A History of Greenhouses

We have always tried to make nature conform to our own rules. Whether it is from wearing animal fur to keep warm during the cold winter seasons or stone tools to hunt and build with, the idea has always been to make life easier. The weather on the other hand has been our greatest problem.

When humans started the agrarian culture, they realised that it was not possible to grow certain crops in different seasons. Tiberius the Roman emperor created one of the earliest recorded greenhouses around 30 AD. He had a craving for cucumbers that could not grow during all seasons.

Glass however was not invented by 30 AD so, the Romans used a material known as “Specularium” that was fabricated from tiny translucent sheets of mica. 13th Century Italy has the first examples of greenhouses, however it is widely thought that Jules Charles may have designed the first practical glass greenhouse in 1599. As a botanist, Jules used his greenhouse in Leiden Holland to grow medicinal tropical plants.

Universities and estates of the rich spread the use of greenhouses in modern Europe. They were known as orangeries in France mainly because they were used to protect orange trees from freezing temperatures. Later when pineapples became popular, they became known as pineries or pineapple pits.

The 17th century was a period of experimentation into improving the efficiency of the greenhouses. Angled glass walls and heating flues were improved to make greenhouses more durable. By the end of the 19th century, glass was plentiful and prohibitive taxes on it were repealed. This ushered in an era where the rich would compete for the most elaborate greenhouses to grow flowers and fruits and to please the eye. Examples include the conservatory at Kew Gardens in England.

By the mid 1800’s, greenhouses became increasingly common. Most of the greenhouses were heated by furnace-warmed air. Some were pit greenhouses built into the earth and heated largely by south facing windows. This design is still in use by some modern greenhouses.

From those early days of huge and expensive greenhouses, modern greenhouses have developed into simple and practical uses. It is no longer the domain of the wealthy to own a greenhouse. If you have an interest in gardening, you can set up a greenhouse even in your backyard.

Gabriel Ash greenhouses can be attached to your house, placed in your backyard or perched on a deck and at a relatively low cost. Gone are the days of shattered glass and cumbersome greenhouses. Gabriel Ash use only the finest materials ensuring that your greenhouse will stand the test of time.

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