The Conservatory

I don’t know whether it’s due to my love of the garden, but I do Adore conservatories …

It’s a place when you almost invite the garden inside, beautiful large windows and doors opening into a sea of green and sweet garden breeze.

However, … depending where in the world you live, will depend on what materials your conservators is constructed of. In southern Spain for example, you can’t have a glass ceiling on a conservatory. The sun would just cook everything inside … These types of climates beg for deep terraces which cleverly control the sun. Allowing as much light in as possible but reflecting the baking heat away from your precious interior space.

In northern Europe, it’s a different story completely. There everything in the world is done to invite the sun in .. understandable really as it’s not as present up there as it is down here closer to the equator.

In essence, the conservatory to me is a place of relaxation. Somewhere the garden and interior space mingle. But I think the conservatory has many and varied applications. As a dining space, it can be a very romantic setting. Or for the budding gardener it can double up as a potting shed … due to the scent of manure however, you might not want to dine in that particular conservatory !

But wasn’t that the birth of the conservatory ? Plants I mean ? The want to keep exotic plants in colder climates necessitated the creation of a bright warm environment. Let me just do some research  – Be right back …

Yes – the conservatory was invented in the 16th century by the wealthy land owners. Those who wanted to culture the newly intruded citrus fruit for their dinning pleasure, but they needed a bright warm environment to over winter them. (The citrus trees being brought from the warmer Mediterranean). So the first conservatories were in actual fact what we call Orangery’s. These citrus trees would be grow in pots that could be moved into the Orangeries, or conservatories where they could be grown in shelter over the harshest months of the year.

Today however the conservatory has shed its farming trade for a much more relaxing endeavour. The sun house, as it is sometimes called, is a delightful addition to a house, encouraging light and summer warmth into a space with such an air of elegance.

Kew Botanical gardens in London has a few conservatories of note !  As does the Edinburgh Botanical gardens, which I visited recently. Now these are real conservatories in all their magnificence. Huge hot houses full of the most exotic plants, who are tended and nurtured by the most diligent botanists, and all manner of plantsmen. This is the Conservatory at its most productive, a true work horse.

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These conservatories are immense and stand alone, heat and water pumped into them. They are open to the public and serve a wonderful purpose in keeping a finely tuned eye on the study of our world of plants. These public structures become immensely popular in the 19th century. Beautiful in their iron and glass construction they housed precious and exotic tender plants, for the public to view.

It wasn’t until the 1950 that the conservatory took its place in the private home. This is when it procured the name Sunroom. A small and simple extension to the house constructed mainly of glass with the sole intention of trapping the sun. In the 1970 the more creative architects started to include a Victorian themed conservatory to their designs. This is the most direct evolution of what we see today in these gorgeous glass extensions to homes.

With technology ever advancing, there are no limits to what we can do with the conservatory now. However, it remains, to me, a magical area where we can invite the garden in … where I can sit and sip tea as I watch the butterflies and bees tend my flowers …

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