Greenhouse ideas – traditional and new ways to use a garden glass house

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  • With a few home comforts and a stylish addition or two, a thoughtful greenhouse can transform the purpose and look of any garden. We explore the best greenhouse ideas to create a year-round retreat for plants and people too!

    These traditional glass garden structures hold great potential to enhance any outdoor spaces.

    The main purpose of a greenhouse is to maintain a level of warmth and humidity to aid with growing plants. However new trends are emerging to show greenhouses are fast becoming the new multi-purpose garden building.

    Visit our garden channel for all our ideas to inspire your outdoor space

    ‘We see an incredible variety of uses for our Greenhouses and Glasshouses amongst customers,’ explains Tom Barry, Managing Director of Hartley Botanic. ‘As well as their obvious horticultural potential, they also allow customers to enjoy their gardens in a far richer way.’

    We’ve come up with new ways to use your greenhouse this summer – scroll down and you’ll also find some of your key greenhouse questions, answered!

    Greenhouse ideas

    1. Opt for a power supply to enable heat and light

    Image credit: Mark Bolton

    Run an electrically supply into your greenhouse structure to make your life easier and your Greenhouse more efficient. While it’s not essential to have a power supply it does serve to aid the growing process but also extend the time you can spend in your greenhouse by improving visibility during the darker months – furthering your gardening potential for all seasons and at all times of day or night. Both heat and light are key ingredients for your flourishing plants.

    2. Grow your own crops for sustainability

    Image credit: Polly Eltes

    The main advantage of a greenhouse is, and will always be shielding plants from extreme temperature drops to aid with growing capabilities. The environment in a greenhouse is ideal for certain species of plants, particularly vegetables and other food crops.

    In today’s climate we are much more aware of sustainability, such as where our food comes from. The ever-popular trend for ‘grow your own’ means that greenhouses are still playing such a huge importance in our gardens for growing produce. Hartley Botanic informs us 95 percent of customers still use their greenhouses solely to grow their own produce – most of citing they do so because they wish to eat better.

    Growing your own ensures the knowledge that your food is totally organic, and many say ‘superior to supermarket equivalents’ on taste.

    3. Go compact for a small outdoor space

    greenhouse ideas 2

    Image credit: Ti-Media

    You don’t need a big garden to experience the perks of a greenhouse, it can be a savvy small garden idea too. For a tiny plot consider investing in a smaller version like the one above. The three shelves offer plenty of space to nurture seedlings or smaller produce such as cherry tomatoes or salad leaves.

    Opting for a small greenhouse cabinet on wheels is a good idea. That way you can move your plants around to make sure they get the maximum sunlight to thrive.

    4. Seek shade

    Image credit: Tim Young

    Despite greenhouses thriving in a warm and thriving, too much direct sun can actually be harmful to young plants. It’s therefore a good idea to instal blinds to allow some control over the amount of scorching sunshine – intensified by the glass aspect of the design.

    ‘When purchasing a Greenhouse it is sensible to consider including internal blinds as an extra accessory to have installed if you do have the budget.’ Advises Tom from Hartley Botanics. ‘Although expensive, they provide convenient shade in the summer months. Ours are specifically designed to follow the shape of your Greenhouse and will protect your precious plants from damage caused by the sun and help regulate internal temperatures. Motorised systems with sensors enabled by remote control can also make your life even easier, allowing you to operate your roller shades at the touch of a button!’

    5. Plant the garden around the greenhouse

    Image credit: Oliver Gordon

    While you want to reap the rewards of a greenhouse, you might not wish for it to be overly prominent. ‘It’s important to consider how the structure will fit aesthetically into your landscaping as a whole’ advise Hartley Botanics. ‘Your Greenhouse needs to find a natural place within your existing garden, rather than dominate it.’

    6. Choose a dual-purpose greenhouse design

    If you desire your greenhouse to fulfil a dual-purpose, to be a practical place for growing your own food but also a garden room where you can sit amongst your plants for some ‘me time’.  To accommodate both aspects in equal measure choose a structure which allows for a generous seating area with a view of the surrounding greenery and the garden beyond.

