In praise of prickles

This week in the garden

The greenhouse is filling up with small seedlings. We need more space to house them all!  So it is time to move our Agave collection back outside for the year.

Agaves are majestic plants native to South America and Mexico, sometimes known as the ‘century plant’ referring to how long it takes them to reach maturity and start to flower! These desert plants are well adapted to arid conditions where they tolerate the scorching hot days and freezing cold nights of desert regions. However our cool damp weather is something we try to protect them from, (and the risk of rotting) which is why we bring them into the greenhouse to over winter. Now it is time to move them outside again and free up more greenhouse growing space for our young seedlings.  If we are daring we may even tackle the thorny job of dividing some Agaves that have babies by their sides, and potting these out.

The Sensory Bed needs some replenishing with plants we can appreciate by touching cautiously. We will be planting a small number of milk thistles because they are good examples of prickly plants with leaves that are adapted to have defensive spines along them. Even their flower heads are hard to touch because of the encircling protective prickles. These are wonderful examples of prickly plants, just like the Agaves mentioned above. If you were ever in any doubt that some plants have adapted very well to use their leaves as weapons of defence, just come along and help us move these plants!

If you would like to read more about a range of ingenious plant defences, ranging from the spines of Agave, and milk thistles to the Acacia’s aggressive ant inhabited thorns, follow this link.

In the herb garden there is some renovation work to be done. You may have noticed a large metal tub in the corner behind the dye bed. This has become full of rotting leaves. It is time to clean this out and put fresh rain water in it to create an attractive small pool where water plants can thrive.

Our wildlife areas need some attention including a light weed around the pond to remove the invasive grasses that are crowding out other plants. The bog garden beside the pond was weeded last week and now if you look carefully you can see cowslips and primroses in flower.

Cowslips (Primula veris) have distinctive clusters of flowers that hang down in bunches, giving rise to its other common name ‘keys of heaven.’ The name Cowslip may derive from the old English for cow dung and is probably a reference to the fact that this plant is often found growing in manure on cow pastures, or maybe simply refers to the plant’s preference for growing in slippery, boggy ground, hence you will find it in our bog garden!

If you like primroses, more can be found flowering on the fern bank. Primroses, (Primula vulgaris) are woodland flowers that love cool damp banks and thrive in the dappled shade of the woodland edge.

Looking at the pond’s edge you will see another yellow flower, the marsh marigold (Caltha palustris.) A member of the buttercup family, this is another plant that loves damp places, here the margins of the pond. This is a plant we can divide up and add to the little pond in the metal container in the herb garden once we have renovated it.

The last leaky hoses need to be laid.

Wood needs to be prepared for the chipper shredder, which means chopping up into straight sections. Then we can put a fresh layer of wood chip on our garden paths which have been getting rather muddy recently.

There are onion sets to plant in the upper vegetable beds.

Lastly, if the weather turns a bit warmer we can start to sow vegetable seeds outside, including spinach and Swiss chard.

In other BPCG news

Doug is going to explain about the design of our passive greenhouse in the lower garden on Sunday 8th April.  All are welcome to this workshop between 2pm and 3pm.  It’s free but book here

We had a very useful volunteer meeting on 29th March. Here are the minutes.

During the Easter holidays, Monday to Wednesday and on Saturday mornings, Helen and Cathy will be running family workshops.  Most of these are fully booked already which is brilliant!  https://www.brockwellgreenhouses.org.uk/event/

If you know of any budding trainee teachers or indeed of any retired teachers or just of someone interested in working in outdoor play and education for children whether during the holidays or during term-time when we work with schools, do tell them to get in touch with Helen on education@brockwellgreenhouses.org.uk as volunteering with Helen and Cathy is a great way to expand your portfolio of skills with working with kids.

Also…..Helen and Cathy need egg boxes so do bring yours in if you can spare them!

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