Hartley Magazine

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I am now the proud owner of not one but two greenhouses

Now that I am the proud owner of not one but two greenhouses – the ultra gorgeous and swish mini one and the ancient, tumble down, normal-sized one at the end of the garden – I suppose it was inevitable that sooner or later one of them would start to get neglected. I expect you can tell from my first sentence which one it is. Can you guess? The old greenhouse, bought from a neighbour several years ago for £100, once very much the object of my desire and later the fulfilment of my hopes and dreams, has been shoved rudely aside by the little natty neat mini greenhouse. This is partly down to practicalities at this time of year: the mini greenhouse resides on my veranda, under cover, and can be reached without stepping out of my slippers or even risking getting wet. It is also easy to heat very cheaply and relatively efficiently, so has become the place for those plants that used to force me to clear out the bigger greenhouse well before the first frost. They are kind of crammed in there, but they look pretty darned happy to me.

So I have somewhere warm and snug for my more demanding plants (the aeoniums, the geranium and salvia cuttings, and some sweet and chilli peppers I am trying to over winter) and the bedraggled, unheated greenhouse can house other things. Herbs, big salvia plants, agapanthus, strawberries, all of those things that should manage perfectly well outside, but will really benefit from being out of the cold and rain, needed to be moved in there. The problem was that as soon as it became second favourite greenhouse, the old one started to fill up with junk, as any unused space in any garden or house will very quickly do. Several cardboard boxes, a toy pram, three footballs, one small bicycle and a small landfill site’s worth of plastic pots and cracked seed trays all jostling for space between the dead tomatoes and aubergines. So last weekend I poured myself the steaming mug of tea that is required for such occasions, pulled on my wellies, wrapped up warm, grabbed a large, heavy duty bin bag and set about restoring it to its former glory. Bikes and debris are now out, spiders have been carefully swept around (one killed, by accident and to my horror. Im sorry, Im sorry…), but above all else I threw out snails. A huge number of snails had secreted themselves along the bottom of seed trays, behind scraps of bubblewrap and under pots. They’ve sealed themselves off for winter, crusting over the entrances to their shells in order to be safe all winter, only to emerge come spring, to crawl a few inches and break their fast on soft, young seedlings. They were a bit hard to prise off, due to the crusting, but prised off they were. I was all for leaving them out to take their chances with the winter wildlife, but my husband decided on a more direct approach, and let’s just say they are not especially well sealed for winter any more.

And now everything is neat and ordered. No more prams, no more bicycles. Just plants, and more to come. I have a few plans for things I can do there to make my second-favourite greenhouse feel a little more loved, but if it only ends up being a (tidy) place for my least tough plants to sit out the worst of the winter, then it is already stealing its way back into my affections.