I hope anyone who visited my garden these last few years and came in by the side gate shut their eyes as they walked past the greenhouse. But most people didn’t. They even showed an unwelcome desire to peep inside. Here for the first and last time I will show it to you. I am cringing even though it is gone now. It was as messy inside as out.
You can see why I was ashamed. It must have looked wonderful once many, many years ago. It was timber framed and a good size; 12 feet by 8 feet. Whenever we had a gale we would lose panes of glass and The Pianist risked life and limb putting new ones in, which was a challenge as most of the glazing bars were rotten. He stuck them in with a bit of sticky stuff and lots of willpower. And I dare say duct tape was involved, it usually is.
Oh, the whole thing was a total disgrace. Mice liked it though as they could come and go as they pleased through the many gaps.
It was too full of holes to use a heater, I would have been heating the village as well as the greenhouse.
It was not until I had spent a whole morning in November pinning bubble wrap up all over it to try to keep the frost out that I decided to throw the whole damn thing away. I think if I had leaned too hard it against it, it would have collapsed anyway. So away it went, the whole lot carted off in a skip.
After lots of research I chose this one. By the time I had had an aluminium coating to make it maintenance- free and staging and expensive, but totally unnecessary finials on top, it cost twice as much as I budgeted for.
But I don’t care because I love it. I finally got it just before Christmas and I am delighted with it. I don’t have a conservatory but never mind, the greenhouse is wonderful refuge. I keep it heated when the temperature goes below 5 degrees. As I now have a potting shed there will be no spilled compost, and pots and seed trays everywhere. I will use the old aluminium greenhouse down the garden for seed growing, this is just to keep and display plants that are looking good. It smells just like the one I remember my grandparents had when I was a child. Well, it should be fragrant, I have a sarcococca, hyacinths, jasmine and mimosa. Still in bud, I have scented narcissus and lily of the valley. Come on, I’ll show you inside. Close the door behind you.
I forget which camellia this is but it is blooming earlier than ever before now it lives inside.
A few years ago we spent some weeks in winter in Provence and we walked a lot through the mimosa forests in the Esterel mountains. The mimosa there is a problem and is destroying native flora. But we have nothing to fear from Acacia deabalta here in the UK, our winters are too cold for it to become a pest.
I brought some seeds home and now have a couple of little trees. One of them is blooming. Soon they will be too big for the greenhouse and I will have to throw them away but I will save some seeds to start again.
Some of the plants, such as the skimmia and sarcococca and a lot of the bulbs will be planted in the garden when they have finished blooming to make way for other delights. My lemon tree is happy now it has a proper home and adds to the fragrance. As you can see I have a chair here so I can sit and drink it all in.
I love the little Crocus sieberi ‘Tricor’ and it is flowering early in here and shows up much better than in the garden. Even in bud the three bands of colour show up well. This little treasure comes from the Peleponnese.
In another pot I have the dear little Crocus tommasianus ‘Roseus’. The buds are really pink and the flowers open up lilac. This is a great spreader in the garden.
I think some of the new primrose hybrids are too overbred for the garden. But they are great for pots and some winter colour in the greenhouse and some of them are fragrant.
Double primroses occur naturally from time to time and since Elizabethan times have been highly prized. Many have been lost to cultivation and unless they are well fed and divided regularly they disappear from the garden. I have loved and lost quite a few of the lovely Barnhaven doubles over the years.
They are difficult to propagate because they have no seed and very little pollen. But now breeders can micropropagate and they have produced oversized, frilly doubles in a dazzling array of colours. Again I wouldn’t plant them in the garden, it would be like coming across an ostrich in the woodland, but I love them in pots. And they come in luscious colours. These are the new Belarina hybrids and I think they are perfect for some early colour in the greenhouse.
The double primrose above is ‘Pink Amethyst ‘and it is sitting in between the white grape hyacinth, Muscari ‘White magic’ and Iris reticulata ‘Clairette’.
I have never noticed before that the flowers of the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger are tinged with terracotta as they mature. But as I sit on my chair in the greenhouse and sip my coffee I have chance to notice details like this. Outside the wind is coming straight from the Urals and one doesn’t linger too long over each individual flower.