Now we all know that chillies like a little bit of warmth to start that first germination process – seeds can be sown in March indoors to start them off – but if you have a glasshouse the seeds can be sown in pots that are positioned right where you want the plants to grow. Sowing chilli seeds in the glasshouse is an easy way to ensure that the plants start off with the right amount of heat, especially if the greenhouse has a built in heating system. Heating systems are available for most greenhouses and are generally installed as standard with more bespoke glasshouses.
Chillies grown in glasshouses tend to produce bumper crops of peppers once the temperature and moisture levels in the glasshouse are regulated. It was the Victorian’s that first designed glasshouses to grow exotic plants that had been brought back to England by the ‘plant hunters’. Originally Victorian glasshouses were made with a lead frame and the early growers used arsenic to prevent pest infestations (the glasshouses were not a healthy place to work or to grow plants!). Hartley Botanic is one company that has been manufacturing greenhouses in the traditional style since 1938.
The chilli pepper was brought to Europe following Columbus’s expeditions and has been part of the European diet since 1493. Later the Victorian’s liked to grow chillies in their glasshouses and originally used the peppers as an alternative to black pepper to spice up their food. There are some great examples of chilli plants in the West Dean Victorian Glasshouses – they have been grown there for many years and attract a great number of visitors each August when the West Dean Chilli Fiesta is held.
West Dean Chilli Fiesta
The West Dean Chilli Fiesta started off as a kind of open day for people to see the magnificent chilli plants in the great Victorian glasshouses but now attracts over twenty thousand visitors. Chillies have been grown at the West Dean Victorian Glasshouse since 1990 and Sarah Wain who is responsible for the fantastic display of plants explains that in the early days she decided to use an empty Victorian glasshouse to grow a few chilli plants. Originally there were only a very small number of seeds available to purchase nationally and therefore plant exhibits were few in number – she is now proud to explain that over 300 chilli varieties are on display and that the seeds for the plants are available quite readily these days in the UK.
(Pic Courtesy of West Dean)
The Chilli Fiesta 2011 will be held on the 5th, 6th and 7th of August and the West Dean team are claiming it will be the best ever and will give visitors the chance to see the spectacular display of chillies in the Victorian glasshouse but also experience everything Chilli – there will be hot and fiery chilli food on sale, fine examples of chilli inspired pottery and other pieces and live performances from Mexican Minstrels.
The Chilli Fiesta will be a great chance for visitors to see a remarkable example of successful chilli growing in the wonderful setting of a Victorian Glasshouse and should provide novice growers with inspiration to enable them to grow chillies successfully too.
For more information regarding the Chilli Fiesta and to book tickets contact: http://www.westdean.org.uk/Events/GardenEvents/ChilliFiesta.aspx. It is sure to be a great day out for any chilli lover.
Chillies are and will remain a very popular species to grow in the greenhouse – growing chillies in these structures, whether a standard glasshouse, an elaborate Victorian glasshouse or one of the more bespoke glasshouses is quite easy and in doing so the plants produce abundant crops of the gorgeous pepper.