Thursday, January 21, 2010

What if You Had a Little Greenhouse?

Several visitors commented on Bloom Day how lucky to have a greenhouse. With DH's help, I turned my wish into a greenhouse. It isn't as cute as an improvisational carpentry shed would have been. The old windows I'd saved for years went with the scrap man because we just are not up to that kind of DIY building any more. Instead we bought a 10x12 Harbor Freight greenhouse made of aluminum with polycarbonate panels for the glazing, in 2007.

 Begonias and pentas are among the stars that tend to bloom all season. They came from the summer garden, either dug and potted or as cuttings.  There's a little bit of licorice plant, too.

The greenhouse came in a box, in a million pieces. I will spare the details of the assembly in the garage out of the wind and how the wind lifted it off the trailer when we hauled it around to set it in place. The directions are confusing. Reading every post of every person on Garden Web who ever assembled one was very enlightening. Most reinforced the basic GH in some way. Every base was different, but sturdy. Ours is fastened to t-posts driven into the ground. It stayed put in a windstorm that tore limbs off the cedar tree behind it.

Potting Bench

Interior and Walkway Photobucket

There is a base for the water barrels and potting bench and a walkway of concrete stepping stones with bricks to piece the irregular spaces. The rest of the floor has cypress mulch. I've been using seed pods as a decorative mulch lately as I clean seeds. I found little wood slat walkways made in Russia at an import store for the larger open spaces. They can be taken up to put transplants into the ground if needed.

epi tree pics, 2008 The epi tree is a curved dry cedar limb that supports plants with long dangling limbs like the night blooming Cereus. No epiphytes actually live on the 'tree' because the GH is empty during the summer.  Potted epis and syngoniums spend the summer outside in shade.                               
Night blooming cereus with tiny buds
Cereus and Syngonium

2009 photo: plants move in for the winter, before the Christmas Cactus bloomed.
The post about moving in is HERE. You read it before, I had forgotten what I said.

January 2010 Bloom Day photo.

Here are notes from my Greenhouse files:
Desirable Plants for which to Search:
Best Azaleas for GH forcing
Forcing hydrangea
Acalpha pendula
'Goodwin Creek Grey' lavender (put in 7" pot)

Made a note to Look for:
Dwarf Gardenia for GH
Rosemary standards 10" stem, 5" pot

Vowed to Take Cuttings:
Porterweeds -- long pieces, keep in water, root the tops in late winter in soil.
Pentas -- pot up and take cuttings as well.
Persian Shield for the color. Keeping pots of PS for winter, grow on through summer, bumping up.
Alternanthera -- cuttings in water are sufficient in winter.
Not sure if Licorice Plant is hardy, may need to pot some of it.
Salvias: Mexican Bush Sage and Pineapple Sage, lots of cuttings.
Need to root and pot up Pentas ahead of cold weather. Potted, well rooted plants will live over winter in the GH and be a good start in the garden, April 15. Only the Rose pentas returned in the garden in 2009.
Lemon Grass Too much room for too little gain, but one pot for Ikey to chew might be good.
Rosemary -- standards in 4" pots
Airplane plants
Begonias: some will already be potted. Worked well last year to pull out of urns and put in hanging basket containers.
Arrowhead vine (Syngonium) next to 'epi tree'
Plants of Black Pearl peppers -- this would be a good choice to start plants.
Black Magic colocasia -- dig pieces.
Porterweeds can be long pieces that grow in water until late winter, then cut off and root the tops.
Hedychiums are not evergreen. Can take pieces of Variegated Shell Gingers, Cardamon Gingers.
Keeping Heliconias and BOP in pots for the summer, can go inside for winter.

*Anthurium, bought July 10, 2009
*Areca palms, also July 10. Small.
*Red Emerald Philodendron, July 19, 2009, gallon pot or larger.
Amaryllis -- get some new bulbs to force.
Hyacinths -- force a few.

Need another bag of river stones, this time slightly larger stones.
Pineapple Sage, take cuttings in the fall. Need lots of these.
Lots of cuttings of Blue Porterweed, long stems in vases. Keep cutting off bottoms until Spring, then root in soil.
Cuttings of alternanthera can spend the wiinter in water.
Not sure how long Persian Shield will persist in winter.
--Sometimes I repeat myself. If I hear it enough times, I might do it.

