Fairy Lights for the Greenhouse- and an update from this week’s BBC radio programme for gardeners

It’s amazing how a few little touches can make all the difference. In defiance of the cold, dark days, I’ve brightened up the greenhouse with mouldable lights. These are tiny fairy lights on a copper wire. They can be twisted around floral arrangements and basically they hold their shape without damaging the flowers. I’ve used chrysanthemums from the poly tunnel for this display. It makes a lovely warm glow at a time when we all need some winter cheer.

I’ve chosen indoor battery-powered lights from the Christmas range at Wilco . The 2.2m cable contains 20 warm white lights for £3.50 and includes the battery. I’m going to wrap them around plant pots in the greenhouse next.

We talked about mouldable lights on this week’s BBC radio gardener’s phone-in programme. You can listen in on your phone or computer on the i-player. I wrote about how to tune in Here. https://bramblegarden.com/tag/radiogardening-howto-i-player-bbc/.

You can listen to any radio programme for 28 days after the broadcast. And there are special programme clips and podcasts too. The gardeners’ phone-in is on BBC Radio Leicester every Wednesday between 11am and 12 noon on 104.9 FM and digital. And on Sunday there’s local radio’s longest-running gardening programme, Down to Earth hosted by Dave Andrews, between 12 and 1pm. We will be taking phone calls live in the studio this coming Sunday, December 3rd.

Here’s a link to this week’s Wednesday programme hosted by Ben Jackson. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05m8p6x. Move the timeline round to 2.07.57 where the programme starts. We talk about making Christmas presents from materials found in the garden- including jam jar succulents and cacti, and making bird feeders with fir cones. And our mid-morning studio treat, for all the staff, was Chocolate Tiffin made with fresh autumn raspberries from the plot.

Here’s some details on the prepared hyacinths we mentioned. These are some I grew to flower for Christmas 2016.

You will need to buy “prepared” hyacinths which means they have been put into cold storage to fool the bulbs into thinking they have had winter already. To complete the treatment at home, place the bulbs in John Innes No2 compost in 3″ pots. Put the pots in a cold dark cupboard in the potting shed, garage or basement. Or put them into a black plastic bag. Store them for 9 to 10 weeks at 9C. Water just once. At the end of 10 weeks, check over the pots and those with about an inch of leaves and a flower tip showing can be brought out into a cool bright place to grow on. You can make up displays for Christmas by selecting bulbs that look about the same height and putting them into larger plant pots together. Don’t bring them straight into a centrally heated house or the flowers won’t develop properly. The bulbs need to be grown on in cool conditions for another 22 days.

Here’s some hyacinths and forced narcissi I used to create an early spring display this year. You can also bring twigs of cherry blossom into the house and they will give an earlier flowering too. I wrote about forcing Paperwhites Here.

The scent is quite glorious. Interestingly, different varieties of hyacinths need varying periods of cold/dark treatment. The variety Pink Pearl needs 10 weeks, but Anna Marie needs just 8. So experimentation is needed if you wish to mix the varieties in a display. I would set the 3″ pots at weekly intervals and grow more than I needed so that I could select the right number of plants for my display. Just a reminder- always wear gloves when handling bulbs as they can cause skin irritation.

A very quick and cheap Christmas present idea we mentioned was jam jar succulents. Here’s the materials I took into the studio. You will need a small recycled jam jar, handful of ornamental washed shingle, small amount of moss from the garden, and a succulent or cacti from the garden centre. Mine is an offset from one of my own plants. You half fill the jar with shingle, wrap the succulent stem with moss and plant. Finish the present with a ribbon. Plants need virtually no water over the winter. In summer, water once a week with a tablespoon of water. Tip the jar up to allow any excess water to drain out. Do not allow the succulent to become waterlogged.

This one has been in the jam jar for two years.

Talking of Christmas presents ideas I love these RHS Gold Leaf Gloves. I’m practically living in them, they are so comfortable. I may be a fairly scruffy gardener, with old trousers and holes in my jumpers, but my hands are glamorous.

