Gardening is the most sharing and caring hobby I can think of. We share plants and produce all year round, giving surplus plants to friends and family and sharing advice and expertise whenever asked. With social media playing its part now too, it is easier and easier to share information, ideas and tips from your garden.
Most serious gardeners have a greenhouse at the heart of their gardens, extending the season at either end. With the mild November weather we are currently experiencing, inside the glasshouse temperatures have been more than temperate, creating a comfortable growing environment for our plants.
That’s all very well, but if like me you have already safely installed your most precious plants to the protection of the glasshouse for the winter, you don’t really want to be encouraging them to linger longer in the warm inclement weather. But, that’s the exciting part of gardening, that’s what makes every gardening year, every gardening month just a bit different from the last. Wouldn’t it be boring if we knew just what was to come?
But because we have little idea of what’s in store, apart from the scaremongering of a cold, snowy couple of months, well maybe, we simply have to make the most of every nice day. With a greenhouse keeping off the wind and the rain, it quickly becomes the haven from the vagaries of the weather. If we’ve got it well organised, it’s so much better than a shed and the perfect place to wile away a spare hour or two whatever the weather. The plants get the light and you get a weatherproof space to garden undercover. What could be better?
This season I’ve relied quite a lot on good doers in the garden and greenhouse. We all have our favourite plants that we love to grow for one reason or another. Some of them are precious cuttings from friends that simply hold an imprint of the giver and create instant memories of special days, garden visits and special people. Others we acquire along the way and share again and again with gardening friends just because.
It’s so lovely taking a growing gift from your garden and sharing with others. It needs to be something a little different, something that you love to make the association with you, something easy to grow for everyone and not a garden thug, your friends won’t thank you if you infect your garden with a tiresome super spreader that adds little apart from bulk and presence to their garden.
Plants to share
I have a few favourites that I like to share, but since it’s November, it’s a good time to talk about Begonia sutherlandii. It is tender and I do admit to bringing a few of these garden favourites into a cool frost-free room in very cold winters. But this plant is amazing. Not only does it have bright, light green leaves, a lovely fresh elegant slightly drooping habit that makes it great for baskets, but it has masses of pretty single orange flowers too.
But what I love most about it is that as it dies back for winter and all the leaves start to drop off, it reveals tiny little begonia tubers at the stem joints. A large plant can have a hundred or more baby begonia tubers, which if you store them frost-free can be planted in spring to grow into lots more little plants. Four or five fed and nurtured in a hanging basket will create a fabulous, full-on display for months on end, for nothing, what a great late summer gift for a friend.
And the mother plants can be overwintered in a frost-free greenhouse or shed to regrow in spring. It’s such a giving plant, meant for sharing and because the little tubers are produced vegetatively as part of the plant the resultant plants are almost always identical to the parent plant and so guaranteed to perform and look great too.
It’s not a great magnet for bees, but the hoverflies seem to like it, and there’s something very satisfying about repetition of colour around the garden, so my baskets and baskets of lime green and orange are a fresh, healthy accent to my greenhouse and garden every summer.
What are you good garden doers? Maybe it’s time to set up a swap meet?