In the greenhouse

Today, we’re going to take a peek inside our small greenhouse. We built this from a kit back in April 2014. It’s held up well!

First view inside. Mainly cactus and succulents, but also a few other things that I want to keep alive over winter. The shelves came with the greenhouse and are sort of on their last legs. I was going to make some more robust shelves this winter. We’ll see. Time has a way of passing quickly and I have a backlog of güeva (slothful lassitude) that I want to wallow in.

View to the left and the right. I always dreamed of having a lush greenhouse just overflowing with tweeting birds, frogs, and greenery everywhere. Here is the reality. The oil heater keeps things slightly above freezing, unless the power goes out, which it does quite frequently out here in the boonies.

The only wildlife inside the greenhouse at the moment are the slugs, who threw a party and dined on half of this Gymnocalycium flower bud (left).

Speaking of cactus…Has anyone else ever been disappointed when they’ve grown a cactus for years, and then it finally blooms…and it’s just a meh color? Seems that I often end up with a washed-out, pallid, dirty pink color rather than the vibrant pinks, reds, oranges, greens, and yellows that I really want.

At least Huernia zebrina (right) never disappoints.

Half-eaten Gymnocalycium flower
Huernia zebrina flower

Sigh. I give up on growing Aloe variegata. This is the fifth one, from as many different sources, that has gotten mealybug. This seems to be one of those plants that is impossible to obtain bug-free. An oleander (Nerium oleander) in the large pot in the back as an insurance policy in case the one planted outdoors dies over winter.

An olive (center) that I need to plant out next spring. Agave geminiflora on the lower left and Agave americana ‘Variegata’ to the right.

My variegated Agave is surprisingly heavy and awkward to move in and out of the greenhouse each year (left). It’s in a large terra cotta pot and I end up bleeding a little every time I move it. Totally worth it.

I propagated a whole mass of ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) to try outside in the rock garden this year (right). Surprisingly hardy, I’ve watched one survive the past three winters outdoors in Corvallis. I was a little surprised to find out that ghost plant is native to Mexico – in the back of my mind I was thinking it was African, but then I noted the specific epithet paraguayense, which implies it’s from Paraguay. Surely, there must be a story here, right? Yes, there is! Apparently the plant was discovered among some South American cacti imported into New York back in 1904. The botanists at the time therefore incorrectly assumed it was from Paraguay and the plant was forever misnamed. Native populations have since been found in Tamaulipas in northeastern Mexico. See more over at the In Defense of Plants blog, here. A surprising number of plants from the Chihuahuan desert do well here, so I am going to give it a go and see what happens.

I think that’s it for today’s post. Maybe we’ll dive into the other plants in the greenhouse some other day. I am going to head outside and sort some rock before it starts pouring rain.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Anna K

    That Huernia is quite fantastic looking! Very cool… Sorry about the demise of your budding Gymnocalycium and the mealy-bugged Agave. Maybe slugs can be trained to dine on mealybugs instead… wouldn’t that be great?

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Mealybugs are just one of the reasons I try to keep my plants spaced apart enough so that the leaves don’t touch. Occasionally, I’ve tried to rehab them with some persistence and a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol. Often, it’s not worth it. Scale is worse. I have no tolerance for that insect and infested plants get tossed as soon as I see them. I’ll get busy on training the slugs – I’ve got in mind a circus high wire act with a flying trapeze to help them move more quickly between plants. Should be fun!

  2. Kris P

    I hope your plants enjoy their greenhouse stay. I’ve always wanted a greenhouse myself. I can’t mount a good argument for getting one for the purpose of protecting plants from the cold but it would be useful to have an enclosure that can provide humidity. Tropical and semi-tropical plants aren’t at all happy with the very dry conditions here.

    Thanks for the story about Graptopetalum paraguayense. A similar tale surrounds Scilla peruviana, which sounds like it came from Peru but was actually native to the western Mediterranean region. Linnaeus named the plant based on what he was told by another botanist about a guy he thought got the plant from someone in Peru.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      I do like our greenhouse and it would be a great way to up the humidity for more tropical plants. Our humidity goes pretty bonkers in winter when everything outside is wet. We end up with a lot of problems with Botrytis, a mold that affects seedlings, young leaves, and new flowers. In summer, everything dries out almost too quickly because of how hot it gets inside. I use a shade cloth, but even then, I need to go in every few days to water.

      I just inherited a Scilla peruviana from a friend last winter. That makes two plants that were misnamed in my garden. I wonder how many others I have – could make an interesting post.

  3. Elaine

    I grew 3 Aloe variegata from seed. They became nice average sized plants but never developed a very sturdy root system to were always falling over. They did send up lots of babies so I ripped out the large ones to allow the babes to grow on. Luckily no mealybugs. Your Agave variegata is so worth bringing in every year despite it’s attacks.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Seeds would be one way for me to guarantee that they wouldn’t have mealybugs. I never thought of that. Did they take a long time to grow? Maybe I will try that out.

  4. danger garden

    Well you’ve just torn apart my theory that mealy bugs don’t bother aloes. They LOVE agaves, and don’t mind attacking a bromeliad or two, but I’ve never had them on any of my aloes. I thought it was because of the aloe “gel” inside the leaves (I know wonky theory but it’s not like I spent a lot of time thinking about it).

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Oh, that makes me sad – it would be great if there were some plants that never got them. I wonder if maybe you have a type of mealybug that prefers agaves while I maybe have a different species that prefers aloes?

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