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Alpine Blooms

Hoop Houses and Plastic Houses

Ah winter, the time of defrosting your car in the morning and ice skating in the court yard of your office. While all normal people are going skiing during their weekends we are busy putting up tunnel houses and sowing seeds while hoping and praying that they will come up and not freeze to death. The time when frost cloths are your best friends and any sun is welcome. It is also the quiet time. No need for irrigation, no need for weeding and no pests to bug your flower babies. It certainly feels like quiet before the storm hits.

So in these quiet months what shall we talk about? I’ve asked my friend and website whizz for advice. What would she like to read about? And she said: talk about the green house and why you have seeds and bulbs going early. So here it comes…

Working with flowers is an ultimate goal for me and I would love to make it a full time job for myself in the future. But the thing with full time jobs is that they need to go all year around and they need to produce the income all year around. Well Central Otago climate does not agree with this concept especially when we are talking about flowers. Frosty conditions and freezing nights will wipe out any attempts on growing beautiful Dahlias and Cornflowers and Zinnias and will stop even the toughest little things like Calendula in their tracks. My original goal for this winter was to have some winter hardy plants flowering by the end of August and now that I am here I don’t think it will happen. Seeds that went up in Autumn are still only small. Yes they are doing great and are healthy but they stopped growing and wintering over waiting for the day to become longer and for the weather to warm up. So this is where my little hoop houses and Glasshouse are coming into play. This year they are protecting all the little seedlings from harsh frosts and cold conditions. All winter hardy plants are in the tunnels happily waiting for spring, while in the Glasshouse I have a variety of summer annuals coming up as well as some perennials and biannual. I am hoping that having that little winter time will be beneficial for plants like Delphinium and Fox Glove as they usually need a full season before they decide to flower.

As it is my first year of growing I am happy to report that some experiments of mine are not doing so well while others are working like a treat. I have sowed 200 Dahlia plants from seed and happy to report that 2 weeks later the seeds were all coming up and growing like crazy. Dahlias do not come true to their variety from seed so these 200 babies are going to be all different from each other. I am hoping that some of them will produce wonderful flowers that people will love. On the other hand the ones that will not be so popular can be sold as tubers in autumn to local gardeners that might find them appealing.

My other little experiment is trying to get perennials up and running from seed. One honourable mention is Achillea which was sown straight into the ground in late Autumn and it is not only going up but also grew well and is now wintering over under the tunnel house. I can’t wait for bunches of little white ball flowers to appear through the season. Other perennials are not doing so well however they are testing my patience. Geum was sitting in the ground for a long time and was not willing to come up and all of a sudden it was up and growing in seed trays, so they are all almost ready to go into the ground. I will keep them in the seed trays for a bit longer to give them a good fighting chance against frosts. And Astilbe is really testing my patience and is sitting in seed trays with no seedlings anywhere to be seen. I have been told that they needed winter freezing conditions and then warm spring to even attempt growing so I shall wait.

So tunnel houses and glass house are all full of seedlings or seed trays for now. They are a great chance to jump ahead of the season with things like Dahlias growing already. My hope in the future to have a small heated and lit up glasshouse where I can have things blooming all winter. This will take some investment like Solar panels to supply power and heating for the glasshouse as well as better glass/plastic to potentially make it a double glazed area for flowers. I don’t want to go into hydroponic growing like I saw in many bigger growers but it might be interesting to try one day. So at this stage it is all pretty simple, working with seasons to create the best possible flowers. I am still hoping for some flowers to come up in the end of August, however they are going to be the expected ones like Daffodils. And trust me I have heaps of them coming. So for everyone who is reading my little newsletters, please feel free to contact me and let me know what you would like to see me talk about, or grow, I am always looking for things to add to my flower collection. Sneak peek for next release… I have ordered Lilies! They are glorious and although I only have a few of each variety and in some cases only 1 bulb I am hoping to multiply my collection through the years to come.