the experience of Jewish women through history, with quiet passion and dignity.


Potsdam today – to explore the very baroque Schloss Sanssouci, with its breath-taking south facing terraced walls covered with fig trees and vines, and the open vistas, formal gardens, fountains and marble statues of the Sanssouci landscaped park.

Two of us went to the Orangery, first noting the beautiful herbaceous planting and ornamental vegetable borders, then visiting the royal living quarters with original 18th century parquet floors across which we had to slip and slide in our enormous grey felt slippers (good wheeze to get the tourists doing the polishing for them we thought). Then on into a whole gallery of copies of Rafael’s master works, before climbing the spiral staircase to the top of the observation tower to be rewarded by a beautiful view of the formal symmetry below.

The afternoon was a special treat – a visit to the nearby private garden of nurseryman and plantsman Karl Foerster (1874-1970), little known outside Germany but very influential in his own country. We were shown around the garden by Professor Norbert Kuern – who was in part responsible for the restoration of this inspiring yet very accessible garden, with its sunken garden, spring walk, wild and rock gardens. He talked of Foerster’s interest in the naturalistic planting of William Robinson and in the work of both Jekyll and Lutyens, and of Foerster’s passion for cultivation – Foerster bred many perennials including grasses (the very well-known Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, and I rather liked Carex caryophyllea ‘The Beatles’).  We also admired his hemerocallis hybrids – ‘So Lovely’ really did speak for itself.

After sampling the local bus, tram, overground trains and U Bahn we arrived back at our hotel. Our evening meal was at a particularly impressive vegetarian restaurant, not dissimilar to Brighton’s own Terre a Terre – so little coincidence to find a Brighton woman working there who had previously worked at Terre a Terre!


The Bauhaus Archiv today.  The building, itself an example of Bauhaus aesthetics, contains an enormous collection of work from the Bauhaus School (1919-1933), including architecture, design, art and photography – work by famous Bauhaus artists including Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger and Oskar Schlemmer.  It was a fascinating reminder of just how influential this movement, started in Germany by Walter Gropius, has been on modern art forms.

This was my first visit to Berlin. I saw and learnt so much, and yet I felt I’d barely touched the surface. Always good to leave wanting more, I’ll be going back for sure! Many thanks to Deborah and Bridge (seen here outside the Bauhaus Archiv) and everyone in the group for making it so special…

Written by Ruth Harris

2011 Summer School

Posted by editor on Saturday, 16 July 2011

Fifteen of us, plus Deborah and Bridge, gathered for the Garden House Summer School last week. The horticultural settings we visited on each of the four days were fascinatingly different, as were the proprietors and gardeners we met.

Our first day was at Hankham Organics, who supply local greengrocers and weekly veg boxes to about 500 households. Pete, who gave us the grand tour and supervised our tasks, was very knowledgeable and clearly passionate about growing organically and running a sustainable business. We got to admire the mighty compost heaps, examine tiny pests and almost-as-tiny predators, and then we were let loose on their precious stock. In the 1.5 acre glasshouse we pruned tomato vines, tended cucumbers and picked beans; then into the field, where we hoed pumpkins and vied to become the slowest leek planters in the world!

Tuesday saw us at Highdown Herbs in Small Dole, working mainly in polytunnels. Arthur, Janet, and Jack taught us how to divide grasses, take herb cuttings, and how to pimp an overgrown and weedy plant-pot. Bridge shared her love and knowledge of herbs, and we found out just how wide this category of plants can be, from amazing magenta-topped Tree Spinach to beautiful Coneflowers (Echinacea) and even Willows, which make the ever-useful aspirin. And we all went home smelling most fragrantly of mint and rosemary.

On Wednesday we visited Gravetye Manor, now a hotel, whose romantic garden was originally designed by William Robinson in the 1880s. Tom, the relatively new head gardener, is reclaiming it from recent neglect and was full of information. The garden tour showed us a contrast of formal and informal areas, including his Zen long border (his name for a manure mulch alongside a gravel path). Vera, Tom’s dog, scared rabbits while we took note of flower names, admired the views, and worked out how soon we could visit the hotel for lunch or high tea. We worked in the walled kitchen garden, planting, pruning, training, digging out weeds, and saving seeds. Some people even got to wrangle live chickens.

Our last day was back in Brighton, in an overgrown secret garden. With some extra professional help, we worked in four teams and wrought an amazing transformation, hacking, hauling, sawing and strimming. Two vanloads of prunings and weeds were taken away, and in just five hours we had revealed the structure of the garden again, uncovering paths, patios and statues that were invisible when we began. The day ended with a very welcome sit-down and delicious meal back at the Garden House.

What did we learn? That coffee and cake are essential to horticultural success, that greyhounds like bean salad, that cucumber rash and uphill hoeing are very bonding experiences. And some other stuff, too… Thank you to Bridge and Deborah for organising it all and giving us a peep into four very different gardening experiences.

Words by Julia Widdows

Photos by Sandy Gee

We love: Ammi majus ‘Graceland’

Posted by editor on Thursday, 14 July 2011

Our plant of the month for July is the hardy annual Ammi majus ‘Graceland’ which has been attracting a lot of attention at the Garden House for several weeks now. It really is a favourite – a ‘good doer’ and its dark green feathery foliage makes the perfect background for an unusually long lasting display of flat, lace-like heads of dainty white flowers opening from green buds.

The upright plants are ideal amongst perennials or other tall annuals, and are especially attractive to bees, butterflies and other insects. They also make valuable cut flowers where they bring a lightness and airiness to displays of bolder flowers in pastels or brighter shades.

Ammi is really easy to grow from seed – we sowed ours in a cold greenhouse in September, they were then potted on into 9cm pots and kept outside over winter to harden off in the cold frame.This makes for a very hardy plant and this treatment has really paid off as they have been in flower for about 8 weeks now.   Ammi are about 1.4m tall and hold themselves up well against other plants but need staking if they stand alone.

Just to note for future reference – we will be selling the seeds of Ammi at The Garden House from September!

Come along to our fantastic auction!

Posted by editor on Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Come along to our Charity Auction at 6.30pm on Friday 8 July! Below is a list of some of the FANTASTIC items to be auctioned – if you are unable to come you can email us a silent bid!

The auction is always great fun and all proceeds go to charity. This year we’re supporting the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. The PHA UK is the only charity in the UK supporting people affected by pulmonary hypertension; a serious condition that causes damage to the heart and lungs, and which can affect people of all ages, race and gender.

1. Luxury converted chapel in North Norfolk – sleeps up to 12 – beautiful location, near beaches and fantastic walks and restaurants.  Available for one week, dates negotiable (not in school holidays!).

2. House in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands – sleeps 4 – own gardens and communal pool. Available for one week, dates negotiable (anytime in the year).  See for more details.

3. Our infamous Friday Gardening group will come and transform your garden – up to 15 people for 5 hours gardening – all experienced and keen!

4.  Men’s Wimbledon towel – as used on centre court by Novak Djokovic to wipe his brow!

5. Painting by Angie Bonnel: gold ink drawing from her nature series, entitled “Umbelliferae”.

6. Mosaic mirror by local artist Sue Samways.

7. Aromatherapy massage.

8. Three course vegetarian meal for four delivered to your door (local only) – delicious!

9.  Screen print by Gary Goodman: a limited edtion hand-pulled screen-print printed at Artizan Editions and signed by artist Gary Goodman. Local artist Gary Goodman was inspired to create a new piece of work around the principles of liberty, freedom and democracy when he heard that Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese leader, human rights advocate and Nobel Peace laureate was to be the Guest Director of the Brighton Festival 2011. Taking her plea to ‘use your liberty to promote ours’, Gary has co-created with Artizan Editions, an original screenprint which features a colourful bird and reflects the themes of liberty and freedom. Gary’s new print has drawn on these symbols to create a mythical bird using a colour palate with influences from Brighton and Burma. Launched at Brighton Festival 2011.

10. Golf lesson at Hollingbury Park Golf Club – clubs provided!

11. Chiropractic assessment and treatment by Karen Swirsky.

12. Hair cut by Nikki Ward.

13. Signed copy of novel by Julia Widdows – and your name as a character in her next book – you chose if you are a goodie or a baddie!

14. Oil painting by Aine King called Silent House.

15. Two x 1-hour stress management coaching sessions with an qualified, experienced practitioner.

16.  Facilitate an evening of French dancing.

17.  A delightful tray of toiletries.

18.  Painting by Phil Cole using polyester resin on wood.

19.  Yves St Laurent ‘Paris’ perfume set.

20.  Sunday roast dinner for two at The Foundry pub (vouchers).

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

Garden House Charity Bash, come along!

Posted by editor on Monday, 4 July 2011

Fancy cocktails in the garden?!  The Garden House would like to invite you to our annual charity event.  We’ll be opening on Friday 8 July for two sessions – an afternoon of tea, scrumptious cakes and plant and craft stalls – and an evening that includes cocktails, a buffet supper and live Irish music!

The charity we’re supporting this year is the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. The PHA UK is the only charity in the UK supporting people affected by pulmonary hypertension; a serious condition that causes damage to the heart and lungs, and which can affect people of all ages, race and gender. For more information

Afternoon event: starts at 3.30pm, entrance to the garden between 3.30pm and 6.30pm will be £2, children free. We’ll have tea and cakes as well as craft and plant stalls.

Evening event: starts at 6.30pm, at which time we will have an auction – a silent bid is possible and all items will be displayed on our website later this week.The auction will be followed by a delicious buffet supper – and cocktails, on sale from 8pm!  To entertain you we will have live Irish music played by the excellent Mandy Murray, Ben Paley and Jim Burch, who are very well known in Brighton.

The cost of the evening, which includes a buffet supper and a glass of wine, is £15 and if you want to bring along some friends you can book a table in advance.  Please send us an email or call 07729037182 to book.

If you would like to have a stall do let us know – a stall costs £20. We are still looking for items for the auction so do tell us if you can donate something.

It’ll be a great evening, and all in a very good cause – we look forward to seeing you!

Caramel orange and poppy seed cake

Posted by editor on Sunday, 26 June 2011

Enjoy one of our favourite cake recipes – and use up your leftover poppy seeds!


