The Greenhouse …

… sits at the highest point of the garden (if there’s a strong north wind and I stand on tiptoe, I can get mobile reception up here.  Sometimes).  It is here that I run to when the weather is inclement.  It is here that I take my breaks – if it’s too hot inside, I’ll sit on the slope beneath.

Here is my kettle for making a big mug of Earl Grey.  (Lady Grey if I’m feeling reckless).  Here are my sandwiches and fruit (I’ve stopped eating Starbars, Boostbars and other chocolate.  My stomach was beginning to stay put when I turned round).
Here is power for recharging my phone and my MP3 player and my digital radio and my camera.  When did I start needing so much power to get through the day?  Here are my seed boxes for when the ONLY thing to do is plant seeds.  Here are a few trusty tomes including the irreplaceable, invaluable, inestimable, immeasurable, immovable RHS Encyclopedia of Plants.  Whoa, what a book.  I can barely lift it but whoa, what a book.
When I started work at the Priory there was an old tumbledown greenhouse on the site of the current one.  Sadly no photos exist of it. It was demolished and the timber burnt by some rufty tufty chaps, wearing nylon, during my  first week.  They did have permission, mind you.  The old greenhouse was on its last legs and needed replacing but in retrospect, I should have strode forth, held out my right hand and shouted “Stop.  You shall not have it”.  In a deep booming voice.  Like Gandalf on the bridge of Khazad-Dum.

A wisp of smoke, a pile of glass and a reusable base are all that's left of the old greenhouse. July 2008

But I didn’t and it was a good eighteen months before the new one was built.  The old one would have been better than nothing.  A lot better than nothing.  And (it’s still painful to talk about, actually) the guys who took down the old one also chopped down a waist high yew hedge that encircled it.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know who asked them to.  Anybody?  But they did.  And it still makes me sad.
Anyway, mustn’t dwell on sad things, must we?  The new greenhouse was erected in February 2010 and I’ve had an intense, meaningful cedar-scented relationship with it ever since.  When it first went up, I would walk  inside, close the door and just breathe in deep lung fulls of cedar wood scent.  Still do.
Anyway, here we are.  I’ve just poured water over the paving slabs – this helps prevent red spider mite as they don’t like high humidity.  In an open bed I’ve planted twelve tomato plants and four cucumbers.  The bed has had half a dozen wheelbarrows of  Margaret’s (the local farmer) manure added.  Well, I say Margaret’s.  It’s her cows’ manure actually.

Tomato flower - pretty huh?

In some old plastic hanging baskets (which I saved from a skip when I worked at a nursery), I’m growing five tumbling red tomatoes.

These pots have an inbuilt water reservoir which helps ensure that they don’t dry out. I’m hoping they’ll be as productive as last year.

There are some all-year-round residents of the greenhouse.   Including “David’s Terrifically Interesting Lithop Collection”.  It’s a collection of lithops and it is terrifically interesting.  And it’s mine.  Here are three of them.

And here’s another.  I loved lithops as a kid.  Though I couldn’t understand why they turned to mush when I left them outside during a frost.  I try not to do that anymore.
This Opuntia was a gift from some friends.  The fork I dug up when making a garden.  It’s probably hundreds of years old and worth thousands of pounds but I just don’t care.  I like it in my cactus pot.
Close up of new growth on the opuntia.
Quite a few things are flowering in the greenhouse at the moment.  Above is Pachyphytum compactum.
And here is the flower of a Ferocactus.  That is how it was sold to me; annoyingly with no species name.
Aeonium arboreum ‘zwartkop’ is worth having for the name alone.  Go on, say it.  See?  But it is also a stunning succulent that just gets darker the more sun it gets.
This Echeveria (also a gift so variety unknown) has a wonderful milky colour and opalescence.
Also worth having for the name alone is this Pachyphytum oviferum, the Sugar Almond plant.   Look but don’t touch;
it has a very fine powder on the ‘leaves’ which isn’t replaced if brushed away by curious, poking fingers.
And finally, I bought this a few months ago.  Saw it in a garden centre and couldn’t resist it.   Clasped it to my breast and strode to the check-out.  It is Haworthia attenuata.  Very striking I think and it’s producing an offset.  I do like a plant that produces offsets – free, easy to pot on plants.  What could be nicer?

10 thoughts on “The Greenhouse …

  1. Hmmm, er maybe Jason. Maybe. Please may I have a pint of what you've just had.

    Actually make it two!

    Really miss having my own greenhouse (which is why all my succulents are at the Priory). It is a lovely one though isn't it? Dead smart.



  2. The Lithops look like strange little brains; perhaps they really are braind and they have some telepathic control over you, making you buy more and more until there are enough of them to float (yes, I think they would float using their mental strength) across the Sussex downs and begin their dominion of England, subjecting us all to their will!!!! Oh, and the greenhouse looks really smart, wish I had one.


  3. Hi Carolyn, yeah they are known as living stones – for obvious reasons really!!

    Hi Stacy, no, not critical at all. (Perhaps I should bow to the inevitable and start using emoticons – something I've resisted ….). I can see what you mean. I suspect they might survive the winter cold here in the UK but would probably succumb to the wet and just rot.

    (Smiley) Dave


  4. David, I hope I didn't come across as critical of your prickly pear. They do grow wild here, but they're fabulous landscape plants–real “anchors”. They're usually put in the most inhospitable places, though. That's what cracks me up–that they need protection from your gentler climate.


  5. Hi Brandi, I suspect that they may be a boy thing. A plant that looks like a pebble. Nifty!! They do have beautiful flowers though.

    Stacy, I'm not sure you know. I would quite like to have fallen into the abyss fighting the balrog. It'd be a fantastic after dinner story, don't you think? And I would be David the White, which would be simply lovely. And I suppose one man's prickly pear is another man's weed?

    Hi Nell Jean, yeah me too. I'm always drawn to them at open gardens even if they're not officially open to the public.

    Hi Sara, thanks. My little collection gets better care now they're at the Priory (my new house doesn't have a greenhouse – yet) and I have more time to stare at them – intently. Glad you're V. roseum arrived by the way!



  6. Beautiful greenhouse. And a fine collection of the weird and wonderful. Had to look up lithops – how intriguing they are. The 'sugar almonds' are quite surreal. And I love the stripy haworthia…


  7. Random thoughts: it's probably just as well you didn't go all Gandalf-y. I mean, look what happened to him. Sure, it turned out OK in the end, but it looks like it has for you anyway, without your having to plunge through the abyss wrestling a balrog first. What an awesome greenhouse–useful and attractive both. It looks bigger than my entire garden. Succulents are the closest things we have to alien life forms (in a good way). It cracks me up that you have prickly pear, though, almost as much as that you have to work around yucca in the long border. Maybe I've just skewered myself on too many of them in the wild to think of them as greenhouse plants. Gorgeous photo of those velvety pads with the stickers and their shadows.


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