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Archive for August, 2008

Greenhouse Gardening – On A Grand Scale

By admin On August 20, 2008 No Comments

In age of expansion and industrial revolution, when engineers and inventors were practically idolized, it is not surprising that greenhouse and conservatory development also benefited. From the middle of the seventeenth century in Europe, and especially in England, there began social and economic changes that brought about the mechanization of production. By the middle of the following century, changes were gaining speed and by the 1850’s the pattern of industrial production practically complete.

Joseph Paxton, later knighted, was the father of  “grand-scale” conservatories. In the 1830’s he designed and constructed one measuring 83m/272ft long by 37m/121ft wide and 20m/66ft high at Chatsworth, the home of the Duke of Devonshire. A few years later he designed the Exhibition Building in Hyde Park, opened in 1851 and soon Christened the “Crystal Palace” by the magazine “Punch”. More than six million people visited the exhibition. Large-scale developments also took place in Europe.

On the grand scale, few greenhouses have been as extensive as those at Versailles, a few miles west of Paris. In 1685, a huge orangery was constructed, 155m/509ft long, 12.8m/42ft wide and 13.7m/45ft high. It had a south-facing wall, plenty of windows and a solid roof, and housed more than 1200 orange trees and hundreds of other plants.

Greenhouse Gardening - Glass Tax

By admin On August 19, 2008 No Comments

The glass industry in England – which held the key to the development and spread of greenhouses and conservatories – remained virtually stagnant between 1792 and 1845, due to draconian taxation. It was imposed under an austerity budget by William Pitt the Younger, and often referred to as the “window tax”. Although a few botanical showplaces were constructed before the tax’s abolition, afterwards there was a sudden and rapid expansion of greenhouses and conservatories. The number of glass manufacturers in England then started to rise again after falling to only one hundred and twenty-six. Of these, only four or five made plate glass.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Peter

Greenhouse Gardening - Whats In A Name

By admin On August 19, 2008 No Comments

The English gardener John Evelyn first coined the term greenhouse, but a contemporary, Sir Thomas Hanmer, used the terms winter-house and winter-room, known in France as la serre.

At night, the building was warmed in winter by stoves or pans of hot coals and Sir Thomas warned that these must be used with care as more plants might be killed than preserved. Lack of fresh air was also a problem. He recommended that the place should be lofty, with large window and doors only on the warm, sunny side. These were to be opened on mild days to let in warm air but closed during frosty weather. The glass was covered by mats at night: placing rolls of Hessian on pit lights during frosty nights continued well into the twentieth century.

Greenhouse Gardening - Orangeries

By admin On August 19, 2008 No Comments

Orange trees were introduced to England from France in 1562, but needed protection from weather during winter. Eventually, special greenhouses were designed. Initially, however, orange trees were covered by “wooden tabernacles” and heated by stoves. At the Oxford Botanic Garden in about 1630, orange trees in containers were trundled around fires in wooden sheds in winter and positioned outdoors in summer. Later, glass structures – known as orangeries – were specifically designed, eventually leading to glass roofs and sides and the first great conservatories.

In Northern Europe, orangeries were also popular and used to house figs as well as oranges, while in Germany they gained additional popularity as places for concerts and all kinds of theatrical entertainments.

Greenhouse Gardening - Early Times

By admin On August 19, 2008 No Comments

Nearly two thousand years ago the ingenious Romans experimented to encourage the early flowering of roses. They made greenhouses roofed in selenite, a type of gypsum formed of transparent crystals. Some of these were warmed by hot air; another method was to dig channels “two hands wide” around them which were filled with hot water twice a day. An alternative “greenhouse” was formed by digging a pit and covering it with thin sheets of mica or talc.

Many centuries later this probably led to “pit light”, a heavy, wooden-framed structure with small panes of glass. It was widely used in horticulture until the middle of the 1900s; then replaced by a lighter, single-pane, Dutch type of frame. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the desire to grow plants out of their natural seasons diminished. Later, references in 1259 describe roses and lilies being grown under glass in Padua, north-east Italy. By the fourteenth century, “glass pavilions” were used in France.