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Up in Southwest Scotland is a 6-acre plot of land with 3 large Rhino greenhouses. The overseer of this abundant (if somewhat wet and windy) kingdom, is Sue Simpson. Sue loves her greenhouses and spends most days in them - hubby is allowed in only under strict supervision, “can’t touch anything”. She would have a 4th already, if only she knew where to put it!
Now retired, gardening is Sue’s daily focus. When Sue and her husband George moved to their current home in 2005, they took on a smallholding and transformed it into a garden that they now proudly display, not only on our Forum, but to the public at large through the Scottish Garden Scheme, as a means of raising money for charity.
George Watt teaching about their Tufa wall during a charity open day
Sue’s land is subject to some pretty harsh weather, exposed to high winds, rain and cold, and they were no exception to the storms that troubled the UK in early 2020. Under such conditions, plants must be chosen carefully and so Sue developed a great passion for alpines that love the cold and wind. The one thing they don’t like though, is wet. And so, in 2012, when Sue decided to give her beloved alpines some shelter, a Rhino greenhouse was always going to be the top choice.
Sue and George had admired our greenhouses for a few years already, as regular visitors to national gardening shows, where we too went to show off our wares. Sue specifically recalls speaking to Danny Paton, who still installs our Rhinos in Scotland, and learnt enough about our Rhinos to be confident in their engineering. When they first took on the smallholding, they also inherited a tiny glasshouse that collapsed during a storm with winds of 50mph, so a sturdy structure was going to be necessary. Sue’s Rhinos have certainly stood up to the challenge so far – 8 years and counting.
Rhino Number 1 - Alpines & Tufa Wall
Rhino Number 1: Sue's Rhino Premium 12x20 filled with alpines and a Tufa wall at the rear
So, Rhino Number 1 (Sue confidently refers to each this way) was installed in 2012, a Rhino Premium 12ft x 20ft. “Within about 24 hours it was already full!” George jested at the time that she would need another, like as not, but Sue brushed it off as silliness. Rhino Number 1 is home to primulas and various other alpines, as well as a Tufa wall, built by George.
As you can see from the pictures, Sue has customised her Rhinos with lots of additional louvre vents, because unlike many greenhouse owners, Sue is keen to keep it cold and breezy for her alpines. The very smart staging you can see was designed by Sue’s husband, George, specifically for her and to her specifications. They look to be just the ticket! But if you’re in need of some alpine staging and don’t have George’s impeccable skills, you might find our alpine staging of interest.
Rhino Number 2 - Saxifrage
Rhino Number 2: Sue's Rhino Premium 12x20 filled with saxifrage
Despite Sue’s dismissals that another Rhino would be superfluous, 2 years after the first, another 12x20 Rhino was installed and this time filled with saxifrage. Sue tells me there are somewhere between 3-400 different ones in there, which is some going, I think you’ll agree!
Rhino Number 2 during storm season, February 2020
Rhino Number 3 - Pelargoniums
Rhino Number 3: Sue's Rhino Premium 8x20 in Blue Grass, filled with pelargoniums in summer
Another year later, Rhino Number 3 arrived. Slightly smaller, but still ambitious at 8x20. The third greenhouse is home to Sue’s other favourite, pelargoniums, and is certainly the most vivacious and colourful during the summer months. Prior to the arrival of Number 3, their home was teeming with pelargoniums and really the greenhouse was needed to relieve some space for them to live inside too! She’s got about 100 of them, so you can see why an alternative location might be necessary.
During winter, it is too cold even inside the greenhouse for the pelargoniums, so they are returned to the house for over-wintering. Other alpines and bulbs take their place in the Rhino in preparation for spring-time.
Rhino Number 3 in autumn with alpines for over-wintering
“What we don’t do,” says Sue, “is grow anything useful.” Partly due to weather conditions, and partly time (she looks after all these plants by herself), growing anything edible isn’t on the cards for Sue and George. But I think to say her efforts aren’t useful is to do herself a disservice.
Sue is a very valued member of our Rhino Forum and has really boosted conversation throughout the year. In spite of lockdowns and isolation, Sue has created goodwill and high spirits by sharing beautiful pictures of her plants and giving advice to those in need of it.
Thank you for sharing a bit of your gardening story with me, Sue, and please keep sharing.
If you have a Rhino story you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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