Conservatory or Greenhouse – how can you tell?

Posted November 6th, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Greenhouses
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Which would YOU rather have; a CONSERVATORY or a GREENHOUSE?

Before YOU decide, let us tell you a story…

DID YOU KNOW greenhouses can be dated back to the ROMAN EMPIRE? Legend says that ROMAN EMPEROR TIBERIUS was told by his physicians that eating a cucumber once a day would improve overall health. So WHAT DID HE DO? He had a PROTO-GREENHOUSE built so his gardeners could GROW cucumbers YEAR ROUND!

Wait, isn’t that what CONSERVATORIES were used for?



By definition, conservatory means “TO CONSERVE PLANTS”. In the 19th century conservatories were often referred to as ORANGERIES because they housed ORANGE TREES and other TROPICAL FRUITS, just like GREENHOUSES! Scientists were LARGE BENEFACTORS of both conservatories and greenhouses because they allowed them to harvest and cultivate PLANT SPECIMENS in search of MEDICINAL BENEFITS. Soon, conservatories and greenhouses became STATUS SYMBOLS, breaking away from just being used for growing plants.

Versailles            Palace in Versailles      


French Monarch LOUIS XIV also shared a love of greenhouses! He built the first greenhouse at his PALACE IN VERSAILLES during the 17th century. He used his greenhouse to HOUSE ORANGE TREES and various other popular fruits. It was he who perhaps started the craze for ORANGERIES.

Greenhouses became very POPULAR during the 19th century in ENGLAND. During this time, the ADVANCEMENT of MANUFACTURING allowed large quantities of glass to easily be made and thus, facilitated a BOOM in GREENHOUSE and CONSERVATORY building. Within a few years, the beautiful PALM HOUSE at KEW GARDENS was built! This elegant VICTORIAN STYLE greenhouse was the FIRST TIME engineers used WROUGHT IRON in large volumes WITHOUT SUPPORTING COLUMNS.

uk The Kew Gardens    

So, can YOU tell the DIFFERENCE now?

Greenhouses and conservatories can EASILY be CONFUSED with one another. Historically, GREENHOUSES WERE CALLED CONSERVATORIES, as there was limited distinction between the two. But, in the late 19th century, CONSERVATORIES TRANSFORMED from being places for plants, to places for humans – and what GREAT SPACES they became!

So, which would YOU rather have?

Halloween & Dia de los Muertos are a Great Time for Decorating the Conservatory

Posted October 28th, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Dea Digs, Events, Gardening, Greenhouses
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ART and DESIGN are ways of creatively CELEBRATING LIFE—AND DEATH! As the outdoor growing season dies, humans have celebrated this time since long ago as a symbol for the passing of life and the chance to honor the spirits. All cultures have some kind of similar celebration, and the ARTISTIC EXPRESSION that comes from it is not only ASTOUNDINGLY DIVERSE, but fascinatingly attractive; albeit often macabre. Sometimes, that macabre is an integral part of the celebration. After all, HALLOWEEN was a night when those spirits walked and it was imperative to scare them away!



In the BRITISH ISLES, long before anyone there grew pumpkins (an American native), turnips and mangelwurzel (field beets) were carved into lanterns with GHOULISH FACES. These were OUTFITTED WITH A CANDLE and hung on poles to be carried, or at gates, windows, and doors. Any spirit, malevolent or not, would think twice about harassing the carver. That tradition was carried to the Americas, where ‘THE GREAT PUMPKIN’ was born. Today, even in the U.K., pumpkins, squash, or gourds make a far more cooperative and satisfying JACK’O’LANTERN.


Where’s the DECORATION?

The ease and simplicity of adding these members of the Cucurbit family, carved or not, to YOUR CONSERVATORY OR GREENHOUSE for SEASONAL DECORATION is unrivaled. There are so many species and cultivars that you’ll grow dizzy from choice. They range from the MINI to the MASSIVE, from WHITE to nearly BLACK, and from PERFECTLY GEOMETRICAL to GNARLY. Carved out, they can even be used as ‘COSTUMESFOR YOUR PLANT POTS (just add a bag if it’s a snug fit so your pot doesn’t get slimy)! A bonus of placing them just prior to Halloween is that they can remain through Thanksgiving. Perhaps removing the carved ones so as not to scare Thanksgiving guests away. REMEMBER to add the ones you don’t turn into pie to the compost pile.




