The greenhouse is a true haven when the temperatures drop so low that your hands feel the cold even with your gloves on and the top of your head feels it through your hat. We have just switched on the propagating units allowing the temperature in them to settle around the 18 degree mark in readiness for seed sowing. This should start in earnest any day now. The veggie seeds are all in their air-tight tin in sowing order. It won’t be long before we are transplanting some into the prepared soil on the allotment – just a couple of months!
But the main function for the protection the greenhouse affords us is to look after our less delicate specimens. With night-time temperatures varying from minus 1 to minus 12 this overwintering security is essential. Working away in the heated end of the greenhouse is a real relief from the cold outside. The unheated end still gives plenty of protection for half-hardy plants but still requires coats for the gardeners.
The Euphorbia mellifera enjoys having glass and bubblewrap over its head. This is our second Honey Spurge as we lost one even under cover last winter. We hope to keep it this year so that we can enjoy its wonderful honey scent when we return it to its place in the Secret Garden.
Aeonium and Echeveria keep us on tenterhooks through the winter months, as we have lost them so many times. Aeoniums are succulent sub-shrubs and those we have now are the largest and most long-lived we have ever had. The green leaved Aeoniums below are a variety inknow to us before we found these so we are unsure of their hardiness. We bought them as single rosettes – they have flourished in the Rill Garden. They are possibly Aeonium haworthii and if so we have every right to pamper them in winter as they hail from The Canary Isles.
The black leaved version is Aeonium arboreum “Zwartkop”, is a native of Morroco. The leaves get blacker as the summer gets hotter and drier, so as it rests in the greenhouse after a long dry summer it looks very dark. The early morning sun streaming in through the glass lights the rosettes from behind and tuens them fleshy red.
In a heated propagator cuttings are also being protected. this gives us another chance to keep delicate plants over winter. Salvias, tender Buddleia and the odd houseplant such as Kalenchoe.
Outside, salad leaf seedlings sown in December, are holding on until warmer weather. We cover them each night with fleece. Once better light and warmer temperatures arrive they will be triggered into rapid growth. We look forward to tasty, colourful mixed leaf salads.
So whenever it is too cold or the ground too frozen solid outside we always have the welcome of a warm greenhouse. After all the greenhouse isn’t just for overwintering plants, it overwinters the gardeners too! Hopefully within the next few days we shall revel in sowing seeds in there.