Category Archives: Latest News

September plant of the month – Actaea

How to grow Actaea

The Actaea pictured is ‘Black negligee’; a thigh-high plant with frilly-flowered spikes of tiny white-to-pink flowers. It earns its name from the dark, deeply bisected leaves that suggest a lace pattern around the edges.

Actaea simplex 'Black Negligee' a spike of white flowers above black foliage

Actaea is a valuable September plant in the border.

Actaeas are perennial, and a good choice for herbaceous borders. Plant them in good garden soil and mulch or feed at least once a year. They are forgiving plants as they don’t mind wet soil and they aren’t fussy about acid or alkaline. Try to give them some shelter and they will grow to a couple of feet wide and over a metre tall. If all you can offer them is an exposed, windswept site with poor soil – don’t bother. They may be forgiving, but there is a limit to their generosity!

September flowers with plenty of early morning and evening scent

They flower in September, so plant yours somewhere where you can loiter in early morning to enjoy the sweet, exotic fragrance. Maybe you will enjoy your ‘Black Negligee’ while you garden in your pyjamas!

Actaea spread by extending their rhizomes – flat fingers of rooty bulbs. They are not invasive and the rhizomes are handy as you will like as not want to divide them to create more plants in early spring. It’s easier than growing them from seed.

If you have enough room plant a few to form a dark wall of foliage, under spires of flowers that can reach waist height with a scent that will catch on the breeze and attract pollinating insects.

There are plenty of varieties to choose from; almost all have the dark foliage that I prefer. Actaea is a favourite of mine as the leaves are a perfect backdrop to pretty much any brightly coloured flower whilst the flowering spikes are worth attention in their own right. I have planted them in our long borders, fronted by bright pink dahlias, yellow fennel and a variety of other “hot” and purple flowers.

Nick Haworth – Head Gardener

Annual Plant Sale

Our Annual Plant sale begins on September 1st.

Take home special plants at very special prices – we will be taking 40% off almost all our stock. We specialise in offering interesting plants from local specialist nurseries. Many of the more unusual plant varieties are propagated from the fabulous plants you can see growing throughout the garden.

Friends of The Garden House can get first sale pickings

Are you a “Friend of The Garden House?”  Members get to access the plant sale before anyone else, so shop earlier on the 30th and 31st of August, show your membership card and enjoy 40% discount.

If you aren’t a member – why not join? it’s just £28 per year for unlimited garden visits and many other benefits, including free entry all year to our sister gardens, Trebah in Cornwall and Coleton Fishacre in South Devon.


Advice for August about Dahlias

How to grow Dahlias

If you want late summer colour choose dahlias. Enjoy different flower forms, from bouncy looking pompons to exotic waterlily styles, and a kaleidoscope of colours to fit every palette.
Dahlias are stalwarts, working hard in borders, pots or as a cut flower crop. Although they flower from June to late October, they are well known for the August / September period. I think they bridge the gap between blowsy summer planting and robust autumn colours. They bring zing to a border so I use a variety of them to introduce a bit of drama in different planting combinations.

Dahlia 'Sunny Boy' showing August colour in the walled garden.

Dahlia ‘Sunny Boy’ showing August colour in the walled garden.

Maintenance is easy. Dahlias enjoy the sun and like a rich, easy draining soil. They have tubers, like potatoes, so feed them well as you will be feeding for next year too. Slugs love them, so you will need to protect them. If you choose tall varieties stake well and early as stems snap easily in the wind.

Consider foliage colour, which varies from light greens to deep purple, giving opportunities to under-plant with exciting combinations. For example, we’ve married orange (pictured) on bright green stems with purples and golds from verbena and heleniums for a blaze of colour.
Grow dahlias from seed, plant tubers or take cuttings in late spring. A packet of seeds will give you dahlias for years.

They die right back at the first frost and you’ll lose them over winter in wet ground or sub-zero temperatures. It’s a good idea to lift them in late autumn after the first frost when the stems flop. You can risk leaving them in the ground with a good mulch to protect them – as long as you are confident of predicting a dry winter that’s not too cold. And if you can do that, come and see me for a job as the garden weather forecaster!

