We have had a few really lovely – if very cold – days in the past couple of weeks, but mostly it has just been grey and wet. My garden is saturated. I squelch when I walk round to assess the progress of the Spring plants. So, not much outdoor gardening for me at all. Just as well that I have a greenhouse to play in!

Unfortunately the cedar greenhouse we inherited when we moved here is rotting away at a distressing rate. I have no idea how old it is, and I have read of this make of cedar greenhouse lasting for fifty years, but I think this one is seeing its last few years. The main problem is the roof. The horizontals that support the clips that hold the glass in place have completely rotted away, and they had obviously done so some time ago because when we moved in (over three years ago now!) the rear roof panels were mostly kept in place by gingerly positioned screws. Which were failing because they were in rotten wood… A joiner friend has had a look and told us that he thinks it is too far gone to try and rescue, so I am on a mission to keep it going as long as possible with kludgy “fixes”.

wooden greenhouse rotting away

This shows you how bad it is – spongy wood barely holding the roof panes in place. As it is, they were slipping down because there were no clips – or working screws – to stop them. So the rain was just pouring in the gaps left at the ridge end. Far from ideal.

Since this is the greenhouse I use for propagation, and since I really, really needed to get my propagator set up again, I screwed some tanalised timber offcuts from when I made my veg bed climbing frames along the long edge at the back, and then used (very carefully placed!) screws to hold the glass up in place.

quick-fix for rotting greenhouse

Elegant it is not, but it has allowed me to get my lovely Vitopod propagator set up. There is something special about turning on the thermostat for the first time each Spring. It will soon have tomato seedlings in it, but for now it just has some cerinthe, cleome, shallots and various leafy things in it. My plan is to turf everything bar the tomatoes out as soon as they germinate and grow them hard. I am itching to sow more, but will leave it a week or two as the extra light will make a huge difference to the health of the seedlings.

vitopod propagator all set

Out on the benches, I have sown broad beans and peas, and beetroot. I love seeing the first trays all laid out, all full of hope, good peat free compost and the dream of tasty food to come. Oh, and hopefully I remembered to put some seeds in there as well…

seeds for edibles

I’ve been working hard to finish of my current website project, so in some ways it was a relief to not have had good gardening weather, but when a large box turned up on my doorstep I had to down tools and open it. After all, I couldn’t let new plants suffer in the dark…

box of goodies

This particular order was from Peter Nyssen. I buy all my Spring bulbs from them now, and since last year, my dahlias too. This year, for the first time, I decided to try out their perennials too. They are good value, sold either bare rooted or in 9cm pots, so that they will romp away (hopefully!) once the weather warms up the ground dries enough for me to plant them.

bare-rooted helenium 'Sahin's Early Flowerer'

I remember being totally freaked the first time I bought bare rooted perennials. I hadn’t realised when I ordered them, and the sight of all those exposed roots put me in a panic. Peter Nyssen packs them in plastic bags with plenty of compost, and they are large and healthy looking specimens. In fact the only real downside of buying plants this way is that you need large pots and therefore loads of compost to pot them up in. The heleniums (‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’) above already have good healthy leaves. I also bought some Eryngiums (‘Blue Star’), which have really long tap roots, and therefore needed to be potted up in long toms. These don’t have leaves yet, but are sprouting…

sprouting eryngium

I found it impossible to resist the lure of new dahlias. I told myself that I might not be lucky enough to have the dahlias left in the ground come back given how relentlessly wet it has been, and anyway, I have decided I want pots of colour this year. So, I bought ‘Ariko Zsaza’, not just for the name, honestly, but because it is a lovely bright orange pom-pom of a plant that should go wonderfully well with shocking pink and lime green in a vase. Yum. I also treated myself to ‘Rip City’, a sumptuous dark dahlia that I grew in my old garden. Add ‘Jescott Julie’ for its burnt orange and plummy yumminess, and another new dahlia (for me, anyway), a single, for the bees, called ‘Happily Single Juliet’. She is lilac pink. Supplied as lovely plump and healthy tubers, a really good size, they have been potted up and added to the benches. Which are now looking rather full.

