Taking a break from art history. Each year at this time, I long to be outdoors in a garden somewhere. I will take you along with me this spring...Soon we will move many of our young garden plants out of their sheltering cloches. They are maturing & the weather is warming. The bittersweet process is like watching your children grow up & strike out on their own.
About 1630, blown-glass cloches were first mentioned in gardening treatises. As we noted on the Garden History blog, John Evelyn (1620-1706) included bell glasses in his Elysium Britannicum, or The Royal Gardens in Three Books. The beautiful, classic garden cloche is a bell-shaped glass vessel with an open bottom.
Using an incubating cloche in the early spring or late fall garden is an ideal way to protect infant seedlings. When unpredictable spring weather offers up a cold snap or chance of frost, the vigilant cloche acts as a miniature greenhouse.
Cloches hold in heat & moisture and offer shelter during bursts of strong spring winds.
Using a cloche, when delicate plants are their most vulnerable, is a totally organic way to protect them from deer, birds, slugs, & other pests, which abound up here in our woods.
However, you should watch on particularly sunny days, that covered young plants don’t scorch in the hot sun.
Beningborough Hall, North Yorkshire, England
During high humidity, you should also be on the lookout for mildew. When it’s particularly hot or moist, you can temporarily remove the cloche or prop it up with a stick or small rock to let a bit of heat out & to allow the air to circulate.
In spring, delicate young seedlings can be planted out weeks earlier than would otherwise be feasible under the protection of a prudent cloche. Using a cloche will also extend the season for crops in the autumn by up to 3 weeks.
Beningbrough Hall & Gardens, Beningbrough, York, North Yorkshire, England
The curved shape allows the surface of the cloche to always be perpendicular to the direction of the sun thereby achieving minimum refraction & maximum penetration of light. A very simple but efficient tool.
Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia
The obvious limitation of a bell cloche is its capacity. A cloche is usually capable of covering only a single plant or a tiny collection of small seedlings. For gardening on a larger scale the cloche becomes somewhat impractical, but it always remains beautiful.