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A greenhouse invites new possibilities to a garden—from a plant-filled alfresco room that can be used year-round to the potential for growing your own food and flowers. You can even extend your home with a greenhouse. Neal Bobrick, President of Hartley Botanic, shares his expertise in making the most of these magical garden rooms.



What size and type of glasshouse or greenhouse should I buy?

Envisaging how you would like to use and enjoy your greenhouse is useful in deciding upon a design and final size. There are many ways a greenhouse can bring your gardening potential alive and expand the way you utilize your garden as an outdoor space. Perhaps you want your greenhouse to fulfill a dual purpose, to be an efficient tool for growing your food and an alfresco room where you can sit amongst your plants. For this, a structure that allows for a generous seating area with a view of key staging areas could be considered. In terms of size, our Victorian Lodge would be ideal for this. Or perhaps it will enable you to indulge a passion for alpines, and being able to admire them from the outside is as important as growing them. Our Grange Glasshouse could be an interesting choice with its unique square architecture. Or perhaps you want to grow fresh flowers for your property and are interested in blurring the divide between your living rooms and your garden – consider an abutting Greenhouse accessible from within your home



What is the optimal position in my garden for a Greenhouse?

Your greenhouse needs access to as much sunlight as possible during all seasons of the year, so positioning is vital. Avoid locating your greenhouse in the shadow of tall trees, boundary fences, or walls, as these will obstruct light. 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, allowing 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 that is not shaded but equally not too exposed to the cold. Site your greenhouse near electricity (if utilizing), a water supply, and on fertile soil if you want to install growing beds. It is also essential to consider how the structure will fit aesthetically into your landscaping. Your greenhouse needs to find a natural place within your existing garden rather than dominate it.

Will I need planning permits?

Planning permits are not always needed for greenhouses or glasshouses; however, you should check with your municipality, county, and city in advance. There are many and varied circumstances requiring planning permits, such as regulations from Homeowner Associations and zoning and building ordinances. Zoning permits regulate the location of greenhouses on individual properties and will govern how many accessory buildings you can have. In contrast, building codes look at the structural integrity of greenhouses concerning your geographical location. You may also need permission if the greenhouse is disproportionately more prominent than your existing property. As instances vary so much from customer to customer, we recommend you check this by contacting your local building and zoning department. If planning permission is needed, we are very happy to provide drawings for use in your application. We can also provide guidance from our technical teams for either yourself or your contractor.



What are the benefits of a ‘lean-to’ and an abutting Greenhouse? And how do they differ? Lean-to and abutting greenhouses can provide clever, neat and stylish design solutions that effectively use smaller outdoor spaces or give direct access to your greenhouse through your property. Lean-to greenhouses are placed along south-facing or well-lit walls and work well in both walled gardens and against a property’s external wall. They are ideal for compact garden areas - The Hartley Lean-tos’ neat layout is enhanced further by its side-sliding doors at the entrance, moving away from the neighboring wall. With their roof pitch highest next to the adjoining wall, lean-to designs provide ideal spaces to grow fruit trees and ornamentals that benefit from being trained, such as Pelargonium and Bougainvillea. Abutting greenhouses and glasshouses are typically attached to a building by their side. Connecting a greenhouse to the side of your property can create beautiful architectural interest and a contemporary look. This is especially true if selecting stone for the Greenhouses’ dwarf wall, which mirrors that of the property itself.

I notice many of your Greenhouses are on dwarf walls. Why is this, and what are the other options? Many of our customers prefer the traditional look using a dwarf wall gives, and for some, this also provides a clever way to visually unify a Greenhouse with the customers’ property by using the same bricks or stone. Construction on a dwarf wall has the added benefit of being able to include attached cold frames to the Greenhouse or Glasshouse design, providing extended but separate storage space and a different growing environment. Hartley Botanic does also manufacture and install many glass-to-ground structures. Our contemporary Opus Glasshouse and Magnum Opus Glasshouse are glass-to-ground structures, as are our Westminster and our Grow and Store. These structures offer an alternative aesthetic to maximize light within the greenhouse, helping to make full use of the growing season.



What water access will I need?

Watering is arguably the most important daily task in the routine of owning a Greenhouse, so easy access to a mains water supply is a must, especially during dry seasons. There are automatic watering systems available for Greenhouse owners. Still, for domestic structures, these are not always necessary and lack the intuition and personal touch of a gardener, able to tailor watering according to each plants’ needs. We recommend that Greenhouse owners use 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 – unless they include bleach, caustic materials, or artificially softened water (as found in dishwashers and washing machines.) Hartley Botanic offers beautiful, Victorian-style, cast iron heating and drainage grates that are very effective at draining away excess water while providing a stunning, classic aesthetic.

How do I ventilate my greenhouse? One of the most common reasons for plant failure in Greenhouses is insufficient ventilation. Ventilation is maximized and prioritized for Hartley Botanic customers, with the number and position of vents being determined according to the specific needs of each bespoke structure. Our Victorian range comes with automatic roof vents, and our other models come with manual ventilation as standard, which can be upgraded on request.

Is an electricity supply essential?

Running an electricity supply directly to your Hartley Botanic Greenhouse is not essential, but it can make your life easier and your greenhouse more efficient. Both heat and light are wonder ingredients for your flourishing plants and can be exploited further if available in all seasons and at all times of day or night. Lights allow you to extend your time in your greenhouse by improving visibility and encouraging growth. Fan heaters are very efficient at circulating heat, even in medium and large structures.

For heating vast structures, electricity isn’t necessarily required - a hot water pipe system with a boiler powered by gas or oil is the norm. Thermostats for this system should be located at plant height near the center of the greenhouse where it will not be influenced by drafts or sidewall cooling and protected from direct contact with sunlight and water.

How much should I spend? This really depends on the type of greenhouse or glasshouse you would like, its size, and scope. When considering the size, weighed against its potential cost, it is essential to consider how long you are likely to use it as a growing space and how your needs may change over time. With a Hartley Botanic Greenhouse you are guaranteed to be investing in a structure which will last for at least 30 years (see our 30-year lifetime guarantee), with many of our greenhouses and glasshouses lasting much longer. Many of our early structures from the 1950s are still standing and in full use (such as the Hartley Botanic Greenhouse at Belgrave Hall, installed in 1950, and the Glasshouse in Glasgow Botanical Gardens installed in 1988.)

As your Hartley Botanic Greenhouse will grow with you and your garden over many years, we recommend taking a long-term view. If practical within your garden and budget, a larger structure provides more scope to meet your future growing ambitions, which are likely to increase, especially if you are a first-time Greenhouse owner.

Clearly, final budget considerations should include potential heating and lighting costs if considering a larger structure. All Hartley Botanic’s Glasshouses and Greenhouses are handmade, bespoke, and made to order. Customers interested in purchasing a Hartley Botanic Greenhouse should visit: or call 781-933-1993 for more information

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