dahlias and heleniums

The rest of the plants were already in pots – Anchusa Azurea ‘Loddon Royalist’ and Salvia caradonna because I want to inject some strong blue into my front garden, Anemone Honorine ‘Jobert’ for elegance late on in the year, Achillea ‘Terracotta’ because I loved it in the central bed in the front garden and am determined to get it to thrive, and Geranium sanguineum ‘Album’ because, well, you can never have too many hardy geraniums and I want some splashes of white in my back border.

plants to plant

They join my over-wintered perennial wallflowers, which have gone very leggy, and some hellebores that really need to go in the ground, but not when it is this wet. If anyone has any good advice about how to rescue my wallflowers I would be most grateful. I potted them on and they just flopped over and are now consequently growing all higgledy-piggledy. I am thinking, chop the tips off for cuttings and hope they bush out, but am also wondering about planting them deeply. Thoughts?

So, despite the soggy weather and workload, I am feeling quite excited about Spring and the changes I plan on making in my garden. I love that my greenhouse is filling up, though I know I will soon be panicking about lack of room. Such is life as a gardener.

Oh, and my Edgeworthia is flowering. Hurrah!

edgeworthia flower

46 thoughts on “Filling up nicely

  1. Well this has been a revelation because I didn’t know it was possible to get bare rooted perennials. They must be easier (and cheaper) to transport, but do they establish as quickly? I may have disappeared down another rabbit hole..

    1. Hi Jessica, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to see them being sold bare rooted, my past experience with them has been that they grow away really well, and it does tend to be good value for money. Apparently, back in the day, all perennials were sold like this, but then we all started demanding plants all year round, not just in Spring, and wanted easier lives. Think of all the plastic that has been used in modules and pots because of it.

  2. Oh exciting times Janet! There’s nothing quite like the anticipation of waiting for those first seeds to germinate no matter how many times you’ve sown seed. Which compost do you use? As you say taking cuttings of the wallflowers will help to bush them out but probably still a bit too early for that. I’m not sure from the photo whether they’re in the greenhouse or outside in the elements. You must be made up to see the edgeworthia in flower :)

    1. Hi Anna, it is a magical time of year, isn’t it! I am using Melcourt’s Sylvamix compost, lots of people in the nursery industry use it, and you used to only be able to buy the pro bags from Plantify (since gone bust). Happily Melcourt now have a “for the hoi peloi” version called ‘Sylvagrow’, and even more happily my “local” garden center over in Caernarfon sells it. It isn’t cheap, £6.99 for 50l, but I am getting much better results than from my previous peat free composts. And if you can get hold of the nursery stuff, it is wonderful.

      Wallflowers are sat outside on the patio, I will try taking cuttings come the middle of March when it warms up a little. This isn’t a vintage year for the Edgeworthia, but it is a delightful sight.

      1. Thanks Janet – I did wonder whether your compost was Melcourt’s. I’ve been wanting to try it for some time but it’s not available yet locally. Maybe we will pass a stockist sometime on our travels. I had a box from Peter Nyssen delivered today containing dahlias, including ‘Le Baron’ which I added to my list after you mentioned it last year :)

  3. Hi Janet, the content of your greenhouse looks rather exciting! Can’t wait to see all these plants grow and being planted into your garden. I am most excited about your new dahlias. The varieties that you have chosen sound quite interesting. For the first time this year I have bought four dahlia tubers as well and I am so happy about that! Now they just have to grow, of course…
    Wishing you lovely gardening weather and time to get out and get your hands dirty. I am sure you can’t wait!
    Warm regards,

    1. Hi Christina, I can’t wait either! Must be patient… I adore dahlias, they are such prolific flowerers, and come in so many different colours and forms. I hope you enjoy yours this year, I look forward to the pics!

      Happy gardening.

  4. Wish I had room for a greenhouse. I have plenty for Edgeworthia, and mine is in bloom as well.

    1. Edgeworthia is a lovely plant, isn’t it! And hey, at least you get to play in very big greenhouses at work ;-)

    1. A pleasure Beth, it was reading about lots of other gardeners getting sowing and growing again that spurred me on to sort out the greenhouse and get going.

  5. There is nothing more exciting than the arrival of a box of plants! I’ve bought perennials from Peter Nyssen in the past but the plants weren’t that good but it was a very bad year so maybe I should give him a try again, I’m always very happy with his bulbs. I’m surprised your soil is holding so much water, I thought it was free draining? I did I misunderstand?

