Greenhouse Delights

Galanthus peshmenii

Galanthus peshmenii

It has been some time since I featured the greenhouse.  It may be small but I try to maximise the space as much as possible.  The raised sand beds are beginning to bear fruit with the first bulbs flowering.  Some crocus have been and gone but Galanthus peshmenii is looking quite lovely although I still struggle with the idea of snowdrops in October.

Sternbergia greuteriana

Sternbergia greuteriana

Sternbergia greuteriana is a new plant to me.  I acquired the bulbs a year ago but this is the first time they have flowered.  Whether the conditions of the sand bed have helped or whether they just needed a little more time I don’t know.  I quite like Sternbergia, some people call them yellow crocus but they are actually in the Amaryllidaceae family.

Oxalis versicolor

Oxalis versicolor

The second Oxalis is flowering.  This is my favourite Oxalis and was the reason I started to acquire them.  I adore the sugar-cane markings on the flowers. Hopefully the plants will bulk up and produce more foliage and a more busy plant with lots of flower.

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As you can see there are more bulbs to follow although I think it will be some time before the narcissus are in flower.  As the plants in these pots finish I will move them down below the bench to rest and replace them with the next pots with emerging shoots.  It isn’t ideal but its the best I can do with the space I have.

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I am currently storing some of the tender perennials on the floor space in the greenhouse.  I haven’t thought very far ahead but I think I will be moving them into the garage soon.  I am thrilled with the brugmansia as it is flowering for the second time and far better than its first flowering. I need to research how to overwinter it – should I bring it in to the house or do I cut it back and store it in the garage?  I also need to research the bergenias.

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Finally the other side of the greenhouse which is full of the tender perennials.  Again I need to work out which ones will be OK in the cold greenhouse and which need a little more warmth from the garage.  I am also toying with the idea of putting some bubblewrap around the lower part of the staging to create a sort of cocoon in which I can store some of the tender plants.

 

My Weekend This Week – 18/10/2014

Primrose Jack in Green

Primrose Jack in Green

Autumn has decidedly arrived although not the crisp dry Autumn that I prefer, instead it has been a bit grey and quite damp leading to soggy piles of leaves to collect; many have already been collected.

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I have noticed that despite the lower light levels there is still interest in the garden mainly from the various asters.  I think the smaller flowers add some real texture although I want to add some of the larger and brighter flowered asters next year and maybe some more rudbeckias to lift it all.

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The first job was to weed the slope where the Hardy Exotic Border is and plant a mass of mixed daffodil bulbs.  I am conscious that many of the plants will die back over the winter and I don’t really want a large bare area so I am hoping the daffodils will add some spring interest and colour until the main planting reappears.  As my garden is quite small I need to make ever area work as hard as possible. I am trying to adopt the idea of layered or succession planting as advocated by Christopher Lloyd and also David Culp but of course although I understand the logic and purpose putting it into action isn’t as easy as it appears. I think you really need to understand the plants well and I haven’t quite got there.  To help me out I am thrilled to have signed up for a study day at Great Dixter next June.

2014_10180007At the moment my starting point is to give each area a key season of interest.  So the border above is a spring/winter border with the conifers and some bulbs which will appear in the new year.  Today I have added a few cyclamen to give colour.  There is a sprawling geranium in the front of the border which looks wrong and will be relocated elsewhere.  I think a Japanese Painted Fern, yes I know another fern, would look good here and I fancy some white vinca or maybe periwinkle around the tree trunk.

A small achievement was finally sorting the area in front of the shed and fence.  This has been a bit of a dumping ground since the shed went in over a year ago and has been irritating me for some months.  My son plans to put a wood store here, the shed is his workshop, but he is so busy it is well down his list of priorities so I decided to take charge.  It is amazing how much things are improved with a quick tidy up, a thick layer of gravel, a bit of fence paint and a few pots.  The little auricula is far too small so I need to find one of my other pots to go here.  I am thinking maybe a pot of bedding cyclamen.

Elsewhere I planted out the shrubs I bought at the Hergest Croft plant fair last weekend.  The Hydrangea Merveilla Sanguine at the top of the slope to add to the foliage interest.  I was told it needs good moist conditions and maybe at the top of a slope isn’t the best place but the soil is very heavy clay based here and doesn’t seem to dry out too fast so fingers crossed.

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More bare soil but this is where the dead acer was and I am quite pleased with how it is coming along.  I have added a Leptospernum myrtifolium ‘Silver Sheen’ and Berberis seiboldii which is quite electric at the moment and should be wonderful in a year or two. Also planted out today is an unnamed double hellebore and some bedding cyclamen.  There are lots of spring perennials under the soil here at the front of the border so I have added the cyclamen for interest until I am reminded what is here and where it is!!

