Sunday, 14 May 2017

titivating the conservatory

I woke up thinking of what I was going to do in the garden today, and as I pulled up the blind in the bathroom and gazed out at the back garden realised that the fine drumming sound I could hear was rain on the conservatory roof.  It wasn't enough rain to do any good, but the showers persisted until ten, which truncated the morning rather.  On the other hand, heavy rain was forecast for Wednesday.  Fingers crossed.  I decided to give up on my original plan to plant the sad pots of Teucrium hirsutum from last year's seed sowings in the area I had cleared in the meadow, and wash the conservatory glass instead.  Digging in the meadow would be easier if we really did get a day of proper rain, and the Teucrium could go on suffering until Friday.

The Solidago and Lychnis I sowed last season are still perfectly happy in their pots, but the Teucrium have only made very small and pathetic shoots this year, after getting off to a lively start when they were young.  It may be that it is too late to plant them out and they will never come to anything, in which case I could start again with a new packet of seed as they germinated readily last time, but it would be extra work and the loss of two growing seasons.  That is the trouble with raising your own plants.  You order seed and sow it in February or March, with no idea how the year is going to go and whether you will have anywhere ready to plant the resulting crop by autumn, or if it will be OK waiting until the following year in pots.

The conservatory glass has needed doing all year, getting gently and steadily greener.  Fine algae grows on the windows, grittier and harder to wash off on the outside than the inside, along with an accumulation of dust and the odd snail dropping.  It detracts from the experience of sitting in there to look out at the garden through a greenish bloom, and since the conservatory faces north east and is double glazed light levels are not great to begin with, without allowing muck to grow all over the windows.  Washing them does not feel like high horticulture, but it has to be done.

It is not my favourite job.  Water runs down my arms, for a start, and as the conservatory is very full of plants it is an endless careful juggling act moving the pots out of the way and trying not to step on them or snap anything.  I made the mistake of counting the panes before I started, and there were five on each side, so fifteen in all, giving thirty faces to wash, plus the high level panes going up into the roof.  It felt discouraging after I'd washed the first couple of panes on the outside, rubbing them with a cloth wrung out in warm water with a dash of Ecover washing up liquid and rinsing them with the hose, to think that I was still only one fifteenth of the way through, and that was ignoring the roof section, and that access to the outside was much easier than getting at the inward faces of the panes.

After a while I allowed myself to be distracted into deadheading the Eriobotrya japonica 'Coppertone' and trimming off odd dead twigs and picking up fallen leaves, as well as washing.  It made for a more interesting afternoon, and the Eriobotrya does need deadheading.  The flowers are fading, and I might as well do it before they have a chance to shed dead petals all over the smaller plants underneath.  It is a long winded job, as by now it is quite a big bush and the new leaves emerge just below the flower clusters so you have to be careful not to break them off.  If it were growing out in the garden I probably wouldn't bother, but in the close quarters of the conservatory things need to look groomed, besides which snipping off the entire clusters is infinitely preferable to trying to pick the individual small petals out of the Aloe and Agave rosettes.

By half past six I was beginning to feel tired and had still not finished, so had to leave the pots still in a complete jumble which is going to make watering difficult until I can finish tidying up.  I did notice that none of the modern gardens featured in Tim Richardson's book of his pick of twenty-first century designs included a conservatory.  They used to be de rigeur a hundred years previously, and wandering around a conservatory filled with ferns or geraniums and interesting climbers is one of my favourite bits of visiting gardens designed from Edwardian times to the 1930s, but of course those owners had staff to wash the windows for them and did not have to spend a day with water running down their arms and shuffling all the pots round in small circles.

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