Saturday, 23 July 2016

a day in the greenhouse

I have finally finished tidying up in the greenhouse.  Everything that needed potting on has been potted, and those past potting have been thrown away, along with those pots of seeds that failed to germinate.  I know that in theory they might yet come up, but in practice after the recent mini heatwave they are almost certainly well and truly cooked.  I am afraid I may have junked a small pot containing three young seed raised Amaryllis bulbs, but that's tough.  I need a better system for bulbs, maybe a dedicated seed tray to stand the pots in so that I don't assume from the lack of top growth that there's nothing in them.

The heat has done for some of my cuttings.  Three slips of Plectranthus collapsed completely.  I only took them recently, and exhuming the remains revealed that they had already rooted before dying of heatstroke.  Fortunately I kept the mother plant, a lop sided freebie from the Chatto gardens, who were giving customers a free plant if they spent a minimum amount.  It was a free plant of their choice, and not initially labelled until the person before us in the queue asked at the till what it was.  That was a not unreasonable question, since it turned out not to be hardy, so any customers who planted it out in their gardens without knowing what it was will be disappointed after next winter.

Two pots of cuttings of Dianthus 'Doris' also shrivelled to a dull green, and didn't look as though they would be making roots now.  Annoyingly, I had junked the source plant after taking the cuttings because it was so tatty and I was thinking about reusing the pot.  I told myself that a replacement 'Doris' would not be very difficult to find and that one plant wouldn't be very expensive, then was pleased to discover a previously rooted 'Doris' cutting among the tray of pinks on the greenhouse floor being overrun by a tomato plant.  I can take more cuttings off that in due course.  The moral is to hang on to the parent after taking cuttings until you are quite sure that they are rooting.

I took some more Plectranthus cuttings and stood them out in the cold frame where it might be cooler, but on the whole it seemed a waste of time and cutting material to do more while the hot spell lasts.  Instead I marshalled together the pots of things I wanted to propagate and stood them near the greenhouse door until the hot spell should come to an end.

The tray of little plants of what should be the white flowered form of Begonia evansiana had scorched during the hottest days, but were already making new leaves.  I picked the dead and damaged ones off, and stood the tray down beside the tomatoes where they would get more shade. Begonia evansiana is one of the easiest things to propagate, making new bulbils in the axils of its leaves.  All you have to do is remember to collect them and pot them up.  And avoid watering them too much in the winter, or they will rot.  They spread themselves quite happily into other plants' pots in the conservatory, which is how I came to still have the white flowered type, having killed the original parent by over watering.

I tied the tomato plants into their system of canes.  I don't understand tomato growing.  I even bought a book about it, and was still unclear how many side shoots I was supposed to remove.  Last year's tomato plants grew wildly everywhere, and after I had rather given up on them suddenly ripened a lot of fruit, some of which I didn't fancy because it had been lying on the greenhouse floor, and some of which split due to erratic watering.  I resolved to try harder, and am quite surprised at how organised this year's tomatoes look in comparison.  A couple of trusses are almost ripe, and none have split yet.

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