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I thought I would show you a border I replanted just over a year ago – The Japanese Fern Border.  A grand title for a small area alongside the patio which admittedly has other perennials other than ferns but they are all from Asia – apart from the stray Welsh Poppy in the back there.  The ferns have really filled out and it looks lush and full and makes me smile.

Just for Yvonne I have include the Primrose Jack in Green at the top of the post which I look at when I sit on the bench.

My Garden This Weekend – 5/10/14

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Autumn has arrived and a sense of panic marred my gardening today.  With evening gardening over due to the shortening days and a wet day yesterday, I felt an unexpected sense of urgency in the garden today.  To such an extent that I found myself not enjoying myself at all but this may be tangled up with the pervasive feeling of unhappiness I am experiencing currently – which I know is hardly surprising and I need to be kind to myself.

2014_10050014With cooler temperatures forecast the tender plants were the priority.  I am in a bit of a quandary at the moment since I am using the greenhouse for my alpine bulbs which presumably means that this space won’t be very helpful for overwintering the tender perennials.  I intend to keep the greenhouse just frost-free, or even cold, and the door will be open on warmer and sunnier days and I suspect this won’t be good for the succulents and pelargoniums.  There is part of me which thinks “give it a go and see what happens”.  I’m not emotionally attached to any of the plants so if I lose them I won’t be heartbroken but then my sensible and risk averse head kicks in and I wonder how to accommodate the diverse range of plants I have accumulated in recent years.  The solution, at the moment, is that I have tided up my work space in the garage and all the pelargoniums are now stored in there by the window where they will get lots of light.  The tender succulents are currently in the greenhouse whilst I come up with a better solution.  I only ever keep the greenhouse frost-free  and they have always been fine so I wonder if I corral them in one area and give them some extra

Aster pringeli ‘Monte Cassino’

Aster pringeli ‘Monte Cassino’

protection with fleece whether that will be sufficient.  The rest of the borderline plants in pots have been collected on to the patio so they can be quickly put under cover if a frost is forecast.  There are still some planted out but again I am thinking of risking them to see what happens.  Bob Brown told me the other week that he thought if you planted them deep enough and mulched plants you didn’t expect to survive do. I have also heard John Massey say the same so I might give it a go.

Sorbus vilmorinii

Sorbus vilmorinii

As I collected the pots up I was deeply conscious of the fallen leaves which weren’t present last week and how much I still wanted to achieve in the garden to prepare it for Spring and finish off projects before Winter commences. Then in the next breath I experience a strong feeling of just needing to give up and ignore it all.  There are areas of the garden where I still feel very strongly that the planting could be better.  I spent some time talking to my sons about my loss of confidence in my horticultural abilities, how the borders don’t replicate the images in my head and our conclusion was that writing about the garden on this blog may be partly to blame.  I have always shared my plans and thoughts about the borders and in the last few years on a weekly basis, much as I have done today.  I have always tried to treat the blog as a record for myself but at the moment, in my heightened emotional state, I am feeling quite vulnerable and sensitive so it may be that the garden won’t appear here for a while until I am feeling a bit more positive and confident.

Aster ericodes f. prostrate ‘Snow Flurry’

Aster ericodes f. prostrate ‘Snow Flurry’

 

 

End of Month View – September 2014

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September has been a very dry month and has ended with exceptionally warm temperature. a real Indian summer.  Although the garden is dry at first glance luckily because we have had the odd day of rain and there is frequently a heavy dew in the morning the plants are looking quite good.

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Starting with the smallest area of this monthly post – the hardy succulent trough has really filled out.  When I planted it up at the beginning of the year it looked so empty but now it seems I under estimated how much and how quickly the plants would grow and no doubt I will have to edit it in the not too distant future.

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The staging area got a bit of a tidy up.  I mentioned a few weeks back that I was planting up my various perennial alpines into bigger pots and you can see the results here.  You can also see the huge flower on the Aeonium tabuliforme which is quite wonderful; sadly the plant will die when the flower finishes.

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The Patio Border is looking a lot better since I moved the Edgeworthia along from the end on the right – it seems more balanced out.  The Kirengeshoma palamata is now beginning to go over but it has looked wonderful for about a month now.  The border will now start to fade but come Spring it should have lots of spring bulbs appearing.

2014_09280018The Rose Border (formerly the Cottage Garden Border!) is settling in with its new planting.  The Japanese Anemones have continued to flower since I planted them a few weeks back and some of the roses have buds appearing so I may get a second flush of flowers.  I am pleased with how it is looking but it will now be a case of seeing how it comes through the winter and how the plants fill out. One day I will work out how to photograph the border to show it at its best.

