Monday, 28 March 2016

in the greenhouse

I can't keep up with these named storms.  It turns out that Saturday's wind was not storm Katie, just an anonymous warm-up act.  Storm Katie was today.  Fortunately not much broke.  The garden chairs are still in the garage, and most of the shrubs that were going to disintegrate already have. A perspex replacement pane popped out of my greenhouse, but did not snap and was easy to slide in again, and the Mount Etna broom by the pond has tipped over even further, but it has been dying since the big storm of October 2013 first rocked its roots, and has sown its own successors.

Under glass things are warming up, and I'm having to adjust from my winter mindset where a heavy hand with the watering can too easily spell death by rot, to the summer watering regime in which if you don't water plants they die.  I had a panic yesterday when I found my tomato 'Sungold' seedlings totally collapsed, limp, shrivelled and a dull shade of green.  'Sungold' is an F1 hybrid that was singled out by the Thompson and Morgan new product manager in his talk to Plant Heritage as being one of the sweetest tomatoes known to man, and the seeds are about as expensive as you'd expect F1 seeds to be.  I was not pleased to have wasted four of them, plus the growing time since I sowed them several weeks ago.  I stood the pot in a tray of water, upbraiding myself for my carelessness, and today they look fine, lush and bright green with not even a single dead leaf to show for their experience.

In truth the tomato seedlings are rather leggy.  Tomorrow when the wind is not rattling around the greenhouse so hard I must separate them out and pot them individually.  Remembering Monty Don's advice in his current garden series I will bury them to their first leaves so that they root from their stems, though it will go against the grain.  Burying stems always makes me nervous, worrying about rot.  I sow the seeds four to a four inch pot simply because I don't have space in the heated propagator to sow them in individual pots.  They don't seem to mind being separated out later.

Some tiny seedlings of 'Sungold''s relative, Solanum pyracanthos, have emerged.  This is a tropical shrub from Madagascar, with long, lobed, slightly fuzzy leaves.  The flowers are purplish, potato-like and nothing to write home about.  What made me fall in love with it when I saw one in the conservatory at East Ruston was the large orange thorns protruding from the central veins of every leaf.  The plant is stuffed with alkaloids and every part is poisonous, but with spines like that nobody is going to stroke it and I don't expect the cats to eat it.

Just as I had started to give up on them a few thread-like bright green leaves have appeared in the pots of home saved seed of Fritillaria meleagris.  They were sown on 15 February of last year, and have been sculling around in the greenhouse ever since.  The pots have certainly dried out once or twice during that time, and they should probably have been in a cold frame where they would have remained cooler and got a winter chilling, but I can't cope with seed pots in the cold frames.  I really would over or under water them, and the mice would probably eat the seeds.

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