Book Review: The Greenhouse Gardener’s Manual

greenhouse book

As a gardener who uses their greenhouse for more than tomatoes and annual seedlings I was interested to receive a review copy of The Greenhouse Gardener’s Manual by Roger Marshall from Timber Press.  There aren’t many books on greenhouse gardening and in fact they rarely appear in the media so I thought it would be interesting to see if the author brought a different approach.

The book is fairly accessible and covers all the aspects of having a greenhouse you would expect – different types, where to locate, how to heat, ventilate, and water and recommendations on what equipment or layout you should consider.  I have one quibble with the recommendations on staging which proposes slatted benches as the best option.  I dispute this as my experience is that you have to be very careful what you put under the slats.  If like me you have trays of seedlings you are trying to accommodate in a tiny space then having an area where any seed trays will be subject to large plops of runoff from the shelf above is not great.  Although, of course, the author has a very large greenhouse so this isn’t such a consideration.

However what I found more interesting than the run of the mill setting up your greenhouse stuff and the propagation advice was the sections on the different uses you can put your greenhouse to.  There is the expected vegetable and fruit growing uses but also a significant section on using your space for growing orchids which is fascinating especially to someone, like me, who is incapable of making even Moth Orchids reflower.  Also interesting were the cactus and succulents and bromeliads.  I wasn’t so convinced by the section on herbs as I was surprised at the idea of growing rosemary and bay in the greenhouse but I suppose if you are in certain parts of the US with very long winters then this might be more normal to you.  What was very unusual and unexpected was a section on growing plants without soil, hydroponics, which goes into enough detail to give any one interested in this a good start.

The section that really interested me were the ornamentals, either flower or foliage, and a good selection were included ranging from bulbs through to shrubs such as Gardenias.  The range of plants included and the advice on looking after them under glass would make this an interesting book for someone who wanted to use their conservatory for plants.

As you would expect there is a section at the back of the book on pests and diseases, some of which are illustrated although personally I would l have liked to see more photographs of these as they are quite hard to identify for the novice.

Overall I think this is a good book for someone who is thinking about investing in a greenhouse but even more so for someone who already has a greenhouse which seems to sit empty for a significant part of the year when the tomatoes have gone over.  The range and diversity of plants that can be grown and give you something to enjoy during the winter, whether edible or ornamental, is often underestimated. The Greenhouse Gardener’s Manual certainly makes you consider alternatives and is well worth a read.

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Wordless Wednesday 17/9/14 – Aeonium tabuliforme

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – September 2014

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Looking back to last September’s GBBD post I seem to be showing the same plants with one of two additions.  I don’t have many Asters to show as they haven’t quite opened their blooms yet and with the grey days we have had recently I think they may take a few more days yet. One of the new additions is Crocosmia Emily MacKenzie which I have tried to grow before and lost so fingers crossed this time.  I really like the flared flowers with the darker markings inside.

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September wouldn’t be September without me showing you Kirengeshoma palmata which is the star of my garden at this time of year.  As I have said probably too many time before the flowers remind me of butter curls.

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An unknown Rudbeckia continues to glow in the border.  This is self-seeded from who knows where although my suspicion is that the birds may have had something to do with it.

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Although I find the Aster umbellatus difficult to photograph due to the small flowers I do think it is a very underrated plant.  It adds good height to the border without needing staking even in my garden and the insects seem to love it.

 

2014_09140031logoThe Dahlias are all still flowering well and have done much better in individual pots this year than in the border.  I have only included the one above, Classic Rosamund, as the others have all appeared on the blog in the last month or so.  Classic Rosamund has only recently opened and I really like the composition of the flower which in my opinion is more interesting than the popular simple Bishop flowers but not as over the top as the cactus flowers.

2014_09140009logoI do like white Japanese Anemones although I must be in a minority as they don’t seem to appear very often in gardens or the media.  I know they have a habit of running but I like the purity of the colour and the way they can really light up a dark corner.

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Finally one of my new Japanese Anemones, Queen Charlotte. I bought three for the Cottage Border: Lady Emily, Prince Heinrich and Queen Charlotte.  I have planted them in order of seniority along the border so I can remember which is which with Lady Emily closest to the steps – so far it seems to be working but who knows if I will remember this time next year!