  • 2 oranges, zested and juiced
  • 30g poppy seeds
  • 100ml milk
  • 200g butter, at room temperature
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Caramelised oranges:

  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 oranges, sliced


  • 100g caster sugar


  • To make the caramelised oranges, put the caster sugar in a frying pan in an even layer and heat until it starts to melt and turns a golden colour.
  • Tip the pan from side to side to keep the caramel as even as you can.
  • Once it reaches a dark gold, carefully add half the orange juice from the cake oranges (it will splutter so stand back).
  • Keep on the heat, stirring so that any lumps melt back into the caramel.
  • Add the orange slices and heat gently for about 5 minutes until they soften a little.
  • Lift out and drain, keep the caramel and orange slices for later.
  • Heat the oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3.
  • Stir the poppy seeds and milk in a bowl. Beat the butter, orange zest and sugar with an electric mixer until light and creamy.
  • Gradually beat in the eggs.
  • Sift in the flour and baking powder and add the poppy seed and milk mixture.
  • Stir, then spoon half into a loaf tin lined with baking parchment.
  • Add a layer of caramelised orange slices and cover with the rest of the mixture.
  • Bake for 55-60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

While the cake is cooking, make the icing:

  • Add the sugar to the remaining orange juice and stir.
  • Add to the caramel but don’t try to dissolve the sugar.

Pour the icing over the hot cake while it is in the tin, lay the rest of the orange slices down the centre and leave to cool.

Remove from the tin when cold.  Enjoy!

Garden Gadabout: mark the dates!

Posted by editor on Wednesday, 22 June 2011

If nothing gives you more pleasure than checking out other people’s gardens, then the Garden Gadabout is for you! Two weekends – 25th/26th June, and 2nd/3rd July – over 70 local gardens around the Brighton & Hove (and many beyond!) will be opening their garden gates for charity.

The gardens are wonderfully varied, giving inspiration at every turn – from the smallest courtyard to large ‘wild’ gardens and allotments – each with its own unique mix of planting and hard landscaping ideas.

The Garden House will be open on the first weekend only, 25th/26th June. There’ll be plants and seeds for sale, fresh eggs from our hens, a tombola – and a whole lot more! Our garden is a unique and imaginatively restored old market garden, extending behind other houses to make a very large space filled with vegetables, flowers and many decorative ideas using recycled materials.  We’ll also be offering lunches, wine and soft drinks – so make a date, bring some friends and come along!  Find us at 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT (side gate!).

For info on all the gardens and downloadable guides, go to

Carole Klein, patron of the Garden Gadabout, says: “I’m thrilled to be patron of The Sussex Beacon’s Garden Gadabout once again. This year over 70 gorgeous gardens and community spaces will be opening across the two weekends, and there’s a wealth of wonders to discover. As well as scrumptious lunches and teas, many of the gardens this year will be offering something a little bit extra to make your visit even more special.

There’s nothing quite like being a part of making things grow, watching and waiting for the changes that unfold day to day, season to season. The Gadabout is a great opportunity to gather ideas from all sorts of spaces. From bold and stunning contemporary designs, to quiet havens of wildlife – of all shapes and sizes. I’m a passionate enthusiast of sharing our green spaces, it’s just so inspiring to discover what other people have lovingly created. So take a good browse amongst these pages and plan your visit, not forgetting of course where to stop for teas, cake and lunch.

The Garden Gadabout also fulfils an important role in raising essential funds for The Sussex Beacon, enabling them to continue their work, meeting the changing needs of men and women living with HIV. This year the funds raised by the Garden Gadabout are more important than ever, as new diagnosis of HIV continue to increase and fundraising becomes even tougher.

A big thanks goes to all the lovely gardeners who open and share their gardens, to all the volunteers who help them, and to all of you who come along and enjoy this wonderful event.

So go on….get Gadding!”

Garden House elderflower cordial

Posted by editor on Thursday, 16 June 2011

With the recent winds and rain, this week may be the last opportunity you have to make elderflower cordial this year. We love it – it’s so redolent of spring and it goes down well on our garden Open Days!


  • 20 elderflower heads – choose ones from trees away from roads and ones where the flower heads are in full bloom
  • 1.25 kg sugar – granulated or caster
  • 4 satsumas or 2 oranges, sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 1.2 litres of water
  • 30g citric acid (bought from a pharmacy)


  • Wash the flowers carefully to make sure there are no little creatures caught up in the flowers.
  • Put the cold water and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat to dissolve the sugar completely. Add the flowers and bring to the boil.  Take off the heat immediately.
  • Put the sliced fruit into a large bowl.  Add the citric acid powder and then pour over the hot liquid with the flowers.
  • Stir well and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave it somewhere cool for 24 hours, and then strain it into warm sterilised bottles and seal.

It’s delicious, served with either stlll or fizzy water or white wine, on hot summer days, and so easy to make. It will keep for a couple of months in the fridge – you can even freeze it!

Plant of the month: Cranesbill ‘Orion’

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’

Family: Geraniaceae

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).

We love: Cleve West’s Best Show Garden, Chelsea Flower Show

Posted by editor on Saturday, 28 May 2011

Well, 2011’s Chelsea Flower Show extravaganza is over – the year’s inspirational kick-start for new gardening ideas, plantings and structures – we loved it!

Cleve West’s garden for The Daily Telegraph was awarded Best Show Garden – quite an accolade and well deserved, this was a beautiful garden and one of our favourites.  We always expect the unexpected with Cleve’s gardens, yet they still have recognisable qualities – strong sculptural forms (last year remember those huge concrete planters? And the year before his dementia-friendly sensory garden with a giant sculptured ball at its centre?), moving water and sensitive planting.

This year his garden’s warm off-yellow plastered and dry-stone walls and flowing water framed an open space containing three 10ft high columns by French artists Serge Bottagisio and Agnès Decoux, with one lying on the ground, that appeared to be ruins but in fact mix the old and new in concrete and terracotta.

The planting looked so unconscious, almost self-seeded in effect, and the colouring exquisite – a soft blend of yellows, silvers and soft-whites – highlighted by the occasional dark red-pink Dianthus cruentus, grasses and airy umbellifers (including parsnip flowers from his own allotment!). Specimen trees of Styphnolobium japonicum (the Japanese pagoda tree), gave scale to the planting, rising up from the sunken gravel area to soften the effect of the monolithic columns.

We love: Boraginaceae (the borage family)

Posted by editor on Thursday, 19 May 2011

At the moment many members of the borage family are looking wonderful – we love their simplicity, the way they flourish – popping up everywhere and so easily – and we love the often bright blue borage flowers, which look wonderful in salads!

This is a family of around 2000 species, occurring mainly in Europe and Asia, especially in the Mediterranean region. Most of them are herbs, although there are some woody plants. Many are grown as ornamental plants, although some are a source of dye or have medicinal uses.

Take a look at some of the plants from this family in your garden and look at the characteristics.

Members of this plant family usually have:

  • Blue flowers in a coiled inflorescence – the lower ones always opening first
  • Stems and leaves covered in rough hairs
  • Four seeds

There are many different cultivars and most of them seem to have blue or pink flowers. The most well known include Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis), Heliotrope (Heliotropium), the Comfreys (Symphytum), Borage (Borago), and Hound’s Tongue (Cynoglossum).  Brunnera and the Anchusa are also in this family…

At the moment Anchusa ‘Loddon Royalist’ is looking fantastic – it is one of our favourites and is growing well in the garden.  It is grown as a biennial so don’t forget to sow it in June or July to look good next year.  The Garden House will soon have the seeds for sale.

Plant of the Month: Allium cristophii

Posted by editor on Friday, 13 May 2011

The Garden House currently has a stunning display of different kinds of ornamental onions – hundreds of blooms, and flowering around three weeks early!

Our mass plantings include: Allium ‘Mont Blanc’, A. hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ AGM, A. atropurpureum, A. nigrum, A. schubertii and our favourite – Allium cristophii.

  • Common name – Star of Persia
  • Family – Alliaceae
  • Height & spread – 30-60cm (12-24in) x 15cm (6in)
  • Form – Bulbous perennial
  • Soil – Fertile and well-drained soil
  • Aspect – Full sun
  • Hardiness – Fully hardy, but may be tender when young

The name Allium comes from the ancient name for garlic, which is part of the genus. There are estimated to be around 700 species within the genus, and many cultivars.

Allium mainly come from dry and mountainous areas in the Northern Hemisphere, and have adapted to live in almost every plant habitat, from ice-cold tundra to burning, arid deserts.

There are perennials and biennials, ranging in height from 10cm (4in) to 150cm (5ft) or more – the taller species looking particularly good in groups in a border. After the leaves die back tiny pink-purple star shaped flowers appear clustered together at the top of the stalk, giving this Allium its characteristic ‘lollipop’ look, which in botany is called an umbel.

Typically they have upright to spreading linear-shaped leaves. The tubular based flowers are bell, star or cup-shaped and are borne in spherical umbels 1cm (3/8in) to 10cm (4in) across.  Many take on a metallic colour in early summer.

In most species, a single bulb produces clusters of offset bulbs around it, which gradually form clumps. Many Allium give themselves away with the distinctive smell of onions when the bulb or foliage is bruised, and several species have culinary uses, including A. sativum (garlic), culinary onions, shallots and chives.

The Romans are sometimes held responsible for their wide distribution, while the whole group was valued by ancient civilisations as possessing medical and aphrodisiac qualities plus flavour.

Flower stalks dry well and can be used in arrangements or they can be left outside to provide frost-tinged winter interest.


  • Grow in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun
  • Plant bulbs 5-10cm (2-4in) deep in autumn
  • Plant clump-forming species with rhizomes at or just below the soil surface in spring
  • Alliums are susceptible to white rot, downy mildew and onion fly.


  • Propagate by offsets, removed when dormant, or by seed in spring at about 13°C (55°F)
  • Keep moist and well ventilated, and dry progressively as foliage dies back
  • Prick out and pot on when dormant. Seed grown plants, however, may not come true to the parent
  • Alternatively, divide clumps of spring-flowering species in summer

The RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee awarded Allium cristophii an Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Artists Open Houses, May 2011

Posted by editor on Saturday, 7 May 2011

If you have the energy and time to spare, set aside the coming weekends to visit the wonderful Artists Open Houses 2011 – more than 1,000 artists are exhibiting their work at over 250 venues, spread across the city of Brighton and Hove and the surrounding area.

The event provides a great opportunity to view unique work in artists’ homes and studios and to buy directly from the artist or maker.  The art and craft works are of every different type – paintings and prints, ceramics and metalwork, textiles and felt work, jewellery and silverwork – and sculpture.

Of course, our particular interest is in sculpture and art works for the garden, and there are many artists creating work for our outside spaces.

The 2011 Festival dates are May 7th and 8th, 14th and 15th, 21st and 22nd, and 28th and 29th.