Heat: Electric heaters, two small ones with thermostats set. Without heat, the inside will be the same temp as the outside by morning on freezing nights. The recent prolonged temps in the 20s F were not usual. This is zone 8b. Ordinarily we have freezing temps for a very brief period just before daybreak. The sun warms everything quickly.

Before I had the greenhouse, I kept the epiphyllums in the unheated laundry room with what cuttings I could squeeze in and I started hyacinths in the sink. I trundled seedlings in and out of the tool shed when the weather began to warm a little but there was still chance of frost. It's all fun.

There's a poll on the sidebar for seedlings and potted things, how you manage.
What would you do with a hobby greenhouse?


  1. You didn't have a selection to cover where I do my winter growing. I have a 12-flat grow-light stand. It is on a back porch that is heated only if I open a house door so it is cooler that the rest of the house.

    I have decided that it is less expensive for me to do it this extra heating is required.

    I would use a greenhouse more as a hardening-off protected area. We have lots of very cold days in my Zone 6 area!

    I still want one.....just not quite as much.

    I have had a DIY hoophouse made of PVC and made great use of it during the early spring months or for overwintering hardy perennials in pots.

    I still have my stack of old storm windows!

  2. Wow Nell, your little greenhouse is fantastic, and you fill it nicely. What a joy it must be to work in. Living down here, I don't need a GH, I did bring in orchids when we had that cold spell, everything else stayed outside.


  3. I wish I had room for one in our backyard. Right now our garage has a few potted plants that I had room for and I covered the agave. It is kind of a pain covering everything up. What ever survived will stay and I will think twice when I plant something in its place.

  4. As I read your post I turned from a nice fleshy tone to emerald green. I am so jealous!

  5. Nell Jean, I have a few, a very few windowsills, and that's it! A greenhouse would be a great addition one day, though truthfully right now I don't have the time to look after all that would fill it. Yours looks wonderful.

  6. If I had a little greenhouse, I'd want a bigger one. Instead, I take cuttings and keep them in the heated basement under lights all winter. I absolutely agree with your pineapple sage idea: Everyone needs lots. This year I also have seeds for those.

    The hoophouse, like gld, is temporary and gets stored in the basement for the summer. I use it to start seeds during the coldest months. I don't heat it. The seedlings are tough and can take the cold. On sunny days, it can heat up fast. On cloudy days, it stays a few degrees warmer than the outside air.

    I do want an actual greenhouse/potting shed. I've got windows in the basement, begged from a guy in front of me at the landfill one afternoon a couple years ago. I'm still searching for sliding glass doors for the roof. Treated lumber will be used to construct the frame. Cinder blocks will be made into the floor. Somewhere, I'll have to carve out a small space in the already packed yard for it. One day.

  7. I like your greenhouse! I might go for one similar to it someday but for now the one I'm building will do since it will house our lawn equipment too.

  8. All of the plants in your greenhouse look wonderful -- you're certainly putting your greenhouse to good use!

    I try to get everything in the ground during the winter (I finished putting the last of my rose seedlings in the ground the first of the year) and just bring my Christmas cactus in as needed. Sometimes I wish I had a greenhouse, although I want a hay shelter even more.

  9. What fun it was to read your notes from your Greenhouse files. It made me think that I need to quit writing notes on little scraps of paper (that I eventually lose) and keep them in a more orderly fashion.

    Great post.


  10. My husband bought me the HF 6x8 greenhouse for Christmas. We've not had time to put it up but I found SO much information on it on the web. There is a whole blog dedicated to setting up these greenhouses that I am following closely since they have the experience. I can't wait to get mine up but am taking my time. I'll be sealing the panels, fixing a study base and so on. I hope it will be up soon as it is nearly time to stat seeds. I'll be using mine for overwintering cuttings, some tropicals and starting seedlings. I plan to heat it and I think that it will work out well-especially with all the good advice from others on the web. Right now my plants are all in my garage (unheated). They are fine even though the temp dropped to 40 degrees. I can easily keep a greenhouse to that I hope! Your greenhouse is most nice! Lots of room. I'd like to have a bigger one but this one is actually a few feet bigger than the plastic flower house I had in the spot before so it will work fine. Maybe it'll keep me from collecting too many plants?:)

  11. Glenda, I don't know why I sent the growlights to the basement. These polls are not exactly prepared by a rocket scientist. It was hard to let the old windows go, but we're having to be practical these days.

