David Chap­lin, via email

Gardening Australia - - MAILBOX -

I am seek­ing guid­ance on how best to pro­tect some of the plants, in­clud­ing orchids and bon­sai, in my Ade­laide gar­den. The hot sum­mer seems to de­stroy the plants, and the lack of sun­light in win­ter slows them down. It looks like a glasshouse would take care of my plants from late au­tumn to early spring, but I’m afraid they would cook in the di­rect sun in sum­mer, when it reaches 40°C. How do I ad­dress such is­sues? I don’t want to in­vest thou­sands in a glasshouse, then find out later that I’ve done the wrong thing.

El­iz­a­beth Swane says

Com­ing from a nurs­ery back­ground, where one of our tasks was to white­wash the glasshouses each spring, if you de­cide on a glasshouse, I ad­vise you to opt for some sort of pro­tec­tion from the sear­ing sum­mer sun. Shade­cloth is eas­ier than the fid­dly an­nual ap­pli­ca­tion of white­wash. There are var­i­ous knit­ted or wo­ven shade­cloth ma­te­ri­als avail­able, with den­sity of shade rang­ing from about 30 per cent to 75 per cent. Choose shade­cloth based on the main type of plants you want to pro­tect. Ferns, for ex­am­ple, re­quire 75 per cent shade, gen­eral plants and orchids 50 per cent and veg­eta­bles 30 to 50 per cent.

Look closely at the types of green­houses and glasshouses used by lo­cal nurs­eries. Also con­sider your bud­get, as there is a big vari­ance in cost be­tween a shade­house and a glasshouse. Take into ac­count the cost of power for sea­sonal heat­ing and cool­ing. Good air cir­cu­la­tion is also im­por­tant. In Aus­tralia, we can grow a wide range of plants out­doors al­most year round, un­like the North­ern Hemi­sphere, where glasshouses are com­mon in home gar­dens. A glasshouse does have ad­van­tages, pro­vid­ing op­ti­mum con­di­tions when prop­a­gat­ing or grow­ing plants out of their favoured cli­matic zones, and al­low­ing you to get the jump on sum­mer crops, such as tomatoes.

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