Q.I have at last been given my own greenhouse! However, there’s always a snag isn’t there! I want to grow something ‘special and easy’ in the greenhouse long term; but not a grape vine or peach tree.
Do you have any other suggestions?
(P.P, 22 April 2009)
A.The first and most important point to consider when answering this question is whether your greenhouse is heated or not. This will have a profound effect on what perennial plant you choose to grow, and whether your chosen plant will thrive.
If you want to grow something ‘special and easy’, a heated greenhouse should make that job a bit easier. If your greenhouse is unheated, it might be a case of trial and error, as a greenhouse situated in a ‘warm’ corner of the garden might still prove a success with long-term plants that need moderate temperatures all year round. Remember, for the cooler UK winter months, you can always insulate your greenhouse internally with a layer of bubblewrap or horticultural fleece. Alternatively, you may wish to invest in a portable heater – but only as a short-term solution, as they can be very costly and energy inefficient.
In terms of selecting a plant, some popular and interesting choices are the many species of banana plants available. The Snow Banana (Ensete glaucum) is one of the more hardy varieties, and may do better in unheated greenhouses. Typically it has large, luscious, glaucous (frosted-looking) leaves, and is a fantastic architectural plant. However, it can grow up to 10ft, although this can be reduced if you keep it in a pot to restrict its growth. Banana plants can be grown from seed, but do take a few months to germinate, so are definitely a long-term solution.
Another exotic but slightly more intensive plant is the Bat Plant (Tacca chantrierei). The plant flowers after two years to reveal eye-like blooms and filament ‘whiskers’. The Bat Plant will grow up to around 3ft, so may be suitable for smaller greenhouses. If this plant is a little to ‘out there’ for your tastes, alternatively a Bird of Paradise plant may be more to your liking.
If you’re more interested in something a bit more sprawling and floral, passionflowers are also a great alternative for long-term growth in the greenhouse. Passiflora alata produces stunning, sweet-smelling flowers, but the bonus with this plant is that it also produces edible fruits. The downside to growing this passionflower is that it may require a heated greenhouse to flourish. Alternatively, any other passionflower available in your local garden centre or nursery should do well inside your greenhouse as a perennial climber.