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WHILE many of us will be turning up the central heating and closing the curtains as shorter nights draw in, others will be doing some serious pottering in the greenhouse. Indeed, the greenhouse - heated or unheated - can provide a haven for gardeners who can still plant and sow, reaping the rewards of both edible and ornamental plants during the cooler months. You can have a greenhouse bursting with ornamentals from autumn through to spring, grow a variety of crops and safeguard tender flowering plants and fruit trees if you plan carefully.

If your greenhouse is unheated, you will be more limited but it is still possible to have lush, green displays of feathery ferns, ivies, scented shrubs which will give you a delicious waft of perfume every time you go in the greenhouse and some well-chosen bulbs and alpines towards springtime. Plant shrubs such as Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' in pots outside and then bring them into the greenhouse at the end of the autumn.

It produces pale purple-pink flowers and glossy green leaves and is a star in the winter greenhouse.

Some foliage plants also look stunning in the greenhouse in winter. Fatsia japonica, with its exotic, glossy leaves, could easily be a stand-alone specimen, while shallow troughs of colourful alpines on waist-high staging, including cyclamen, chionodoxa and anemone, dwarf narcissi and colourful primulas will create a riot of colour in late winter and early spring.

Scented annuals can also be wonderful in the greenhouse.

Plant heliotrope or mignonette in late summer to bloom in the greenhouse in late winter You can also be sowing and planting in the greenhouse over the cooler months. Many plants can be grown much earlier and produce crops earlier than would be achieved outside.

Salad leaves, particularly the cut-and-come-again varieties, can be sown all year round, grow quickly and taste great when they are picked young. They are suitable for growing in pots, trays or soil borders. In winter you can also sow broad beans and early peas if you have border space. You'll have more choice of what to grow if you have a greenhouse heater or at least a heated propagator to get tender veg off to a good start. Veg grown in traditional greenhouses, such as tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers and peppers, are usually planted in spring. But you can sow greenhouse tomatoes in a heated propagator as early as December, for growing on in a heated greenhouse.

You can also have fresh herbs for the winter months if you pot up clumps of mint, thyme or oregano from your garden in early autumn and put them in the greenhouse, or try sowing basil in a heated propagator in pots, nipping out any shoots that threaten to flower. Fruits can also do well in greenhouses - and for some it's a necessity. If you've grown citrus fruits in a pot on a sunny, sheltered patio in summer, move them in and their fragrant flowers and glossy leaves come into their own. You may not harvest a lot of fruit, but seeing lemons growing just conjures up a flavour of warmer climes.

Nectarines, peaches and apricots all need warmth to survive and you're best off training them against a south-facing wall in a lean-to greenhouse. In this country if they are left outside their blossom, which appears in early to mid-spring, will generally be caught by the frost which will mean no fruit.

Decide what you want in your greenhouse over the cooler months and plan carefully, choosing plants to suit the temperature and situation of your greenhouse, heated or unheated, and try to stagger the display so you have different plants coming into their own as the season progresses.

Here are some tips to keep your greenhouse in great condition: * Keep the glass as clean as possible at all times for maximum light.

* Check that any electrical heaters are free from corrosion and that your connections are sound. If in doubt, have a qualified electrician check the equipment. * Use sticky-backed draught excluder around ventilators, panes and doors for good, long-lasting seals.

* Remove rubbish, moss and algae growing between panes with a stick or plastic plant label. * Give the whole greenhouse a thorough clean with hot water and garden disinfectant before a new season of use.


HEAT IS ON: Your greenhouse will have to be heated for tomatoes to thrive in winter GREEN HAVEN: A greenhouse can be a haven for many gardeners during the winter months. Pictured right is a pink anemone growing in a greenhouse SPLASH OF COLOUR: Pink cyclamen, above, will add colour to your greenhouse. Pictured left is lettuce growing in a greenhouse
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Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Oct 27, 2011
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