    7. Create a wellness studio

    Greenhouse ideas

    Image credit: Hartley Botanic 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show stand

    As seen at the last RHS Chelsea Flower Show, renowned greenhouse and glasshouse specialists Hartley Botanic transformed one of their attractive glass structures into a yoga studio. With the focus on how we can aid our mental health and wellness, we spoke to an experts to explain the benefits of creating an outdoor space for yoga and meditation.

    ‘There is something really special about practicing yoga outside and allocating a dedicated space to your practise, away from your everyday interior environment and habitual tasks,’ explains Juliet Murrell, yoga expert and founder of the House of VOGA. ‘ I regularly use my garden as a space to practice yoga in the summer.’

    ‘Having a greenhouse would mean I could maximise that feeling of freedom you experience from outdoor practise. Whatever the weather, all year round – particularly important for those of us living in the UK.’

    All you need to do to create this space is leave the centre kept clear for a yoga mat. The surrounding plants will add further tranquil and soothing vibes, ideal for a calmer yoga and meditation space.

    8. Take the inside out with interior styling

    greenhouse ideas

    Image credit: Julia Currie Photography

    A greenhouse provides the perfect place to enjoy the fruits of your labour in the garden – simply add furniture to sit back and relax. The trend for taking the indoors out is one that shows no sign of fading anytime soon. One of the best examples of styling up an outdoor space is this greenhouse on display at Chelsea Flower Show (above).

    ‘Treat the greenhouse like a home extension,’ suggests the stylist Selina Lake. ‘Add a bench covered with a picnic mattress and a pile of cushions to use as a daybed. It’s somewhere to relax, read and dream. Adding textiles will instantly soften the space and make it feel welcoming, just be aware textiles will fade in the sun. For a makeshift side table use a sturdy unturned crate.’

    See all the trends: Garden trends 2021 – we reveal the key looks and must-haves for your garden

    9. Use the space for entertaining

    Greenhouse ideas 1

    Image credit: Ti-Media

    Greenhouses might be ideal for shielding plants from drops in temperature, but they are also perfect for protecting us. If you love eating your breakfast, lunch or dinner outside, consider turning a greenhouse into a relaxed dining room.

    One of the most significant trends in recent years citied around greenhouse usage, by Hartley Botanic, is to create a multi-functional space. A greenhouse allows for extended time spent outside, as an al fresco entertaining space.

    A greenhouse provides the warmth, while also proving overhead cover if the great British weather should turn. This environment can extend the length of time spent entertaining outdoors, as not to put a dampener on summer soriees. And not just for summer, there’s the potential to use our gardens for entertaining for 8 or 9 months of the year.

    10. Prepare a potting corner

    Image request: Tim Young

    Make best use of space by incorporating a potting bench in the corner of your greenhouse. Being in the same enclosure where you grow your fruit and veg makes your panting much more efficient. The dry and bright environment will allow you to work on your plants no matter the weather.

    Combine pretty with practical by storing colourful seed packets on an open stand and keeping beautiful vintage gardening books out on show.  Adding a radio will help to make the space sing with creativity.

    11. Work with sustainable sources

    greenhouse idea with recycled pots and trugs

    Image credit: Tim Young

    Look to make your greenhouse as sustainable as possible. For instance making use of sustainable water sources, using water butts to collect rainwater and ‘grey’ water recycled from baths or sinks. This will save on the amount of water you need to use without negatively impacting your plants. Use recycled materials for trugs and storage barrels, alongside upcyclying for savvy planting. Old food tins are a great source for growing plants in, simply wash the tins out and drill a small drainage hole to create a free and effective planter.

    12. House a hobby room

    greenhouse ideas

    Image credit: Tim Young

    No space in your home for a dedicated hobby room? If you don’t mind the warmth, why not use the garden building as a room to house a hobby. Whether you’re after a spot to sew or a place to paint, greenhouses are ideal; light, airy and bursting with beautiful blooms, creative inspiration is bound to strike!