Looking for FUN?

There are other plants that can create a FUN and MACABRE EFFECT. One is the BEAUTIFUL and FRIGHTENING-LOOKING Solanum quitoense, a.k.a. Naranjilla. Spineless varieties of this are grown as a fruit crop, but I’m talking about the original species with its LARGE, SERRATED, SP]INY, PURPLE-HAIRED leaves. Don’t let those spines scare you—just your guests. This is a very easy plant to grow and does well in a pot. I have grown it a number of times and if you’re mindful, it won’t bite! In fact, you MAY FALL IN LOVE WITH IT. Its relative, the PORCUPINE TOMATO, a.k.a. Solanum pyracanthum, is an option, but while it’s even scarier, it’s not quite as pretty. Another FUN FACT is that these are part of the nightshade family—which we know witches have been using for centuries to weave their spells.

There is even a perfect ‘GOTHPLANT. It’s a sage species known as Salvia discolor and has everything you could want in FASHION REBEL. It’s got the closest you’ll find to BLACK FLOWERS, which should conveniently be blooming for Halloween, and a pale, silver-green foliage. If the KIDS touch it, they’ll ‘OOH’ and ‘ICK’ because of its sticky stems. It makes a WONDERFUL GREENHOUSE PLANT and tends to bloom more or less all year if kept warm. Even its scent is bizarrely attractive.



MY FAVORITE plant for Halloween decorating is the BAT-LEAVED PASSION VINE. Passiflora coriacea (recently changed to sexocellata), especially a cultivar called Passiflora x ‘Manta’. This is a loveable, excellent greenhouse denizen that you can easily manipulate like a string of lights or garland. It gives you that PERFECT FLUTTERING BAT LOOK. You can set it up in a place of honor to impress your costumed guests, then put it back in its preferred spot when the festivities are over.



If you’re looking to create an atmosphere using DRIED PLANTS, one of the best is the SNAPDRAGON STEM LADEN with its skull-shaped seedpods. Mixing in red-hued grasses, orange Chinese lanterns and blackish Purple Majesty millet will give you a WONDERFULLY ATTRACTIVE, MYSTERIOUS VIBE that can also be left for the Thanksgiving decorations. Leaving off the lights and using candles (real or faux) on Halloween night will delight all.

Finally, ADD IN THE DARK METAL. Not necessarily the rock music kind, but iron, bronze, or copper (oxidized copper looks great). TUBS and CAULDRONS make great ‘PLANT POT COSTUMES’, old twisted gates are great for the vines, and sundry candleholders create ambiance.

Whether as extra room for a Halloween party or a haunted conservatory for your trick-or-treaters, your greenhouse will look phantabulous.

Happy All Hallows Eve!

By Dea Schofield

A Hidden Dream Brought to Life

Posted August 26th, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Greenhouses, Pool Enclosures, Uncategorized
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Do you remember the Doylestown dream?

As promised, this Doylestown dream is brought to life! In just a few days, 350 square feet of beautiful mahogany, elegant French doors, and light-giving cupola will be ready to house its plants and flowers.


On Site

During a recent visit, the client expressed how much she is in love with their new greenhouse! They are eager for its completion and the beginning of the pool enclosure; a far more ambitious project. 



The fully operating grow systems in the greenhouse are automated, which gives the owners precise control of the greenhouses environment. The abstract look of the lapped-glass roof sloping up to the cupola gives this greenhouse a unique touch and the arched woodwork in the windows are truly hand-made, custom pieces.


Current Status

As for the pool enclosure, it has left engineering and is on its way to our shop floor! Our production team expects to have the pool enclosure ready for installation to begin in November; just in time for their children to use the pool before the snow falls!



This certainly is another dream we are thankful to be a part of creating and are looking forward to the completion of the pool enclosure late November! It’s apparent we all share the same vision and dedication to bring this dream to life.


Craving more? Check out more dreams created at Tanglewood. Who knows, yours could be next! Give us a call at 410.479.4700 and contact us!

