I got my greenhouse two and a half years ago to shelter my burgeoning collection of exotic stuff, ensetes, aeoniums, daturas, which up to that point and through several mild winters had survived just by being pushed up by the house with a bit of fleece thrown over them. Heady days. I thought it would be easy street once I got my greenhouse, thought I could even get away with not heating it, but you know this story: you can guess the end. Two severe and wicked winters down and my exotic collection might conceivably be the very dictionary definition of non-burgeoning. It’s fairly dead, to be completely clear.
The key, I have decided, is to give up. Make life easy for myself. This was quite a liberating decision and yet somehow impossible to stick to, especially as I went late on last year to visit Derry Watkins at Special Plants (www.specialplants.net). I walked in feeling immune to the charms of anything not entirely hardy, I walked out with two half-hardy salvias. They bloom on and on through late summer in deepest, velvety red and ‘punch a hole in the landscape pink’: two of my favourite shades in the world. ‘All you have to do,’ Derry reassured, ‘is overwinter them in the glasshouse, plant them in spring, then take cuttings of them in late summer each year and overwinter those.’ Oh.
But maybe it’s not so silly. They have come through winter, one of them wholeheartedly, the other looking utterly dead but lately showing little signs of green. Other half-hardy things look.. if not good, then alive: some pots of evergreen, big-blue-headed agapanthus, a little pot of echiums. I’m thinking maybe a couple of citrus trees might do ok, and that maybe this is the way to go in my greenhouse: keep the heating off and swap daturas for salvias and bananas for limes.