The open houses are grouped into ‘trails’ – so select a trail, check the website for maps and directions – and get walking! For more info on trails and artists visit

Photos here show work by Jackie Jones (mosaic sundial), Terri Bell-Halliwell (stone sculpture) and Angie Evans (ceramic tile) among others.

Royal Wedding Flowers and Trees

Posted by editor on Friday, 29 April 2011

Love it or loathe it, endure it or enjoy it – today’s wedding was a great opportunity to again admire the beauty of our seasonal native trees and flowers.

London-based floral designer Shane Connolly masterminded the floral arrangements, leading teams of florists in decorating Westminster Abbey and of course, designing the bride’s bouquet.  Connolly is known for his “sustainable approach to floristry,” and often uses live growing plants and trees in his designs.

The overall impression was of natural elegance, simplicity and seasonality – white and cream, scented and full of meaning.

At Westminster Abbey the nave was lined with an ‘avenue’ of eight 20ft-high trees, six English Field Maples and two Hornbeams, all growing in planters made by craftsmen at Highgrove, the Prince of Wales’s house in Gloucestershire.

Among the seasonal cut stems decorating the abbey were azaleas, rhododendron, euphorbias, Solomon’s seal, wisteria and lilac – all grown in Britain.

Kate’s bouquet was white, scented and simple. It was a shield-shaped wired bouquet comprising myrtle (signifying love and taken from an original myrtle planted at Osborne in 1845, which still thrives within its sheltered terraced gardens today), lily-of-the-valley (humility, purity), sweet William (gallantry) and white hyacinth (loveliness). The majority of the flowers came from Windsor Great Park’s Valley Gardens, a flowering forest in Surrey.

The flowers and plants will remain in the abbey for public viewing until 6 May, when the trees will be taken to Highgrove Gardens for planting.  Most of the cut flowers and greenery and growing plants will be given to charities or replanted.

Margaret’s Easter Cake (Frangipane/Almond tart)

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 19 April 2011

We love Margaret’s delicious version of the traditional Simnel cake; a cake typically eaten during the Easter period in Great Britain, Ireland and some other countries.

For the base:

  • 8oz rich shortcrust pastry (use ready-made Jus-Rol sweet shortcrust)
  • Apricot jam or conserve

For the cake mixture:

  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 4oz unsalted butter
  • 1 tbls plain flour
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Orange flower essence (optional)

For the almond paste topping:

  • 8oz ground almonds
  • 8oz caster sugar and icing sugar (roughly half/half each)
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1tsp lemon juice


  • Cake:
  • Medium oven 150c or gas mark 4
  • Roll out pastry and line an 8” tart tin (no need to pre-bake)
  • Coat bottom of tart with apricot jam or conserve (about 1 tbls)
  • To make cake mixture, beat the sugar into the softened butter
  • Fold in almonds and flour, then gradually add in eggs beating as you add
  • Add a few drops orange flower essence (optional)
  • Pour mixture into tart and cook for approx 40-45 mins
  • Set aside to cool
  • Almond paste topping:
  • Sift icing sugar into a bowl, add caster sugar and ground almonds, mix together
  • Stir in the beaten egg and 1 tsp lemon juice to make a fairly stiff lump
  • Cut off a piece and make 12 small balls of paste (eleven marzipan balls represent the true disciples of Jesus; Judas is omitted – in some variations Christ is also represented, by a ball placed at the centre.  We suggest, to make cutting easier, use twelve balls around the edge)
  • Smooth the remaining paste over the cooled cake
  • To finish, giving that slightly ‘toasted’ colour, put under the grill or back in the oven for 2/3 minutes until lightly browned.

Margaret has been gardening at The Garden House for many years as one of the regular ‘Friday group’ of women who keep this wonderful garden looking at its best.  Margaret’s particular gardening loves are roses, knot gardens and garden history.

We love: Fritillaria

Posted by editor on Monday, 11 April 2011

This fascinating genus contains over 100 species of bulbous perennials, from the tall and dramatic F. imperialis (Crown Imperial) to the delicate F. meleagris (snake’s head fritillary) with its distinctive chequered flower. In the main they originate from around the Mediterranean, Asia and North America (F.meleagris is the one species of fritillaria thought to be native to Britain).

The majority bloom in spring and have distinctive flowers that are generally bell-shaped and pendant. These hardy bulbs need deep, rich and well draining soil and should be planted in autumn to a depth of at least twice that of the bulb.  They can also be successfully grown in pots, which in the case of F. imperilais is helpful, making them easier to move under cover during the winter months.

Other favourites include F. persica, a deep dusky mauve, and F. persica Ivory Bells.  Flowers are held in long racemes of up to 30 narrowly bell-shaped somewhat conical flowers, about ¾” long with a waxy bloom.

Also look out for Fritillaria michailovskyi, it has up to five, pendant reddish-purple bells with a yellow edge on the outside and a shiny yellow interior.  Like F. meleagris it is only 8-10” tall, an exquisite woodland or river meadow gem.

Our favourite flowering cherries…

Posted by editor on Sunday, 3 April 2011

In Japan, where the cherry blossom is respected, there is an annual festival in its honour, where everyone goes out into the countryside to sit beneath the blossom and picnic and party with very un-Japanese abandon.

Cherries are one of the most attractive and versatile of garden trees, giving delightful spring colour when they are in full blossom and, in many cases, outstanding autumn colour as well.

At the Garden House we have a stunning Prunus serrulata ‘Tai Haku’.  Its spindly branches hanging with extraordinary bundles of huge white blossoms, delicate explosions of petals freeze-framed in mid-air.

‘Tai Haku’ is a cherry with an astonishing story too: a legendary tree in Japan until it disappeared at the end of the 18th century, it was apparently unknown anywhere else in the world.  Then, in 1923, the owner of a Sussex garden showed Captain Collingwood Ingram – an expert on Japanese cherries – an unidentified cherry with gorgeous white flowers. He was unable to recognise it but took grafts and passed the resulting saplings around.

The next time he went to Japan he was shown an 18th-century book of flower paintings and recognised the unidentified white cherry from the Sussex garden.  As far as the Japanese were concerned, however, ‘Tai Haku’ had disappeared and could not possibly have popped up a hundred years later in England. It really does appear, though, that every ‘Tai Haku’ in cultivation – which vanished from Japan 200 years ago – inexplicably comes from that Sussex tree found 87 years ago.

  • Prunus ‘Kursar’ AGM – this stunning small tree was one of the best trees raised by Captain Collingwood Ingram. It has masses of small deep pink flowers and fantastic autumn colour.
  • Prunus incisa ‘The Bride’ – in spring this small cherry, which has a dense shrubby growth habit, is smothered with large single white flowers. The anthers of the flower are a very vibrant red colour and this is emphasized against the white petals.
  • Prunus ‘Shogetsu’ AGM – this is one of the finest Japanese cherries and has a wide spreading growth habit. It has large double pink flowers which hang from the branches in clusters providing a breathtaking display. The double pink flowers quickly fade to a beautiful pure white.
  • Prunus ‘Accolade’ AGM – this cherry has a spreading growth habit. During April the tree is covered in masses of large light pink semi-double flowers. It will also add value to your garden during the autumn when its green leaves turn a vivid rich orange/red colour.
  • Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ – this delightful small cherry is very slow growing and compact making it suitable for growing in containers. Its branches have a fascinating zigzag growth habit and these are covered in small blush pink flowers. In the autumn this cherry will reward you with great foliage colour.
  • Prunus ‘Pink Perfection’ AGM – this stunning cherry has bright double pink flowers which hang in drooping clusters from the branches. The leaves are a delicate bronze colour when young, before turning green and then a bright fiery red and orange in the autumn.

More cherries for small gardens:

  • Prunus x subhirtella ‘Fukubana’ – this is an elegant miniature tree to about 3m that will fit into a small space and give it scale.
  • Another good choice is Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ (winter-flowering cherry) – this is a real harbinger of spring that will repeat flower in any mild spell between January and March. It makes an elegant small tree of about 6-7m with an open head casting light shade. The single white flowers have pink centres and the bark is dark brown and shiny.’
  • Prunus incisa ‘Fujima’ – this shrubby-crowned small tree is smothered in masses of pink-tinged flower buds, followed by stunning white flowers. It is very free-flowering, quick to establish and adaptable – it grows on heavy clay. The cultivar also offers good autumn colour.
  • Prunus ‘Spire’ AGM – a fine choice for a small garden. This cultivar is no more than 2m wide when it is 20 years old. It has an upright crown meaning it will fit into the smallest space and give height or screen a view. The pale pink blossom covers the tree in spring and the autumn leaf colour is orange to yellow.

It is worth noting that ornamental cherries budded on to wild cherry rootstocks have large root systems, whilst trees on their own roots have much smaller root systems and are therefore better for smaller gardens.

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.

Celebrate at The Garden House!

Posted by editor on Friday, 18 February 2011

For a unique family celebration or business event, consider booking our delightful Garden Room.  It makes for a lovely location, nestled within this beautiful garden in central Brighton.

We recently hosted a birthday lunch for Mariana and her friends and family:  “That was a really wonderful lunch! Beautifully presented, beautifully cooked and not only a delight in both those ways but also a joy in every respect – greeting, balloons, plants, table-laying, drinks and nibbles, fire, delicious and original cake, layout etc – and everyone who came felt the same.”

We can work with you – designing a beautiful and home-made meal featuring organic and local ingredients where possible, and decorating the Garden Room with fresh seasonal flowers and plants – creating a truly special event and setting.  For more information, contact us on

Note:  we are planning another of our very popular ‘pop-up’ restaurants on Friday 8 April as part of the Brighton & Hove Food Festival.  Look out for more details.

Our trip to Anglesey Abbey…

Posted by editor on Monday, 14 February 2011

We enjoyed fine weather and great company on our Garden House visit to Anglesey Abbey last Saturday. “Just to say thank you for a wonderful day out, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your organisation and hospitality is matchless. I am so glad I was able to come along!” Vicky D.

We love Angie B’s sketches of the winter garden, and Mandy D. wrote the following piece:

As winter slowly turns to spring no plant lover should miss the chance to visit the glorious winter display at Anglesey Abbey.  Situated not far from Cambridge (not on the Island of Anglesey as most of my friends thought!) this National Trust property and gardens boasts one of the most beautiful and varied winter gardens I have ever seen.

A short walk from the Visitors Centre leads you to the start of the winter garden walk which, even if you did not notice the signs, can be found by following the intoxicating smell of the Sweet Box (Sarcococca), that line the first part of the walkway.

These are swiftly followed by glorious Viburnum, pale pink and sweetly scented, the delightful small yellow winter Aconites and the gorgeous blues of Iris reticulata and deep pinks of Cyclamen coum.