A Lesson in History

Posted August 19th, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Dynamic Glass, Greenhouses, Stained Glass, Steel Structures
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When you were little, did you dream of having a bowling alley or movie theater in your home?

These clients DID! Housed under this beautiful 40,000 square foot home rests a racquetball court, bowling alley, media room and more! What could they POSSIBLY be missing?

During construction of their dream home the architect was tasked with designing several of the home’s unique rooms; then the idea of a greenhouse arose. The architect reached out to Tanglewood in need of help!


The client had big ideas, dreaming of an old world industrial look with a twist – but how do you incorporate almost impossible elements designed over 100 years ago?

We laboriously researched books of old buildings and historic old world greenhouses that inspired our designs and as the great conservatories and greenhouses stood long ago, this greenhouse would reflect a decorative steel structure with curved rooflines bringing a “light” feel to the room.

Look closely…

PicMonkeky_NRF Outside Zoom

The use of circular motifs in the steel beams, stained glass and in the architectural details lighten the framework. The copper roof and dark stained mahogany on the interior and exterior and gutters disappear into the open glass room. As elements came together the greenhouse held a transparent feel, just as old world conservatories/greenhouses had displayed.

Now take a closer look…

Specially requested by the client, designed within the stained glass and steel beams, four leaf clovers showcase her native Ireland bring a piece of her into its structure.

PicMonkey_4 Leaf Clover Close Up - NRF

 No matter the lengths we are dedicated to turning every dream into a reality. Our skilled craftsman have a strong background in historic structures that allows us to relate, NOT replicate, each and every design, creating TRUE ONE OF A KIND works of art.

Are you Dreaming?

Let’s get your dream started!  Call us at 410.479.4700 and click here to get your project started!


Posted July 10th, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Greenhouses
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Have you ever found yourself tempted to compromise your dream?

A few years ago, our client found themselves in this situation. They dreamed of a recreation of a historic 19th century greenhouse and reached out to Tanglewood. We were inspired by them. They dreamed of creating a greenhouse with uncompromising design to devote to their love of gardening and after a few conversations, we were invited to visit.

So what happened?

bell.dome closeup

During our visit we could see the client meandering from their path; their dreams became blurred in search of a lower price – but what was more important?

We left the meeting feeling uneasy, but Alan was adamant: “We might be more expensive, but we understand your dream and are the only ones who can create the reality.”

“…Alan, you were right…”

bell int joanne

It turned out, working with another company exposed their true desire. Dreaming of beautiful design elements and intricate details and patterns, they realized they wouldn’t settle for anything less than what Tanglewood could create.

Working together with the project architect, a beautiful fully-operating 386 square foot greenhouse evolved!


So,are you on the right path? Let’s dream together and start building your magical place! Tell us about your project and give us a call at 410.479.4700.

A Hidden Dream

Posted June 26th, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Greenhouses, Pool Enclosures, Steel Structures
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Do you have a hidden dream?

Hundreds of dreams are created at Tanglewood before they are installed on location and with each dream we have uncovered something we’ve never done before. How can we help you discover your hidden dream?

We invite you to take a closer look into our workshop at some exciting developments, starting with what we believed to be an everyday project from a home owner in Doylestown, PA.

Several months ago, a client came to us with their dream to construct a unique pool enclosure for her kids to enjoy year round. Immediately struck by Tanglewood’s exceptional design and passion, she looked no further and invited us out to see her home.

It was her dream for us to construct a 3,000 square foot pool enclosure with a design that required both steel and wood finishes.




But before our meeting came to an end, the client was so impressed she proposed a second project that they have been dreaming about… a greenhouse! We eagerly accepted.

For this project, she envisioned a 350 square foot fully operating wood greenhouse to finish with an aluminum roof.



Together, our teams immediately got started on design, working with not only the client, but landscape architect, builder and architect to make her dream a reality.

Current Status:

After discussion of the greenhouse began, it instantly became first priority. Currently, we are putting on the final touches in our shop and plan to have the project completely finished by this summer.

As for the pool enclosure, designs are now complete and installation is set to begin in the fall.