Nick Haworth, Head Gardener

It’s hotting up in the walled garden

This time of year attention turns to the walled garden, where 16th century ruins are a humble backdrop to deeply colourful borders. It’s a real show stopper.

To see more pictures of the garden each week, find us on Facebook. The-Garden-House-Devon. Our photographer captures the garden changing each week and visitors often share their pictures with us too. It’s such a treat to bask in colour and flowers and enjoy the garden at any time.

You can stay in touch with us by email too. For regular updates, advice and ideas in your inbox, sign up in the pink box on this website to our monthly newsletter, Gardenview.



It’s always interesting when journalists spend time in the garden with us. A couple of weeks ago on an extremely wet day our head gardener, Nick Haworth gave a guided tour to the aptly named Bracken Jelier of Real Places publications and local photographer, Mike Kinsey.

Bracken’s online article has now been published. It includes some great photos from Mike and also some taken by our photographer, John Richmond, the following day when the sun came out!

The article also includes gardening views and advice from Nick, so if you love what we do and want to know more about how we do it, please click here and take a look.

Nick Haworth seated in tool shed. Photo by Mike Kinsey, courtesy of Real Places

For the gardening tool enthusiasts amongst you, the photos of Nick were taken in the gardeners’ shed, well out of the way of the driving rain.  It’s the lovely old stone building that runs parallel with the walled garden. Future blog posts will include items on gardening equipment…

How to create a wild flower meadow

National Meadows Day – Advice from the Head Gardener

As July 2 is National Meadows Day, this month’s advice is to help you make a meadow. Whether you have a few feet or a few acres, the principle is the same and wildlife will benefit. The pleasure of seeing the right plants in a natural environment, providing colour and movement from spring until late summer can be achieved just by fiddling about with the right patch of scruffy lawn.

If you have been to see the garden lately you will know the meadow is full of orchids and butterflies. In spite of the cold start and the damp June, the weather has been really good for wild flowers.

Wild flowers in the meadow at The Garden House, under the silver birch trees

Soil conditions and aspect

You’ll need poor soil and lots of light; an open position is ideal, for sun all day and plenty of weather.  Buy seed, not plants.  But no grass seed; grass will find your meadow anyhow and it bullies wild flowers, so if you’re seeding a grassed area, include Yellow Rattle. It’s a pretty little parasitic plant that reduces the vigour of grass. Avoid annuals, (cornflowers, poppies etc.) because they need regularly disturbed soil. Depending on the size of your meadow, you might need a few packets or to buy seed mix by weight.

Prepare the ground by removing everything, or cutting grass as low as you can and raking great ugly patches into it. Seed wants to touch soil. Sow the seed as per instructions.  It’s a good idea to add sand to the seed mix so you’ll see where you throw it and be able to spread it more evenly.

Maintenance for your meadow

Mow (or scythe or strim) just once in late summer and leave the hay in heaps to drop seed before clearing it. Don’t feed or fertilise, but keep the soil poor and the grass miserable. Meadows aren’t high maintenance; they just need the right maintenance. In future years you can augment your meadow with plug plants and bulbs. Plants will naturalise if happy. Our meadow now has too many orchids to count, they’ve been hybridising at a rate of knots. Visit soon before they go over and get down low to appreciate them close-up. It’s glorious.

Nick Haworth, Head Gardener

PS. To find out more about National Meadows Day, read here at the Magnificent Meadows website.

Delicious Drake’s Trail

We’re thrilled to welcome back the runners and the scoffers for the Delicious Drake’s Trail this autumn. Runners will head from Tavistock to the Moorland Garden Hotel, via plenty of food, including our famous cakes. We’re not entirely sure what we’ll be tempting runners with. Perhaps a taste of special apple cake with added va-va-voom will do the trick.

Thinking about running? Want to eat cake?

If you are thinking about running in this colourful extravaganza feast-fest, here’s a photo from last year to inspire you. For more information, head to  See you on October 2nd…

Two people in fancy dress run through a garden on the 2015 Delicious Drake's Trail.

