Plants That Live In Glass Houses …

The Great Migration has begun. It started this past Sunday. On what felt like a distinctly mild day in summer, preparations for the imminent cold began. Moving plants into the greenhouse. Its a good prompt for the season. Unlike general chores on the to-do list, this effort is clear in its prerequisites and requisites. It is finite, at which point there is something to show for it.

Don’t let the fact that I’m talking about something most folk do not possess, stop you from paying attention. I think the fundamentals of this effort benefit one and all.

In the interest of plant health and hygiene it is imperative that all residents be cleaned and inspected before entry. This forces me to examine the plants carefully and note what needs repotting, additional organic treatment for simple ailments and, dealing with possible/potential pest infestations. In doing so, I’m taking care of matters that are easily overlooked.

There is only just so much space in a greenhouse. Crowding is achieved rather quickly. Again, this is unhealthy. So, decisions are made about what deserves the prime real estate. With a little thought to the general garden design, hardy plants like boxwood can be situated into the ground. I have two this year that do not look so happy. They’ve been in pots for years and it is is possible that they will recover much better in the ground. I will consider where to plant them and that will make space for more needy candidates seeking shelter.

Plants that are neither hardy nor doing well are tossed. The cost in terms of space and attention is too high for such losers. Its taken me some years to get ruthless.

Those that are selected are given the once over for the space they will require. Good time to cut off dead wood and prune back in general. Height is a major consideration as the highest point in the green house is a mere six feet. Lopping off vertical as well as side growth makes me pretend I’m a big time hairdresser. The end result should look suitably attractive. I wonder if there is a market in the plant world for the ‘Fawcett” or the ‘Anniston’ or the ‘Dorothy Hamill’ or the more likely ‘Einstein’. The more compact size is also advantageous as the energy demand on the plant is reduced. There is less for the roots to feed under less than ideal conditions.

Since I’m pruning anyway, this becomes the time for me to root cuttings of scented geranium, rosemary and bay. And while I’m at it, I may as well propagate some hydrangea. Come spring, there will be several young plants to add to the garden and/or give away. Big dividends for effortless yet, useful work.

In the course of filling the greenhouse, I find myself giving the whole garden the same degree of attention. By starting early enough (but not too early), there is time to do so. Reviewing, editing, deleting, adding, replacing, critiquing are all valuable tasks that are often neglected once the busy-ness of the season takes over. It allows for planning more efficiently and satisfyingly for the next season. I’m made significantly aware of the needs and possibilities. It permits a deeper engagement with the evolution of the garden.

My greenhouse is 12 x 8 sq. feet. By most standards, it is very small. For me, it is a necessary luxury. Heating it for the winter is not cheap. It must be kept clean and well ventilated. Weekly and sometimes bi-weekly watering is required. With plants growing in close proximity, it is crucial to stay vigilant for disease and pests. These ground rules notwithstanding, this glass house is very dear to me. Treasured botanical friends are kept safe here. Several have been in my company for many years. Spring can be jump started because seeds are germinated and nurtured in this warm space while still anticipating the snow melt. Amidst this green sanctuary, I can escape the winter blahs for a while. A soul-lifting, sanity preserving experience. When the jasmine or Brugamansia bloom, they are brought into the house to perfume the nights. Similarly, the primroses in pots display their crayon colors well before their counterparts in the ground outside. Set on a table in the living room, they bring smiles to winter weary countenances. You can see how well this hothouse serves me.

Note: The same approach holds for plants being brought into the house.

Getting ready to root cuttings

Getting ready to root cuttings


Dipping cutting in rooting hormone

Dipping cutting in rooting hormone


Only a bit of the end needs to be covered in the powder

Only a bit of the end needs to be covered in the powder


All ready! Now we wait.

All ready! Now we wait.


Bill Smiles' greenhouse. Mostly orchids because he is the orchid man!

Bill Smiles’ greenhouse. Mostly orchids because he is the orchid man!


Filling up my greenhouse

Filling up my greenhouse


The residents should be well protected when it looks like this!

The residents should be well protected when it looks like this!


(c)2014 Shobha Vanchiswar

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