Parrots,Plums And Small Shiny Rubies

A question for those of you still awake: picture if you would a greenhouse. A very pretty greenhouse with black and red tiles, beavertail glass and original cast iron fittings. This greenhouse has been recently restored and is in need of plants.

In fact I will save you the trouble of stretching your imaginations: here is a picture, pre restoration.

“Ah ha”, I hear you say “think of the tomatoes and cucumbers you could grow, to say nothing of the bromeliads and tender alpines. Think of plump melons, fuzzy cheeked peaches(i), aubergines(ii) and chilli peppers as red and pointy as a baboon’s red and pointy bit.” I fact I can hear some of you drooling at the prospect (please stop or you will dribble into your keyboards and cause an unfortunate short circuit).

Okay, now allow me to rain gently on your parade: we have a few problems.

The owner of said greenhouse does not live there – in fact he only visits three or four times a year and, in spite of being both charming and enthusiastic, has very little interest in things horticultural. Vegetables or fruits of any form, no matter how lush, are not required. There is no electricity (so no heat), there is water – but no drainage – and a one-day-a week gardener who is sometimes erratic in his timekeeping. The owner wishes for plants: lush plants to protect himself from prying eyes should he choose to sit there.

So the general brief is this: lush jungly plants in a greenhouse which is very hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. They also need to survive on minimal human contact and general neglect. They also need to be on tippy-top form whensoever the client decides to descend. First step was to get the inestimable Oxford Planters to build some very handsome wooden planters. Then we turned to planting..

I think you will agree that this a tricky one and one which I was not at all sure how to tackle. I have come up with a scheme in which I only have limited confidence. My plan is to plant lots of different stuff, to have an efficient watering system and then, come winter to employ the services of many yards of horticultural fleece. Anything that dies will be mourned and turfed out into the compost while survivors will receive a generous prize. I will then buy more of the same. It will be an excellent illustration of Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest(iii). This is a slightly scattergun approach but interesting nevertheless.

So this is roughly what it looked like this afternoon.(iv)

The excellent Architectural Plants have delivered the following. I may take bets on which will be alive this time next year: I am pretty sure which ones will definitely survive and which are the riskiest. Some may say that this is a rash, wasteful and foolish exercise and they may be right: I could stick with a couple of very dull things but that would not be much fun, would it?

Geranium maderense
Hedychium coccinea Tara
Canna Indica
Fasicularia bicolor
Colocassia Black Magic
Ficus caricaria
Melianthus major
Blechnum chilense
Agave americana
Chamerops humilios
Trachelospermum jasminoides
Zantedeschia aethiopica Crowborough

I am listening to Fever by Little Willie John.

The picture is of the flower of Canna Indica.

Remember that this post appears stereophonically here.

  1. The Roman cookery writer Apicius had a recipe for peaches with fish sauce.
  2. I am quite divided by aubergines. Part of me likes them but another part of me suspects them to be a joke played on the whole Greek nation and that actually they taste of wadded wasps nest or lightly broiled corrugated cardboard.
  3. For the benefit of pedants, I feel that I must add that the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ was coined not by darwin but Herbert Spencer. Both chaps look as if they would be fun to have at a beach barbeque.
  4. The labels that are visible say SOLD. This is to prove that I have not nicked them.