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Cornucopia - Joe Swift Stole my Thunder

Joe Swift stole my thunder
Margaret Nichol

Before last year the “Gardeners’ World Putting the Garden to Bed Programme” would have me snarling at the screen. The sight of Chris Beardshaw wheeling huge olive trees into a glasshouse nearly the size of my garden and the swaddling of tree ferns in bracken filled cages led to great annoyance at the irrelevance of it for us town dwelling mortals.

Last year I settled down to watch with the reviving glass of red ready to soothe my usual irritation. Joe Swift and Carole Klein used various tactics to protect tender plants, continuously referred to small gardens and even included town gardens in their feature. At last Gardeners’ World seems to have realised that the majority of us have small plots.

I use three methods to protect tender plants through the winter.

I’ve acquired a collection of agapanthus which are still small. I don’t feel that they are ready to risk leaving out through a winter. They and any other short plants are stood on a couple of layers of twinwall plastic, courtesy of grape boxes from the supermarket. Then they are covered with a twinwall plastic 'slot together' cloche. This has flanges that can be pegged or weighted down with bricks. I use 21 plastic milk bottles filled with water which gives insulation but allows light through. The water is poured on the garden in the spring and the bottles are recycled. I haven’t lost an agapanthus in the last five years.

Shrubby plants in the ground, like Leptospermum 'Red Damask', are surrounded by a cage of ½” grid clematis net. They have to take their chance - the whole of my garden is visible from the back windows so I don’t want ghostly upright fleece pillars in view. There seems to be just enough protection even without a fleece jacket.

Really tender potted plants like the cannas and some pittosporums do get a bit more protection. I wrap only the pot with bubble wrap then surround the whole plant with a clematis net cage. This is covered with a double layer of fleece tied and pegged to the net. These spend the winter between the kitchen wall and the sitting room bay window. My chair has its back to these so they aren’t too noticeable. In an ideal world the fleece covering would be taken off on fine days and replaced on cold nights but the reality is that it stays all winter. The fleece comes off in the spring, so far very little has died.

First published in the North East Group Newsletter, October 2008
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 24
© Copyright for this article: Margaret Nichol

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2009. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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