    1. Eek! I hope these don’t let me down, I have high hopes… Re soil, the front is OK, but the back is less free draining, and in one area the grass gets very boggy indeed. Hence the squelching. Means it is going to be a while before I can get into the park border to sort it out :-(

  6. My, you are organised! You have so many seeds coming on, I am way behind you! I love it when parcels of plants arrive, just like Christmas! Must try some bare root plants, as you say, pots plus compost coming through the post doesn’t make sense.

    1. Hi Pauline, I don’t feel very organised! I wish more places sold bare rooted perennials, it makes much more sense, but it would force us to be much more seasonal about when we bought new plants. I admit I would miss being able to wander in to a garden center in June and pick up a few things, take them home and plant them out immediately…

  7. An enjoyable post and good pictures. February sure wasn’t a good month for doing any gardening. I hope that your greenhouse survives okay for a while yet. You’ve certainly been, and going to be, busy one way and another in the garden over the coming months.
    It’s good to see another recommendation for Peter Nyssen, and I’ll certainly be using them in future. xx

    1. Thanks Flighty. I am hopeful that I can keep the greenhouse going for a while by patching it up, I certainly can’t afford to replace it at the moment and I would miss it horribly, and not only in Spring when it becomes filled to over flowing with seedlings and plants…

  8. We are squelchy too. The year before last we did a bit of renovation on our cedar greenhouse. We were going to replace it but thought that was easier said than done. It’s quite large and replacement would probably end up destroying most of the garden in the process.

    1. Ah yes, I remember now, and I understand about the difficulties of dismantling a greenhouse in a busy and full garden – and yours is huge, so even worse than I would face! I will keep it patched up for as long as I can.

  9. A box of plants from PN is always a delight and what a box of delights you had. Sorry to hear about your greenhouse. I keep on meaning to oil/treat the wooden ‘houses at work but sheesh, such a big job. You’ve made me realise that it is necessary though. Love the edgeworthia – not a plant I know. Dave

    1. Hi Dave, are your wooden greenhouses cedar? Because the Alton Greenhouses website says that all their greenhouses are treated with a clear wood preservative before being sold, and that the natural properties of the western red cedar they use mean that, unless you want to paint the greenhouse, it shouldn’t need treating to last for 30+years… Not sure why mine didn’t last – assuming it isn’t thirty years old!

      Edgeworthia is beautiful, far more popular in the US than here, but it seems to be gaining traction in the UK too. Worth growing for the foliage alone IMHO, but the scented flowers at this time of year are glorious.

  10. It is exciting to see the plants underway. That is a shame about your greenhouse, mine has lost two front panes of glass in the recent windy weather so I’m going to have to do something about that, too. I’ve made a note of Peter Nyssen – thanks for that information. And I’m looking forward to seeing those heleniums bloom – they are a favourite flower of mine.

    1. I used to lose panes of glass from my other greenhouse until we moved it and concreted it in, awful job clearing up the shards. Me too on the heleniums.

  11. The Edgeworthia is gorgeous! Love the sound of those dahlias. I think I’ll give them a miss this year as I have gone overboard with seed for tithonias, cosmos and zinias instead! Hope the greenhouse holds out. :)

    1. Sounds like you are going to be very busy later sowing all those seeds. I’ll have plenty of that to do too. I’m greedy…

  12. Oh, what fun to have a box of plants arrive in the mail! (I am expecting a small rake and a kneeling pad tomorrow—exciting, but not that exciting.) All that potential, like a wound-up spring. Love your kludgy fixes in the greenhouse.