And that’s not all – for those Galanthophiles amongst you (snowdrop lovers to the rest of us!), the Abbey gardens boast over 200 varieties of snowdrop (Galanthus), some labelled and therefore identifiable along the main path and many others in gentle drifts that meander through the woodlands and other areas.  My favourite was Galanthus plicatus ‘Hobsons Choice’ (wondered why I picked that one) and another variety named after Anglesey Abbey itself.

And finally, for stunning shrubs and trees, nothing can beat their display of Cornus – reds, greens and yellows – and the glade of Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis ‘jacquemontii’), with its ghostly white bark and statuesque structure, making all who came across them pause, reflect and for some, stay until the sun went down…

If you add to this a lovely sunny day, good company and even a rainbow on our return, it was the perfect day.   Thanks weather fairy…

Anglesey Abbey: Quy Road, Lode, Cambridge CB25 9EJ / Tel. 01223 810080

Gardening with friends!

Posted by editor on Thursday, 10 February 2011

One of the great things about gardening is the sense of community it can foster.  Whether sharing an allotment, getting the kids to help out on weekends, inviting others to use part of your larger garden that you simply have no time to develop, or simply asking friends to help out in exchange for lunch or a cuppa.

Well at The Garden House we did exactly that last week.  Nanette and family moved into their new home and massively overgrown garden about three years ago.  However as we all know, a day here and a day there for a busy working mother inevitably means that getting the garden into shape is low on the priority list and such a slow process!

So to accelerate things Nanette gathered a few enthusiastic gardening friends round for the day and we all got stuck in.  In a matter of hours the vegetable beds had moved to the sunnier side of the garden (and raised beds built!), one of two small ponds was filled in and made ready for planting, and a couple of old and overgrown shrubs dug out.  Leaves and weeds were cleared, last year’s perennials cut down, and manure and compost spread.

At this time of year what can seem like fairly brutal cutting back, clearing and sorting, can leave the garden looking a little bare.  The great thing is that everything is just waiting to burst forth – in no time at all it’ll all be green and looking vibrant again.

As you can see from the pictures, it was hard work, but also loads of fun!

Snowdrops at Marchants Hardy Plants

Posted by editor on Sunday, 6 February 2011

As I’m sure you’ll have worked out by now, here at The Garden House we’re big Galanthus fans! So we’re delighted to tell you that on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 February, one of our favourite nurseries, Marchants Hardy Plants, is holding a special sale of snowdrops, together with a cut flower display.

Over 35 different varieties of snowdrop will be available – including the beautiful shaped G. allenii; G. ‘Anglesey Abbey’, a poculiform nivalis type but with bright green leaves; G. ‘Bill Bishop’, a very large flowered and handsome snowdrop; G. ‘Jacquenetta’, the greenest of the doubles; and the more rare G. ‘Wrightson’s Double’, a unique, fat elwesii double (quite scarce and very beautiful).

A number of the bulbs on sale are in short supply and will be sold on a first come first served basis.  Bulbs offered are best quality, and are believed to be true to name.

Location: Marchants Hardy Plants, 2 Marchants Cottages, Mill Lane,  Laughton,  East Sussex  BN8 6AJ / tel:  01323 811 737

Open: Friday 11 and Saturday 12 February / 10.00am – 4pm

PART 4 of our Competition! Win a visit to Anglesey Abbey…

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Last part of our four-part Gardening Quiz!  Win a seat on our visit to the stunning Anglesey Abbey on 12 February…

The garden’s highlight is its stunning Winter Garden, and is at its most spectacular in early spring when drifts of white snowdrops and yellow aconites add colour to the frosty landscape…


1)    Which of the following does the disorder end rot affect?

  • Pears
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes

2)    For the longest, most coloured stems when should Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ be annually pruned?

  • Early spring
  • Early summer
  • Early autumn

3)    For what is Gertrude Jekyll best known?

  • A garden photographer
  • A plant hunter
  • A garden designer

4)    A tree trained with a vertical main stem and tiers of horizontal branches is described as?

  • A single cordon
  • An espalier
  • A multiple cordon

5)    Which plant is NOT a common nectar source for butterflies and bees?

  • Buddleja davidii ‘Empire Blue’
  • Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’
  • Miscanthus sinensis

6)    What has the botanical name of Citrus reticulata?

  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Tangerine

7)    Which of the following is normally planted to provide scent in the winter?

  • Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’
  • Chimonanthus praecox ‘Luteus’
  • Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’

8)    What does mulching NOT normally help?

  • Reduce soil water loss
  • Control weeds
  • Control pests and diseases

9)    To which plant family does Ilex (holly) belong?

  • Berberidaceae
  • Celastraceae
  • Aquifoliaceae

10) What does the term corymb describe?

  • The inflorescence
  • The leaf margin
  • The petal shape


Print off each of the four quiz parts, ring around the correct answer, add your name and address (of course!) – and post to Bridgette and Deborah at The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT

Answers must be received by 25th JANUARY – and we’ll announce the winner by the end of January – best of luck!

PART 3 of our Competition! Win a visit to Anglesey Abbey…

Posted by editor on Friday, 14 January 2011

Take part in our four-part Gardening Quiz and win a seat on our visit to the stunning Anglesey Abbey on 12 February.

The garden’s highlight is its stunning Winter Garden, and is at its most spectacular in early spring when drifts of white snowdrops and yellow aconites add colour to the frosty landscape…


1) Which tree is associated with the first of the 12 days of Christmas?

  • Pyrus
  • Fagus
  • Quercus

2)    Which of these four nutrients is especially associated with fruit development?

  • Nitrogen
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

3)    To which country is the poinsettia native?

  • Thailand
  • Chile
  • Mexico

4)    Bulbs consist of swollen?

  • Stems
  • Leaves
  • Roots

5)    Which of the following fruits is botanically unrelated to the other three?

  • Bilberry
  • Wineberry
  • Blueberry

6)    What is the common name for Euphorbia pulcherrima?

  • Loquat
  • Taro
  • Poinsettia

7)    Which tree fruit is botanically described as a pome?

  • Mulberry
  • Apple
  • Walnut

8)    Which of the following magnolias is evergreen?

  • Magnolia hypoleuca
  • Magnolia grandiflora
  • Magnolia salicifolia

9)    To which plant family does Hedera helix (common ivy) belong?

  • Araliaceae
  • Convolvulaceae
  • Vitaceae

10) Which of the following terms is often used to describe irises?

  • Ball
  • Pompom
  • Bearded


Print off each of the four quiz parts, ring around the correct answer, add your name and address (of course!) – and post to Bridgette and Deborah at The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT

Answers must be received by 25th JANUARY – and we’ll announce the winner by the end of January – best of luck!

PART 2 of our Competition! Win a visit to Anglesey Abbey…

Posted by editor on Monday, 10 January 2011

Take part in our four-part Gardening Quiz and win a seat on our visit to the stunning Anglesey Abbey on 12 February.

The garden’s highlight is its stunning Winter Garden, and is at its most spectacular in early spring when drifts of white snowdrops and yellow aconites add colour to the frosty landscape…


1) Chestnuts come from which tree?

  • Fagus sylvatica
  • Castanea sativa
  • Carpinus betulus

2)    Which of the following is a garden variety of Hosta?

  • ‘Christmas Angel’
  • ‘Christmas Gift’
  • ‘Christmas Cheer’

3)    Who amongst the following was a famous plant hunter?

  • David Douglas
  • Lancelot Brown
  • Humphry Repton

4)    Which of the following Clematis flower in the winter?

  • Clematis viticella
  • Clematis montana
  • Clematis cirrhosa

5)    Cuckoo spit is caused by?

  • A bird
  • An insect
  • A fungus

6)    What has the botanical name Dierama?

  • Angel’s tears
  • Angel’s trumpets
  • Angel’s fishing rod

7)    Paliurus spina-christi is commonly called?

  • Thorn apple
  • Christ’s thorn
  • Christmas thorn

8)    In which county is Stowe Landscape Garden?

  • Buckinghamshire
  • Berkshire
  • Shropshire

9)    Which of the following is semi-parasitic?

  • Honeysuckle
  • Ivy
  • Mistletoe

10) The spice cinnamon comes from which part of Cinnamomum verum?

  • Seeds
  • Fruits
  • Bark


Print off each of the four quiz parts, ring around the correct answer, add your name and address (of course!) – and post to Bridgette and Deborah at The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT

Answers must be received by 25th JANUARY – and we’ll announce the winner by the end of January – best of luck!

PART 1 of our Competition! Win a visit to Anglesey Abbey…

Posted by editor on Thursday, 6 January 2011

Take part in our four-part Gardening Quiz and win a seat on our visit to the stunning Anglesey Abbey on 12 February.

The garden’s highlight is its stunning Winter Garden, at its most spectacular in early spring when drifts of white snowdrops and yellow aconites add colour to the frosty landscape…


1) Which plant has the common name of Christmas Rose?

  • Helleborus niger
  • Saracococca
  • Sedum rubrotinctum

2)    What is a terrarium?

  • An ornamental support for growing roses
  • A digging tool
  • A sealed glazed case for growing plants

3)    What colours are the flowers of Camellia ‘Leonard Messel’

  • White
  • Pink
  • Yellow

4)    From which continent does Schlumbergera (Christmas cactus) originate?

  • Africa
  • South America
  • Europe

5)    Perlite and vermiculite are?

  • Pesticides
  • Compost additives
  • Herbicides

6)    What is an ‘iron pan’?

  • A pot used for alpines
  • A way to control weeds
  • A soil condition

7)    Which of the following is a garden variety of holly?

  • ‘Glacier’
  • ‘Sulphur Heart’
  • ‘Goldchild’

8)    A short stump of branch left after incorrect pruning is?

  • A sport
  • A break
  • A snag

9)    What is the usual number of petals on an Aubretia?

  • Three
  • Four
  • Five

10) Which of the following plants can be most easily propagated by root cuttings?

  • Anemone x hybrida
  • Dianthus barbatus
  • Quercus robur


Print off each of the four quiz parts (published through early January), ring around the correct answers, add your name and address (of course!) – and post to Bridgette and Deborah at The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT

Answers must be received by 25th JANUARY – and we’ll announce the winner by the end of January – best of luck!

Who will be the first to spot a snowdrop?

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)…

Gardening Gifts for Christmas!

Posted by editor on Monday, 13 December 2010

We know it’s never that easy to rustle up the best gift for a keen gardener – another trowel, more twine, mmmm…well, this year we have the answer!

