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Posts Tagged ‘greenhouse’

When we first moved to London, we became members of Kew gardens.  This was perfect for us, being obsessed with gardens and indoor plants.  We got free entry plus guest tickets that we could use to take visitors and house guests.  After visiting many times, we got restless and ten years ago we moved on to join the RHS.  Wisley replaced Kew as our regular haunt for days out.  Then after years of Wisley, we moved on again and joined the National Trust.  This allowed us to go to some superb country gardens round the country like Sissinghurst and Scotney Castle in Kent, and Cotehele and Anthony in Cornwall.

Now we’ve decided the rotation has come back to Kew.  Wow, what a decision.  In the ten years I had forgotten just how much I love Kew gardens, and how much I’ve missed it.  It’s like meeting up with a much loved old friend and being delighted to find that you still have so much in common.

For a start, the sheer diversity of habitats and growing conditions means that they can fully represent the planet’s flora.  It’s just mind-blowing that one minute you are in a tropical rainforest and then when you go through a door you’re in an amazing desert.

We literally travelled the planet in a day.  The most varied glasshouse in terms of plants is the modern styled Princess of Wales Greenhouse, which to my mind contain most of the interesting specimens. There is a huge range of both temperate and tropical plants, including some of the biggest and oldest cacti in cultivation, carnivorous plants, and a large collection of orchids.

I think Kew preceded the Eden project by displaying “plants for people”, and they have such plants alongside information about how they are used by humans.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the chocolate plant for obvious reasons.

The large range of environments and plants makes this my favourite glasshouse.

However, for sheer beauty of construction, you can’t beat the Victorian glasshouses.  They house impressive specimens from all the continents of the world.  You can also go upstairs and view the plants from the “rooftop”.

There are some wonderful plants to look down on:

Some of the plants look more impressive from below:

Some of the outdoor plants are just as exciting as the indoor ones.  I was particularly thrilled to get the following pictures of ferns unfolding:

There’s a traditional walled garden, which for me is enhanced because every single plant is marked, so you can take note if you want to get one for your own garden.

All in all a plantswoman’s paradise.

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I have a theory that the longer you wait for something, the sweeter it is when you get it.  In our modern consumerist society, we don’t wait as long as we might for most things, and I am particularly guilty of frittering away money on instant gratification in the form of seeds, plants, pots etc.

However, one thing you can’t buy easily in London is space, and we have waited a long time to have a garden with a patch of sunny space for a greenhouse.  When you add this time to the time we lived in flats with no private garden, we have waited fifteen years for that patch of space.

Fifteen years of indoor plants crammed into corners.  Fifteen years of Jamie running out into the garden late at night to put straw and bubble wrap on tender plants in the first frosts.  Fifteen years of seedlings covering every windowsill and of citrus plants dying of too little light in the heat or too much water in the cold.

But after all that time, wow, what a beauty.  It was well worth the wait.  I can hardly contain my excitement.

After waiting fifteen years, we decided to make it worthwhile, and while others may drive nice cars or take foreign holidays, our extravagances have usually gone into plants and the garden.  So we invested our life savings in a gorgeous red cedar greenhouse.  We are very, very lucky people.

It was ready for plants in mid December, and is now home to some prize new plants that wouldn’t have thrived even through the mild 90s winters.  Exhibit A:  A new peach tree whose blossom is spectacular at this time of year.

There are also a multitude of seedlings, which are healthier than anything we have seen on the windowsill over the years.  They just do so well in there.  Some of them have started to be planted out.  Coriander and Lemon coriander:

Globe artichokes:

Finally the peas that were put in a month ago are ready to go it alone outside:

It’s amazing how life can change so much in a year.

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The other day we went to visit Down House near Orpington in Kent, where Charles Darwin made his family home.  He was an avid nature-watcher and collector, and loved this quiet location in the Kent Downs.  It was apparently ‘relatively cheap’ in its time, which meant he could concentrate on his work as a naturalist, rather than taking on another career.  As I consider taking some time off to look after my little girls, I can really empathise with that philosophy.

Down House photos 009

I very rarely get ‘house envy’.  Yes it was a bigger house than mine, but you can only really experience one room at any one time, so I never feel particularly envious of more space.

Down House photos 010

Nor garden envy.   My small patch of earth on the allotment gives me all the growing space I need, and the small garden at the back of our house is plenty for us to maintain.

Down House photos 015

Having said all this, I have to admit getting greenhouse envy at this place.  It was one of those fabulous Victorian lean-to greenhouses, part brick, part wood.  Painted the most gorgeous turquoise blue colour.  I wonder whether the colour was a twentieth century development, or whether this was the view that Darwin had as he pondered the origins of life on earth.

Down House photos 008

Either way, it has stuck in my mind as something that one day I would like to imitate.

Down House photos 019

And actually, even a turquoise cold frame would probably satisfy me.

By the way, I am in the running for the dorset cereals blog awards.

http://www.dorsetcereals.co.uk/little-blog-awards/nomination/1094

There are lots of other fun blogs on there to look at, so it is worth a browse, and you can vote for your favourite.

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