COld frames, was What's blooming

Jane McGary
Fri, 24 Feb 2012 10:31:11 PST
Perhaps I should not mention my own work here, but in the book "Rock 
garden design and construction," which I edited for Timber 
Press/NARGS, there is a chapter on bulb and alpine frames, with good 
line drawings by Suky McDonough (our correspondent Mark's wife), and 
photos of the extensive bulb frames where I used to grow my 
collection. In the photo book "Bulbs" by Martyn Rix and Roger 
Phillips, there is a photo in the introduction of a bulb frame under 
construction; it is apparently designed to grow the bulbs in the fill 
soil, not in pots.

To the descriptions already posted, I would add that it is strongly 
advisable to include some kind of barrier at the bottom of the frame. 
I use industrial-strength woven groundcloth, which for many years has 
deterred moles from digging in from below -- and where moles pioneer 
a tunnel, mice and voles are sure to follow. I used this same product 
to line the raised beds where my bulbs are now growing, as well as 
the path between the beds, which is paved with crushed rock. The beds 
are under a polycarb roof in a commercial steel-frame greenhouse with 
metal mesh walls.

Although most cold frames are of the "shed" design, with hinges on 
one side, I think it's far better to have an "A-frame" design that 
opens on both sides for access and ventilation. However, building an 
A-frame takes more carpentry skills than I have (i.e., more than 
none), so I paid someone else to build mine. In the UK gardeners can 
buy "Access" frames that are made like miniature greenhouses with 
opening panels on the sides, but I've heard anecdotally that these 
don't stand up well to heavy snow loads or strong winds.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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