Home My garden Gardening under glass: waking up tender perennials

Gardening under glass: waking up tender perennials

The world's smallest potting bench... complete with child's chair
The world's smallest potting bench... complete with child's chair

Blog: Giving potted plants a wash and brush up…

After last week’s pathetic post on my lack of progress this year, I’ve been able to make a start in the conservatory. (The kitchen floor has finally been refitted, which had taken up residence in the conservatory, meaning I couldn’t even water things.)

It was a three-hour stint and there is so much more to do…

Heath Robinson-style potting table

First job… make a potting table. I have heavy-duty garage units in the conservatory – they’re not pretty but sturdy. They can also be configured in various ways, which is very handy.

Unfortunately, I misjudged the height of a single layer unit bearing my potting tray. The only chair that fits it is Nick’s old kiddie chair, meant for five-year-olds. I’m 5 foot 7 inches tall, so I look ridiculous but it serves a purpose!

Potted on chillies with dodgy-looking passion flowers
Potted on chillies with dodgy-looking passion flowers

Bring out your dead

Luckily most of my plants don’t need much water in winter but they do need some and everything’s straining at the leash, as our winter hasn’t been too harsh. Any sun on the long, west-facing conservatory means heat builds up quickly, so plants are ahead of where they normally are.

Once they start back into active growth, it’s easy for plants to die quickly. I always expect losses during winter, it’s only natural when overwintering in a false environment.

Some geraniums (Pelargoniums) will stand being bone dry for a while bursting into new growth. Some, however, are more delicate and will shuffle off their mortal coil. Only a couple of losses there so far.

I always struggle with passion flowers. I grew a few from seed last year and they were more tender types, so had to be kept indoors. They looked fine until about a fortnight ago but suddenly lost their leaves. However, three out of the four look to have healthy roots, so I have high hopes.

Most of the chillies have survived but three Trinidad Moruga Scorpions look a bit dicey. Fingers crossed…

Agapanthus and geraniums newly potted on
Agapanthus Polar Ice and geraniums newly potted on

Potting on time

The first big watering of the year is messy, as it usually runs right through the gaps at the side of the pot on dry plants. For this reason, I now combine this with a big potting on session.

I started the process with Agapanthus, geraniums, Canna and chillies, either repotting completely if they needed it, top-dressing large pots or ditching anything with no hope left.

I always use peat-free compost, using New Horizon compost this time (mainly because it’s the only peat-free variety my local garden centre sells).

Once the plants are in the soil, each one gets a thorough spray with an eco-pest killer – a plant bought from a nursery brought whitefly in with it!

Then it’s a delicate watering in and keeping an eye out for new growth and pests.

New plants for outdoors

I had a small spending spree with Crocus to fill out my long bed in partial shade, so there are Brunnera Looking Glass (silver leaves, blue flowers), Astrantia Claret (spiky deep red flowers) and Ajuga Catlins Giant (dark purple/green leave with rich blue flowers).

Now for decent weather to get them planted out!

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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