Garden House courses and workshops make the best gifts – consider buying a full course, or a voucher which your friend or partner can put towards any Garden House event.

We have a very exciting and varied programme for 2011, including:

  • First Time Gardener course (starts 17 January)
  • Learn to Knit workshop (22 January)
  • Make your own Marmalade workshop (29 January)
  • Garden DIY workshop (5 February)
  • Visit to the Winter Garden at Anglesey Abbey (12 February)
  • And many more – mosaics, hen keeping, creative plant staking, stone carving, pen and ink drawing, and how to grow vegetables…

Our 2010 course Garden Design with Peter Thurman was very successful, so successful in fact that we’re running it again (starting 7 February)!

We were delighted to receive great feedback: “Peter Thurman was excellent.  The group size was just right, not too big. Loved the day at Wisley, it was good to put the theory of the first week into a real situation and have someone explain the different planting styles to you. I think Wisley and the day on hard landscaping helped add variety to the course so each week wasn’t too similar”

So if you want to give a loved one (or yourself!) something they can enjoy in the weeks and months to come – do consider a Garden House gift…

Check the DIARY of this website for more details, and contact us at any time if you have questions – and have a Happy Christmas!

We love…Jan’s blog!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 5 December 2010

Jan M. is one of an enthusiastic group of women who regularly (every Friday!) gather to drink coffee, chat about the week’s events – and to work in the beautiful garden at The Garden House!

What better way to learn about horticulture and track each season’s living timetable.  For some that learning is then taken into their own garden or allotment, for others, with perhaps just window-boxes or patio spaces, it’s a wonderful opportunity to work physically, getting stuck in to whatever the garden needs doing that week.

From sowing seeds, harvesting spring-sown vegetables, digging in manure, pruning the rose arches, propagating hardwood cuttings, training raspberry bushes – to laying slab patios and creating mosaic features and pathways – there’s never a dull moment!

Jan’s blog – – tracks her reflections following retirement late 2009, what she calls “the first year of the rest of my life”…

We love her observations on life and new experiences– and she talks of working in The Garden House – her “retirement project no.4”!

Jan is also a passionate believer in permaculture – an ethos that combines three key aspects:

1. an ethical framework

2. understandings of how nature works, and

3. a design approach

This unique combination is then used to support the creation of sustainable, agriculturally productive, non-polluting and healthy settlements. In many places this means adapting our existing settlements. In other cases it can mean starting from scratch. Both offer interesting challenges and opportunities.

The word ‘permaculture’ comes from ‘permanent agriculture‘ and ‘permanent culture‘ – it is about living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature. Permanence is not about everything staying the same. Its about stability, about deepening soils and cleaner water, thriving communities in self-reliant regions, biodiverse agriculture and social justice, peace and abundance.

One thing is for sure – it’s a fascinating subject, with many aspects, and it’s still evolving. NB this info taken from The Permaculture Assoc. website

At The Garden House we so love energy and adventure – and Jan’s blog is all about both!

Great Dixter; winter inspiration

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 30 November 2010

“If Dixter always remains loved and retains its own identity, everything else will fall into place.” Christopher Lloyd, January 2006

If you are a gardener then you absolutely must visit Great Dixter, near Rye, East Sussex.  I was lucky enough to go there yesterday for the Christmas Fair (27/28th Nov only).

The incredible spirit of this wonderful garden still lives on and is a testament to the words of the great horticulturalist Christopher Lloyd who lived and gardened at Great Dixter all his life, leaving the estate to The Great Dixter Trust on his death in 2006.

Great Dixter is a Tudor house bought in 1910 by Nathaniel Lloyd, father of Christopher and author of books on brickwork and topiary, and was restored by Edwin Lutyens. Nathaniel designed the framework of the garden and it was initially planted by Daisy Lloyd, Christopher’s mother, who taught Christopher how to garden.

The house is surrounded by the now world-famous garden that was Christopher Lloyd’s lifelong passion; his influence since the war on amateur gardeners in this country can scarcely be overestimated.   He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants, together with a love of form and colour – and together with his great strength of trying something new Great Dixter was always evolving, always fresh.

In 1996 he became bored with his rose garden, which had been designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and established for more than 70 years, he simply uprooted it. The replacement, a brazen kaleidoscope of sub-tropical plants, sent shock waves through the gardening world.

It is the most inspirational garden, clearly loved and still gardened by Fergus Garrett who was Christopher Lloyd’s head gardener, and who continues as the garden’s creative head.

Yesterday on a cold November day the late autumn structure was astonishing – the yew hedges and topiary, grasses, trees and shrubs looking beautiful in the low November light.

The fires burning in the grates were welcoming – doubtless the timber in the great hall could tell a thousand stories, Christopher Lloyd was alive today I think he would have been delighted to see his extraordinary home filled with people having fun and enjoying the spirit of Great Dixter.

For a great read try: Colour for Adventurous Gardeners; The Well-Tempered Garden; or Cuttings (a collection of writings for the Guardian) – all by Christopher Lloyd.

See the website for events, opening times, and admission costs and location (if you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll be first to hear what’s upcoming!)…

Christopher Lloyd – “The right time to do a job is when you are in the mood to do it.” What wise words!

Plant of the month: Malus

Posted by editor on Friday, 19 November 2010

As the autumn draws in, fruits and seeds ripen creating an exciting range of colours and shapes in the garden.

A great tree for the smaller garden is the Malus or crab apple with its fantastic fruits and autumn colour. One of Bridgette’s favourites is Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’ which bears huge crops of bright yellow fruits that last on the tree well into autumn and winter.

  • Common name: Crab apple
  • Family: Rosaceae
  • Height & spread: 10m (30ft) high by 8m (25ft) wide
  • Form: Deciduous tree
  • Soil: Well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil
  • Aspect: Full sun or semi-shade
  • Hardiness: Fully hardy

The name Malus is from the Greek for ‘melon’, and a name applied to several trees with fleshy exterior fruits. This genus contains about 35 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, found in woodlands and thickets throughout northern temperate regions.

Malus are easily grown, small- to medium-sized trees flowering from April to May. They produce fragrant flowers 2-5cm (1-2in) across, usually shallowly cup-shaped, singly or in umbel-like corymbs.

Edible fruits follow the flowers.  Although some fruits do need cooking to be palatable, the fruit flavour improving considerably if the fruit is not harvested until it has been frosted. The fruit is quite variable in size (2-4cm diameter) and quality. While usually harsh and acidic, some cultivars are quite sweet and can be eaten raw. The fruit is rich in pectin and can be used to help other fruits to set when making jam. Pectin is also said to protect the body against radiation.

Bridgette’s favourite – Malus x zumi ‘Golden Hornet’:

It is a broadly pyramidal, deciduous tree bearing a profusion of large, cup-shaped pink-flushed white flowers opening from deep pink buds in late spring. Small, yellow crab apples follow, and persist well into winter. The display of golden fruit is further enhanced when the dark foliage turns yellow in autumn.

Grow in moderately fertile moist but well-drained soil in full sun, although partial shade is tolerated. Minimal pruning is needed in late winter or early spring, when the tree is dormant. Remove damaged, wayward or crossing shoots.

Problem pests can include – aphids, red spider mites, caterpillars, apple scab, honey fungus, canker, fireblight and mildew.

To propagate, bud in late summer or graft in midwinter

Awarded an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by the RHS Woody Plant Committee who described it as: “Small deciduous tree with a broad ovoid crown and white flowers followed by a profuse crop of bright, deep yellow fruits 2.5cm long, which persist well into winter”.

Tulips – plan your planting now…

Posted by editor on Sunday, 7 November 2010

Tulips are fantastic spring bulbs.  There is nothing to beat them – for scent, colour and drama. If, like me, you want them to last for at least two months starting in the middle of March and continuing until the Alliums flower in May then you will need to do some planning.  It is such a lovely task on a gloomy evening to sit and look through the bulb catalogues and choose and plan your show!

Combining your tulips with spring flowering biennials, such as the deep red wallflower Erysimum ‘Blood Red’, or the orange, E. Fire King, or honesty, Lunnaria annua, will give a fantastic carpet of colour.

Plant some tulips for an early display, the Fosterianas are good, they have big flowers, and don’t forget the tall stemmed tulips like ‘Purissima’ or ‘Flaming Purissima’.  The Fosterianas are great in pots and they flower in March and early April.

The species tulips such as Tulipa bakeri and T. clusiana also flower early in the year.  ‘Prinses Irene’ is an early tulip with gorgeous orange flowers, that have crimson and red streaks and is perfect for pots.

Make sure that your pots are clean as tulips are susceptible to blight which is transferred by spores and if your pots are not clean then they can become infected.

Next come the Triumph tulips and these will give you the earliest of the deep reds.  A mix of ‘Jan Reus’, the almost black ‘Queen of Night’ and the lovely deep purple ‘Recreado’ look sensational together and will flower around the middle of April.

The beautiful Parrot tulips come into bloom in the middle of spring and the form ‘Rococo’ looks brilliant with lettuces or the blood red Erysimum.  This is a great tulip for forcing and if you plant them in pots under cover you can manipulate them to flower by the middle of March.

The next ones are my favourites – the lily flowered tulips – and one of the most scented is ‘Ballerina’.  It is such an elegant tulip and looks wonderful with ‘Black Hero’, which is a double late form of ‘Queen of Night’ – it’s double flowers look peony like – there is a huge range of lily flowered tulips, ‘West Point’, ‘Burgundy’ and White Triumphator’ and Christopher Lloyds favourite,’ Queen of Sheba’, to name but a few.

Then finally to end the show some of the green-splashed ‘Viridifloras’ are long lasting and often flower year after year, which is a bonus.  The Parrot tulips, ‘Flaming Parrot’ and ‘Orange Favourite’ should see you through to the middle of May when the Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ is poised to take over.

The best time to plant tulips is after the first frost, or preferably frosts as these will kill off any fungal spores which are left in the ground, and is a good organic gardening method for getting rid of the disease tulip fire, (Botrytis tulipae), something that you really don’t want in your garden as it will kill all your tulips.

Try to plant your tulips at least 20cm/8” deep as this will ensure that any spores near the surface will not infect your bulbs.  Planted under shrubs will also allow your tulips to ‘die well’ as the shrub will provide a good foil for the dying leaves.

Order your bulbs on line at or call them on 0161 848 1124 if you prefer to study your bulbs in a catalogue.  This company also supplies A5 pictures of your chosen bulbs, (you can order them with your bulbs).  This is really helpful if showing bulbs to customers or if you are trying to decide on plant combinations.

