Books are a gift which if chosen with care and thought for the recipient are bound to delight. The list suitable for greenhouse owners may be smaller than most gardening categories, but here follows a selection of three tried and trusted guides, which are of interest for a beginner or seasoned grower alike.
The Greenhouse Expert
Ask any gardener which gardening book was their first and the majority will probably cite one from the ‘Expert’ series. The Greenhouse Expert is another no-nonsense guide in the series which takes the reader through the choice and practicalities of setting up their greenhouse or conservatory.
Around a third of the book summarises the variety of popular tender plants which will thrive under cover, in both the ornamental and culinary categories (fruit and vegetables).
The next section is all about greenhouse care, followed by the plant troubles most commonly seen. The final chapter is a monthly calendar which shows the main tasks to complete, plus the plants expected to be making their finest display.
Like all ‘Expert’ books this is a volume packed with information, in a very accessible format.
At first glance Alan Titchmarsh’s guide may seem to cover the same ground as The Greenhouse Expert. However, good sections looking at the design, siting and erection of a greenhouse means this book offers quite a lot of new information. A look at cold frames and polytunnels also widens the range of options considered for growing under cover.
There are sections on composts, containers and techniques too, and whilst these are also applicable to non-greenhouse growers, it does mean the reader has all the information they need in one volume.
The sections on plant choice and problems are shorter in this guide, but there are some good summary charts which help to ensure the information remains of value. Many of the plants are grouped, so there are sections on growing an alpine collection and flowers for cutting as well as the usual suspects. The accompanying pictures are often chosen for their inspirational or context setting qualities.
A seasonal calendar brings the guide to its close. This is another no-nonsense book, which has a more contemporary feel in its outlook.
Many greenhouse owners like to specialise in the type of ornamental plants they grow. Some choose exotic carnivorous plants, for others a more gentle sounding collection of alpines appeals.
Another popular choice these days is orchids, which have grown in popularity after the introduction of micro-propagation techniques made them more available and accessible to the grower’s pocket. However, orchids have a reputation for being hard to make flower again, hence the reassuring title Judy White has chosen for her volume.
The key to making orchids re-bloom is to understand the conditions in which they grow in the wild. This forms the book’s introduction, along with the author’s ten top tips for growing orchids.
The bulk of the book concentrates on the 50 plants the author recommends. Each has a double page spread consisting of a large single-page image accompanied by a brief summary on the plant’s ease of cultivation, plus its specific requirements and a grower’s checklist.
The descriptive narrative between these elements has many nuggets of information, stories about a plant’s origins and notes on fragrance (often of particular interest to orchid growers). Note the author and publisher are American, so expect a more informal style of writing which does not detract from the value of the information given.
The Cattleya and Phalaenopsis examples described are widely available today and should encourage the reader to take the plunge. Other cultivars may need a visit to a specialist nursery or to the RHS’s orchid show in the spring to obtain supplies, if anyone needs an excuse to go!
Whilst much information can be found via the internet these days, it would take a search over many sites and pages to accumulate all the information squeezed between the covers of any of these good value and accessible books.
The Greenhouse Expert by Dr D G Hessayon
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Transworld Publications Ltd (3 Mar 1994)
RRP (December 2014): £5.99
Greenhouse Gardening by Alan Titchmarsh
Paperback: 128 pages Publisher: BBC Books (18 Mar 2010)
RRP (December 2014): £5.99
Bloom-Again Orchids by Judy White
Paperback: 132 pages Publisher: Timber Press (24 November 2009)
RRP (December 2014): £9.99