Cymbidium in bloom

January 17, 2012

The South of England is having it’s first real cold snap of this winter. Nothing like last winter, of course, I remember snow laying on the ground in November, all that we’ve had so far are a few frosts.

Such is the cost of electricity, I’m keeping a careful eye on the greenhouse. My method of one fan blowing all the time, and another that comes on just to supply heat, just to keep the greenhouse frost free seems to be working at present. The minimum temperature recorded on the bench was 1.1C, the fan heaters are beneath the bench and blow away from it. And the plants themselves don’t seem to be suffering – four different Geraniums (one still in flower, just), and three cacti (one died last summer for unknown reasons) are OK, while the Cymbidium has opened the first of its buds.

If we were in for a real cold snap like December 2010, when the average temperature for the month was -1C, I’d be putting a lot of bubble-wrap insulation in the greenhouse, but while its not to bad, and I’ve an awful lot of other ‘real’ work to do, that job is rather lower down on the ‘to-do’ list.

While I have been the sole user for the past few years, this year is really the first time for decades that I’ll actually be able to do anything serious in what is now fully and completely, no question about it, MY greenhouse. Although there is the continuing war with the Ivy to deal with, and to a rather lesser extent, bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis). The other thing to deal with are all the broken panes. Some of these breakages are due to the Ivy.

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The cold continues

January 9, 2010

Fountain in Heron Square, Richmond.

Heron Square is a privately owned block on the riverside at Richmond, ajoining Richmond bridge to the north. Usually the square is opened up on Saturdays to a Farmer’s Market. (They used to have their own web site but I could not find a link to it! It was quite sparse there today, I suppose post Christmas as well as the general cold.

For some reason they had left the fountain running over the cold spell, and it produced a rather intesting effect (above).

climemet

Setting up the remote sensor in the greenhouse

Two years ago I purchased an Oregon Scientific temperature display unit that had a wireless link to a remote sensor. The remote sensor was in the greenhouse. The reason for this was the terrible design of greenhouse heater, which was just a fan heater with a different thermostat. (I have blogged about this in the past, but on the previous blog whose entries I did not transfer in time are lost).

Late last year the readout unit disappeared from Mother’s living room – stolen, I fear, as most everything else that “disappeared” has since been found. The greenhouse had to go through the coldest winter in 18 years with a second dodgy heater (identical to the first that was definately no use, but newer). I set up the old heater as just a blower, and the new one to switch on and supply heat as and when.

The reason for all of this is because the greenhouse contains my pleonies, cymbidium orchid, cacti, pelargoniums and the wormery, as well as over-wintering the dahlias etc.

Anyhow, come another winter, and no idea how the “new” heater is performing;. I could not buy another unit of the Oregon type (no longer available), and the cheapest one that had a remote sensor was this ClimeMet unit (above).

Photo was taken in the greenhouse with the blower non-heater in the background. In reality the display unit lives in mother’s living room. So, from time to time I can ask mother what the temperature is, and on Sundays adjust the heater thermostat if necessary.

The Climemet unit has a “forecasting” facility based upon the barometric pressure (which it measures) as well as a barograph like display. The algorithm for forecasting is about as good as the words “storm” “rain” “variable” etc around the perimeter of an aeronoid barometer in anyone’s home. In the two days I tested it, it suggested:

Sun when it was tipping with rain
Vice versa
Sun after sunset
[Note in the photo, it is suggesting Sun, yet I needed flash on the camera to take the photo as it was dark; and the remote temperature is high as I had just taken the sensor into the greenhouse from a warmish car]

But that was not why I purchased it – it was the cheapest (indeed possibly the only) unit I could easily get with a wireless linked remote unit. In fact mother has just phoned me up, and in the conversation told me the greenhouse was at 4.4C and 82% humidity. Temp is OK-ish, but at least the heater has not gone mad, and heated the greenhouse to sub-tropical temperatures (a lost blog entry, due to heater 1).

To the sticks

February 12, 2009

Out to Oxfordshire today, the first trip to this particular customer this year. While the snow had all gone in London, it was still very evident in the Chilterns (as viewed from the M40), and still a lot of it in the Oxford Plain.

Approaching the Chiltern Escarpment on the M40

On the way back along the M40 (evening, hence the dull image above), the Chiltern escarpment still showing so much snow is evident. This particular point is where the M40 crosses the greensand [rock formation], and approaches the deep cutting in the chalk near Aston Rowant. The cutting starts towards the right hand of the image and moves across to the left.

At one point in the early life of the M40 (1970s), at this point there was a “Crawler lane”, for the lorries and other large vehicles that could could only crawl up the hill. I believe it was the closest such lane to London. These days of turbo-charged diesels and the like, the need has disappeared, as has the lane, and indeed the last time I saw a large crane crawling up the M40 (in fact the slope at the other end of this hill), it did so in the emergency hard shoulder. It clearly was in trouble, if the smoke out of the exhaust was anything to go by, rather than underpowered.

beforesnow2

beforesnow21

At mother’s today, and there was still snow all over the place. These first two
photographs show the front garden – almost a week after the snowfall paralysed London on Monday 2.II. In the second photograph, the sticks sticking up approximately in the centre of the pic are the fushia that I described in past posts as having an almost fluorescent flower. I doubt that it is going to survive this winter; I had planted out the cutting I took of it, in the same bed, this year, not expecting such a harsh winter after the past 17 years.

Later on, there were several snow showers, and they were getting heavier.

nowsnowing

The last photo shows the same plot as the first a couple of hours later, showing the snow covering more plants. BTW, under the tangle of leaves towards the bottom of the pic are the two “Red Cowslip” plants still in the ground (as opposed to the one in the greenhouse).

As I tried to leave, I pulled my car back, and got out to say goodbye to mother – but the car suddenly started to slide forward (in the ice) again, so I had to leap in and steer it away from the car in front (which I just missed). Mother’s place is towards the top of a hill in the Chilterns. While it is true that the road the house is in always seemed to be the last to be free of snow, this time, it was snow all across the top of the hill. I feared what I would meet on the steep hill down from the hill whichever route I choose, but as I decended the hill, the snow turned to slush to rain, allowing me to get back to London.

(More from this visit in blogs over the next couple of days).

Update, 11.II The blizzard that the Met Office had raised warnings about just did not happen. In my opinion, the “Snow Event” has been the first time a Met Office warning covering the SE of England has been justified