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Wednesday April 17 , 2024

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

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Great British Garden Revival - Episode 6

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Diarmuid Gavin - Glasshouses 

kew-glasshouseOur love of glasshouses began in the 17th century as exotic foods such as citrus fruits were brought back by explorers and plant hunters.  They used purpose-built cloches which created miniature environments allowing the plants to survive the journey.  It was the Victorians who began to collect, cultivate and master nature and built the glasshouse at Kew containing the most expensive and expansive collection of plants.  It was the ultimate in horticultural bling!

Diarmuid visited the Botanical Garden of Wales which is set in 560 acres, has over 8000 plant species and has the largest single span glass house in the world, filled with all manner of exotic species.    He also visited a very important historical Victorian Glasshouse at Wentworth Castle in Barnsley which fell into disrepair and through fundraising, has been restored to its former glory.  It was one of the most important glasshouses of its day and is said to have had electric lighting before the Royal family did!  It is now a temperate glasshouse and showcases plants from 5 different continents. 

Having a greenhouse or glass house can extend the type of plants we can grow in our gardens and homes rather than having to grow the same types of vegetables and plants every year.  If you are considering buying a greenhouse it’s advisable to:

  • Buy the biggest possible that you can afford or fit into the available space because when you start growing, you’ll want so much more space!  
  • Have shelves or workbenches on one side so that you have somewhere to work and a place to store newly filled seed trays and plant pots.  
  • Have a border on the other side of the greenhouse so that you can plant straight in the ground with the added benefit of protection from the elements.   
  • A lean-to type structure is smaller but is cheaper to buy and holds the heat better.  
  • A greenhouse needs to have plenty of light and be positioned in a sheltered place with access all the way round to clean and repair.  
  • Many now come in polycarbonate but toughened glass is beneficial because if it breaks it doesn’t shatter and is therefore a safer option for children and animals. 
  • A wooden frame looks very traditional and natural whereas aluminium frames are maintenance free. 
  • In any greenhouse or glasshouse you need to ensure there is good air circulation and the ability to add heat either from a paraffin heater or if you are lucky and have an electric socket a plug-in heater. 

The type of plants you want to grow will determine the environment you require, either hot, humid and jungle-like or warm, dry and sunny.  A temperate house has lots of light and often made from glass, is kept free from frost and well ventilated.   If you opt for a tropical house with a jungle display it will need to be humid and kept moist by regularly damping down.  You will also need to train and keep on top of climbing plants so they don’t begin to swamp others out. 

If you don’t have space for a greenhouse you could consider cold frames or small Edwardian glass cases, dishes or bottles.  If you opt for the latter, you could grow a range of plants for example carnivorous plants which will keep children entertained!  Cold frames are often used to warm the soil and/or protect seedlings so that by planting earlier, you can get ahead of the typical growing season.  

Regardless of what type of environment you create, you can be sure that it will begin a lifetime of gardening passion and interest that has captivated people for centuries. 


Matt James - Shrubs

shrubsMatt is passionate about shrubs.  They are the unsung heroes in gardens.  They provide privacy, fragrance, backdrop, colour, texture and structure.  From Magnolias through to the humble Cornus, they deliver by the bucket load and at the moment Matt believes they are ignored and under-loved.  He says every garden needs shrubs, they are a permanent fixture, bringing a sense of order and brightening up every season. If you’re still not convinced, they also offer cover, shelter and food to our native wildlife! 

Croome Park, designed by Capability Brown, is said to be one of the best 18th century designs and was very famous for its huge shrubberies. The shrubs were indeed the stars of the show because back then we had very little native flora that would impress so people travelled for miles to visit the vast collection.  Around the beginning of the 20th century, people began to develop a fear of shrubs thinking they were difficult to handle and were concerned about pruning them wrongly so they soon fell out of fashion.  As a result, Croome Park’s shrubberies fell into disrepair; the shrubs, trees and wildflower meadows were ploughed up and the land used for arable agriculture.  The National Trust took over in 1996 and using the extensive archived documents, surveys and maps, the team begun to replant trees and vast swathes of shrubberies and today the park has become popular once more.

Matt also visited the Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire which began as a small nursery in 1864 but is now famous for its extensive collection of plants and seasonal displays which include many shrubs as well as still being a thriving plant nursery.  

Shrubs are the backbone of any garden.  They create sustainable gardens, they are beautiful in their own right, they are not difficult to care for and are indeed the stars of the show.   If you are still in any doubt, have a read of a few of Nicki’s favourite shrubs for the garden here.


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