We work hard to make sure all of our client’s design visions come true, no matter how big or small, complicated or simple, modern or classic. Want to read more about Tanglewood’s uncovered dreams? Keep in touch, there’s more to come!

To get your project started, give us a call at 410.479.4700.

Finding Inspiration in Historic Steel Conservatories

Posted April 10th, 2015 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Conservatory Projects, Greenhouses, Pool Enclosures, Steel Structures, Travels, Uncategorized
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How can looking back at historic structures help us build conservatories today?  The answer is actually relatively simple – because they help us dream!

The earliest glass houses date from the 17th century, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that steel and glass hit its heyday.   The abolishment of the glass tax in 1845 and advancements in cast iron production made during the industrial revolution fueled the passion for exotic glass houses.   The romanticism of the design – the sensuous curves, the play of light from the many angles and multitude of glass – the simple elegance and serenity – the list could go on and on as to the attributes of the historic conservatories.  Let’s take a look at how one historic structure fueled a dream!

Schönbrunn Palace Palm House
The Palm House conservatory is one of four greenhouses that occupy Schönbrunn Palace Park.  The present Palm House was built by metalworker Ignaz Gridl between 1880 and 1882 and was designed by Franz von Segenschmid.  The last of its type to be built in Europe, the great Palm House was designed using the most modern technology of the time.  With a length of 111 meters, a width of 28 meters and a height of 25 meters, the great Palm House is the largest glass house – with over 45,000 glass sheets on the European continent.

What is most interesting about Schönbrunn is that the steel ‘framework’ is actually on the exterior – forming a very unique exoskeleton! Most buildings begin with the structural ‘skeleton’ fitting inside of the exterior ‘skin’.  The ‘skeleton’ provides the framework, holding the building up and the ‘skin’ keeps the building weather tight.  Schönbrunn is just the opposite!  By reversing the arrangement, the steel exoskeleton celebrates the steelworks juxtaposition from utility to an elevation of art.

schoenbrun detail

Even the rivets in the girders lend such ornate detail to the entire structure.  Over 45,000 panes of glass cling to the curved iron girders like skin.


Tanglewood Conservatories is currently constructing a pool enclosure inspired by Schönbrunn Palace Palm House.  The client had some very definite design ideas that we discussed during our design meeting – a pool enclosure that mimicked an Irish countryside greenhouse – rustic and pastoral.  However, upon viewing photos of historic structures from 19th century Europe, the client asked to return to the Schönbrunn photos and was completely mesmerized by the concept. Their design vision was quickly and completely changed and now boasted an exterior steel structure and a multitude of glass panes functioning as the skin.  Tanglewood was captivated by the challenge to recreate such an iconic piece of history.  The project should be complete by late fall – photos to follow!

Passionate About Conservatories

Posted February 27th, 2015 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Dea Digs, Gardening, Greenhouses, latest
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It’s no secret that everyone at Tanglewood is passionate about what we do – from our founders, Alan and Nancy to our craftsmen in the shop, to the team of architects and engineers, to even our Hospitality Ambassador (front desk!) – we truly live and breathe conservatories, greenhouses and all things glass. But one other observation struck us – many of our clients and contacts are also very passionate about various topics such as gardening, art collecting, community activism, activities that all go hand in hand with the work we do at Tanglewood. As a result of this observation, we thought it would be intriguing, insightful and certainly interesting for us to ‘dig’ a little deeper over the upcoming year and explore these passions that surround us.

Tanglewood Conservatories is very excited to announce our partnership with Dea Schofield – a noted horticulturist. She will be working with Tanglewood to help ensure that a Tanglewood greenhouse is not only a beautiful building, but also optimized for functionality and to also give tips on plant care, systems, etc. She will be featured as a guest blogger on Tanglewood’s blog under the keywords, Dea Digs.

