Geoff Stonebank’s Garden Column September 17, 2022

It certainly feels like the days are rolling in and fall is on its way. Still, it’s not cold outside in the garden.

I’ve started thinking about tidying up the beach garden and organizing my large agave collection for the coming winter months. I probably have close to 80 of them in the garden but some are still little babies in containers. However, over half are larger specimens like the one I’m holding in the picture.

I made a conscious decision last spring to plant the tallest plants in the ground as it was just becoming too difficult to carry them indoors for the winter. It’s not so much the cold they don’t like, it’s the wet, but since they’re into chalk they should be fine.

This weekend, the National Garden Scheme has several properties you might want to check out. On Sunday, Hamsey House will open for the program for the first time.

The garden opens between 1pm and 5pm with an entry fee of £6. It is in the South Downs National Park, just a few miles from Lewes. The country garden includes an orchard with a wildflower bed, a vegetable and cut flower garden, large herbaceous borders and a parterre. Also sell succulents.

There are now two gardens to visit, Holford Manor and King Johns Lodge. The former is in North Chailey and opens from 11am to 4pm with an entry fee of £7. It is a 5 acre garden with far reaching views of open fields with lots to see. The latter is in Etchingham and opens from 11am to 5pm with an entry fee of £5. It is a four hectare romantic garden for all seasons. Full information on all three gardens can be found at

Four plants that still hold their own in my garden are also pictured. The first is the yellow vine or Dicentra scandens, a herbaceous climber with deeply lobed leaves 15-30 cm long, some with tendrils. Mine is yellow and the flowers appear from mid spring to late summer.

Dicentra can look a bit messy after flowering and I prune mine to the ground in the fall. It thrives in the shade and is sometimes referred to as the king of climbing dicentras, with origins in Tibet and Nepal.

Sedum Atlantis was a Chelsea 2019 award-winning plant with its colorful foliage and yellow-green flowers, which are also coveted by bees. It is a sun loving, drought tolerant (once established) plant, each leaf is attractively variegated and has a serrated edge. These form in neat, ground-covering rosettes that are topped with blooms for several months from mid-summer.

Easy to grow, she is ideal for pots or border borders. Mine thrive in the gravel garden front and back.

A wonderful perennial grows in my back gravel garden, the sea lavender, which is much sought after by garden visitors who don’t know it. She is very easy to grow and does best in full sun.

A major benefit is that it is drought tolerant once established and makes a welcome addition to coastal gardens. After flowering, pruning is required. Limonium platyphyllum, to give it its proper name, is a clumping perennial with attractive clusters of tiny, light purple flowers in summer. They bloom in a cloud, adding a soft haze and airy touch to the garden.

They are borne on slender and much-branched stems rising from a basal rosette of large, broadly spoon-shaped leaves of 15-25 cm, lying almost flat to the ground. Her dry, papery petals hold their color well, making her an excellent choice for fresh cut flowers or dried arrangements. Attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators, sea lavender is a relatively easy perennial to grow.

The fourth is Hydrangea Vanilla Fraise. Her lush flower heads transform an ordinary paniculta hydrangea into an extraordinary one! The stunning flower heads turn from vanilla white through shades of pink to a luscious, rich raspberry pink with age.

These cones of starry flowers are an absolute dream in any garden! With blooms of so many different shades of pink present on this hydrangea at any given time, vanilla fraise is perfect for bringing color to late summer borders and is particularly useful in north facing gardens where they will add color and light like it is the case with me .

Vanilla Fraise makes a great cut flower too and the magnificent heads can also be dried and sprayed for a stunning winter display. The shrubs are very hardy and easy to care for, the loose, cone-shaped flower clusters form in summer on the tips of the red-stem branches.

I’ve had mine for several years now. It started in a container and when I was redesigning the back of the house area last fall I decided to put it in the ground.

Read more about Geoff’s garden here and at Geoff Stonebank’s Garden Column September 17, 2022

Fry Electronics Team

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