On the other side of the path is the Big Border which I have added a number of asters too over the last month.  I haven’t felt the border was right yet and I have decided that the two shrubs in it are just too large for the space and are dominating the planting.  When I visited Old Court Nursery a few

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weeks back I was very taken with the borders and they didn’t have any shrubs in.  I have been following a principle of having a range of plants e.g. shrubs, perennials, bulbs in a border to add interest but I think that this border can do well without the shrubs.  There is plenty of interest elsewhere in the garden in the spring and winter that the border doesn’t need to be interesting all the time. I want to improve my original plan to have the focus of the border on asters with some other late summer perennials.  The asters are a little thin at the moment so making much of an impact but I think given another season they should start to look very good.

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The new seating area and Hardy Exotic Border is great and has exceeded my expectations particularly as they were only created earlier this year.  It will be interesting to see how the plants in the border come through the winter and how much they fill out given another year’s growth.

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The original Woodland Border is looking a little faded now with plants beginning to fade for Autumn.  However it looks so much better than last year and I am glad I added plants at the back to add height.  I still need to edit the front and middle of the border now I know what is where so plants have the best chance to show of but this will be a job to do over the next month or so and in early spring.

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Finally the enigma which is the former Bog Garden and which continues to perplex me.  There is something not right with the border and I can’t work out what to do to make it zing.  I am sure the penny will drop in the near future but it definitely needs something added or removed – it’s just been dull this year.

So that is my garden at the end of September and with Autumn upon us I am hoping to undertake a number of small projects over the next couple of months to get the garden ready for next year. I find writing this monthly post very helpful as it makes me look critically at the garden and analyse why different areas please or irritate me.

If you would like to join in with the monthly meme you are very welcome to do so.  You can use it however you want there are no rules – you can show us around your garden, feature a particular area whatever you fancy.  All I ask is that you include a link to this post in your post and you put a link to your post in the comment box below so I can find you.

 

My garden this weekend – 21st September 2014

Aster trinervius 'Stardust'

Aster trinervius ‘Stardust’

Unlike some parts of the country we have been lucky to have a couple of days rain towards the end of the week.  It was mostly light persistent rain but there were a few real downpours which have filled up the water butts and everything is looking fresh again.  Given that Saturday was a damp and overcast day I ‘gardened’ under cover repotting all the miniature bulbs which are stored in the greenhouse now.  There are already some signs of narcissus and oxalis appearing which makes me really happy.  The greenhouse is being given over to overwintering my various alpines so won’t have any heating this year; I will be storing the tender plants in the garage which has a good size window with a work-surface under it.

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I am finding that my tastes have been changing over the last year or so and I am becoming more focussed on certain plant groups which should hopefully mean that the garden looks less chaotic in the future! I am pleased with some of the plant combinations I have created this year.  At the moment this combination of crocosmia, witch hazel with its autumn leaves and the asters is making me smile – it is so vibrant.

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Today, due to my general need to sort, tidy and have a more cohesive approach today, with the sun shining, I decided to continue the clearing I started last weekend and tackle my nemesis – the compost heaps. As you can see my compost heaps are a far cry from the organised and tidy heaps we regularly see on Gardeners’ World but I would say to Monty, in my defence, that I am an amateur garden who has a full time demanding job and no time for turning and moving stuff from one heap to another.

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The two heaps nearest to you in the chaotic photo were emptied this spring, truly, but we never got around to emptying the one nearest the fence and I suspect its been a good year or so since we did and even then I don’t think its been emptied properly for years.  I only needed to remove a small amount of the top layer before I came across good quality compost.  Look how wonderfully friable it is – Monty would be impressed, well maybe!

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A couple of hours later and not only had I emptied the bin completely – yes me on my own, both my sons were out – but I had dismantled and removed the bin.  Some of the lower planks had rotted through which is hardly surprising.  The amount of compost was ridiculous.  I shovelled it down to the border below where the Acer was removed the other week and where I want to plant some new shrubs and add hellebores and spring bulbs.  The stones at the front of the area are a loose retaining wall which I need to redo once everything else is sorted.

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The height of the border has significantly increased but it will go down once it has had time to settle and been rained on plus I want to rake it down the border further once some of the perennials have died back. The compost is so thick here that you sink in it as you walk over it – this makes me very happy indeed.  You can also see that I have painted the fence alongside the space for the compost bin. I would have painted more except I could feel my muscles seizing up – I will do the rest as each bit is more accessible.  It all looks very smart but if you look the other way…

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You can see some of the chaos I have created in the process and left for now!  The bin needs rebuilding and will be shorter than before due to the rotten timbers.  I then need to fill it with a pile of stuff you can’t see and also tip the overflow from the other bins into it.  Then in a month or so when I have tidied and cut back more perennials I will empty out the other bins and use the compost to mulch them.

So for the second weekend on the trot I am tired but happy.  I think the weather is starting to turn so I will need to start moving tender plants under cover in the next week or so.  In the meantime I am researching shrubs for the border above and also peonies for somewhere else.

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.