At the Garden House we still have some bulbs for sale so why not drop by on Friday afternoon between 2.00 and 4.00pm for a slice of cake, a cup of tea and buy some bulbs to brighten up your spring!

Berry-licious! Jamming with The Garden house…

Posted by editor on Monday, 1 November 2010

Right now we’re jamming, pickling, bottling, – producing anything from creamy curds and chutneys to sparkling jellies and fruity jams. Many of us are using fruit and veg that we’ve grown in gardens and allotments or foraged from the hedgerows.

Applications for jam-making courses have soared. Preserving is a skill we’ve lost since the war as a result of having fridges and freezers. Before that preserving the bounties of our fruitful summer and autumn was a necessity. It was essential to stock up the larder for the leaner months when fresh food was scarce.

Today preserves may not be essential, but people are realising the satisfaction both in making them and in seeing them on the shelf.  We think jam-making works like a sort of safety valve – putting us back in touch with the seasons and satisfying our ‘hunter gatherer’ instincts.

Scour the hedgerows in the lanes for berries, hips, haws and crab apples to make Hedgerow Jam. The hedgerows are abundant at the moment and it is a joy to collect berries for preserving.

This weekend we held our Preserves Workshop – below is one of the recipes we made.  It is borrowed from Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall’s book of preserves…

Hedgerow jelly (makes 7-8 x 225g jars)


  • 1kg crab apples (or cooking apples)
  • 1kg mixed hedgerow berries (see above)
  • Around 900g granulated sugar


1. Pick over your fruit, removing stalks and rinsing if necessary. Don’t peel or core the apples as the peel and core are an excellent source of the naturally occurring gelling agent pectin. Just chop them roughly.

2. Place all the prepared fruit in a saucepan with 1.2 litres water. Bring gently to simmering point and simmer until the fruit is soft and pulpy.

3. Remove from the heat. Have ready a jelly bag or muslin cloth and turn the contents of the pan into it. Leave to drip overnight.

4. The next day, measure the juice – you will probably have about 1.2 litres (though this will depend on the berries used). For every 600ml juice, allow 450g sugar. Put the juice into a large pan and bring slowly to the boil. Add the sugar as it just comes to the boil and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Boil rapidly, without stirring, for 9–10 mins until setting point is reached. Test this by dropping a little jam onto a cold saucer. Allow to cool for a minute then push gently with your fingertip. If it has formed a skin and crinkles a little, it’s set.

5. Skim the jelly, pot and seal as quickly as possible.

Berries that can be eaten and were included in our hedgerow jelly include: sloes (Prunus spinosa)crab apples (Malus sp)hawthorn (Crateageous mongyna), rowan berries, medlars and quinces.  Also the gorgeous orange berries of the sea buckthorn can be cooked and eaten.

Other autumn berries – not be eaten but which look fabulous in a vase – include Euonymus europaeus (common spindle), Ligustrum ovalifolium (Privet) with black berries, and Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose)

We hope to run another preserves course early next year – we’ll let you know when!

Wine tasting with Henry Butler!

Posted by editor on Friday, 22 October 2010

Following our amazing trip to South Africa where we visited vineyards and sampled some gorgeous wine, we would like to offer you the opportunity to come and try some fine wines supplied by Butlers Wine Cellar.

On Friday 29 October Henry Butler will be here to guide us ’round the world’ with eight different wines to taste from various parts of the world.  This will include fizzy, whites and reds, as well as something sweet or fortified.

Henry will guide us through different grapes, countries, styles and prices. He has a fantastic range of wines in his cellar: he is a great character and passionate about his subject so this should prove to be a fun evening!

The Butlers Wine Cellar – – is a family run, independent wine shop that was established in 1979. Henry Butler and his mother, Gillian, aim to provide knowledgeable, personal service and stock a wide range of interesting, affordable wines as well as wines for special occasions.

”We try to break down the stereotypical snobbish attitude that is often associated with wine by making our service informative and fun. Wines are stocked from most countries; we tend to focus on wines made by smaller producers as opposed to large brands – wines that excite us or have a story to tell.”

The cost is £20 pp, with the tasting session starting at 7pm until 9pm.   Spaces are limited, so get into practice for Christmas and book early!

Get into the autumn mood…

Posted by editor on Sunday, 17 October 2010

To get us all into the autumn mood, we’ve decided to open The Garden House for FREE on the afternoon of Friday 22 October. We’ll be offering demonstrations on seasonal tasks like propagation and bulb planting, with useful hand-outs to take away with you.

We’ll also have a variety of bulbs for sale, also tea or coffee and homemade cake for sale (£4.50 pp). Do come along with a friend – the open afternoon starts at 3pm and finishes at approx. 6pm.

The same day, local artist Jo Sweeting will lead our evening workshop, showing us how to create a unique and personal pumpkin carving – and what could be more evocative of autumn than a carved Halloween pumpkin?

Jo typically carves stone but her pumpkins are a sight to behold!  Think of making a carved pumpkin ‘soup bowl’, a richly carved table centerpiece – or a pumpkin, beautifully carved and lit from within!

Do book now, as the course is almost full – cost: £42 (or £40 each for two people booking together) – to include a pumpkin (of course!), and a delicious light supper and a glass of wine.  The Pumpkin Carving workshop starts at 6.30pm and finishes at approx. 9.15pm.

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

Blackberry eating…

Posted by editor on Monday, 11 October 2010

I love to go out in late September

among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries

to eat blackberries for breakfast,

the stalks very prickly, a penalty

they earn for knowing the black art

of blackberry making; and as I stand among them

lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries

fall almost unbidden to my tongue,

as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words,

like strengths or squinched or broughamed,

many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,

which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well

in the silent, startled, icy, black language

of blackberry eating in late September.

Galway Kinnell 1927-

The Garden House in South Africa…

Posted by editor on Thursday, 7 October 2010

Dear readers – just a taster of what’s to come…

We’re in South Africa with a group of Garden House friends and enthusiasts travelling around the Western Cape area, visiting the wildflower fields of Namaqualand and touching on many of the other flora and fauna, sights and scenes that this extraordinary area has to offer.

Later today we’ll be visiting the world famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens just outside Cape Town.  We will be  guided by specialist Val Thompson – and come rain or shine, I’m sure we’ll all be filling yet more memory cards with amazing photos!

On our return we’ll be updating you further on our journeys…so look out for further Garden House in South Africa tales over the next few weeks!

Celebrating autumn: upcoming events

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!

Apple Day at Stanmer Park…

Posted by editor on Friday, 24 September 2010

If you’re at all interested in apples – growing, eating, cooking, pressing – get yourself over to Stanmer Park, Brighton, this Sunday 26…

Check out the display of Sussex apples, buy a rare Sussex apple tree, or bring along your mystery apple for identification. Look out for cookery demos and orchard tours, watch traditional apple pressing and enjoy apples (of course!), cakes, cider and apple juice, or visit the tea garden.

The event has been organised by Action in Rural Sussex and Brighton Permaculture Trust as part of Local Fruit Futures – a three-year project to train over 1000 people in fruit tree planting and care and in fruit cookery, plant a further 36 small school and community orchards, propagate hundreds of Sussex variety apple trees, plant examples of all these apples at Stanmer Park orchard and make it more accessible, and produce two publications, based partly on research by the University of Sussex into the history of fruit growing in Sussex.

Open: 11am – 5pm

Location: By the farmhouse/orchard/church at stanmer park

Travel: Travel by public transport if you can.  Bus 78 from Brighton.  Trains to Falmer, a mile’s walk away.

Further details:

Pumpkin carving with Jo Sweeting…

Posted by editor on Monday, 6 September 2010

Our ‘taster day’ last Saturday was very successful.  Many thanks to all of you who visited – everyone was so enthusiastic about the wide variety of workshops we’re running this autumn – thanks also to those who signed up, we look forward to meeting you again!

It was a great opportunity to meet up with some of the workshop tutors, and find about more about them and their skills.

One of our favourite local artists, Jo Sweeting, was there.  Jo is a sculptor and stone-carver, working mainly in British limestone.  Her work is bold yet incredibly sensitive, and works so well in a garden setting.  Her bowl forms are particularly striking, and we also love her small pebbles, carved with hearts, feathers or letters.

Jo will be running stone-carving workshops at The Garden House in 2011 – however this autumn, I’m happy to report, she’ll be turning her skills to pumpkin carving!

The evening workshop is on Friday 22 October, go to DIARY on this website for more info…

Come to our FREE Taster Day!

Posted by editor on Wednesday, 25 August 2010

As part of the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival, Deborah Kalinke and Bridgette Saunders invite you to a Taster day at The Garden House!

It’s on Saturday 4 September! Taste the food.  Taste the wine.  Taste the courses…

Celebrate your enthusiasm for horticulture. Kindle an interest in learning a new skill. Savour food from the fabulous Brighton-based vegetarian food restaurant Terre à Terre. Enjoy a glass of wine supplied by The Butlers Wine Cellar, a local wine merchant.

  • Bridgette will be signing copies of her recently published book Allotment Gardening
  • Terre à Terre: The Vegetarian Cookbook by Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor will also be on sale
  • Buy spring-flowering bulbs from a wide selection of our favourites – seeds too!

Come inside The Garden Room and browse our resource library and its wealth of gardening books, magazines and reference material at leisure.

NOTE: The Garden Room can also be hired for both work away-days and dinner parties for special occasions, menus and prices available on request.

Our Taster Day is FREE – Saturday 4 September – we’d love you to drop in any time between at 11am and 4pm – bring a friend or two and enjoy the garden and all our fun events…we look forward to meeting you!

For further information contact: 01273 702840 | 0778 866 8595

We love decorative ironwork…

Posted by editor on Saturday, 21 August 2010

When you think about garden design don’t forget that you can add drama by using decorative ironwork. Rose arbours, obelisks and wall supports give height, and exciting supports for your herbaceous perennials can help give personality to your garden space.

One of our favourite garden creatives is Brighton-based Steve Betteridge.  Steve makes bespoke garden features in steel – he made our wonderful gates at The Garden House – often rusting the steel to blend beautifully with the garden’s natural palette without distracting.

Taking reference from plant structures, such as alliums, arum lilies, Japanese anemone heads or leaves – his work has an elegant flow, long and simple lines of steel reflecting the plant’s natural movement.

Steve can also offer a range of gardening services from general maintenance to soft landscaping (bed creation, planting design, lawncare).

Success at our charity event fundraiser!

Posted by editor on Thursday, 5 August 2010

Some weeks ago The Garden House held an open day to raise money for RISE (Refuge, Information, Support, Education), a local charity supporting women, children and young people affected by domestic abuse.

