Sian Napier

18 Dec 2023 11:58

Season’s Greetings from the Greenhouse


In my last blog I described my attempts to create a winter paradise in my greenhouse, but within a couple of days of installing my tropical oasis the weather forecast predicted severe night-time frosts, with temperatures below minus four.


Surviving the Frost

To survive the frost, I lit candles, and had a paraffin heater burning permanently. My pelargoniums were given extra protection by being draped in horticultural fleece, which worked well.  But on the first morning I discovered that ice had developed on the inside of the greenhouse and the wick of the paraffin heater had dropped off into the fuel container and was totally useless. I made the decision to move all the tropical plants into the house until the risk of frost had passed and I came up with a better solution.


A New Heater

To be honest the paraffin heater was old, so a new model would have been far more effective, but the paraffin smell was very strong and totally overpowered the greenhouse.  I ordered a tubular 120w Electric Greenhouse Heater and while I waited for its arrival, I tried putting 2 long burn candles under terracotta pots as an experiment. The pots did warm up nicely and gave off quite a bit of heat. Not enough to protect from heavy frosts but warm enough to give some protection.

When the electric heater arrived and the risk of frost passed, I moved the plants back out into the greenhouse. So far, they seem to be doing okay. As I had no power in the greenhouse, I had to run an extension cable through the kitchen window, along the veg plot and into the greenhouse.


Winter Paradise

When I come home from work, it’s nice to light the fire in the greenhouse, make a cup of tea and do a bit of pottering about before the sun sets, which doesn’t give me much time. I managed to finish work a little earlier and decided it was time to pot on some pelargonium cuttings that I had acquired from a client four weeks earlier, which had been sitting quite happily in a filled watering can, waiting for some attention. I had bought these pelargoniums for this client about four years ago and had successfully managed to keep them going by taking cuttings and overwintering them in their greenhouse. They don’t produce very exciting flowers, but their leaves have a wonderful scent, which reminds me of Turkish Delight.


Preparing the Cuttings

To prepare the cuttings, I chose several nice healthy stems and removed any yellow leaves, I also removed the leaves from the bottom part of the stem. I then cut through the stem below a leaf node to approximately 10-15cm in length. At this point it could be worth dipping the stem in some root hormone, but it isn’t always necessary, and I didn’t have any. The cuttings are then placed into pots containing compost, usually two or three to a pot and given a light watering. The soil needs to be moist but as they are at risk of frost it is best to water only when necessary. They like a warm sunny position, and I will be ready to fleece them should the temperatures drop. Hopefully, I will have eight new plants to pot on in the spring.


Christmas Decorations

I also took this time to make some Christmas table decorations, using terracotta pots and some pretty cyclamen, ivy, hellebores and sempervivums. I planted out the pots and then used candles in smaller pots as a center piece. A pillar candle surrounded by green moss can be equally effective. The larger pot is going into the house, whilst the small white one is going to be a table center piece for me to enjoy out here.

What I need now is a little bit of Christmas sparkle. I asked my son Harry to get our Christmas decorations down from the loft and whilst he got them for me, I filled my greenhouse shelving with ivy and mistletoe, which we draped with the fairy lights. I’m really pleased with the results, and it was a good job that the extension cable I bought for the electric heater had a double plug.

It’s feeling really festive in here now and with the house about to be full, I think this will be the perfect place to escape to, for a little bit of peace and quiet over Christmas. I can see us sat here with the fire lit, a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine.

Though, I still need to buy some cushions for these cold metal chairs.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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.

Get to know Sian Napier