A Hartley Botanic Victorian Lodge in the US

Factors to Consider When Buying a Greenhouse

Considering a Greenhouse? Historic English Glasshouse Manufacturer Hartley Botanic Answers Your Questions.

Historic, English glasshouse and greenhouse manufacturer Hartley Botanic experienced a renewed demand from homeowners in its beautiful, handmade greenhouses during lockdown, as the benefit of being more self-sufficient and ‘growing your own’ was thrown sharply into focus. The business based in the North of England, which has been operating since 1938, experienced a c.35 percent increase in customers citing ‘growing their own’ as the primary reason they wanted to invest in a glasshouse or greenhouse during lockdown, with customers saying they ‘never want to be caught out like this again.’

If lockdown inspired you to think about owning a glasshouse or greenhouse for the first time, but you don’t know where to start, Hartley Botanic has provided the answers to some of the most common questions asked by new customers.  

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

Envisaging how you would like to use and enjoy your greenhouse is a useful consideration in deciding upon a design and final size. There are a huge number of ways a greenhouse can bring your gardening potential alive, and also expand the way you utilize your garden as an outdoor space. Perhaps you want your greenhouse to fulfill a dual purpose, to be a very practical tool for growing your own food but also, an alfresco room where you can sit amongst your plants – for this, a structure which allows for a generous seating area with a view of key staging areas could be a consideration. 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. With its unique square architecture our Grange glasshouse could be an interesting choice. 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 an important consideration. 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, 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.

Site your greenhouse in close proximity to an electricity (if utilising) and water supply, and on fertile soil if you want to install growing beds.

It is also important to consider how the structure will fit aesthetically into your landscaping as a whole. 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 where planning permits will be required, 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 in relation to your geographical location. You may also need permission if the greenhouse will be disproportionately large in relation to your existing property. As instances will 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, either for 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 which make effective use of 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 which benefit from being trained, such as Pelargonium and Bougainvillea.

Hartley Botanic Victorian Lodge in Black Olive

Abutting greenhouses and glasshouses are typically attached to a building by their side. Attaching 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 with the benefit of maximizing 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, but 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 greenhouse owners make 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 – 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 which are very effective at draining away excess water, at the same time as providing a stunning, classic aesthetic.

How do I ventilate my greenhouse?

One of the most common reasons for plant failure in greenhouses is due to 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 certainly 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 give you the chance to extend your time in your greenhouse by improving visibility and can encourage growth. Fan heaters are very efficient at circulating heat, even in medium and large structures.

For heating extremely large 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.


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