Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Move is Planned

I am soon to move from Massachusetts to far northern Maine.  I have become used to a certain planting zone where I have been able to grow all of the things that were in my grandmother's garden in Medford, Massachusetts. 
I actually plan to move to Italy for a part of the year and to Maine for the rest. 
The trouble with both of these options is that Maine is very cold.. Zone 3-4 where I plan to move... and Italy...for the most part is in zone 8-9 with a wicked hot and dry spell in the summer.  I will likely end up in the mountains, as the low lands are just too expensive for me.  The mountains have the distinction of having nearly as hot a dry spell in the summer, but then they have cold and snow in the winter.  I just can't seem to win.
Italy has a history of large plants in containers.  It is not unusual to see olive trees, pomegranate, lemon, orange and other trees in large containers in the gardens and on terraces.  They have the luxury of watering this micro ball of soil in the summer, and if the winter is cold, they can wheel the whole tree into an Orangerie.  Orangeries were pretty common in France as well and are becoming more common in England. 
I began a post about screen porches elsewhere in the blog, which I will complete when a blip in image uploads is solved.  Now, I will have to post about glassed in or convertible porches to bring plants inside.  I think that in these days of high fuel costs, and the sheer work of wood fired heating, that a greenhouse could be impractical in the far north.  If you have unlimited funds or a real desire to cut wood from your land, dry it, split it and burn it, day and night through the winter...then please disregard that statement. Therefore, I propose a roofed and glassed in porch, either at ground level on a slab or gravel base, or on a raised floor porch with a full foundation like any other room in a house.

An orangerie, for the common man, is simply a room with lots of windows, with a place to stand the trees in their pots.  A greenhouse would qualify, but they were often large rooms with a good sized entrance door and plenty of large windows, often high and arched.
Orangeries or conservatories were a common sight in the 18th and 19th centuries, in even fairly humble houses.  Palaces and large country houses almost always had one.  A family could have citrus fruit all year long in England and northern France if they had one of these...of course a staff of fifty gardeners helped as well.
There are a number of things what will help with the success of a room like this.  Masonry floors or gravel floors, especially very dark colored ones, help to absorb heat from even weak sunshine. 
Large containers like water barrels...painted black especially, absorb heat and radiate it out again.

Please stay tuned as I explore these options.