Crystal Palace

My beloved wife had offered me a holiday in the Pyrenees as a present for my upcoming 50th birthday. I declined this (I feel little inclined to travel at the moment) but suggested a replacement for our 20-year old, rather rotten, timber greenhouse instead. We opted for a Rhino model with generous extra ventilation after visiting friends of ours who have a similar greenhouse for their alpines. I am truly delighted with the quality of this greenhouse, though apparently it has proven very difficult to gift-wrap.

Darren’s Den 2 – the new Rhino Greenhouse

The greenhouse (Darren’s Den 2) was erected in June but the project has expanded somewhat as my collection of bulbs has now reached the stage where space was becoming a major problem. Consequently, two new Access frames were bought and permanent bases have been built by a builder friend of ours to stand them on. A third Access frame awaits completion of a base and we are now exploring buying a small potting shed (Darren’s Den 3?) as well. It is exciting indeed, though a lot of work when we are both very busy professionally. This has been a bit stressful at times and my poor wife has had to put up with a lot of grumpiness on my part.

I try to repot the bulb collection into fresh substrate every other year. Coincidentally 2016 is a repotting year so the whole collection was moved in crates to the garage. Our friends Abi & Tom Attwood of Abi & Tom’s Garden Plants loaned us a load of stacking crates and provided empty compost bags (for waste soil). Repotting has been occupying any spare time since early June but is now complete. Greenhouse erection was timed for the bulbs’ summer dormancy so that they could easily be moved out of the way. The advantage of repotting at the same time as replacing the greenhouse and frames is that I can have a ‘clean slate’ with regards pests or weeds.

I have now started to replace the bulbs in the greenhouse so they can have a nice warm (hopefully) summer before they are started into growth with a watering in September.

Some winter growing bulbs flower during their summer ‘dormant’ period when they have no leaves and two South African Amaryllids have already begun to flower: Gethyllis villosa and Haemanthus humilis hirsutus.

Gethyllis are the subject of a great article by Paul Cumbleton in the June 2016 edition of the Alpine Garden Society’s bulletin: ‘The Alpine Gardener’. The flowers emerge very suddenly in summer from seemingly empty pots and last just a couple of days. They are interesting rather than spectacular and are followed by curious, fragrant and edible sausage-shaped berries which emerge from below ground along with the new leaves in autumn. Gethyllis are strictly summer dormant and get no water between May and September.


Gethyllis villosa


The Haemanthus is a funny one with regards growing season; it fits neatly into neither the summer-growing or winter-growing categories and tends to start into growth by producing leaves as it flowers in July then goes dormant in March – a bit earlier than the true winter growers and a very similar growth cycle to the succulent genus Conopyhtum which I also grow and which also has a few early flowers around now. This means I start giving it a little water from when I see the flower buds start to emerge in mid-July. The true winter growers will not get any water until September.

Haemanthus humilis ssp hirsutus