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We use the conservatory to grow a range of tender perennials and houseplants, both in containers and in the borders. Our conservatory is unlike a domestic conservatory in that we have soil borders to allow us to grow larger plants that wouldn't be happy growing as pot plants. The idea is to use these as a framework around which we plant colourful bedding such as poor man's orchid, butterfly flower and morning glory. These fill in gaps and give added colour. Some of the larger plants have been in situ for several years now and they have reached a decent size. We have many climbers in the conservatory such as Pandorea pandorana 'Golden Showers' and Clianthus puniceus 'Roseus' [all of which can be bought from Reads Nursery]. These may sound unusual and they are, because they require precise conditions to grow in this country.

One of the real showstoppers in the conservatory is Abutilon 'Canary Bird'. It's opposite the door and has hundreds of yellow bell-shaped flowers all summer.  It's planted next to Clerodendrum myricoides 'Ugandense' (blue glory bower) which has blue flowers like little butterflies, providing a beautiful combination.

In early spring we also force bulbs such as Narcissus 'Winston Churchill' for early colour and scent and we have also used sweet peas. Our aim is to have colour throughout the season, either from our permanent planting or the seasonal bedding.

Over winter we insulate the conservatory to conserve energy. We try to keep it at a minimum of 10 degrees C although in some years it has dropped to 2-3 degrees C.  Luckily this didn't do any permanent damage.

In the summer we do tend to have problems with red spider mite, so we keep the conservatory well 'damped down' by spraying the floor with water and misting some of the plants. Maintenance of the conservatory does take quite a few hours every week to keep it looking up to scratch. It requires constant watering in the summer and the plants need to be fed and deadheaded on a regular basis to keep them in peak condition. In addition we have to keep an eagle eye out for pests such as whitefly and red spider mite.

Recently we have made some major plant changes in the conservatory. Carole took out a massive jasmine that rampaged across the roof and with it a few plants that had seen better days. That gave us the opportunity to bring in some exciting new plants such as Tibouchina semidecandra and Mackaya bella. These plants were either sourced from specialist nurseries or kindly donated by private individuals.

In 2008, we also decided to add a few more common plants to the conservatory. Jim went down to Dibleys Nurseries in North Wales to select a collection of Streptocarpus. These plants appear to be very exotic, coming in a range of bright colours, but they are fairly easy to care for. He also selected some tiered staging to display the plants on, as previously we didn't have anywhere for smaller plants.


Suppliers:

Nurseries:
Reads Nursery
Tel: 01508 548 395
Web: www.readsnurseries.co.uk 

Dibleys Nurseries
Web: www.dibleys.com

Display staging:
Two Wests and Elliot
Web: www.twowests.co.uk