Dea’s Bio


20130915 - jf photography - 8296-2After extensive training to become a Master Gardener, I went on to teach classes on indoor/tropical/potted/container plants for future Master Gardeners. As a mom to an elementary-schooler, I needed to be available and working part-time at a nursery made that possible. I soon found myself being offered a horticultural position at Green Spring Gardens Park, in Virginia. Through them, I was able to obtain more training, which included seminars and lectures by pre-eminent people, hosted specifically for Smithsonian horticulturists, botanists, and biologists. Training included regular travel for field trips and lectures at places like Longwood Gardens or Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  I then found myself at Hillwood Museum and Gardens as greenhouse and floral display manager, where I also cared for the orchids there for many months (a huge, separate task that I cherished). Eventually, I struck out on my own in order to do design work, solve horticultural problems, and create gardens for others. Today, I have clients who say they just want my presence in their garden occasionally to be sure things stay green and happy—which is the utmost compliment.


Passion Found
As a child, I couldn’t stand to be inside. I wanted to be out exploring, looking for plants and creatures. My first memories of a fascination for plants involved the sensory excitement they induced. Pussy Willows and Birch Catkins were irresistible to an outdoorsy little girl. I think the first plant to intrigue me on an intellectual level was the Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica. Growing up in Germany, I discovered the plant was everywhere along roads and paths that were untended. From that early age, I knew there was something special about the herb. How could something that you could safely touch one way cause such discomfort when you touched it another? Why did it do that? Why were the fuzzy leaves sort of oily too? Why did people drink tea made of it? There was fun to be had with them too. I could get friends to shriek in horror by touching the tops of the leaves, knowing secretly that there were no trichomes, or stinging hairs, in that spot. Today, I know how to cultivate it and that the plant has been in medicinal service to humans for thousands of years. This kind of discovery is something I’m still crazy about.
It was also in Europe where I was exposed to the many variations on public gardens. From the manicured palace, castle and manor home gardens, to planted decoration of towns and cities, and individual homes and apartment windows, flowers were ubiquitous. For Europeans, the garden, both for food and enjoyment, was especially important. That rubbed off on me.  When we moved to Texas for a few years, I truly missed the color of Europe—but there were other things to discover, like Prickly Pear (with its edible fruit!) and Bluebonnets. It was there where I had my very first potted plant—a Purple Velvet Plant, or Gynura aurantiaca. At twelve or thirteen, I found the fuzzy, purple leaves irresistible, much like the pussy willows. Little did I know that the cute, diminutive plant would become a small monster, not unlike my plant passion (which grew to much greater proportions).

hibis collage

After years of travel and living abroad, I was finally able to have my first greenhouse here in the States. That morphed into a career that went from extremist hobbyist to Master Gardener to Expert Horticulturist. Today, I have the same fascination for plants as that little girl who couldn’t resist them!

Cultivating the Passion
One way I cultivated my passion for gardening was through education—constantly learning is not only essential to truly engaging in a passion, but I’m addicted to it as well! I love to learn about the art and science of plants and their cultivation. You might call me a plant fanatic. There are multiple facets to horticulture and I’ve tried to learn about and become experienced with them all. I’ve also have had my own collections for decades and have cultivated innumerable varieties and species. I also visit gardens, natural areas and botanical gardens wherever I travel (I’m especially attracted to places with greenhouses and conservatories).  It’s not hard to nurture something you love.

green collage

A Passion’s Impact
You probably won’t find a greater impact than having a hobby become a career! But here’s a brief tale of how much my love of plants affects how I think. Five years ago, I decided to reduce my carbon footprint significantly. I donated, gave away, and sold-off most of my collection and greenhouse in the process. But there was no way I’d live without plants. I checked out places and none felt adequate (despite being lovely inside), until one day I stepped into an older condo that was south-facing with floor-to-ceiling windows and overlooked a tree-covered hill. It was just a simple, large studio—but it had a great balcony. Due to the perfect direction for growing and the huge, green view, I took it on the spot. Today, I grow herbs, orchids and other tropicals—and my favorite, Passion Flowers. The vines love to cover the balcony railings by summer’s end. Then everyone but the hardy herbs comes in for winter. I chose my living space based on the needs of plants!

