April 2020 archive

The Flower House Studio Garden 2020 – April

The time spent in the garden can really increase now. More seeds to plant, inside and out. We recently planted ammi straight into the prepared bed amongst the delphiniums and I sewed zinnia’s which will need to geminate in the greenhouse.

I will be able to show in later posts how these are coming along but we do have some in the greenhouse just in case!

Some of the earlier planted seeds like sweet peas are now large enough to be planted out which hubby kindly did and made the climbing structure, it does not look very pretty now but wait until it is covered with flowers! It is very important to keep sweet peas well watered.

I could not believe how quickly these zinnia’s started to germinate, planted on the 10th April and showing 4 days later! And no I am not trying to trick you, it is the same batch, I did 2 trays hence the different colour pots!

We put in staking frameworks at the beginning of this month in the boarders to support the likes of the delphiniums and ammi mentioned above along with the lupins.

It can be a tedious task but so worthwhile as the plants gain height.

Many plants are starting to show now and literally increase in height by the day, solomon’s seal (polygonatum) being a great example along with the alliums, peonies, dahlia’s and scabious which seems to be a bit confused as it is rather early.

You can just about see the stems in front of the pesky wild garlic, it is everywhere and so invasive. I know you can use it in cooking and may be I will try it one day but for now I just want to get rid of it!

Again probably quite difficult to see the allium bud but it will not be long before it bursts into flower. Much easier to see the peony buds below.

The Cytisus or Broom puts on a lovely show now as does the Bridal Spirea (Spirea Arguta).

All the boarders are starting to bulk out but still with spaces for the annuals. Here is a view from the top of the garden.

I do not often show the ‘mauve’ bed in the fore ground for some reason but you will see in the months to come it is quite striking with the central black elder, alliums, self seeding cerinthe, verbena, bronze fennel, scabious along with philadelphus and alchemilla mollis to lighten it. 

And the shot below is of those circular beds we linked to make one continuous boarder.

Having decided to write this blog I have been going round the garden and realise how many areas still need a lot of attention, particularly the boundary boarders. We have rather neglected these or just dumped plants in whilst deciding what to do with them. One area which half way house is an area at the bottom of the garden which is shaded by next doors trees and has some nice shrubs/plants but needs sorting out. It actually does not look too bad but the cordylines have all merged into each other, the grevillea out grown its space and nature has a habit of taking over here.

Also this is a good time to mention that gardeners are always learning and make mistakes however experienced and of course we should learn from these. I did a classic recently. Having over wintered Salvia Amistad in the greenhouse, we bought it in the autumn last year, with the spell of warm weather we had over Easter I planted it only to get a frost a couple of days later. It is now being protected in the hope that I have not given it such a shock as to kill it! Why I did not stick to my usual rule of waiting until after the first May Bank Holiday before planting anything too tender I do not know!

This is becoming rather lengthy but I did say it was a busy month! Also that a garden is always evolving, remember those lovely lavender along the path from the post showing the development of the garden?

Well this is what they looked like after a wet winter.

So we are replacing them. Hubby’s hard work after removing them and digging over ready for when new plants arrive next month.

Some of the better ones have been planted in one of those neglected boundary boarders and we are keeping our fingers crossed they survive.

A problem we find with boundary boarders is that you have no control over what your neighbours grow or how well they will maintain their gardens and we have bindweed, ground elder, brambles, ivy and those pesky wild garlic to contend with. It is a matter of keeping top of them so they do not take over.

It is incredible how things are changing on a daily basis at the moment, as we are having such a lovely long spell of warm weather everything is well ahead, below are how the Soloman Seal are looking after only 2 weeks, they can be seen a few inches high in an earlier photo.

This reminds me of a wedding a few years ago now. A bride wanted mainly tulips for her May wedding and her mother was growing them. She had done a trial the year before but in the year of the wedding we had a very warm spring and by the time of the wedding all the tulips her mum grew had gone over, so plan B had to be put into action – our trusty wholesaler saved the day. It is a lovely idea to grow your own wedding flowers but you have to be flexible and really have what is available rather than be to transfixed on a particular flower.

Many of the seeds having been re potted are now in need of ‘hardening off’ which means taking them out of the greenhouse to get accustomed to cooler conditions before being planted out.

A cold frame is the ideal place, hubby has been at work again converting old shelving. However if you do not have this luxury, finding a sheltered spot against a wall or the shed will give some protection.

So far I have only mentioned the back garden but we also have 2 areas at the front which  need working on including the furniture! This shot includes the crocosmia where we are lucky enough to have a mallard nesting who does not seem to be bothered by Winnie, our cocker spaniel, lets’s hope she behaves when they hatch!

