Patrick's gardening journey began, like many of us, in his parents' garden. Their love fuelled his own and Patrick couldn't wait to get his hands on the lawn-mower! Many years on, his own garden now boasts two greenhouses and he's still loving it.
The long road to a Rhino
How did you get into gardening?
My father was a bank manager in the days when you lived in a flat above the bank. We had a small yard with a patch of mud which was used to bury putrid pheasants that rural customers were wont to give to him. We were never sure whether it was out of gratitude or hatred. The only thing that grew was a conker that I planted.
We then moved to Shropshire and gardening was transformed. We suddenly had a third of an acre, and joy of joys to me as a ten year old - a petrol lawn mower. I was told it was a great privilege to be allowed to mow the grass and cut the hedges. Simple child that I was, I believed it at the time.
We widened the range of vegetables in the garden, to the extent that my mother very rarely needed to buy fruit or vegetables.
How did you get involved with greenhouses?
In order to grow tomatoes, my father made what we called the "tomato frame," a simple wooden structure with plastic sheeting. This was then superseded by a conventional 8x6 aluminium greenhouse in a better position, and we got far better results, albeit my father's attachment to Moneymaker for yield had my mother, who went for flavour, tut tutting.
What's in your garden now?
Like my parents I have about a third of an acre. Unlike them I am in Llangollen in North Wales on a slightly north facing site and shaded by hills. I got my first greenhouse from Greenhouses Direct about 25 years ago. I think it was billed as having "Russian armour glass" and every time a football or a young son crashed against it without any breakage, I relished the purchase.
Why did you go for a Rhino?
I had always wanted a second greenhouse, because the existing one was in a position where it did not catch the early morning sun. It was also on a concrete base which led to drainage and ventilation problems. The Rhino ticked all the boxes. The green colouring makes it virtually anonymous in what is a professionally laid out ornamental garden (not by me, I hasten to add!). The range of sizes was ideal and I opted for 12x8. Also, the 4mm toughened glass was a big plus, albeit that rumbuctious sons are long absent. My young spaniel has tested it by crashing into it several times. Both the dog and the glass survived.
Did you need any special ground preparation?
Not really. I avoided the mistake of the all concrete base with the other greenhouse. I cleared the site - a south facing corner, by digging out aged gooseberries, feral raspberries, and ground elder. Via my wife's Facebook page I found some people who specialised in garden groundworks, and within 48 hours a mini digger was extending the footprint and levelling the site to a precision that left me gasping in awe. I then covered the area with a permeable membrane.
Was erecting the Rhino difficult?
No, because most of it was done by the superb Justin Langford from down the road! I had realised that because of the size of the frames, it was a two person job to get them aligned. Justin collected the Rhino manual, mastered it, and did a brilliant job of assembly and procurement of gravel and slabs.
How was the finishing done?
I wanted a well drained walkaround - we are not short of rainfall in North Wales. And I wanted good drainage in the Rhino itself to avoid mould in the autumn. Decorative gravel was laid on the membrane after the ground fixings had been set with Postcrete. The interior of the Rhino has close fitting decorative paving slabs - who wants their greenhouse floor to look like a pavement in Doncaster? A gap of about 40 cm was left between the edge of the slabs and the base of the Rhino. This was filled with gravel to maintain the levels and assist drainage.
On the exterior, a gravel pathway up to the raised runner bean bed was established and paved with matching slabs. Although this sounds pretentious and complicated it took me less than an hour. Raised bed timber is very good for retaining external gravel; otherwise it ends up being spread over the garden.
Do you have any problems with your Rhino
Getting out of it! I've got a chair in there.
Thank you so much, Patrick, for sharing your story and pictures with us. We hope you continue to find joy in your garden and that the cheeky spaniel continues to prove the worth of toughened glass!
If you have a Rhino gardening story you'd like to share, please get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org - send us your pictures, videos and anecdotes. We love hearing it all!