    Flower Lady, aren't we glad the cold spell ended. Now we're under a tornado watch after a night of thunderstorms and copious water.

    Amy, I've given up covering plants outside. If I plant tomatoes early, I might put an upside bucket over them on cold nights, but I'm not spreading row cover and burlap and such.

    Joene, Joene, it's just a cheap import thing. I'd really like one of those fancy ones made for show.

    Helen, it does take time. Maybe when you retire?

    Tom, it was your basement where I thought of the grow lights. I kept pictures of really swell potting shed arrangements for years. You will get to it one day, yes.

    Dave, I was envious of your DIY project, but we have toolsheds for the equipment, repurposed and renovated buildings and such.

    Sweet Bay, I spent my formative years with Mama's Christmas Cactus by my bed, breathing on it to keep it warm enough to bloom. A hay shelter is much more useful than a greenhouse when you have animals.

    Donna! Infrequently, I take a stack of little paper scraps and transpose all that scratch to computer files, crossing off as I go. The hardest part is getting all of it done. I put a To-Do list on my sidebar after I saw Tom's.

  12. I was fascinated to read of the trials and tribulations of owning a glasshouse. I really do not think that I could have coped!

    Thank you so much for your comment on my posting where I have left a reply.

  13. What a great space for your plants. Now I wish I had one!

  14. If I had a greenhouse, I would grow as much food as possible. I made a small cold frame that I will be able to put starters in earlier in the season. But with a full on greenhouse, I would go crazy. Nice Post. -James

  15. Hello Nell,

    I love the old cedar limb with epiphytes hanging down. I do not have a greenhouse....I don't see too many in our area. But, I enjoy seeing what people grow in theirs.

  16. What a very tidy greenhouse. I really like your potting bench. Mine is more of a work space for seeds but next winterI am hoping to have more tender plants flowering in there

  17. Your greenhouse is certainly packed to the rafters Nell. I have had a greenhouse for some years now and got a new larger one last year. I use it mainly for seed sowing in the spring and then as a home for overwintering seedlings and cuttings. Would not be without it :)

  18. If I had a Greenhouse I would lose it to my children and the cats. Oh, I would have great plans, all organized and planned out, but as soon as it was up my daughter would want to decorate it. The cats would decide it was the greatest place they had ever seen - and my wife would want to fill it up with stuff.

  19. A greenhouse is something I've always wanted. In this yard we just don't have the right place for one. I have a greenhouse window in the kitchen that I use to start my seeds. Yours is so nice and full of so many pretty plants, lucky!

  20. I've admired your greenhouse ever since I first heard your tales of/pictures of using it so successfully.

    If I had a greenhouse... no one would ever hear from me again! I'd stop blogging because I'd be there all winter and out in the garden all summer.


  21. NellJean, great looking greenhouse. We had to tear ours down and are in the process of rebuilding it. Sure hope we get it done soon 'cause I'm itching to start our vegetables.

  22. Oh how I would love a little greenhouse. I'd certainly start loads of seedlings and be able to winter over more plants. A little corner with a desk and comfy chair for garden dreaming would make it a perfect getaway.

  23. Very inspiring! Yours even looks like a sunroom attached to your house. Everything is so neet and lush. I too have the collection of old windows started. hmmmm, I think I may need to see if Santa wouldn't mind putting one of those up one day soon instead. Although I am sure the assembly is not a fun part of the whole thing.

  24. I would use one to overwinter just as you are doing. It looks like you have it "stuffed to the gills," which is exactly as it should be.
    In my dream world, I'd love a conservatory ~ big enough to breakfast in, have a small pond in and a zillion plants, of course! In the meantime, the glass block (south-facing) bathroom window is serving as my greenhouse. It's working remarkably well so I'm satisfied.

  25. This is what a greenhouse should be like. I don't have one but heating and energy is so expensive in the UK that I would never be able to keep it warm enough to overwinter many of my favourite plants. You have so much packed in here Nell I wonder how you have room to turn. Its just beautiful as I said in the GBD post. We grow pentas here as houseplants and they really do flower a long time.Rosie


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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