Saturday, 29 October 2016

in the conservatory

Today was extraordinarily warm and lovely for the time of year.  I was totally overdressed for disentangling brambles from roses, and had to peel off layers as I worked.  I even checked with the Systems Administrator that it really was that warm, in case I was having a hot flush, but the SA confirmed that no, it wasn't just me, it was a warm day.  Dead still, too.  The blades of the wind generator on the farm across the ditch never turned.  The eleagnus hedge was a humming mass of foraging bees, and I was glad I'd only given it the lightest possible trim this autumn to keep as many of the flowers as possible.  It can have another haircut in the spring.

I moved the pots of succulents from the deck back into the conservatory for the winter.  The Aeonium have enjoyed their summer out of doors, and their rosettes have grown much bigger.  I consolidated the dark purple ones into one big pot.  It was a rather fine Whichford pot, a present from some years back, that turned out taller than I was expecting when I saw it in the flesh, and I didn't feel I'd found a really good use for it.  It had pinks in it for years, but the balance of shapes never looked quite right.  When Whichford's Christmas catalogue arrived today I noticed a photograph of Aeonium in a tall pot and had a light bulb moment.  The purple Aeonium had got extremely leggy so that they blew over in their individual small pots in any kind of wind.  Planted in one tall pot the heights of the two would complement each other and the weight of all that terracotta and compost would keep their centre of gravity suitably low.  I mixed a lot of grit into the compost, which seems to be the way to persuade Aeonium to make good root systems.

To my disgust I had over-watered the Echeveria and most of them had rotted.  They have had the same treatment as the Aeonium, from which I conclude that they need less water.  Some of the individual rosettes were showing a few wispy roots, and I sat them all on pots of compost mixed with grit sand, then mixed with grit when I ran out of sand.  Stood on the high greenhouse shelf with no extra water at all they have two choices, root or die.

Salvia confertiflora squeezed in somehow, cuddled up to the Tibouchina.  The salvia will need a bigger pot next spring.  It is growing, but a bare and skinny specimen compared to the ones I've seen at Kiftsgate and East Ruston Old Vicarage.  They are both at the front of the conservatory and near the door, to get as much air and light as possible.  Both are fuzzy plants with a terrifying capacity to attract botrytis.  The Clianthus squeezed in by the other door, next to the Eriobotrya 'Coppertone', and it was a puzzle to know where to put the seed raised Geranium maderense I had to move from the window to make room for the succulents.  I have to admit it to myself: the conservatory is full.  I must not buy any more conservatory plants until something dies, not even a little one.

It's a shame since I had tracked down a houseplant specialist that stocks Araucaria heterophylla, the Norfolk Island pine, and I'd love another one of those.  We had one before that started life on the telephone table before being evicted from the conservatory when it hit the roof.  They will get enormous given the chance.  Kew have or had one that they'd taken the top out of to make it fit in their big glasshouse, though they don't look nearly as nice once you do that.  The red Mandevilla hybrid is still living on the telephone table where I put it temporarily so that we could admire its flowers, and has been joined by a piece of purple and grey striped Tradescantia that I rooted after it fell off the parent plant in the conservatory.  I really ought to rescue the latter, since none of its predecessors have made it through the winter.  Conditions in the conservatory must get too cold, too damp or both.

I have already stashed the pink flowered Begonia fuchsioides in my bathroom, since the woman from Fibrex Nurseries was so discouraging about its prospects over winter in a frost free conservatory that she practically refused to sell it to me.  It is not very convenient having it next to the sink, but I can't think of anywhere else for it to live.  It can't go on the window sill in the study because it would be in the way of the blind, and I have a hunch that if I try to use the sitting room as an overflow overwintering area for tender plants I will find the Systems Administrator's normal indulgence towards my hobbies will reach its limits.

Addendum  It is a great shame about the Royal Clarence in Exeter burning down.  When I first saw the picture in yesterday's Guardian I thought it looked awfully familiar, and surely that was the hotel in Exeter's cathedral yard, and so it was.  I have been to a wedding reception there, a school friend who got married in the cathedral, so that's a little piece of personal history gone.  The historian on this evening's PM programme was over-egging the pudding when he said it was Exeter's most iconic building, though, since that must be the cathedral itself, and Exeter's remaining Elizabethan heritage isn't as extensive or exciting as he made it sound.  The Baedeker raids were bad, but I have seen photos of the city centre after the blitz, and the worst of the damage was caused by Exeter's demented post war planners.  A lot of it could have been rebuilt as was, or at least the facades retained, but they swept away great swathes of the medieval, Tudor, Georgian and Victorian town and replaced them with the most godawful brick boxes on a rectilinear street plan.  I thought as a thirteen year old that the High Street managed to be simultaneously bland and hideous, and revisiting twenty-five years later for a school reunion I saw that my teenage judgement had been spot on.

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