Here’s a quick peek of Ben’s garden, which we talk about on the show. It’s a 2.5 by 2m raised bed, a bit overshadowed and plagued by slugs. But we’ve planted winter veg, salads and flowers – to see how much we can grow in a small, less than perfect plot. The kale and chard keeps growing through the cold weather. You just harvest the outer leaves, leaving the growing tips to keep going. I’ll keep popping by now and again to see how Ben’s getting on with the project. I’ve got a matching plot at home so we can compare progress. I have to say, Ben’s is looking better than mine at the moment. My plot is on a windswept ridge, and his is in a pretty, walled garden.

And after all that talking- we tucked into my Chocolate and Raspberry Tiffin. I wrote the recipe the recipe Here. Click on the link to see the recipe.

Do you have any recipes to share – or ideas for Christmas presents using materials from your garden? I’d love to hear your views.

21 thoughts on “Fairy Lights for the Greenhouse- and an update from this week’s BBC radio programme for gardeners

    • Ah, thank you so much. You have made me smile. I wish I could post you some. The combination of raspberries and chocolate is one of my favourites. Thanks again for reading and for getting in touch, have a lovely weekend. Karen 🙂 x

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  1. Karen is a post marvellous with lots of information. I love fairy lights, they are wonderful, magical. Your vase of Chrisantemos is magical with lights. Your Jacintos and Daffodils are beautiful. And the way you dispose them is magnificent. Thank you very much for explaining how the bulbs are forced to bloom at Christmas. Thank you very much for leaving the radio link. As for the BBC radio, on Sunday December 3 between 12 and 1 in the afternoon you go out? Tell me to be ready and be able to hear you. As for Christmas gifts, I love your idea of ​​coarse plants in a recycled boat with a ribbon: magnificent and economical. I have planted seedlings of succulent plants here in Madrid 15 days ago and I am looking forward to them leaving because I was thinking of giving my sister an old but beautiful clay dish full of crass plants, even if they are small. I used to make cuttings of easy indoor and outdoor plants (Ivy with small leaves, Photos, Philodendron, Espatifillón, etc.) and when they were buying, I bought small baskets and with a garbage bag I lined them and made flower centers who gave away my Mother and my sister for Christmas. Memories to your Mother. Karen your heart is a treasure full of kindness towards others. Very loving greetings from Margarita.

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    • Thank you Margarita. Your lovely comments always make me smile. Yes, I’m going to be on at 12 on Sunday. Do listen in and let me know what you think. Luckily I will be on with two people who have been doing the programme for 70 years between them. So I am not so worried. If I don’t know the answer, they will help me out. Your plantings sound wonderful and inventive. I love growing anything from seed. I never fail to feel excited when I see them start to grow little green shoots. Thanks again for all your kindness which is much appreciated. Greetings to you and your parents. Love from karen and my Mum xx

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  2. What a great post, Karen – so informative. I think I might get some battery lights for the greenhouse! Your vase looks brilliant, lit up like that. I must make a note of your hyacinth info as I haven’t bothered with them this year because the results have been so variable in the past – and i had already given up trying to grow them in water in a hyacinth vase 😉

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    • Thank you Cathy. If you go to Wilko, have a look for the tiny fir cone mouldable fairy lights. They are £1 more, but you can wind these around the supporting posts in the greenhouse, and also around lemon trees and the like. With the hyacinths, the secret is to keep them really cool until they are fully grown and then bring them into the house. Same with the vases. I start them in the cold potting shed, move them to the cool greenhouse, then bring them in as they are about to flower. Mind you, the vases are pretty to look at as they are growing. Thanks for reading. Have a lovely week xx

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    • Thank you. I’m busy scrubbing all the jam jars I’ve been saving to get all the glue off them. I seem to have a lot of succulent cuttings this summer. They do look pretty in those jars. Thanks for reading and for getting in touch. x

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    • Thank you Anne. There’s much laughter on the programme- which I find is catching. You can’t fail to smile along with the team. I don’t sound at all like my voice on the radio, I think something magical happens and someone presses a switch and all my spluttering, nervous shakiness somehow gets erased. I love that kind producer. Thanks again for reading and for getting in touch. xx

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