Podcast

Gardening Under Glass

Triangle Gardener podcast logoAs the weather turns gardeners look for ways to protect their treasures. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has a fabulous conservatory and tropical plant collection but that’s not the only option for gardeners who want to extend the season and keep tender, exotic plants at home.

 

Garden Destinations

Thank you Garden Destinations for making this episode possible

 


JENKINS

Last spring I gave into desire and purchased a gorgeous dwarf lemon tree.  We’ve enjoyed it all summer but our weather is changing and it’s really too big to bring inside.  I’m consoling myself with the thought that gardeners have been creating environments to grow plants for millennia.  I’m telling myself this wasn’t a stupid purchase and I’ll be able to keep this plant alive over the winter months. We’ll see. I’m Lise Jenkins and this is the Triangle Gardener show. We’re your guide to enjoyable gardening in North Carolina. Thanks to  Garden Destinations for making this story possible. Garden Destinations is a new digital magazine for travelers who want to include public gardens in their travel plans. Their website is GardenDestinations.com.

 

Our weather is changing and I need to do something with my lemon tree, and fast. I needed some inspiration, so Triangle Gardener magazine editor Beverly Hurley and I took a road trip to Richmond, VA. Only a couple of hours north of the Triangle, we headed for the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.The centerpiece of the Lewis Ginter is their conservatory. In a state known for its architecture, their conservatory is a must-see for lovers of classic design. But it’s more than just a pretty place.

MAHAFFEY

So this space is very complicated with how it functions.  First of all we have a climate control system that controls this whole area.  Since we are in VA, central VA, we’re in about a Zone 7a or 7b depending on which part of the city you’re in.  So we have most of our plants in here range from Zone 9 to Zone 10.  So we have to keep it at the perfect climate.  My Argos system can control the climate in this area by not only pumping heat into this if we need it to be warmer in the winter, it vents —opens the vents to allow cooler air in.  It also circulates the air with the fans, that you might be able to hear overhead.  It also allows for fluctuations so I don’t have to worry about it as much in between zones.

JENKINS

That’s Chelsea Mahaffey. She is the horticulturist in charge of the conservatory at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, and she took me on a tour of their conservatory.

MAHAFFEY

So we have four distinct zones in here.  Our first zone I’d like to talk about is the dome which is what we’re sitting in right now.  This holds our palms and cycad collection.  We’re always looking to expand and add more unique palms which will fit this setting.  This is more of a sub-tropical area so we have plants that are very shade loving.  They love under stories, under these giant palms.  You can find bromeliads and other types of house plants but you see them here in masses.  In our other wing, our east wing is often called our orchid wing.  It’s probably the most colorful wing in here. Not only do you have the tropical plants from around the world but you have the orchids which have about 200 on display at any given time from our collection of about 2000.

JENKINS

Deciding which plants to include in their display is complicated. The garden wants to introduce visitors to unfamiliar plants, delight, and educate us. Shane Tippett, Executive Director of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, explained the garden’s philosophy and approach to creating their collection.

TIPPETT

That band of the planet from 10 degrees north to 10 degrees south of the equator holds a tremendous biomass of plant material.  By proportion, perhaps the largest proportion of different species and varieties.  When we think about the different species of insects and animals that are supported in that band around the whole globe, global plant diversity is what botanical gardens —part of what they do. It is what we hope to do here.  Show our community what happens on the planet with plants. And to expose people to plants from all over the world when they don’t have the resources or the ability, time, energy, health to travel to them. When you think about that band and 20 degrees of latitude right around the equator, it’s only 10,000 square feet to display it.  And sometimes it doesn’t seem enough.  So yes, I think its fabulous that we actually built it.  And I think its fabulous what we do with it.

JENKINS

The results are fabulous and I knew Chelsea was just the expert I was looking for.  Can you give us some tips about how to care for tropical plants in our own home?

MAHAFFEY

I would take your houseplant that enjoys indirect sunlight, a lot of times they want more humidity than you have in your house.  A lot of times I’ll get a dish, like a terra cotta saucer and fill it some pebbles and putting some water in it.  So as it evaporates it gives a little micro climate of humidity around the plant.

JENKINS

As Chelsea and I talked about the changing weather I started hatching my plans for caring for my tree. When I got back to the Triangle I visited a Master Gardener friend who’s got a yard I covet.

SMITH

I’m Sara Smith. I’m a Master Gardener with Durham County.

JENKINS

Where are we?

SMITH

We are in my backyard in my vegetable garden area.

JENKINS

What is this?

SMITH

Laughs. This is my hoop house, or other people call it a high tunnel. When I first started I knew I wanted to have this area as my vegetable garden and I was at this auction over on Guess Road at a nursery. There was a pile of pipes and they were auctioning it.  I knew what it was so I bid on it and I got it for $50.  So then I brought this pile of pipes home and my son and I sat down like we were playing with Lincoln Logs and said, “well it looks like this goes with this…” We got it put together in about a day.  A lot of it has duck tape on it. And it has straps on it and it has zip ties on it.  I bought a plastic covering from online. What makes this one different is that I can take that plastic covering off.

JENKINS

What motivated you to do all of this? Beside the sheer bargain aspect of it all?

SMITH

Oh, I knew that I had to have some sort of place to over winter plants like the lemon tree and the lime tree. But I also wanted to grow things all winter long.  Our goal is 75% of what we eat we want to grow. So that means you have to keep things going over the winter time.  That was the reason why I decided to do that.  You see I have little miss figgy in the back.  I had to buy her because she’s a dwarf fig tree.

JENKINS

She has figs on her.

SMITH

She does have figs on her. She has leaves.  Exactly, you can see the advantage to having her here.  We grow lettuces during the winter time, I’ve got beets growing over there that we’ll be able to harvest.  I have some beets growing outside but they just aren’t quite doing it.  These beets you can see are really healthy.

JENKINS

Would you do it again?

SMITH

This? Oh definitely!  We’re planning on expanding it. Laughs.  I think everybody should have a high tunnel in their back yard.

JENKINS

I think Sara is right. Everyone should have a high tunnel in their backyard.  But I don’t have enough room for a hoop house, but I do have a partially protected spot out back. I started tomatoes there last March and they did great. So I’m enclosing it a bit more, added a thermometer and a heating element. I’m digging in more mulch but I’ve also added a small vent that I can open if things warm up too much.I’m moving my lemon tree in and have my fingers crossed.  People have created shelters for their tender plants for thousands of years and I’m counting on continuing this tradition. I’m Lise Jenkins and this is the Triangle Gardener show. We’re your guide to enjoyable gardening in North Carolina.  You can find this and other episodes of our podcast on iTunes or our website TriangleGardener.com   Thanks for listening.