From wild gardening to the most artificial sort of gardening you can do, growing plants in containers under glass. I was shocked yesterday when I went to water the conservatory to see how many leaves had fallen or turned red preparatory to falling on the Eriobotrya 'Coppertone'. Quite a few evergreen shrubs have a spring moult, which can be irritating of them just when everything else is looking fresh and pristine, but the Eriobotrya was clearly hungry. It was repotted a couple of years ago into the largest pot it is ever going to have, a vast dark grey plastic tub nearly a yard across, which it enjoyed very much at the time, but it was clearly time to feed it.
The conservatory was in need of a sweep and tidy anyway. It's not that long since I did it, but since then the climbing fuchsia 'Lady Boothby' had remembered that she is not actually evergreen and dropped thin pale brown leaves all over the back, after hanging on to them for a remarkably long time. Last year's leaves on the two terrestrial orchids were looking desperately tatty and in need of cutting off. There was some random dieback in the yellow flowered Jasminum mesnyi and a general air of dishevelment. And I'd been planning to pot on various things once the weather warmed up, which it now has.
The Streptocarpus all seem to have come through the winter. I kept them pretty dry, and tried not to panic as the leaves on a couple of them died back to virtually nothing. I buy them as plug plants from Dibleys, who always do a wonderful display at Chelsea and whose catalogue is a dazzling source of temptation, but they don't make very big plants in their first year so it is a nuisance to have to start again every season, Besides which, all those three pound twenties plus six quid for post and packing start adding up if you have to keep replacing them. Dibleys advise you to only put your new plugs in a little three inch pots for their first season, and I potted on last year's plants into slightly larger ones, and gave each pot a dose of Dibleys proprietary Streptocarpus food.
The Dibleys Begonia did not do so well. They were the rhizomatous type, grown for their foliage, which I tried as an experiment after picking up a couple at general plant nurseries that did well, but the Dibleys plants were made of weaker stuff, or I had not got the hang of growing them. They were not especially keen on growing even in the summer, and the winter did for them entirely. Ah well, we learn by trying. Ferns seem to do pretty well in pots in the conservatory, both the elegant silvery leaved Athyrium nipponicum and the common wild ferns out of the wood that have seeded themselves into other pots, so I will probably invest in some more of them instead.
The evergreen Clematis cartmanii 'Early Sensation' is just coming into flower. I used to try and grow it around a tripod which it thoroughly disliked. It got far too big for the tripod and wanted to grow upwards, so I tried moving it to the back wall of the conservatory which it didn't much care for either, sending up one long shoot that shot right up to the roof where it waved around despairingly and sent out a few flowers, its lower regions still growing through the now obsolete and ridiculous tripod. Eventually in exasperation I cut it hard back to disentangle it from the support, and left it to see if it would shoot again. It did eventually, after sitting apparently moribund for months, and it is now in the sunniest corner of the room where it amuses itself growing through the Eriobotrya. It has dark green, finely divided leaves that look well popping out among the smooth oval leaves of its host. The white flowers are not scented but are very pretty. It will easily outstrip the six to eight feet that most suppliers suggest it will reach.
The Hardenbergia violacea that I bought at an RHS London show last spring is just coming into flower. Most of last year was a battle to stop it being destroyed by red spider mite, and I am not sure we have a long term future together. It hasn't grown very much. The little Tropaeolum tricolor is in full flower. This sends up incredibly thin and weedy shoots in autumn from a smooth, fat tuber and at this time of the year covers itself with small, tubular, orange, purple and yellow flowers. Once they fade the dinky little lobed leaves start to yellow, and before long the whole thing has disappeared. I repotted mine last autumn into a deeper pot after reading that the tubers liked to be buried deep. I have had my tuber for years so I must be doing something right, but as my plant never grows as large or flowers for as long as its Wikipedia entry claims it ought to do I still need to refine my growing technique.
The hairy leaved Bergenia ciliata that I bought by mail order after seeing one at the Lavenham open garden I visited last August has produced one rather prissy head of white flowers. Christopher Lloyd used to wax lyrical about the beauty of its leaves. The whole plant is so fleshy and delicate that I've been mildly amazed every time I've looked at it that it hasn't collapsed into a mush over the winter.
I moved the two Regal Pelargonium into bigger pots to encourage them, and nipped out their tips to try and make them bushier, and fed everthing except for the potted palm with a light dusting of Vitax Q4, which made the conservatory smell jolly agricultural. All that's left to do now is buy a very large pot for a ginger lily that's burst out of its old one. Literally. The pot is in two pieces. If I can't get a big enough pot I shall have to saw the root into two or three, but since I have loads of other things to be getting on with I'm hoping to be able to take the easy route for now, and simply dump it intact into a new container.