Thursday, 28 October 2010

Love in a cold frame

Morning! Now, I'm not the world's best carpenter and the closest thing I have to a set square is a CD cover but, having spent £70 on a (small) cold frame to use as a bulb frame from a company I'd better not mention for legal reasons I found myself needing not only the former but also an expensive electric drill on Tuesday.

Well, that's the first two bits hanging precariously together
Can you tell what it is yet?
That must be the roof: 4 bits of wood (no pre-drilled holes or joints or anything useful like that and a of sheet of clear plastic with the corner broken off

And, hey presto, dry bulbs. Note mess in bottom right corner where plastic had smashed in transit. Not what I expected and not even what was pictured in the catalogue which at least had pre-prepared joints to keep the roof square, rather than the four unprepared bits of unfinished wood I got. Rubbish! Actually, you can't libel someone by telling the truth: the company are called (pretentiously) Creative Garden Ideas. I'd go to Argos if I were you

When I placed the order I was expecting to receive a bit more than four roughly hewn, unfinished sides and four batons and a cracked piece of clear plastic. In fact I had rather expected it to arrive already built, what with it only being 50 x 80 x 50cm. I would have sent it back but my need for a cold frame to protect my juno, oncocyclus, regalia and other arilbred irises from the winter wet is pressing so I made the best of a bad lot and spent £30 on a drill and set about making a mess of this living room (it was raining outside, further reason for urgency as upturned clear plastic storage boxes are not ideal for protecting very expensive bulbs from Central Asia.

I didn't make a brilliant job but it seems to be holding together and, more importantly, keeping the elements off the bulbs, stolons and rhizomes so I can start a strict watering regime, the only problem being that I don't really know what that should be. The oncocyclus and regalia will start in January (they're dormant right now) and the arilbreds should begin then too although two of the hybrids have come out of dormancy in error so I think I'm just going to have to keep them ticking over with the odd water, probably when I do the Fritillarias which will be getting a good monthly soak until they begin to break the surface when I'll start watering normally. All have slow release feed in the compost but the Irises in particular are greedy so a few extra feeds with a tomato fertiliser will do no harm, and are essential after flowering if you want a repeat next year and offsets.

Well, I'm off to the Post Office depot to pick up a parcel that was too big to fit through the letter box. It's usually something really dull like a bank card but that would fit through the slot and the little red card that should usually read "We couldn't be bothered to ring your bell, walk miles to the sorting office, which is only open in the morning" but actually said "parcel too big for letter slot" so I can only assume it's more plants, possibly even a few more to squeeze into the frame  from Paul Christian Rare Plants, I've gone for some of the reasonably easy (I use the word relatively, these hot-climate Irises from Turkey eastwards almost to India  are extremely fussy in our climate and are very susceptible to pathogens that thrive in damp (and that's damp by Caucasian standards, not British!).

Iris stolonifera (yes, it spreads by means of stolon: long, root-like structures, not to be confused with rhizomes) is a fine looking regalia type (the group is marginally more easy to keep going than the oncocycluses, and consequently not quite as mind-blowing. Just stunning.)

Iris stolonifera

More precious than any diamond (and about the same price): Iris nicolai

With the juno irises it's price rather than space that's keeping my collection manageable: a flowering-size Iris nicolai would set you back the best part of £30 and that's quite a lot for something that will probably get botrytis and turn into a something resembling a seed potato at harvest time! I did however go for Iris orchioides at a more affordable £6.

Iris Orchioides

Fritillaria bucharica

Notholirion bulbiferum

So, hopefully I will shortly be the proud owner of the above (minus Iris Nicolai, sadly)...

... No, it was another order, a couple of Asiatic Lilies and Iris reticulata "Natascha" from J Parker. Not entirely disappointing; "Natascha" is a lovely little thing, an almost white version of the common spring blue job:

The post hasn't been today so who knows, perhaps the rest will turn up, I did get an email saying it had been dispatched so fingers crossed!

Stop press: Delivery from Blooms: Fritillaria pudica, F. Michailovskyi multiflorum and F. Davisii

Now where the hell am I going to put them?

Happy gardening , the plantboy x


  1. Well, I'm poxed up with glandular fever, but sat in my garage I have the materials to make my coldframe which cost me under a tenner, although I did get given the horticultural perspex. I'll do a blog when I feel well enough to make it! Those Irises look fantastic!

  2. Ah shit, get well soon mate. I really have no idea what to do about watering the junos and oncocyclus so if you have any success do let me know! take care of those glands, chris