The Oxford dictionary defines a winter garden as a noun, which is either a garden of plants, such as evergreens, that flourish [outside] in winter, or a conservatory [or glasshouse] in which flowers and other plants are grown in winter.
Winter Gardens as large glass houses filled with tropical plants offer a sheltered place to enjoy a garden away from the frost outside.These indoor winter gardens were largely instigated in the nineteenth century, by those plant collectors par excellence who flourished, particularly, but not exclusively, in Britain. They were helped along by the great strides that were taking place in the manufacturing of both glass and cast iron as part of the Industrial revolution; and by the dropping (or should that be smashing?) of the window tax.
Lush planting of palms and cacti; higher light levels and warmer temperatures make such glass houses a welcoming location on cold winter days. There would seem to be more of these Winter Gardens in the northern areas of Britain which would make sense. Greenhouses are used to extend the growing season of borderline hardy plants and to enable the cultivation of tropical species that would not survive the cold wet winters that Britain enjoys.
The winter gardens in Sunderland have a botanical collection of over 2000 plants from around the world. Their extensive collection includes many important food plants, for example, tea, coffee, citrus and date palms. These latter two are traditional Christmas fare – who doesn’t have an orange in their stocking and who can remember being told off for spitting date stones into the fire on Boxing Day?
The Peoples Palace in Glasgow is another nineteenth century Winter Garden, set in the fifteenth century Glasgow Green, the oldest public space in Glasgow. Duthie Park in Aberdeen was originally opened in the 1880s, and the Winter Garden glasshouses, destroyed by storms in 1969, and subsequently rebuilt, now house the second largest collection of cacti and bromeliads (air plants) in Britain; second only to the Eden Project. Duthie Park Arid House also has a talking cactus…
There are more modern versions too, built in the last hundred years. One of the most spectacular must be that in Sheffield, big enough to host some 5,500 domestic greenhouses inside its wood and glass. It doesn’t have greenhouses inside a greenhouse, of course, what a waste of space that would be when there are 2500 plants all in need of a home!
Does your winter garden look like a wonderland? Check out this video on our YouTube Channel