Notes from the Garden – the Conservatory

Matthew Biggs

gardenOne of the most exciting things about gardening is the joy of growing something unusual and we know a man who knows a thing or two about doing just that – and has some great tips to help us follow in his green footsteps!  Matt Biggs shares his top tips for turning your conservatory into a little piece of Eden.

Some unusual plants can be a little on the delicate side and so having a conservatory or a green house does give you a good start. Personally, I am a big fan of the beautiful Victorian glasshouses stuffed to the rafters with all sorts of exotic greenery, and a visit to Kew is sure to have you writing copious lists!  However, if a full-size date palm is a bit beyond you there are some smaller but equally beautiful plants that will enhance your conservatory and give you that hint of the Med. when the sun is being a little shy!

It is worth bearing in mind that whilst the conservatory is a great place for plants, in full sun they can easily burn through glass so a little judicious shading will save scorching and if you keep a little heat all through the year not only will you enjoy your conservatory, but your plants will too and so here are some suggestions to turn your conservatory into a green and pleasant place.

The olive tree has become a ‘must have’ for many people, redolent of summer holidays it is now easy to find in garden centres and nurseries and, depending on your space, you can opt for a small standard or go the whole hog and buy a whopper!  They can be pruned any which way, so you really can find one or create on that fits and they don’t loose a lot of leaves either, and those that do fall are small and easily cleared up.  The flowers are tiny and green – and you can watch and wait for your first harvest!

Continuing the edible theme, citrus plants are really popular, with wonderfully scented white flowers and if you chose a good variety such as Meyer’s lemon you should be able to pick a lemon for your summer G&T, though watch out for the spines which, perhaps surprisingly, they also have.

If you want a real show stopper then bougainvilleaprovides just that in sunny shocking pinks, apricots and mauves and the delightful Trachelospermumjasminoides with its highly scented white star shaped flowers is another winner. 

The wonderful thing about a green house or a conservatory is that it allows you to be just that bit more adventurous, propagate your own plants and save money and in the case of a conservatory or orangery gives you a place to sit surrounded the essence of summer – even when it is grey and chilly outside!

For more inspiration check out Matt’s latest book ‘Incredible Edibles’ by DK published in March or visit his website