Hartley Magazine

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Seeds, Glorious, Seeds

In The Greenhouse with Lila Das Gupta

I know that the sap is always supposed to rise in spring, but in January I always find that I feel more like a salmon swimming in a stream or the mole from “Wind in the Willows”.

I don’t quite understand what happens every year – there I am going about my humdrum existence when suddenly something clicks inside: ‘Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.’ Out come the seed trays and compost – I am the unstoppable salmon swimming up-stream to the spawning ground, or Moley, digging towards the light: ‘Up we go! Up we go!’

This year’s “moment’ is delayed for more pedestrian reasons: this week I am waiting for the electrician to wire up the greenhouse. Meanwhile my bedside table is buried under seed catalogues and dreams.

Undoubtedly my number one catalogue is Chiltern’s Seeds based in the Lake District. There are no pictures, but this a plantsman’s catalogue (where else would you find several types of Nigella?) and the gentle style in which it is written is always entertaining.

Thompson and Morgan are, as ever, varied and reliable.As well as old favourites, there are always one or two surprises. I am going to try out their climbing courgette “Black Forest” as well at the Mayan Gold potatoes, which are already chitting in the greenhouse.

Having a greenhouse opens ups a whole new world.
Jungle seeds has plenty to set the heart racing, both ornamental and edible plants and seeds (only seeds can be shipped outside the UK).
Capsicum annum Numex Big Jim is said to produce pepper that are around a foot long and are used in Mexican cooking for stuffing. For children try Arachis hypogaea better known as “Monkey Nuts”.

Plant World Seeds also ships internationally. Their catalogue always fills me with excitement.
They do a seed packet which is a selection of climbers which includes the gorgeous ‘Aristolochia Chilensis

Gloriosa Rothschildiana a climbing lily will also be on my list of things to grow this year. Exotic seeds sometimes take a bit longer to germinate and in some cases a bit of experience in growing from seed helps, but it’s well worth having a go. Unless you have a conservatory or warm, bright place to germinate seeds first, I would suggest investing in a propagator for the greenhouse when growing exotics.

Last, but not least, Seeds of Italy is another favourite. Hot on my list is the courgette variety “Le Bizzare’ which produces mainly flowers rather than fruit, so you can enjoy more of them to cook with. If you know any children who would like vegetable seeds to grow at their school, the company also sends out free seeds that have been returned or have slightly dog-eared packets.

I am listening to the late, great Elizabeth Cotten ‘Shake Sugaree’, (‘ I’m going to heaven in a split pea shell’) Most of the album is instrumental and of a gentle nature, a perfect accompaniment to my seed catalogues.

  • Hi Lila, Lovely to see you writing on line again (perhaps you have been elsewhere but I have not seen it). I have long been hankering after a greenhouse and enjoying the luxury of flirting with different options, but like you I am soon going to have to take the plunge…. What fun you will have! I love the idea of growing monkey nuts – my Mary (aged 4 and a half) loves them, and thinks they grow on a monkey puzzle tree.
    Hope to see you around sometime,
    xx Elspeth

  • Hooray. Lila’s back in town..

  • My recent discovery is Derry Watkins seed catalogue at Special Plants – still trying to reduce my short list!

  • You know gorilla gardening?

    I’m thinking about gorilla greenhousing.

    I’d love to have space for a greenhouse!

    Esther Montgomery

  • Lila Das Gupta

    Hi Everyone, thanks for the lovely welcome messages. Bit daunting taking on first greenhouse but I’m going to be doing a series for Gardener’s World Magazine (which will appear next year) on greenhouse growing, so it will give me a great chance to jump in and try lots of differnt things.
    I owe JAS a box of blood-red dahlias for suggesting or even prodding me to approach them for some work. Or should that be chrysanthemums? I hear they are due for a big revival in 2009.

  • emma t

    NB to Elspeth and Mary – You can grow a monkey puzzle tree from monkey puzzle nuts -they look similar to brazil nuts and are tasty with lots of similar oils…