Those are my floral highlights for September 2014.  For more floral highlights visit Carol over at May Dream Gardens who has hosted this monthly meme for more years than I, and no doubt she, care to remember

 

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My Garden This Weekend – 14th September 2014

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I have been a busy bee this weekend and have achieved lots of the plans I have had rattling around in my head in the early hours when I haven’t been able to sleep recently.  I have been saying for some weeks now that the patio border needed a re-jig to give the newish Edgeworthia more space.  So today I lifted a large Astrantia and divided it. In the space left behind I planted the Edgeworthia which was formerly in the space to the right of the above photo.  The Astrantias have been replanted to the front of the border along with Hosta ‘Cherry Berry’ and a Painted Japanese Fern which was being smothered by the Kirengeshoma palmata. I am much happier with the border now which is important as this is my view from the living room window.

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Another of the things I have been wanting to do is to plant up the assorted alpine perennials into large pots.  I have planted up five shallow pots with a whole range of plants; trying to group plants that need the same conditions together.  The plants should grow better than in individual pots and I don’t really have the right environment in the garden for them so this is the best solution.

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I also rescued a couple of ferns from the large woodland border where they were being swamped by other plants and replanted them along the woodland slope which is taking on a real ferny feel.  I have been struggling with the badger visiting the garden again despite the lack of tulip bulbs or bird food.  He seems to be fascinated with digging up my Arisaema which are on this slope or alternatively trying to fell the Cardiocrinum giganteum which I am trying to establish.  I am hoping by planting more ferns and other perennials on the slope I will deter him though I doubt this will actually work.

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But the thing I am really pleased, in fact triumphant about, is tackling the corner above.  This photo was taken about a month ago when the dead Acer was removed.  Since then I have decided that the huge willow which dominates the top of the garden and which blocks the light to this area and much of the garden causing plants to lean needs to be significantly reduced in height.

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The tree is hard to photograph as it is so vast but the right hand branch grows across the Prunus tree causing it to grow sideways instead of upwards.  I have instructed a tree surgeon to reduce the willow down to about 4 metres, just above the split in the trunk, and to remove a couple of branches from the Prunus to stop it tipping over.  The neighbour behind me doesn’t like anything over the fence so cuts all the branches back and this means the tree has grown lopsided and is now, along with the Willow, in serious danger of tipping over.  The removal of so much overhead foliage and branches is going to have quite an impact on the garden and the light; and hopefully moisture.

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I have cleared the weeds and scrubby stuff from the corner and I have had to dig out a whole load of soil.  The badger, yes him again, attacked the small retaining wall under the compost bins the other winter digging huge holes and tipping the stones all over the place.  Now the Acer has gone I can get into the space and pull back the piles of earth created about a year ago and refind the wall and attempt to rebuild it.  My dry stone wall building skills are not in the same league as my father’s or even my eldest son’s but they will do for now. I have now rebuilt the wall and it isn’t too bad; it certainly looks better than the above photo.

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The soil I have been pulling back is very good as its the overflow from the compost bins above.  What you can’t see is that one of the wooden bins is collapsing and the compost piles are ridiculous.  So next weekend I need to tackle them, pulling off the uncomposted stuff and then I am going to drag the rotted down compost down to the area in the photo above.  This will be spread around to improve the soil and drainage and then I will leave this area until Spring.  This way I can see how the removal of so much of the willow and prunus will affect the space and decide what to plant here.  I have a whole host of ideas but I suspect to start with there will be at least two shrubs or maybe a shrub and a small tree.  I also want to paint the fence this week in the evenings while I have the chance. I am also thinking of getting some sort of screening panels to go between the bamboo and border and the compost bins behind.

I hadn’t planned to tackle the corner this weekend but I am thrilled with my achievement even if I ache all over.

Posted in gardening, My Garden, My garden this weekend, September, The Patio/Spring Border, The Slope (incl Daisy Border), Woodland border | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Wordless Wednesday 10/9/14 – Rudbeckia

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Paisley Ponderings

Originally posted on Nellie Makes:

2014_09090002I had been making good progress on the paisley designed cushion cover but I suspect I am about to take some steps backwards.