Top Secret Revealed
As a master horticulturist, the best advice I can give is to LISTEN. Listen to what your plants are saying and that will enable you to nurture them and meet their needs. For example, I walked into a very hot and humid greenhouse one day with my client and many of the plants had lost their turgidity and ‘looked’ to be wilted. My clients first response was to set the sprinklers off and water all these ‘wilted’ plants. I was able to show my client that the plant’s wilted structure was not from lack of water (a quick finger check in the soil, which was moist) but from the high heat and humidity. As soon as those variables returned to a more normal range for the plant, the turgidity would also rectify. Below is a picture of a Rose of Sharon – while the normal observer would see the flower and bee, a good ‘listener’ would also notice the plant has leaf scorch. The leaf scorch could be because it’s in too dry of a location, or because an A/C unit blew on it, or both.

rose of sharon

To ask Dea a question or to find out more about building your own Tanglewood Conservatory, click here to email us. If you would like to follow Dea on social media, click on her facebook.

Five Amazing East Coast Botanical Gardens & Conservatories

Posted February 20th, 2015 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Greenhouses, Travels
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While a glimmer of spring is yet to be found on the east coast; winter still has a firm grip with snow and freezing temperatures.  I cannot think of a more befitting way to start dreaming of spring and gathering inspiration for the upcoming planting season than to visit a botanical garden with greenhouse after greenhouse to explore!  Here are five of our top picks!

Longwood Gardens: Kennett Square, PA

longwood gardens

Longwood Gardens is one of the great gardens of the world. With historical information dating back to the 1700’s for this property, the land was purchased from William Penn by George Peirce and turned into an arboretum in 1798 by Pierce’s great-grandson.  The property was later purchased by the duPont family.  The property has been open to the public since the late 1700’s and just added a rather unusual award to its long list of awards and accolades –  Longwood was recently named winner of ‘best loos in the land.’  An award given by Cintas, recognizes public restrooms for their design, hygiene and usability.  Longwood Gardens’ private, skylit restroom pods are nestled into a 4,072 square foot green wall comprised of about 47,000 ferns and other plants.  Caretakers use computers to water and regulate the temperature of the plants, that were carefully placed in the 3,590 panels in the wall based on each type of plant’s light preference.  The wall produces as much oxygen as 90 trees that are 14 feet tall.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Howard Peter Rawlings Conservatory:  Baltimore, MD

Rawlings Conservatory

Completed in 1888, Rawlings Conservatory is the second oldest surviving glass and steel framed conservatory in the United States that is still in-use today.   Located in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore MD, it was designed by architect George Aloysius Frederick. The Palm House, with its 175 windows soaring 50 feet into the air, is a spectacular example of Victorian architecture.  With five distinct greenhouse rooms,  the Mediterranean House, Tropical House, Desert House, Orchid Room and Palm House, Rawlings is a true gem to visit.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


United States Botanic Garden:  Washington, D.C.

United States Botanic Garden Washington DC

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1820, the U.S. Botanic Garden is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. In 1842, the idea of a national botanic garden was reestablished when the United States Exploring Expedition to the South Seas (the Wilkes Expedition) brought a collection of living plants from around the globe to Washington, D.C. The Conservatory was constructed by the Architect of the Capitol in 1933. The historic Lord & Burnham greenhouse contains two courtyard gardens and 10 garden rooms under glass, totaling nearly 29,000 square feet of growing space. The exterior remains largely unchanged from its 1933 appearance aside from the addition of at the rear of the building. The Conservatory underwent a renovation in 1997 to modernize the building systems while retaining the architectural character.  The building reopened in 2001.


New York Botanic Garden: New York, NY

Enid Haupt Conservatory

An oasis in the busy New York metropolis, this National Historic Landmark’s 250 acre site’s landscape supports over one million living plants in their extensive collections.  Founded in 1891, this classic botanic garden hosts vast research programs in the Garden’s state-of-the-art laboratories to discover and understand the properties of plants and their relationships to each other, to ecosystems, and to people.  The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory is a stunning example of a Victorian-style glasshouse.  Home to A World of Plants, the Conservatory showcases the wonders of the Garden’s collection in lush tropical rain forests, cactus-filled deserts, palms from around the world, and aquatic and carnivorous plants.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: Richmond, VA

