A month of so ago my old fella and I were sitting on our swinging hammock, sipping coffee, listening to the birds, enjoying the sunshine and the feeling that all the major tasks we'd set ourselves for summer were over. I'd begun to toy with the idea of days out, walks on the beach, leisurely picnics ...
"I've had an idea," he says, jerking me from my dreaming. "I'm going to build you a better greenhouse."
"O - kaaaay," I said, interest piqued.
|old teeny tiny greenhouse interior (see massive phormium behind)|
When we moved I said I wouldn't need a greenhouse with such a comparitively small garden but that had quickly proved false and we soon realised we couldn't do without one. Luckily enough, early last year we purchased a small second hand one from a local swap shop. It was a snip at £20 and we only had to buy a few bits of glass to complete the glazing. I was thrilled with it but by spring it was bursting at the seams and I was deeply mourning the loss of my two good sized greenhouses we'd left behind.
|you can just about see the old greenhouse location here|
John's lightbulb moment involved building a sturdy lean to frame along the back of the garden, taking the current greenhouse apart and using both sides to glaze the one long side of the new one (does that make sense? It didn't to me at first). This would double the floor place, at the same time opening up a sizeable area of garden for other use. Just one thing stood in the way: a beautiful rhodedendron and an oversized, quite ugly and intrusive green phormium.
After much deliberation we decided to preserve the rhodedendron by building around it, and sacrificing the phormium. Within half an hour we had a notebook out, making drawings, and noting my 'must haves'. Our relaxing summer was forgotten as enthusiasm chased away our lethargy.
He is a very clever man, technically quite brilliant to my bedazzled eyes and I could envisage the finished building, see myself happily growing plants in my new, stylish greenhouse (complete with space for table and chair where I can write on chilly wet days).
The first thing to go was the phormium and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't sad to see it fall beneath the chain saw. Surprisingly the root dug out easily, leaving a heap of dry undernourished soil that hadn't seen light of day since Lord knows when. We then had to cart it to the tip, move the compost heap, the pile of tatty of slabs he'd been hoarding for some reason known only to him, and dig out a really pretty and very old rose that had been struggling for lack of light.
We did try to save it but it was too tricky to get out and in the end the root came away in pieces. In vain hope, I potted the root into a large pot and now a month on it is sprouting healthy vigorous shoots. I think I will get several plants from it. I shall let it grow on in the pot and plant it out in the spring. It is a pretty purple colour; a short rambler I think from its habit.
The site now clear we laid shallow foundations and John began to construct the frame. I'd like to take some credit for this but my only use was holding uprights in place and passing him screws and hammers and making cups of tea. The frame could have gone up quicker but we were held up by the demands of work and the odd rain shower but at last it was up and a polycarbonate roof in place.
Now for the glazing! John's careful measuring meant the glazing bars from the old greenhouse could be screwed in place easily and the glass inserted. We purchased a vent for the end wall. The back wall is made of board and weather proofed with roofing felt. I painted the frame to match the shed, a sage green that blends with the planting in a soft, easy on the eye manner.
With the greenhouse completed (almost) the outside was a mess but quickly solved by membrane and gravel. We wanted a flower bed along the fence which is the sunniest side of the garden but when we tried to dig we found buried concrete foundations, loads of tree roots so, to make life easier, we resorted to a raised bed and at last the plants I'd been hoarding in pots for too long had a home. We planted climbing roses, clematis, hollyhocks, poppies, liatris, campanula, fuschia, siberian iris, lupins, marigolds, dwarf rhodedenron and I am sure other things will find their way in (and out) as it matures. The gravel will soften as things self seed from other areas of the garden and the plants begin to cascade over the walls of the raised bed.
|See how we built around the rhodedendron?|
I would say all in all we have made 100% improvement to that end of the garden. It now resembles a courtyard garden, with places to sit, entertain, hoard more pots of plants; and inside the greenhouse I can work, overwinter plants, sow seed, grow plants on, and on rainy days sit and admire the garden from a brand new perspective.
It is our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary coming up at the end of July but we've been together for thirty two years - I think I made the right choice. I think he's a keeper.