    13. Light up your greenhouse with lanterns

    greenhouse ideas

    Image request: Tim Young

    For something a little bit different, think about lighting ideas. If you don’t want the expense and hassle of running power to your greenhouse consider alternative lighting options instead. During dull weather add lanterns to create a cosy ambiance to counteract the grey. Adding solar powered fairy lights will add a pretty touch after the sun sets on balmy summer night.

    If your greenhouse is geared up enough to have a power socket, invest in a statement floor lamp or a statement neon ‘garden’ light.

    14. Add colour to distract from the ‘clutter’

    Image request: Tim Young

    There’s no closing the door on mess when it comes to greenhouses, but they do provide an opportunity to create a pretty garden focal point. Coordinating bright accessories such as cushions, throws and pots adds a personal touch and ensures a splash of colour all year round – a welcome sight particularly during the colder months.

    Showcase your favourite flowers in hanging baskets, tin cans, baskets and DIY planters.

    15. Dry herbs and flowers

    Image credit: Polly Eltes

    The greenhouse provides the perfect place to dry all manner of herbs and flowers. Forget hanging them in the airing cupboard or in the kitchen, this is the ideal warm space to hang a line of string for attaching suspended bunches for drying.

    Related: Garden mirror ideas to flood gardens with a little ray of light

    Where should you position a greenhouse?

    Your choice of where to position your greenhouse depends on the space you have available. The most important factors are if this area catches the most sunshine in your garden, if it can be easily levelled to provide a good foundation and if it has convenient access.

    Other factors to consider include:

    • Aspect: a south or southwest facing aspect will provide the best exposure to sunlight.
    • Shelter: consider the proximity of hedges or fences that will provide shelter from the direction of the prevailing wind.
    • Trees: trees provide excessive shade, fill the gutter with leaves and there is the risk of damage during a storm.
    • Services: consider how you will route water and electricity to your chosen site.

    ‘Avoid locating your Greenhouse in the shadow of tall trees, boundary fences or walls as these will obstruct light’ advises Tom Barry from Hartley Botanics. ‘For lean-to Greenhouses placed against a wall, a south-facing position is ideal. For stand-alone structures, the ridge along the top of the Greenhouse should ideally run from East to West, this will allow the sun to run along its longest side during the day. Other elemental considerations include a location to catch prevailing winds for ventilation purposes and choosing a site which is not shaded, but equally not too exposed to the cold.’

    Image credit: Polly Eltes

    What can I put in a greenhouse?

    If you dream of being more sustainable and growing your own food, having a greenhouse in your garden can make this an everyday reality.

    ‘You can grow a wide range of fruits and vegetables, which can be split into cold and warm season crops,’ says Richard Baggaley, Director at The Greenhouse People. ‘Cold season crops like lettuce, broccoli, peas and carrots can be grown earlier and later in the season than possible outside. Warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers, chillies and cucumbers will thrive in a greenhouse during the unpredictable British summers.’

    Don’t forget your ornamental plants, too. ‘Geraniums, chrysanthemums and petunias, though able to grow outdoors in Britain, will flourish in a greenhouse, giving you an endless supply of fresh flowers for your vases,’ says Richard.

    In the peak of the summer, you will also be able to grow tropical plants like orchids, cacti and Venus flytraps.

    How do you ventilate a Greenhouse?

    greenhouse with windows for ventilation

    Image credit: Polly Eltes

    ‘One of the most common reasons for plant failure in Greenhouses is due to insufficient ventilation’ warns Tom Barry from Hartley Botanics. ‘Ventilation is maximised and prioritised for the number and position of vents being determined according to the specific needs of each bespoke structure. Our Victorian range comes with automatic vents and our other models come with manual ventilation as standard’.

    Feeling inspired to rethink your greenhouse?

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