Conservatories and glasshouses. Unique garden rooms.

The timeless elegance of a beautifully crafted glasshouse doesn’t just bring an architectural beauty to the garden it also extends your growing season at both ends of the gardening year.

There’s something way Victorian about the word glasshouse – perhaps because these are the structures that help define the elegance of those historical great gardens we all enjoy visiting. Conservatories, orangeries, palm houses, greenhouses and glasshouses – even the names conjure the promise of an aesthetic that is both a pleasing and highly functional addition to your outdoor space. One of the most famous conservatories in the world is the Waterlily House at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, which was built by the garden designer Joseph Paxton (1803-1865) to house the show-stopping Amazon lily (renamed Victoria amazonica) when it first arrived in Victorian London to wow the crowds.

Ironically, the plant did not thrive in its purpose-built glass showcase which is now home to a happier tropical plant collection but the conservatory itself never fails to impress or demonstrate that a greenhouse or glasshouse can be a thing of beauty in its own right. The key to the success of any greenhouse – however simple or elaborate the structure – is its location in the garden. Your glasshouse needs to be sited in an area of uninterrupted sunshine and sheltered from the colder northerly or easterly winds. And whether you are choosing a wooden or an aluminium frame, you will need to make sure the foundations are both level and secure.

Photo: project in Petersfield, Hampshire, conservatory by Alitex.

One of the first things to decide is whether you want a freestanding glasshouse or one that is built off an existing wall and also, if you choose a site where you will see the structure from the house, how big or small you want it to be. A well maintained glasshouse really does extend the whole of your gardening year. You can sow seeds earlier, over winter precious tender plants and protect everything you are growing from both early spring and late autumn frosts. Once you have invested in a glasshouse need to look after your investment and commit to looking after it. It’s crucial to keep it clean and tidy or you run the risk of being overrun by pests and diseases that actually spread more rapidly in the warmer and more humid conditions of a greenhouse.

You will need to invest in shade nets in early summer to prevent your plants from being scorched by the sun or you might want to think about shading washes which you spray on to the outside of the glass at the start of summer and then wash off again in the autumn.

Plants that are growing in your hothouse will not take kindly to the shock of cold water so keep a watering can or two of water in the greenhouse itself so the water you use reaches the same ambient temperature. The final thing to think about is ventilation and it is worth getting to grips with how to raise or lower the humidity of your glasshouse, depending on what you are growing inside. You can easily raise humidity by keeping a tray of water in the floor which will slowly evaporate into the air and you lower humidity – and help plants keep cooler through summer – by opening vents and windows. Or you may prefer a structure that has built-in automatic vents which open or close according to your preset temperature.

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Julia Anca Ciucur

Marketing Manager at Graduate Landscapes