Sian Napier

02 Jun 2022 09:29

Clearing the garden to fulfill the greenhouse dream

Diary of an Expectant Greenhouse Gardener: Part 2

Clearing the way:

The greenhouse is on its way and now it’s time for the hard work to begin, in clearing and preparing the ground where it will finally stand. Ideally a greenhouse should be positioned with its longest edge running from east to west. This provides the maximum daily sunlight which optimizes plant growth throughout the year. Avoid placing the greenhouse too close to trees as they provide too much shade and there is always the risk of damage through falling branches smashing the glass and wet leaves permanently staining the wood. If possible, a free-standing greenhouse should have a clear space around it to allow for cleaning and maintenance.

As gardens go, I think that ours is a reasonable size, not massive at 80ft x 80ft or 576m2, but there is room for a nice sized greenhouse. The more compact gardens found with new build homes can still accommodate a greenhouse which come in a large range of shapes and sizes including lean to’s, shed and greenhouse combinations and cold frames. My eldest son is desperate for an upright cold frame for the balcony of his flat.

Our garden is mostly laid to lawn with flower and shrub borders. Just under a third of the garden is taken up with an area of raised vegetable beds, which badly need updating, it is behind here where I would like to position the new greenhouse.

The first job will be to replace and relocate our very old and neglected chicken run. There is a small area of garden behind the run, which once upon a time was supposed to be a useful space to store a trailer and a pile of Blue Lias stone which was going to come in very handy one day??? It was meant to be out of sight.... well, it certainly is now, nothing is visible except for the nettles and brambles that have invaded from next doors garden and are consuming everything.

I decided that I needed to employ some muscle in the form of our two youngest sons, Ed and Harry, [they are both 6ft tall plus, so this should be a doddle for them]. At first, they refused to help as they both hate gardening, or manual work of any kind to be honest but after a substantial financial bribe and a takeaway pizza they were on board. They bashed and battered the old chicken run with sledgehammers and were quickly filling the skip we’d hired with 50 plus foot of chicken wire, old posts, brambles and the rubble parts of the essential Blue Lias and the old chicken run was no more by lunch time.

Our three remaining hens were having a grand day out destroying my borders, returning occasionally to suddenly put themselves in mortal danger from a flying sledgehammer and to offer advice.

After lunch it was time to tackle the jungle, one of my sons commented that roses were viscous and scratchy and why did I grow them. When I pointed out that he was clearing brambles he responded that they were the same thing and equally evil in their nature. [Not a horticulturist then].

I shouldn’t complain though, they worked really hard, dragging nettles, brambles and rubble to the heaving skip and by the end of the day the ground was cleared. The garden looked twice the size and I was starting to see the potential space for the new green house. There is still a lot to do but for now its time to sit down and enjoy the pizza.

After a very long wait, my greenhouse is coming and she is beautiful, she will sit elegantly and in pride of place amongst my raised vegetable beds. She is a Wisely plant house made by Gabriel Ash.

I’ve chosen this greenhouse for its traditional design, made from sustainable Canadian cedar which mellows with age. It also boasts over 2 meters in height which should allow me to train a grape vine along its roof space and accommodate a lemon tree at one end. You see, I have visions of myself relaxing at the end of the day with a gin and tonic made with a lemon from my own tree.

Surprisingly my husband has now shown an interest and would like a small woodburning stove in one corner, just warm enough to take the edge off, so we can sit out on chilly evenings or stay dry and cosy during rainstorms [or for him to escape from the chaos at family gatherings for a cheeky cigar]. The greenhouse can become an extension of the house, where we can chill out, relax and even entertain on a small scale. I have visions of fairy lights and candles as we sip wine under the vine and enjoy a tomato salad that’s freshly picked and made with home grown basil.

If I sound a little enthusiastic, it’s because I am genuinely excited by this greenhouse and the prospects of home grown produce and plant propagation. I’m looking forward to creating a sanctuary in which to potter and nurture plants and myself at the end of a busy day. Maybe a little space for my yoga mat.

There is one small stumbling block however...in that, the spot in the garden where I plan to site this haven of tranquility is currently an overgrown dilapidated old chicken run, including a rusty old trailer, a ton of rubble, loads of nettles and brambles along with a rather large bay tree. Not to mention, a rotting garden fence that needs replacing.


Read Sian's next diary entry here or find Sian's complete diary here

Om Sian Napier

Sian Napier is a freelance garden designer and gardener with over 15 years professional horticultural experience to build beautiful garden spaces for her clients using plants to create movement, texture and all year season colour and interest.

Follow her journey of living with a Gabriel Ash Greenhouse and learn about different aspects of growing through the seasons.

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