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Victorian Orchid Culture


The Cattleya House at the Royal Exotic Nursery, Chelsea, from Veitch's Manual of Orchidaceous Plants 

In the first half of the nineteenth century, nurseries in Europe were busy importing and receiving plants from Tropical areas. Hence, it was a popular to have a plant house which filled of these tropical treasures.

At that time, the glasshouses were usually built with the roof span running from north to south to make the maximum use of the daylight.

An exterior view of the great conservatory at Chatsworth

Lath blinds were used for shading, 3 to 4 inches above the glass, ensuring that the roof ventilation was free to take in fresh air and expel damaging heat.

Wooden sashes were incorporated into sliding grooves at the sides and front of the glasshouse at floor level for extra ventilation and were covered with wire or poultry mesh to prevent the entry of vermin.

'Hothouses for the million' --an advertisement for greenhouse in the Gardeners' Chronicle,1864

Humidity was created by watering the floor by hand, albeit that was a troublesome operation that had a tendency to discolour the flagstones or paving stones. In a Victorian glasshouse the hot water pipes were usually placed beneath the floor.

The show house at Mr Bull's nursery

Coke or coal was used in the boilers for heating more often than gas. The fires were lit in the early morning, using broken coke.

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