This evening I went to the garden club meeting, it being the first Tuesday of the month. The speakers, Chelsea Gold medal winners Tynings Climbers, had come all the way from Somerset to talk to us. I was impressed. I don't know how the committee do it, other than that they are very persuasive and strong minded ladies.
My notebook now has a couple of pages of densely scribbled advice about a variety of climbing plants, from the bone hardy to those needing a higher minimum winter temperature than they are going to get in my conservatory. The overarching theme seemed to be to prune vigorous species regularly to keep them compact and with plenty of new growth, rather than waiting until they had got massively out of control and then hacking them back hard so removing every scrap of flowering growth in the process. Also to avoid over watering, especially in the winter, which I already knew, and not to over feed perennial varieties.
The twin horrors of mealy bug and red spider mite are apparently unavoidable under glass, so apart from keeping ventilation and humidity up their advice was to spray early in the year and several times to break the egg laying cycle, rather than waiting until August when there was a visible problem and trying to get on top of it after the event. Provado was said to be very good, but I noticed that natural controls didn't get a mention. In the past I've spent quite a lot on various predatory wasps and things that were supposed to devour my woolly aphids and mites, but they never seemed to get close to solving the problem.
I could not resist buying a plant, a red flowered Mandevilla. It wasn't very big and didn't have a label, and when I asked about it, as in what its name was and whether it would take some shade and what minimum winter temperature it required and how much is was, I was told that it was simply a Mandevilla hybrid. Some shade would be perfectly acceptable given that in the wild they grew under the canopy of other plants (though that doesn't always work, because the UK is quite far north and the sun is weaker at the best of times than in the tropics, or even the Canaries). It would like a minimum of three degrees, and it was seven pounds. In the coldest weather the conservatory might dip below three degrees, on the other hand I could keep the Mandevilla good and dry. For seven pounds I thought it was worth a punt, and bought it with a promise not to repot it until spring. You never quite know with minimum winter temperatures until you try.