    1. I know! Though a good kneeler is also vital, as are decent tools. We bought a fork and trowel with click on long handle and I love them…

  13. you have been busy Janet, lots of promise, nice parcel too, I prefer to buy bare root plants, but, like you, find them harder to find now, bare root plants are said to be stronger because they are usually grown in the open where as lots of pot plants are grown under cover, the roots of bare root plants are also said to be stronger too,
    I am amazed you can get 50L of compost for just £6.99, on island I can only get 8L bags which cost £3.55 – £3.99 depending on type, occasionally in summer I can get 20L bags of general purpose compost, I think you are very lucky,
    glad the business is going well, Frances

    1. Yes, I imagine anything heavy or bulky must cost loads more because of the transport costs. Mind you, mine ends up being expensive partly because of the petrol, but mostly because I then tend to pick up a few plants too…

  14. Love the sight of all that promise potted up so nice and neatly too Janet – great ‘plant inventory’ post – far too many to comment on other than to say I now love dahlias and wish for a garden to put them in (as a child their association with earwigs made me squirm at the sight of what might be hiding in those dense petal folds) – do you do the straw and flower pot trap?
    I was so tempted by your post that I’ve got the seed trays out and have a wishlist over at Peter Nyssen’s for the shadier garden I tend- would never have chanced bare root plants before but always consider your knowledge/advice worth listening to.
    Have a lovely weekend pottering

    1. No straw and flowerpot games for me, and mostly I have been lucky Laura, few if any earwigs, which is just as well as they still make me flinch! Glad to have tempted you in to getting your seed tray out. I have my fingers crossed that we’re both successful with any bare rooted plants, I now feel somewhat responsible – eek! Don’t listen to me, I know nothing!

  15. Over the years I have tried bare rooted perennials (not from PN though) and had mixed results. I am lucky in so far as I have a few good quality nurseries within a 10/15 minute drive from me so tend to do very little online shopping for plants.
    I look forward to reading updates on your seeds and plants in future posts. I suspect your enthusiasm is catching.

    1. Hi Angie, I suspect part of the key is getting good quality specimens in the first place, though to be fair I have never (so far!) had a problem, even with budget bare rooted plants from magazine offers. I’ve got used to buying on line, I appreciate the way that it guarantees I get the plants that I want, but I do love having a good garden centre in reasonable(ish) striking distance. You are very lucky having more than one, that is one thing I miss from where I used to live!

  16. Oh so many exciting things going on! Well done for all your sowing and for success with your Edgeworthia – whoohoo! You have made me think about starting my dahlias off – wasn’t sure if it was a bit early. I had some bare rooted plants from PN last year and was pleased with them – would certainly do so again if I was buying dahlias

    1. Hi Cathy, a definite “woohoo”! And very glad to hear you have had good results form PN bare rooted plants.

  17. Your edgeworthia is lovely! isn’t it a great plant?! I planted some wallflowers last fall, and here they have overwintered outdoors without difficulty. I found that pinching them back does help them to become bushier and put out even more flowers. i love them.

    1. Hi Deb, yes, I love Edgeworthia, the flowers, the bark, the foliage, wonderful! Are they perennial wallflowers that you’ve been growing? I’m in love with them, they grow well here, but I do need to take lots of cuttings to both get more and bush them out.

  18. Ooh you’ve definitely been busy, what with all your seed sowing and potting up. Its great to get started isn’t it. I hope your greenhouse survives for another season for you. I couldn’t do without mine now, but I always get to the point where I need more room. Lots of juggling of plants needed!! Good luck with the new growing season.

    1. Hi Annie, I am rather enjoying the challenge of keeping the greenhouse going, though I am glad it is tucked away in a corner, it might become something more suited to an allotment site than a back garden! As for seed sowing, yes, gradually speeding up now, and like you I will soon be desperately juggling things, trying to convince myself it is OK to start hardening plants off that would probably prefer a little longer in the greenhouse. Exciting times!

  19. Your description of your greenhouse made me laugh. I have an ancient, crumbling cedarwood greenhouse too and it is held together with gaffa tape and will power.
    Wow, you have been busy and how exciting to have so many treasures coming on. Well done.

    1. Hi Chloris, I am going to be taping up a tear in what turns out to be perspex in the roof light today! I love this time of year, such fun to be able to get sowing and propagating again.

  20. How lucky you are to have a greenhouse, even if it has seen better days! All those trays of seedlings give one hope that spring isn’t far away. Thanks for your kind comments on my last post; it’s good to be back in the blogging world again and re-connecting with old friends.

    1. Hi Rose. I am indeed, very lucky. Nice to see you back, hope Spring works it’s healing magic on you.

    1. Hi Donna, happy seed sowing, it is always such a wonderful landmark in the gardening year, isn’t it.

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