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Inside the Greenhouse

by Francesco Zezza

Foreword: when I posted my previous article on the actual building for this greenhouse, my deeply missed friend Andreas sent me a message stating (more or less): good job you’ve done, but I’d like to see how you’re going to “organize” it INSIDE! I deeply regret not having done this previously. This article is – now - dedicated to him, hoping he’ll appreciate it from wherever he is …

Let’s go!!! As it is easily understood building the greenhouse (no matter how difficult it’s been!) was only part of the story … then I faced the necessity to have the greenhouse organized so that it became functional …

The first step was to build a “three level” wooden rack to carry the pots (in the picture below it is shown still unpainted) and then prepare a draft drawing on how things were supposed to be settled (see drawing below) …

As you can see (comparing the plan and the picture above it) the rack was supposed to be placed at the left of the entrance but I finally decided to place in front of the sliding door, fearing possible water leaks from the open roof window which is located at the left part of the roof (see the photo below).

Next (undocumented) step was to paint the wooden rack. It was then time to start "loading" the greenhouse.

RUNNING THE GREENHOUSE

When you enter it, though the sliding door you will soon notice (thanks to my repeated trips to Brasil and thus the lack of time) that the working table is missing. Instead, you will find, resting on four “piled” garden chairs, a tray containing some Aloe arborescens cuttings …

Their rather “dry” look is due to the dormancy period all succulents undergo (at least in Italy) in winter. Let’ go ahead, (one step forward): A small, low table shows some seedling of different origin … Among them are the “results” of seeds collected during the Mexican trip (April 2002).

At the back (right corner) you can also see the white remote unit of the temperature controller (the main unit is located in our living room). We will say a bit more on this shortly. We can now focus on the wooden rack itself, from right to left. As you can see, it is now painted with waterproof varnish. 

Right corner.

The three more interesting plants shown here are a Gymnocalicium (possibly G. saglionis), an Astrophytum (Astrophytum ornatum, whose seedings are – now – kept in the much warmer veranda in front of the kitchen and a Ferocactus sp.

Central view.

Here I have to mention (at least): the specimens of Astrophytum myriostigma (aka Bishop cap, I also have seedlings of them in the veranda), Agave reginavictoriae (immediately at its left, looking at the pots), a large Agave sp. (collected in Malawi during my 1997 trip). Just behind it (with the yellow spines) is an Echinocactus grusonii (aka: Mother-in-law’s pillow) only to mention a few of them..

The opposite (left) corner.

Here we can have a better look at the Echinocactus grusonii (bottom, left), one more (but less developed) Malawian Agave, two specimens of Agave phipiphera, one (a “columnar to be”) specimen of Tricocereus spachianus and, finally (the plant that looks like covered with white wool) an Oreocereus celsianus. The pots with “chinese letters” contains a large, nesting, Hawortia (Hawortia fasciata var. cespitosa) …

On we go … to pots/plants placed on the bottom shelf …

Here comes the biggest of all my succulents, a huge (and very heavy since it is placed in a large terracotta pot) Ferocactus peninsulae, this plant may have been recently reclassified, but this is the name it was known by when I got it. It was already a rather large plant, seven or eight years ago …

Another view (ground level and left corner of the rack) before we head for the exit. Although my greenhouse is NOT that big even if it fits – rather well – my needs!

And finally:

LET’S GO DIGITAL …

The latest addition (let’s talk “techie” for a bit!) has been a temperature control system, added – I have to admit – almost for the fun of it. The greenhouse is supposed, as a matter of fact, to be a “cold place”, since all of my cactus do not fear temperature close to zero (or even slightly below that) provided they are kept dry during this period. This is the main reason – apart from protecting Leonardo from their spines, of course! – to go into the trouble of building it. All my succulent plants are not watered (at all!!!) from the end of October till mid-April … 

The “digital toy” consists of two parts: A main unit which is placed in our living room (see photo below). You can see the two readings which are equal at the time the photo was taken (the temperature of our living room is shown by by the small figure - inside the house icon).

And a remote unit (pictured below) placed inside the greenhouse. Up to three remote units can be controlled by the main one but I have only one working - at the moment.

Future plans/upgrades: The addition of a second “tower like” rack which will be smaller but taller, which will be placed in the place where the small bamboo table carrying the seedlings stands now. A small “working table” (where the garden-chairs are piled now) is also a necessity. Finally a hygrometer (a “humidity meter”) without remote capabilities will be added, too. The last item is of “debatable” usefulness when taking care of xerophytic plants (and cacti are) but I like it - and the greenhouse happens to be one of my toys, so...

Final remarks: During all those years I have been keeping and growing them, all the plants were taken out in the open at around late spring and brought back in the house during early autumn (this is more tiresome than it sounds !). This is done since, no matter how well you take care of your cacti, nothing can replace the strength and the benefits of natural sunlight, especially when it comes to flowering and the overall well-being of the plants. This winter (2004/2005) is the first time that they were kept in the greenhouse.

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