The LuEsther T. Mertz Library


Pieter de La Court, a wealthy Flemish merchant who owned a garden near Leiden, attempted to cultivate the pineapple in the late 17th century. His methods of "making plants comfortable enough to bear fruit" were adopted by English growers early in the 18th century, and as more exotic fruits and flowers began to gain favor throughout Europe, elaborate buildings necessary for their winter protection were constructed.

Pineapples became an essential plant in English gardens. Once the use of brick-lined hot beds covered with oak bark to cultivate them had been introduced from Holland, English gardeners were able to provide the heated greenhouses and skilled attention that the fruit required.

The design and construction of hothouses and orangeries continued throughout northern Europe but by the 19th century, England had taken the lead. Industrial and technical advances combined with an extensive railway system promoted the transport of goods, and iron and glass gained favor as building materials. Wealthy collectors wanted to show off their collections prompting a surge in glasshouse construction. Patrons able to afford the high cost of these new materials commissioned hothouses and greenhouses for their estates.

In the following decades, the United States began to adopt similar construction practices. As members of the social elite desired places to entertain guests, glasshouses became a common addition to an estate. When building materials became less expensive and the structures could be pre-fabricated, attached greenhouses and sunrooms became popular among a wide range of homeowners.

Humphry Repton
Hand-colored aquatint
from Humphry Repton (1752–1818)
Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening
London: Printed by T. Bensley and Son, for J. Taylor, 1816
Humphrey Repton was the most famous English landscape gardener of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Recognizing that garden scenery could be bleak in the winter he wrote "… as the winter in England extends from November to May, it is highly desirable to provide a Garden for those months, and thereby artificially to prolong our summers beyond the natural limits of our precarious climate."


"A Range of Hot Houses executed for John Anthony Rucker, Esq"
George Tod
Hand-colored engraving
from George Tod
Plans, elevations and sections, of hot-houses, green-houses, and aquarium, conservatories, &c. recently built in different parts of England, for various noblemen and gentlemen.
London: J. Taylor, 1812
As the Dutch influence in Garden design reached England, so did the Dutch skills in horticulture. The culture of the pineapple was different from those of other tropical and exotic fruits and had to be grown under different conditions. A separate apartment in hothouses, called a pinery, was developed and pinery stoves provided the proper degree of heat to replicate the hot climates from which the plants were originally obtained.

"The waxed-leaved Pine-Apple"

Augusta Innes Withers
Hand-colored engraving
from John Lindley (1799–1865)
The Pomological Magazine (1828)
London: James Ridgeway, 1828

After superior pineapples were developed in special greenhouses of wealthy English amateurs, they became highly esteemed fruit. Pineapple, Ananas comosus, is a bromeliad that is endemic to the American tropics.

John Lindley was the first secretary at the Royal Horticultural Society, where he was able to keep informed of new varieties of fruit and to inform the public about significant new varieties by publishing The Pomological Magazine.

Humphry Repton
Hand-colored aquatint
from Humphry Repton (1752–1818)
Designs for the Pavillon at Brighton
London: Printed for J. C. Stadley and sold by Boydell, 1808
Humphrey Repton endeavored to create a harmonious relationship between the natural landscape, the garden and the architecture. The appendage of a winter garden or greenhouse extended the use of the pleasure garden throughout the year. Seasonal changes were an important element in Repton’s design as is evident in the depiction of the corridor in winter, where a good collection of plants flourish through the season.
"West View of the
Heath House"
Mr. Aglio
from George Sinclair (1786–1834)
Hortus Ericæus Woburnensis,…
London: Printed by J. Moyes. 1825
The Duke of Bedford’s architect, Mr. Jeffrey Wyatt, developed the Heath-house at Woburn Abbey. The design of the building provided light from both sides as well as the roof and afforded full exposure to both light and air, providing conditions conducive to growing heaths.

"Erica versicolor"
Henry Charles Andrews
Hand-colored engraving
from Henry Charles Andrews (fl. 1799–1828)
Coloured engravings of heaths
London: Published by the author, printed by T. Bensley, 1802-09
Most species figured in this volume are endemic to South Africa, but the representations were drawn from the living cultivated plants then found in the gardens of Britain. Erica versicolor, from the Cape of Good Hope is noted as flowering throughout the winter from October until April.


"Glass Enclosure Studies Plate ~ Plate No. 4"

V. Hagopian
Graphite and pencil
Lord & Burnham Co. Archives

By the mid-19th century, the use of iron as a building material had improved the greenhouse structure in terms of strength, lightness and durability. American greenhouse manufacturers began building pre-fabricated glasshouses and offering a selection at affordable prices. By the twentieth century, prosperous Americans could enjoy their own greenhouses and indoor winter gardens.

The Lord and Burnham Company was the premier American glasshouse manufacturer of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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