We had a brilliant afternoon, with delicious homemade cakes, chutneys and jams for sale; stalls selling garden tools, jewellery, glass-art, home made gifts; and a multitude of gardening items.

We also held an auction – with prizes including a week’s holiday in a stunning converted chapel in Suffolk, a week in a fab villa in Fuerteventura, a photo session in a local photographic studio, a customized deckchair (how very Brighton!), and so many more tempting items…

Little surprise then that everyone stayed on for the ‘auction action’ at 4pm  (Bridgette’s partner Graham has this amazing knack of prising the money from his willing victims – to everyone’s great amusement!).

In the evening we held an outdoor dinner party – delicious homemade food, wine, and live entertainment.  Again all profits going to the charity.

So, the bottom line – this year The Garden House raised £2,444.93 for RISE – a fantastic result!  Thank you again to all who took part, all who helped make it happen – and of course everyone who visited The Garden House and enjoyed the day with us…

By the way, if you fancy finding out more about upcoming courses and workshops at The Garden House come along to our FREE mini-taster day on Saturday 4 September.  We’ve asked many of the course-leaders to hold mini-taster sessions, discussing their upcoming workshops and showing examples of their work.

Plus we’ll be selling spring-flowering bulbs, and Bridgette will be signing copies of her book Allotment Gardening.  And if all that’s not enough, the fabulous Brighton-based vegetarian food specialists Terre a Terre will be providing food for the day. We will also have wine and coffee available.  Come along!  Further details in DIARY on this website.

What a joy, pen and ink drawing in the garden…

Posted by editor on Sunday, 25 July 2010

Yesterday local artist and teacher Debbie Hovell lead a workshop in pen and ink drawing using the garden as inspiration.

We had the perfect day, one of those wonderful sunny summer days when you can think of nothing you’d rather be doing than sitting quietly in the garden and drawing…

Debbie took us through a range of inspirational works, from Beatrix Potter to Henry Moore, showing how different techniques suit different subjects or moods, and how different effects can be achieved by using a variety of pens.

Her patient enthusiasm had its reward – following a delicious lunch in the garden,  everyone was soon settling into the perfect spot to capture their vision…

The day reminded me just how important it is to slow down and enjoy our garden spaces.  Most activity centres around digging, weeding, pruning, watering – and so many gardeners I know say they hardly ever, or indeed never, actually relax and enjoy their garden.

But at any time of year it’s equally important to just sit and review, or capture the moment in ink, paint or on camera – so take a tip from us – summer’s here, slow down, put your feet up, and enjoy…

Alys Fowler at The Garden House…

Posted by editor on Sunday, 18 July 2010

What a treat – a week ago we welcomed Alys Fowler to The Garden House to lead our workshop on the ‘edible garden’. Alys, the well-known writer and horticulturalist, and Gardener’s World presenter, was as delightful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic as we expected her to be.

Alys with us shared her thoughts on how to harmoniously grow flowers and vegetables together in our own gardens and allotments – her philosophy so perfectly chimes with ours at The Garden House.

Her attitude is one of relaxed gardening, of going with the flow – as she says “Conceptually it’s a lot to get your head around, but you

don’t need to fight to make things grow.” She sees making gardening easy as the new way, especially for busy people who love their gardens but have other work/life priorities.  “I’m aiming at people who don’t want to dedicate themselves to gardening, but who just want to get some food off their plot.”

We also loved her creative ideas on vegetable containers – using anything from wire baskets to dustbins!

Open Garden, Evening Dinner: 17th July!

Posted by editor on Friday, 9 July 2010

The Garden House is once again opening its garden gate in aid of a local charity – this year we are raising funds for RISE (Refuge, Information, Support, Education), a local charity supporting women, children and young people affected by domestic abuse.

Join us for a brilliant afternoon! There will be stalls selling all sorts – including garden tools, jewellery, home made gifts, culinary delights, and a multitude of gardening items.

Tea and cakes will be on sale too, and we have our Grand Auction at 4pm!  Auction prizes include:

  • One week in a villa on Fuerteventura
  • Large abstract painting by Sussex artist Bobby Boud
  • Deckchair with customized patchwork seat
  • Photo session in a local studio
  • Patchwork quilt
  • Coffee machine and coffee set
  • Two complementary planted containers
  • Voucher for a hair cut in a local salon
  • Bridgette’s Friday gardeners – working in your garden for one day!
  • And many other items, including ‘ingredients for a screaming orgasm’ (don’t ask!)…

Garden opens at 2.30pm

Entrance fee: £2 per adult

We are also holding a Garden Dinner Party, which starts at 7pm.  Why not book a table with friends?  The cost of the dinner will be £20 for a delicious three-course meal and a glass of wine (we will have wine available for donation should you need extra!) – and during dinner we’ll be serenaded by live band Vinyl Riff!

Dinner menu:

  • Starters: roasted Piedmont peppers, OR mushroom, sherry and walnut pate, OR watermelon and goat’s cheese salad
  • Main course: organic Cheddar, zucchini and roasted red onion quiche, OR Malaysian fish curry, OR tortilla with fried beans served with guacamole and salsa
  • Dessert: free-range homemade meringue nests with summer fruits, OR chocolate brandy refrigerator cake, OR fresh fruit platter

Contact us for more info: 01273 702840 / 0778 8668595 /

Please come and bring your friends and help us to raise some money for this hugely worthwhile cause – thank you, and hope to see you then!

Garden Gadabout update…

Posted by editor on Monday, 28 June 2010

Taken from the writings of our London friends at The Women’s Room blog:

I don’t go to therapy, instead I garden. It keeps me calm, I can work through all my issues and have imaginary arguments in the greenhouse where no one can hear me and I always win. The plants respond well to the attention and there are weeks when I spend more time nurturing my seedlings than my family.

The other advantage of gardening is meeting other gardeners, who are all too willing to share their interest in growing things and often give you stuff, in the form of cuttings and bits of leaf to identify. This weekend we went to the Garden Gadabout in a very sunny Brighton where we met some fabulous enthusiasts eager to share their green spaces.

We saw a number of interesting trends…..

  • The new shed – everyone’s got a fancy room-in-the-garden shed, with sofas/internet connection/curtains
  • Vegetables in raised beds – everywhere but everywhere
  • Potatoes in bags/containers – apparently easy and prolific
  • Beech sticks as wigwams for climbers (prettier than bamboo)
  • Chickens – who have their own fancy coups if they’re lucky
  • Seating areas – loads of them everywhere
  • Recycled boxes/tins/sacks are the new pots
  • Mosaics – from small to complex, black and white or multi coloured
  • Creating your own seed packets and hand drawing the floral fronts
  • Cakes – it seems all gardeners can cook cakes and make excellent lemonade

Here are some of the photos taken this weekend…

…and don’t forget the Garden Gadabout (private gardens opening in aid of the charity Susssex Beacon) is happening again weekend 3rd/4th July.

Note from GG coordinator Bridgette Saunders: “As usual The Sussex Beacon’s garden will be opening Saturday 3rd July. Come and visit us and see the changes that have taken place. You’ll receive a warm welcome and have the opportunity to visit the gardens of this unique centre. There will be stalls, a tombola and of course cream teas to buy and enjoy whilst 
relaxing in tranquil surroundings. All the funds raised from The Garden Gadabout come directly to The Sussex Beacon.”

Check their website for details

The Garden Gadabout: weekends of garden pleasure!

Posted by editor on Monday, 14 June 2010

Opening one’s personal space to visiting gardening enthusiasts is a tense business, like baring your soul for all to see. We’re really not sure why we do it – it’s an emotionally rocky time – one moment you’re revelling in a little admiration, then appalled when someone notices the empty petunias box from B&Q shoved into a forgotten corner (we only bought them at the eleventh hour to plug a gap for heaven’s sake!)…

Of course when the wellie’s on the other foot – nothing gives us more pleasure than exploring someone else’s garden, loved and nurtured over many years, or newly created and full of potential and exciting ideas…

If you possibly can, keep the weekends of 26/27 June and 3/4 July free – two weekends when over sixty beautiful private gardens and community spaces will be opening their gates for this year’s Sussex Beacon Garden Gadabout.  Many are in Brighton and Hove – but also as far afield as Lewes, the village of Rodmell, and to the east, Peacehaven and Seaford.

There are an extraordinary variety of outdoor spaces to enjoy.  New gardens join the best from last year – visit overflowing allotments, community spaces, shady nooks and courtyard gardens, large expansive gardens, gardens where creativity is key, and gardens where plants come first – all hidden gems waiting to be explored…

Many offer delicious homemade cakes and refreshments, plants for sale, jams and honey – even sales of local artworks.

So whether you’re an experienced gardener, keen novice, or simply want to come along to see what your neighbours have done with a space similar to your own – check the website, look out for the free booklet, and start planning your trails!

All proceeds from the weekends go to the Sussex Beacon, a unique centre providing innovative services to meet the changing needs of men and women living with HIV.

Recycle and reuse…

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Our garden here at The Garden House is run on organic and recycling principles. So we love and admire gardens created to promote similar ideals.

At the Chelsea Flower Show last week one of our favourite gardens was Places of Change, brought together by the Eden Project in partnership with the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Homeless Link.

Up to 50 homelessness charities took part, contributing to Eden’s second year at Chelsea, with more than 75 people working on the site at a time. All received vocational training in woodwork, planting and other horticultural skills that they can use to get employment in the future.

It featured five designated zones: crops and food; floristry and leisure; medicine and health; industry and manufacture – a metaphor for the hidden treasures that lie within communities and the most unexpected places.

The eclectic design included a greenhouse made using recycled bottles, plants grown in hostels around the country, trees donated from cemeteries in East London and sculptures made from old washing machines.

Another favourite garden run on recycling principles is a “pop up” community garden in Lewes (run by a group of local artists and gardeners – one of whom is our Garden House friend, Ella!). Here abandoned packing cases are reused as raised vegetable beds, and living willow woven into hideaways, thick fencing – and even a sofa!

Find this exciting and creative “guerilla” garden at the Old Fire Station, North Street, Lewes BN7 2PL. It will be open the weekend of 3rd/4th July as part of the Garden Gadabout – the open garden scheme that’s been running for over fifteen years in support of Sussex-based charity The Sussex Beacon (it started with a few supporters opening their gardens in Brighton to last year an event where over 70 gardens threw open their garden gates).

Garden Gadabout open gardens are spread far and wide from Shoreham to Lewes and everywhere in between.  Do make time to visit this and other gardens.  Small or large – all are inspirational, creative  – and real!

