Clear the winter gloom at the garden centre

Phalaenopsis is tolerant of the home environment in all sorts of temperatures and its blooms last for months. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Phalaenopsis is tolerant of the home environment in all sorts of temperatures and its blooms last for months. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

The national press and learned journals are continually informing us, quoting the relevant scientific studies, that contact with plants is good for our wellbeing.

Happy to read this confirmation, we gardeners could tell them that this is something known all along.

Furthermore, when the colder, darker days of winter attempt to cover humankind in a blanket of seasonal affective disorder, a degree of solace can be found in hardy, fragrant outdoor shrubs and potted indoor plants.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to try taking a morning coffee break or lunch at the local garden centre.

Walking through the entrance to Heighley Gate last week, the gloom disappeared in a bank of cheerful colour as orchids, azaleas, cyclamen, et al offered a dream greeting.

On such occasions you know instinctively that although the home conservatory already hosts several potted plants, these are so tempting that additions to the collection are about to be made – after coffee.

Phalaenopsis orchids immediately caught my eye. They brought thoughts of a specimen at home. It’s currently recovering both energy and composure after flowering non-stop over six months of this year.

Despite the ‘difficult to grow’ aura linked with orchids, a handful of species are quite tolerant of the home environment.

Phalaenopsis and cymbidium have breezed through dry, dusty rooms and temperatures varying from 5C to the upper 20sC. They are ideal for beginners.

True value for money – this is the way to view all plants for sale, be they edible or ornamental.

If the plant you’re contemplating is a perennial, there’s potential to keep it in cultivation for years. Any that lend themselves to future propagation from cuttings or division are better still, and might clinch the purchase.

Six young cyclamen plants, bought in full bloom last November, flowered until late March, at which point we withdrew water, allowing all top growth to fade. They remained in pots, laid on their side, in the greenhouse until May when the corms were cleaned off and placed high and dry on a shelf.

Two months ago, tiny shoots emerged, signalling time to fill pots with fresh, moist compost and push them gently into the surface. These stand on a drip tray of wet pebbles. Water comes from the base to avoid corm damage. They’re offered plenty of daylight in temperatures of 10C to 15C and are flowering in the conservatory.

Now their annual care cycle is established, the potential for longevity is good.