Photo copyright Guy Harrop. 


National Meadows Day Walk

Learn about our wonderful wild flower meadow

Take part in a guided walk this Saturday July 2nd, with Donna Cox, of the Moor Meadows community initiative. It’s a local group that is working hard to increase and celebrate the meadow lands of Dartmoor, so we’re very happy to have Donna on site to help visitors understand the workings of ours. The weather is forecast to be better in the afternoon than the morning, so you should be enjoying a walk through the meadow in the sunshine.

The Garden House meadow is one of many throughout the country that will be featured in this national event. We encourage you to come along and take the opportunity to learn about planting, ecosystems and maintenance from an expert.

This year the Dactylorhiza, or marsh orchids are looking better than ever. We have an innumerable  mix of pure and hybrid species, so if you an orchid enthusiast this walk will give you the opportunity to see what we’ve got…

Purple orchid close up showing spotted leaves

An orchid in the wild flower meadow

The guided walk is free for all garden visitors, usual gate fees apply, Friends of The Garden House free admission. There is no need to book but please be prompt as it will start at 2.30pm.

The cottage garden’s gardener

Visitors who linger in the cottage garden may have come across a gardener,hard at work, often hidden behind a large hat. Hazel Ward has been taking care of the cottage garden since the very first day that weeds were cleared from the site.

Flowers fill the shot and a lady stands in the background

Hazel Ward at work in the cottage garden.

Here is Hazel’s description of how the cottage garden grows…

“The plan was for a naturalistic planting of both wild and cultivated flowers around the walls, which would then blend seamlessly into the wild flower meadow behind it. Self-seeding was always encouraged but this has always meant a lot of weeding out of the more vigorous wild flowers such as Campion and Ox eye daisies.

As the perennials have established there has became less open space for annuals such as field poppies to thrive I have got round this by sowing them in pots and then clearing spaces for them and then transplanting them in the spring. Over the years I have added other native annuals such as corn marigold, cornflower and corn cockle to the mix.

I have always loved the naturalistic style of planting and have been happy to leave wild flowers amongst cultivated plants especially as they attract such a lot of butterflies and insects.”

It’s a pleasure to be working and the view is magnificent

“If members of the public don’t like the cottage garden they never tell me but plenty of visitors do tell me that it is their favourite part of the garden and they like it because it looks so natural and unmanicured , often that they are trying to create a more natural area and a wildflower meadow in their own garden at home. In the summer it is a pleasure to be working in the cottage with the bonus when you look up the view is magnificent. I have become very attached to it as a garden over the years which is why I still come back a day a week to work in it although I now live the other side of Launceston.”

This year, as in every other, the cottage garden is an orchestrated riot of colour and variety. It’s down to Hazel’s eye for detail, her skill and the passion she still has for this single spot of land.


Budding young horticulturists visit

Young Horticulturist of the Year 2016

It was a pleasure to welcome the 2016 Young Horticulturist of the Year, Lawrence Wright, for a garden tour with our head gardener, Nick Haworth. Lawrence beat over 2,000 entrants to win the award, which comes with a prize of the Percy Thrower bursary, which is £2,500 for a career-enhancing gardening road-trip.

He visited the garden along with fellow RHS students Brendan Arundel and Tom King. The three of them enjoyed a sunlit garden tour, through all ten acres, including a behind the scenes opportunity to chat with all the gardeners.

Garden House Magic is working this summer

The garden made a great impression on the students, who dropped in as part of a Devon garden tour. In horticultural circles the Garden House is famed for it’s evolving naturalistic style and this summer it is looking incredible. The new planting is magnificent and many visitors are telling us they have never seen it looking so good. Perhaps Lawrence, Brendan and Tom will take ideas back and in future years we’ll see more gardens that have a touch of Garden House magic.

Young Horticulturist of hte Year 2016 Lawrence Wright stands in a wild flower meadow

L-R Nick Haworth, Tom King, Brendan Arundel, Lawrence Wright, pictured in the cottage garden.

If you would like to learn more about the award, please visit The Chartered Institute of Horticulture.