Glasshouse heaven at Wimpole Hall

On a freezing cold day last week we headed for the National Trust property Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire: lots of farm animals and ride-on tractors for the children; a walled garden and a big glasshouse for me. The two large wings of the greenhouse, packed with trays of seedlings, were off limits for obvious reasons - they were the working area of the gardens, but the centre section was open for visitors: a place to enjoy the fertile fug and delight in beautiful plants.

We escaped from the biting wind into the sanctuary of the warm glasshouse: while the toddler drifted off to naptime in his pushchair, the rest of us admired the pots and pots of loveliness. There were so many plants here to catch the eye: from the string-of-pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) in the right foreground in the picture above (String-of-pearls was a close contender for inclusion in my top five succulents list), to the scented leaf geranium 'Attar of Roses' (I think - it wasn't labelled but the cloying rose smell's pretty distinctive), and the orange juice blooms of Clivia miniata to the statuesque shagginess of Aeonium 'Schwarzkopf'.  This was pretty close to my definition of heaven.

There were lessons to be learned, too, for you and me: almost everything was planted in a decent terracotta pot (looks are everything when it comes to pots, plus terracotta allows roots to breathe); there was very little damaged or dead foliage on display (good hygiene's essential in a busy greenhouse), and there wasn't an inch of empty bench space (fullness is all)!