In my last post I mentioned how frustrated with the transfer method suggested with the pattern in the Stitch magazine I was.  I used a transfer pencil and despite repeating the process several times the pattern was barely visible even with my glasses on!  So I decided enough was enough and drew in the design freehand which turned out to be quite easy really given the simplicity of the design.  I definitely prefer the pounching transfer method.

Anyway having transferred the design I have made good progress on the largest motif.  The outline is in stem stitch, with the flowers made up of detached chain stitches and French knots.  I have to say that I have felt that any doubt I might have had about French knots…

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My Garden This Weekend – 7th September 2014

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Autumn and the season of bounty is definitely upon us.  My step over apples have generous crops of apples considering how small the trees are; not bad for their third year.

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I finished off my period of annual leave by replanting the Cottage Border along the top of 2014_09070001the wall.  Last weekend I lifted everything aside from the roses and sage, potted it up although I threw a few plants.  Then I set out off the plants I had accumulated over the past couple of weeks along with the plants that were going back in the border.  I have adopted a pink, grey, burgundy/purple theme for the border with the grey and burgundy coming primarily from foliage.  The colour palette comes from the spring blossom of the step over apples which back the border and the flowers of the Abelia at the beginning of the border which is a key view of the border.

2014_09070003I struggle with getting the maximum impact from my borders and have taken various approaches over the years including mixed season interest and a key season of interest.  Neither approach has really worked as the borders have looked dull for too much of the year.  Therefore I am trying a different approach influenced from reading Christopher Lloyd and Margery Fish.  I am trying to have good structure with foliage interest and then having flowers to supplement this with hopefully interest at different times of the year.  I probably haven’t explained myself very well but I feel I have a plan in my head! The border planting is fairly restricted too, another part of the plan, and features sedums, stachys, roses, aquilegia, pink Japanese anemones, and geraniums.  One of my sons has suggested that I add some alliums to continue the purple theme in late spring and I think this is a good idea.

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Pleased with how the Cottage Border, which I am renaming the Rose Border due to the number of roses included, has gone I have moved on to the Big Border.

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The Big Border has always meant to have a late summer season of interest but is somewhat lacking at the moment.  There are a number of asters in the border which are still in tight bud so I am probably being unfair but I have felt that it needed zinging up and in particular the area nearest the steps.  As this is a particularly sunny spot of the garden I have planted quite a few bulbous summer plants here and the foliage has become very samey.  So this weekend I have really weeded this end of the border, removed a couple of poor kniphofia and a horrid pink sanguisorba – you can see how much space has been freed up. To this and along the far side of the border I have planted out the asters I bought from Pictons.  2014_09070019Anna asked which asters I bought from Pictons so just for her here is a list of my purchases:

Aster ericodes f. prostrate ‘Snow Flurry’
Aster trinervius ‘Stardust’
Aster lateriflorus var. horizontalis ‘Prince’
Aster pringeli ‘Monte Cassino’
Aster x frikartii ‘Wunder von Staffa’
Aster linosyris

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I’m also really pleased with this combination – Crocosmia ‘Emily Mackenzie’ alongside the autumn foliage of Hamamelis mollis ‘Arnold Promise’; there is also an orange flowered Geum tucked in further back in this border which I hope will bulk up and add to the colour. This combination is at the end of the path which goes in front of the Rose Border and like the way it acts as a focal point as you walk along the path.

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Finally I have been busy in the evenings repotting my bulb collection.  I still have lots more to do and am having to work out a new plan to accommodate everything that needs overwintering this winter given that I don’t plan to have the greenhouse particularly warm.  Mum’s mini greenhouse which she had decided to get rid of should help with this though and is probably going to become home for my non-bulbous alpines.

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So lots achieved despite the odds and the plans I have been forming in my mind over the summer are starting to come together.  The tree surgeon has been instructed to deal with the huge willow and I am waiting to see how this impacts on the light in the top half of the garden before move forward there.  I have though decided to not buy any more seeds. I love sowing seeds but never had enough time to look after the seedlings and this frustrates me.  I am someone who if they are going to do something they want to do it well so no more seed sowing; well not until such time as I have more space or time.  This should take some self-imposed pressure off me and allow me time to explore my new fascination – embroidery which is the subject of my other blog!

 

 

Posted in Big border, Cottage Garden Border, garden, gardening, My Garden, My garden this weekend, September | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments