Gardens Under Glass

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by Emily
(Miami, Florida, USA)

Season extenders are a necessity if you happen to live in the north and mid-western states. Whether they consist of plastic stretched over hoops, plexiglass propped atop bales of straw or the latest incarnation of the cloche, gardeners refuse to relegate their activities to the traditional May through September growing season.

The most luxuriant gift a gardener can give to him or herself is a greenhouse, conservatory or four-season room. These structures are built for the comfort of plants, but allow humans to enjoy timeworking and relaxing in them during the worst days of winter as well as in pleasant weather. Best of all, plant rooms allow northerners to grow palms, citrus, cacti and tropical treasures that ordinarily only do well in warmer climes.

Plant rooms need not be extravagant or overly expensive. Many of today’s building materials combine strength and high insulating values with economy and aesthetics. Turning a porch or deck into a four-season room, or adding a greenhouse or conservatory to a house need not be the extravagant task it was during the Victorian era, when glass houses were the purview of the upper crust during the Gilded Age. Building materials such as aluminum, vinyl, and pre-engineered, tempered glazing offer structural strength, excellent R-values (insulating capabilities) and economy.

Siting the Room

A plant room needs to be sited in away that permits the greatest amount of sunlight in, but also provides some respite during the hottest times of the day in summer. South and west-facing rooms will capture the most light, but may also heat to extreme temperatures in the afternoon and evening. An east-facing room will capture morning light, but will be in shadow during the afternoon.

A north facing room captures the least light. Generally speaking homeowners in areas that have long periods of cool weather would do best siting a sunroom with a southern or southwestern exposure. Gardeners living in hotter areas could use a room facing due east, northeast or northwest.

Sunrooms will also need some climate-control additions, such as blinds or shade cloth that will keep out the hottest rays of the sun in the summer, and a space heater or radiant heat system to keep the area warm during the winter.

Choosing Building Materials

The biggest investment in building a sunroom is in glazing and windows Several factors, including aesthetics and energy efficiency, need to be considered when choosing the perfect glazing for asunroom.

Updated: July 13, 2013 — 12:53 pm

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