I spent today spring cleaning the conservatory, since it was raining. Rain had been forecast, and I'd had the morning marked down accordingly. Things have now been pruned, fed as appropriate, sprayed in a couple of cases, watered, and shuffled about. I swept up the dead leaves from the floor and wiped the table. By the time I'd finished it looked quite inviting, but smelt rather agricultural due to the fertilizer. I'm assuming that will pass, although the greenhouse still smells pretty ripe and I finished titivating the pots in there several days ago.
There is one pleasing success, the Hardenbergia violacea, which has twined its way up to the ceiling and is flowering enthusiastically. It is a member of the pea family, with dangling racemes of small, purple flowers and largish, longish, evergreen leaves. It was one of those plants that was vaguely on my radar for the conservatory, since it sounded pretty and did not seem to require too much winter heat. I bought one from Fibrex Nurseries at an RHS London plant fair a couple of years ago, because it was in flower and was pretty and I was feeling sporting. It has progressed in fits and starts, at one point suffering an alarming amount of dieback, and this is the first year it has made a proper show. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized it had quietly climbed the thirteen feet or so right up the back wall of the conservatory without my noticing, until it drew attention to itself by flowering. The conservatory faces west, if not north-west, and is double glazed with a polycarbonate roof, so we can conclude that the Hardenbergia is capable of flowering in a lot less than full light, which is useful to know, and that it can comfortably exceed the RHS's estimated height of two metres. It is still in a fairly small pot. It is a twiner and so needs something to twine around. In this case it has found one of the vertical wires strung up the wall as well as the neighbouring plants.
Begonia fuchsioides, also bought from Fibrex, is not such a happy story, but it is my own fault because they warned me when I bought it that a frost-free conservatory would not really be warm enough. A couple of stems were dead, and the others have very few leaves. Fortunately I have three or four rooted cuttings coming on in the greenhouse, which spent the winter in the heated propagator. The parent plant spent the previous winter in my bathroom, where it was so much in the way that I decided I'd rather not do that again. Now I've seen how badly it reacts to the frost-free conservatory I may have to reconsider. Somebody should make a larger heated case than those meant for propagation, on the lines of a Wardian case, for keen gardeners who can't afford to heat their whole conservatory but would like to bring some choice tender things through the winter.
Salvia confertiflora was looking very gaunt and sulky, but alive. I moved it into an even larger pot, now I have decided that there is no point in moving it outside for the summer because it always blows over. I have a feeling that the plants I've admired at Kiftsgate, where I bought mine, and East Ruston Old Vicarage, were in gargantuan pots. In my quest for the perfect burnt orange flower I would do quite a lot to make Salvia confertiflora happy, short of moving its new pot.
One of the roof lights has been leaking. I first noticed before Christmas, when one corner of the conservatory became wet and I discovered snow had blown in. The problem has since got worse, and I found this morning that the large Phoenix palm that lives in that corner and which should have been dry through the winter was sitting wet. I asked the Systems Administrator if mending the window could possibly rise up the SA's list of things to do, since the drips were now causing problems, subject to caveats about glue, whether it needed to be applied on a dry day, and minimum temperatures. The instructions on the glue pot must have been favourable, because the window is now glued, clamped and drying. As originally installed the windows had temperature controlled opening mechanisms, but as is the way of such things they stopped working and we never got round to fitting replacements. Given the cats go on the roof I am quite happy for the windows to remain firmly shut. If you open the doors at both ends enough breeze blows through to stop it getting dangerously hot. It would be a different story if the conservatory were south facing.
The noise of rain on a polycarbonate roof always makes it sound much heavier and more dramatic than it is, though it is not as noisy as the sound of Mr Fluffy amusing himself sliding down the roof.