Thursday, 20 March 2014

Spring pics. on my new toy.

I have just acquired a new 'phone so I thought I would have a wander round the garden to take a few pictures of what ever was available. Some of the images are a bit hazy but not too bad for snapshots. Hope you like them.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The life of a mini tunnel.

The garden has dried out a little and we have some sun today. The first narcissus are blooming well along with the early primulas, snowdrops and crocus so I am almost tempted to believe that Spring has arrived but, although the weather is meant to be more settled, there is already more rain forecast.

About twelve years ago I invested in a mini-tunnel greenhouse which has once been re-covered but is now getting to the end of its useful life. When I first bought it electricity was no where near as expensive as today so I lined it with bubble wrap and put in a small heater as well as a light.

For the first few years the tunnel was used for raising plants from seed or growing on from plugs, some cuttings, and overwintering some of the more tender subjects. It also provided an excellent "brew hut" during the winter months. Below are a few of my favourites which were raised and/or overwintered in my heated tunnel.

Abutilon Large Flowered Hybrids
 These are half-hardy perennials for growing in containers, as I did, or in a sunny border, the flowers can be obscured as they tend to face downward. Easy from seed, they will flower in the first year but keep taking the tops out to encourage bushiness as they tend to have a very leggy habit. Feed a general liquid feed during the growing season, protect from frost in winter. Can be used as an annual bedding plant from very early sowings.   

Trailing Begonias and Lobelia 2005

 Both these trailing begonias and 'Busy Lizzies' were bought as plugs and are particularly useful in my garden as they don't mind shade. Unfortunately 'Busy Lizzies' are no longer an option and this is another reason why I have now almost stopped using bedding plants completely.
Impatiens 2006
 Dahlia 'Bishop's Children'
 Raised from seed, one of my firm favourites 'Bishop's Children' the good old 'Bishop of Llandaff' fathered a fine family. I have tried quite a few of the smaller strains as fillers but always come back to 'Bishop's Children', you can't beat the dark foliage and variation of bright colours.
Brugmansia suaveolens
  I grew these wonderful plants for years, over-wintering them as stock plants or rooted cuttings depending on how much space I had available. All parts are poisonous!

Datura meteloides 'Evening Fragrance'
 In case you were wondering Brugmansia flowers hang down and Datura flowers are held upright.
Echium Wildpretii x pininana
These plants are truly my nemesis, no matter which species I grow, no matter what I do I can not get them to flower or for that matter survive more than one winter. They are dead easy from seed so there are always plenty of plants to go at but despite this I have never had any success.

Echium flower spike just coming to an end with more to come.
 To add insult to injury this picture was taken in Inverness, definitely not one for my conditions.

 This is probably the last year when I actually laid on heat right through the winter primarily for overwintering and growing on plugs. Note the chair for mid-winter R&R.

Lobelia tupa

 I only managed to obtain one seedling from the sowing I made but they root so readily from cuttings I had several large plants scattered about the garden until the severe winters and lack of protection eventually saw them off. They can grow to 8' but mine just about made five; a stunning plant nevertheless.

Spring 2011
 No longer heated with one end open all winter, for the last couple of years the tunnel has been used for the protection of a few primulas and young plants, and for seed raising. All the pots that can be seen will contain society seed.

Last week.
 Both ends open all winter, the tunnel is now used mainly for overwintering primula stock plants as a back up for those planted out in the garden last year. There are still some pots containing seeds including a few which have been sown recently, growing some perennials from seed needs a great deal of patience!  Amongst the plants which are being afforded some winter protection are rosemary, abutilon, hellebores, geraniums and meconopsis.

This is what should start to happen in a few weeks time as the first of the primulas come into flower and colour returns.
After trying to grow the more exotic genera in difficult conditions for a while, I have now gone back to a policy of tough love............if it does not grow well in my garden there is no second chance. There are so many beautiful plants particularly amongst the primulas and meconopsis along with the vast array of other hardy perennials available, that I no longer feel that it is worth the cost and effort that it takes to run a heated facility.