And below is the drive area, again in a photo it looks ok but get close up and the bed has many weeds, grass, shrubs in need of shaping and generally could do with a good old tidy up.

It is now the 28th of April and according to the Met Office, having had the most sunniest April on record, we now have some much needed rain and are expecting more but hopefully not too heavy so as to flatten the lovely lush new growth on the perennials!

And as April fades into May it is another busy month ahead. It is currently very windy and the sweet peas are suffering a bit, I will have to keep on eye on those, but the apple blossom is looking rather splendid.

As is the honeysuckle which smells divine.

See you next month.


The Flower House Garden 2020 – The first 3 months

So here we go with the start of a year in The Flower House Studio garden!


As you can see there are plants in the garden in January which give colour through leaf or stem but it is quite bare. What you do and when in the garden has a lot to do with where you live. In general it is colder the more north you are and wetter the further west. We are right on the south coast so are pretty dry and generally do not get that many frosts or severe winters but we do get quite a lot of wind.

As I was rather late starting this blog, I am consolidating the first 3 months. January and February are not as busy months as others in the year particularly if the weather is wet and/or cold. The light levels are also very low and daylight is key for growing. 

However, January is a good month to have a tidy up, checking for any wind damage and to start getting things ready for what is to come. Sheds, greenhouse and the garden generally benefit from this. Pruning can also be done but you have to know which plants benefit from a winter prune. Any spring flowering shrubs should wait until after flowering so forsythia, bridal spirea, philadelphus and the like. But summer flowering clematis, buddleia, roses, spirea and cornus can be cut back hard, Wisteria is a bit of an exception as it like a prune in January and July.

Apple and pear trees can also be done now but my husband prefers to do this in the summer as winter pruning encourages vigorous growth. However if you have old branches or ones which cross and rub, get rid of those now then shape and thin to allow the light in later. These are very basic pruning rules, so it is best to check for your particular plants.

I have been known to start weeding in January as long as the soil is not too heavy and you can have some colour in the garden from mahonia, skimmia, hellebores and you might start to see the snowdrops poking through.


This is a good time for cutting back deciduous ornamental grasses, right back to the ground before new shoots appear. Evergreen varieties just need the old growth pulled out, they come out with a gentle tug.

Any pruning can be finished too and if you did not sort out your seeds last month do it now as some can start to be sown including sweet peas, cornflower, lots of veg – broad beans, kale, spinach and herbs but they have to be under glass. I have to say I tend to wait until March. But there is always the weeding to be getting on with.


This is when it really starts to happen, days get longer, remember the clocks go forward and spring officially begins. We see cheery daffodils, crocus, muscari and other bulbs starting to come out and the flowering shrubs will gradually become a mass of colour, like the Ribes above. It will depend on the weather though as March can still be very cold with snow, hail, rain and wind, remember the old saying ‘March winds and April showers’

But there is no denying the day time temperatures are usually on the up and with more day light hours it is the month to really get on with planting seeds.  Herbaceous plants and shrubs can be planted as well as divided in March as long as it is not too wet and it is a good time to mulch. We missed our opportunity this year with it being so wet and then we went into lockdown so could not get our usual manure. You need have completed the weeding before doing this because although one of the advantages of mulching is to suppress weeds it is not a way of ignoring them.

And we cannot forget early rhubarb, we plant different varieties so we have it from February right through to autumn. It has become a bit of a family joke that whenever people come for dinner or I take dessert to a someones, it will be rhubarb of some sort, be it rhubarb crumble cake, brûlée, fool or just straight forward stewed rhubarb. I love the latter for breakfast with yoghurt and why not if you have got it, use it!

Above are the cosmos and amaranths seeds planted earlier in the month along with the sweet peas below.

We also have larkspur, cleome which really has not come too much, penstemon, echinacea and my husband who is in charge of veg has leeks, tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and basil. We have learnt over the years only to grow what we really like and in sensible quantities. I will show how they are coming along in later posts.

Lawns are another area of the garden which start to need attention, if we have had a mild spell they might have already had a cut but March is the usual time they put on a spurt. Remember the first cut should not be too low, just take the top off. If you like to feed your lawn now is the time to do it and boarder edges may need redefining. 

There may be many more jobs I have overlooked but we seem to have been busy enough as it is. Getting dahlia’s out of storage and potting them up is one you may have noticed I have omitted. This is because I believe plants should work for me and not me having to work for them! I always felt having to lift, over winter and re pot a bit of a faff so did not ‘do dahlia’s’ but I like them and they are so useful in floristry.  Therefore I do have some but leave them in and so far the majority have come back each year. I have had the odd casualty and may have to review what I do this year as it was so wet and may have lost more. It would probably be wise to do as a fellow florist friend does and that is lift some as a back up.

