Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Visitors to My Greenhouse

The greenhouse looks like a jungle to many birds that fly in through the open door. I have to check to be sure all the visitors have left before I lock up at night.

In the summer, and often in spring and fall too, I leave my greenhouse door open to keep the interior from overheating. If I were to keep the door closed on a sunny, mid-summer day, the temperature could easily soar to well over 100o F (38oC), wilting virtually everything inside. But leaving the door open is also an invitation for animals of all kinds to enter. I have a screen door but when I am constantly going in and out it is usually left open. Here is just a sampling of the greenhouse visitors I’ve had.

First, there’s been a sizable assortment of mammals, and not just the ever-present mice. I once encountered a ground hog in my greenhouse looking for veggies to eat. It left when encouraged to do so by a blast of water from a hose. On another occasion, a possum checked the place out. Fortunately, it left without inflicting any damage. I have yet to find a deer helping itself to a greenhouse meal, so for that I should be grateful, although deer have eaten my dahlias, leeks, tulips and other plants in spite of constant spraying.

This possum had left the greenhouse by the time I found my camera. He wanted me to put more food in the greenhouse so he could stay warm and eat!

With fig, avocado, lemon, and orange trees six- to eight-feet tall in my greenhouse, an open door invites in plenty of insects, especially when the citrus trees are in bloom. At that time, the aroma of the citrus blossoms entices bees, flies, and many other insects to investigate the sweet-smelling flowers. Some of these, such as the bees, are welcome guests, but others are intruders I could very much do without.

Helping to rid my greenhouse of the unwelcome insect arrivals, birds also find their way inside my greenhouse often looking for insects to dine on. As I write this, a goldfinch has just flown through in search of a snack. I’ve also seen blue jays, cardinals, humming birds, and a plethora of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) as a friend calls them, which are typically sparrows of various kinds. But the most inquisitive and longest staying of birds are the wrens. I often spot them picking their way through the Cymbidium orchids that line a shelf just under my office window, where they’re looking to see if any bugs might be around. Last year a wren decided it was going to nest in the greenhouse fan. Fortunately, I discovered its intentions before the nest-building project got too far along. It would have made for quite a wild ride had I turned the fan on not knowing it contained the wren’s home.

A tiny goldfinch hangs on a string (upper left), ready to fly into the avocado tree.

Not all the visitors to my greenhouse, though, have entered on wing or on foot through an open window or door. One example is my son’s green anole, which arrived in Rhode Island from Florida after a trip to grandma’s one winter. It was given a comfortable home in the greenhouse inside a large terrarium tank. That arrangement worked well for quite some time, but suddenly one morning the tank no longer had a resident. Search as hard as we could in every part of the greenhouse, the anole was nowhere to be found. We decided it had been eaten or had left the greenhouse. Then miraculously the following spring, the Florida native was seen again, high up in the branches of the avocado tree. With considerable effort, it was captured and returned to its tank. Given an adequate buffet of live crickets and other large insect prey, I’m sure this anole would have happily spent the rest of its days foraging throughout the greenhouse, which looked quite like the open wild to him.

All these many greenhouse visitors, which invariably arrive without invitation, are part of the additional fun and adventure that having a greenhouse affords.