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Founded in 1981, a group of botanists, horticulturists and citizens worked together to form the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  The property has a long, rich history, originally Powhatan Indian hunting ground and once owned by Patrick Henry, Ginter purchased the property in 1895.  A prosperous Richmond businessman, Ginter encouraged his colleagues to form and build the Lakeside Wheel Club – a destination for Richmond bicyclists on his property.  After Ginter’s death in 1897, his niece bought the property and converted the wheel club into a convalescent home.  Naming the property ‘Bloemendaal’ (valley of flowers) she began the gardens on the site.  In her will, she designated life-time rights to her companion, after which time the city of Richmond was to develop the property as a botanical garden honoring Lewis Ginter.  The Conservatory is crowned ‘Jewel of the Garden’ and this 11,000 square-foot structure houses exotic plants from around the world.  Crowned by a 63 foot tall dome, the Conservatory includes a central Palm house, a semi-tropical wing featuring an orchid collection and two other wings that change according to seasonal displays.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Tanglewood Lectures at Rawlings Conservatory

Posted November 10th, 2014 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Events, Greenhouses, Insights, Travels
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A lecture on historic conservatories in an historic conservatory – much like peanut butter and chocolate – the perfect combination and very soul-satisfying.  Alan Stein, founder of Tanglewood Conservatories presented an intriguing look back at the great conservatories of the 19th century and the enduring impact they have had on history, architecture and humanity.

Alan stated at the end of the lecture, ‘In looking back at the designers and builders of the great conservatories of the 19th century; at the amazing buildings they produced and the impact they had on culture, society and industry of the time, we can’t help but be inspired by their passion, ingenuity and creativity.  Few legacies from the past have so much relevance for today’.


Looking Back Shows Us the Future

From the first crude orangeries in the mid-to-late 1600’s that had to be assembled each winter and taken down for spring to the nearly transparent glass houses such as Rawlings, to the modern minimalist movement, conservatories have experienced a marvelous evolution while still inspiring current construction of classic Victorian structures.

Depiction of Orangery from 1600's
Depiction of Orangery from 1600’s

Transparent feel of Rawlings Conservatory

Transparent feel of Rawlings Conservatory

Modern minimalist designed by Philip Johnson

Modern minimalist designed by Philip Johnson


Abundant Benefits

Nature is sometimes difficult to access in large sprawling cities such as Baltimore with blocks and blocks of row houses and office buildings.   Rawlings provides a quiet sanctuary, an oasis in which to connect with the outdoors and discover nature not just of our local region but virtually anywhere.  Public conservatories provide a venue so that we can learn about the natural world – both familiar and strange – local and exotic – and even more exciting, they allow all of us to become explorers just as Bomplad, Poeppig and Schomburgh, who searched the banks of the Amazon in their quest to bring back the giant Amazonian water lily for Queen Victoria in the 1800’s.

Bananas, coffee beans and papayas all grow at Rawlings Conservatory


Kate Blom, Rawlings Conservatory Supervisor states, ‘Kids go through the rainforest house and see bananas on real trees! – and they get it… where bananas come from instead of the supermarket shelf.’  It is at this point that you can have conversations with them about being stewards of our planet and of the environment.

Many may wonder why the conservatories and their preservation so important?  Once again, Kate’s insight is spot on –  ‘You can’t tell the story without the tactile experience of touching the bananas, the papayas and the coffee beans growing right there on the bushes!… and you can’t do that without a conservatory!’

Botanic gardens host a variety of beneficial programs – from lecture series on great conservatories, cultivating unusual plant species to exposing inner city children to the basics of gardening along with an emphasis on the arts such as sketching and photography classes.  Even the most amateur photographers armed with only a camera phone can take some pretty spectacular photos of the lush environment.  The photos below were snapped by Tanglewood team members prior to setting up for the lecture.

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The conservatory and its impact on us has withstood the test of time.  No matter the venue – private or public – historic or modern – the unique ability to allow us to connect with the outdoors while completely indoors, all while bestowing the magical luminescence of natural light throughout a glass-ensconced room.   The benefits are undeniable and their preservation for future generations must be a priority.  Alan’s remark in the lecture bears repeating lest we forget – ‘Few legacies from the past have provided as much value and relevance for today as have these eloquent glass houses.  The architects and builders from the 19th century have inspired us with their passion, ingenuity and creativity.’  It is up to all of us now to ensure we pass that same wonderment on to our children and their children.