Also you have to remember I am only commenting on our garden, other gardeners will have different priorities, likes and dislikes but whoever you are and wherever you garden the rewards are great including pickings for a vase or two! Forsythia, ribes, rosemary, euphoriba, hellebore, muscari, broom, bridal spirea and grevillea – spring in a jug!

The next post will be all about April.

The Flower House Studio Garden

As it is going to be a while before I write new wedding posts I decided to do regular posts about the garden. These will show how it changes through the year and serve as a journal for me, particularly as I am bad at remembering which plants are where! I see something coming through and have to wait until I recognise the foliage or form and then it comes flooding back.This first post though is to show how it all started and has evolved over the 6 years we have been here. We are in lovely spot in East Sussex on the River Brede near Rye. We overlook open pasture which has  sheep grazing from when the lambs appear in March to about October.

Above is looking down the garden from the back of the house to the river and beyond taken in October 2013, the year we moved in. Below is taken at the same time but looking towards the house, before the renovations.

The garden faces north west but gets the sun for most of the day. It is dry with an  average annual rainfall of 650mm (25.95 inches) and being close to the sea we do get our fair share of wind. It is probably classed as a medium sized garden measuring approximately 40m in length and 13m wide (130ft x 40ft).

I do not claim to be an expert, I just have a love of gardening and passion for flowers and plants. I did do a garden design course many years ago and my husband and I have created 3 gardens virtually from scratch. Outside space has always been important to us and being a florist it is great to have material on hand.

We did not really get started until April 2015 because up until then we still had the florist shop and not much time for gardening. The garden was essentially a rectangle of lawn with 5 trees, 3 apple, a cherry and plum. There was one small flower bed between the shed and then summer house.The first job was to decide on a design and wanted one that could be on going as we did not want to create all the beds in one go as they would have needed to be planted up to prevent weeding over (we have done that before!) and that would have been very costly.

My husband suggested, and I was hesitant at first, to create circular beds around the trees on the left side of the garden. My hesitation was that the trees would take too much moisture and light but we wanted to maintain the view and therefore did not want central beds. There also had to be places to sit, pathways and the more functional aspects like water butts, greenhouse, washing line, compost and storage areas.

Initial design decided and on to the plants. There can be many reasons which dictate the plants you choose; location, soil type, the style of garden you wish to create, scent, colour and of course your own personal favourites. I also have the added requirement of growing plants, shrubs and flowers I can use in my business. If you do not know where to begin a good rule of thumb is to look at what is growing in gardens around you, if they thrive there then the likely hood is they will in your garden too.

I did a basic plant plan for each bed with the idea of adding more over time and topping up with annuals. The garden style is loosely cottage garden but it is important to have a structure of shrubs both evergreen and deciduous as they help to give interest all year. The above selection got us started and included Euonymus, Spiraeas, Philadelphus, Guelda Rose (Vibernum), Cornus,  Elaeagnus, Cardoon, Bronze Fennel, Sambucus nigra (Black elder), Senecio or Brachyglottis as it is now called and my must have favourites of Hardy Geraniums, Alchemilla mollis, and Sedums. There were Clematis, Honeysuckle, Fuschia, Forsythia, Ribus and Roses already in the boundary hedgerows and over the shed which really helped.

The planting was fairly sparse but gave room for growth and you really have to think of 3 to 5 years for a garden to establish.

Over the next couple of years we added paths, a veg bed and greenhouse. I mean ‘the Royal We’ as it was my husband who did most of the heavy work with my supervision of course!

Also the summerhouse became my studio.

We added perennials including astrantia, astilbe, delphiniums, lupins, peonies, penstemons, many grown from seed and more recently various grasses.

The next major job was to expand the beds by removing the grass between them so they all linked up.

The above was taken in June 2017 showing the linked beds and lavender totally obscuring the path but who cares when the scent wafts around as you brush past! We grew annuals from seed which filled the gaps in the boarders and gave great colour.

In January 2018 ‘we’ created another bed for a cutting garden which would have loads more annuals for me to use.

And there it is planted up with sweet peas, cosmos, amaranthus, larkspur, nigella and cornflower.

And this last one is from June last year showing the lupins, delphiniums and ammi in all their glory. I hope you have enjoyed the journey so far as much as we did creating it.

The next post will be about this year and how we start getting the garden prepared for the seasons ahead.