All back to our place!

Posted by editor on Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Garden House invites you to its first “pop-up restaurant” on Friday 2 July! Come on your own or bring a group of friends to enjoy outdoor eating at its best.  We can promise you great company, a beautiful setting in The Garden House garden (tented if it looks like rain!) – and great food and wine, of course!

Cost: £25 per person for three courses.

Location: The Garden House, 5 Warleigh Road, Brighton BN1 4NT.  Starts 7.30pm until late.

Places are limited and must be reserved. To book contact 0778866 8595  or email – do spread the word via Twitter and Facebook!

MENU: Fresh and local ingredients, some from the garden, will be used wherever possible (menu subject to change if adverse weather dictates!)

  • Gazpacho
  • Fried halloumi cheese and lime and caper vinaigrette
  • *served with selection of breads
  • Mushroom croustade
  • Salmon en papillote with dill and lemon, and fresh Hollandaise sauce
  • *served with seasonal vegetables and green salad
  • Summer pudding
  • Baked vanilla and lemon cheesecake with marinated strawberries
  • Cheese and biscuits + £3
  • Coffee or tea, with chocolates  + £3.00

Happy knitting with The Garden House!

Posted by editor on Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Here at The Garden House we love knitting! Which is why we’re running two great workshops in July, led by expert knitter Julia Hincks – Knitting Workshop 1: Cable and Texture on 6 July, and Knitting Workshop 2: Colour on 13 July.

Join these fun and friendly workshops, designed to give you the confidence to complete your own knitting project. Bring your ideas, pictures or creative project. If you have needles, yarns or patterns bring them along too – but don’t worry if not, we’ll have plenty here for you to use.

How about knitting a textural picture or cushion? Or what about some 3D flowers or fruit? One of our favourite knitting shops is Cocoon on George St, Hove – outside the shop is a small tree hung with bright orange knitted fruit!  What fun, we love it…!

Check our DIARY on this website for more details. *SPECIAL OFFER – if you book both workshops together – there’s a special discount price of £50 for the two!

Brighton Art Houses 4: Dan Bennett

Posted by editor on Saturday, 15 May 2010

Dan Bennett, painter and print-maker, is showing at Studio 106, an artists’ collective based in a converted warehouse in the Poet’s Corner district of Hove.

Reflecting his love of gardens, Dan’s work beautifully expresses the colour, textures and form of groups and individual plants. This, combined with his respect for the pattern making of the Aborigine and of other indigenous global cultures, gives his work a unique and unexpected quality.

Abstracted plant forms that sway and move before the eyes, vibrant colour that literally bursts from the canvas – we love the intensity of his work.

At this year’s Open Houses Dan will also be exhibiting his rock paintings for the first time:  “My art practice is currently undergoing a transition. Although I am still deeply inspired by the prehistoric symbols that can be found etched onto rocks by our global ancestors, I have recently become as interested in the rock itself. This interest expresses itself as a desire to climb and paint these ancient structures so as to better understand them. I have found that by physically moving across their surfaces I have gained a deeper intuitive knowledge about the world in general, in a similar way in which painting helps me understand the world. The mechanics of forces, levers, tension and friction which are involved in rock climbing have led to moments of inspiration which I am currently pursuing in my painting.”

There’s still time to catch Dan’s exhibition – Sunday 16 and the following weekend 22/23 May. Open from 11am to 5pm,  Studio 106 is located at 106 Coleridge Street, Hove, BN3 5AA.

Brighton Art Houses 3: Lindy Craig-Hall

Posted by editor on Saturday, 8 May 2010

Visit Lindy’s house at 31 Preston Park Avenue, Brighton, and enjoy the work of several artists creating decorative and functional outdoor artwork and sculpture. Lindy’s house is an artwork in itself – an inspiring tapestry of colour, pattern, decorative home accessories and antique chinaware – even her garden steps are painted brilliant fuschia pink!

Amongst a group of textile artists, ceramicists, painters, mosaicists and jewellers, Lindy also shows the work of several artists whose work adorns the outside space.  Chris Murphy makes ceramic bird houses, feeders and ornamental garden conicals, Jo Brook makes ceramic garden pots and birdbaths, and Sue Samways makes mosaic lawn dials and garden tables.

Decorative garden ironwork is made by Steven Betridge (wonderful for clambering Clematis), and deckchairs customized with patchworked fabrics are made by Lindy Craig-Hall herself (wonderful for lounging!).

Special note: Jewellery-maker Val Shore is also showing at Lindy’s – Val will be leading a jewellery-making workshop at The Garden House on the evening of 14 June.  Check the DIARY on this website for details.

Address: Lindy Craig-Hall, 31 Preston Park Avenue, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 6HG

Open: Weekends of 8 & 9 May, 15 & 16 May and 22 & 23 May (11am to 5pm).

Brighton Art Houses 2: Frances Doherty, ceramicist

Posted by editor on Wednesday, 5 May 2010

You know how sometimes you look intensely at a flower and just can’t believe the colours are ‘made by nature’?  Few artists so completely capture the depth and vibrancy of natural plant forms as successfully as Frances Doherty.

Frances is the second artist to be featured in our celebration of local creators whose work captures the beauty of plant- or garden-related subjects.  We love her observational style and ability to capture and exaggerate the sculptural forms of seed-heads, pods and fruiting bodies.

Working in stoneware, Frances uses richly iridescent glazes chosen to compliment the form, making the pieces glow with colour.  Her work is high fired so that the pieces can go into an interior or exterior environment.

“My inspiration comes from flowers and plants that we see all around us, in gardens, fields, even cracks in the pavement. I particularly love the secret worlds inside these flowers, in the patterns and textures hidden away that give a continuing sense of promise and renewal.”

The images shown here were taken at the Life Cycle Sculpture Trail at the Ventnor Botanic Gardens, Isle of Wight, during summer 2009.

As part of the Brighton Open Artists Houses festival Frances will be exhibiting at 31 Havelock Road,
Brighton, part of the Five Ways Artists Group.

During the festival, Frances will also be showing some of her sculpture in the front gardens of Havelock Road, starting from Mrs Moles Flower Emporium and then going up Havelock Road at numbers, 13,14,18,29,31 and 64.

See more of Frances’s work at

Check out all this years Artists Open Houses at

Brighton Art Houses 1: Jo Sweeting, sculptor

Posted by editor on Thursday, 29 April 2010

If you’re not already a fan, the Brighton Artists Open Houses is a must – it is probably Britain’s biggest free visual arts event. It is. Over the first four weekends of May, a record 243 venues will open their doors to exhibit the work of over 1,000 artists and makers.

To celebrate and contribute to the event, we thought we would highlight a few of the local artists and sculptors whose work has a place in the garden, or who specialize in painting or creating plant forms.

Brighton-based sculptor Jo Sweeting is a particular favourite of ours.  Her work is bold yet incredibly sensitive, and works so well in a garden setting.

Jo works mainly in British limestone, the subject matter often figurative or based on forms from the landscape, using words and poetry to highlight particular thoughts, events or celebrations.  Her bowl forms are particularly striking.  We also love her small pebbles, carved with hearts, feathers or letters.

Jo is showing at 28 Florence Road, Brighton – the home of Jo Riddells, and on the Beyond The Level trail (open all four weekends in May 11am-5pm). Definitely a ‘don’t miss’ art house!

Jo works and teaches at Skelton Workshops at Streat, near Ditchling.  She also runs classes from her own lovely studio at 72 Ashford Road, Fiveways, Brighton

Just to note: On the weekend of 3/4 July Jo will be holding another Open House at 72 Ashford Road, exhibiting the work of eight local artists.  Plus you’ll be able to see the newly designed garden created by Plantsman and designer Paul Bradford, with plants supplied by Miss Moles Emporium.  See more of Jo’s work at

Check out all this years Artists Open Houses at

Question Time for Gardeners!

Posted by editor on Sunday, 25 April 2010

To  introduce the annual Garden Gadabout, the organisers have put together a real treat – Question Time for Gardeners…

If you are wondering what to plant, considering growing your own vegetables or need to identify a pest or disease, then come along and join what promises to be a fun and enlightening evening. Thursday 13 May 7.30pm – 9.30pm.

The panel of horticultural experts is second to none:

  • Graham Gough – who, supported by his partner Lucy Goffin, created the magical garden and nursery at Marchants Hardy Plants in Laughton, Sussex.
  • Ed Ikin – head gardener at Nymans Garden and a strong advocate of biodynamics, planting according to the lunar calendar.
  • Liz Dobbs – London-based gardening writer and editor of Gardens Monthly, whose books include Garden Makeovers and The Essential Garden.
  • Julie Hollobone – is assistant editor of Gardens Monthly, a horticultural lecturer and author of an excellent book on propagation, Propagation Techniques.
  • Robert Hill-Snook – head gardener at the Brighton Pavilion, and responsible for the restoration of the Regency gardens following organic and nature-assisted principles.
  • Jim Miller – horticulturalist and lecturer at Brighton’s City College.

This event promises to be a great introduction to the Garden Gadabout – when, over two weekends in June/July, over 70 private gardens from Shoreham to Lewes and everywhere in between throw open their garden gates in aid of the Sussex Beacon charity.

Box Office: 01273 736222 / 
Box Office Opening Times: Monday to Friday 10am – 5pm

13 May 7.30pm – 9.30pm / 
£6.00 (£4.50 Concessions)

Location: The Old Market, Upper Market Street, Hove BN3 1AS

Iced Gem heaven…

Posted by editor on Friday, 16 April 2010

If you or yours are in celebratory mood and in need of a fabulous garden-related cake (or any other theme) – look no further…

Recently, Brighton-based pastry chef and cake decorator Gemma Macfarlane made a cake to celebrate Bridgette’s dad’s 90th birthday – the wheelbarrow cake in the picture, piled high with vegetables!  We think Gemma’s work is quite extraordinary and want to spread the word…

Her website has photos of the many celebration and wedding cakes she’s designed – including a incredibly delicate and intricate rendition of the West Pier for Lord Richard Attenborough’s 80th birthday.

Gemma also specialises in gluten, wheat and dairy free baking.  “Many people think having special dietary requirements means they have to give up their favourite foods, but that needn’t be the case. I’ve spent years researching ingredients and creating recipes that anyone can follow to make their own delicious cakes, pastries and treats.”

Her other website is full of free recipes, hints and tips to make great tasting wheat, gluten and dairy free cakes and desserts.  You can also buy Gemma’s recipe book online – it comes in eBook or paperback versions.

So – inspiring, delicious and good for you – what could be better?  I can’t wait until my family’s next big event!