Greenhouse sheds or garden sheds are distinguished by walls of glass and transparent roofs that let in lots of light. We’ve gathered a few of our favorites here, and give tips for creating a sunny structure of your own.
Greenhouse sheds are a very special kind of place for back yard living. Some say they aren’t she sheds, really, but we disagree. When you look at the array of greenhouse sheds we’ve collected here, you will see that they follow the mission and purpose of any self-respecting she shed: a sheltered space in which to pursue creativity or relaxation. Plus, they get bonus points for their glorious walls of glass.
What is a Greenhouse Exactly?
A greenhouse is used for protecting and growing plants in inclement weather. The idea is to let in light for healthy growth and retain the sun’s heat while preventing ice and frost from killing tender plants. Historically, greenhouses were built primarily for affluent households so that exotic fruits, herbs and vegetables could be available any season of the year. An early mention of protected gardening goes back to the 1st century, in writings about Roman emperor Tiberius. In order to maintain his diet of fresh vegetables, Tiberius asked his gardeners to grow snake melons, which required an elaborate system of wagons of dirt moved to sunny locations and then to protected locations under frames of “transparent stone” to stay warm. Thus began the history of controlled environment horticulture.
The early efforts of combining glass panes with wood or metal framework were spotty, at best, with a notable exception in Korea during the 15th century. A cookbook titled Sanga Yorok provides details on a greenhouse using ondol, a sub-floor heating system, as well as cob walls and oiled-paper windows to grow flowers, vegetables and citrus. Then with improvements in materials and manufacturing, northern countries began building them in earnest. The French went all out developing the orangerie, a greenhouse for orange trees and other exotic fruit. These structures were huge and often had elaborate decorative detail, making them an architectural status symbol.
Today’s greenhouses are often much simpler in detail, in fact mimicking the gabled roof of a classic shed. The abundance of windows, often designed asymmetrically yet pleasingly in contemporary greenhouses continues the tradition of its grand predecessors.
Things to Consider with a Greenhouse
Anyone can enjoy a greenhouse for its unique garden appeal, its abundant supply of natural light and the fact that it feels right at home in the back yard. However, there are a few things you might consider as you contemplate the kind of back yard structure that suits you best.
First: What will you be using your structure for? Greenhouse she sheds are designed for plant cultivation, so many gardeners with plans to grow their own plants choose the greenhouse for its protective and warming qualities. But many women use their greenhouses in other ways, from building an events business to flower drying, photography or painting.
Second: Where do you live? Because greenhouse she sheds are made with more glass than solid walls, they are not as impervious to high winds. In fact, some shed makers will resist building structures with more than 20% of wall space dedicated to windows. Since greenhouses are not dwellings, this rule isn’t hard and fast, but having too many windows and not enough wall does affect safety in some weather conditions.
Third: Do you know where to source all of your windows? It takes a lot of windows to make a greenhouse and if you use old ones, they will likely need to be restored. One way to design a pretty greenhouse and reduce the number of windows you’ll need is to build a short wall on the foundation (around 30″ high) and then start your window framing.
Here are a few precautions and steps you can take to build a safe greenhouse:
- Prep your windows carefully. Replace cracked glass, restore and reinforce the frames. Paint all wood surfaces.
- Consider using polycarbonate panels on your roof instead of glass. Polycarbonate is actually more durable, lighter in weight, and filters out more damaging UV rays than glass.
- If you do want a glass roof, use a strong sealant along all of the window seams (where glass meets wood) and between each of the panels (the framework containing windows that are joined together).
- Your glass is only as strong as your structure. Build the best you can afford or use a kit from a reputable company. If you live in or around the Pacific Northwest, here is one to consider.
Choose Your Dream Greenhouse
We’ve seen so many fabulous greenhouse designs, from DIY to custom-built elaborate creations that are reminiscent of the “orangeries” of the past. One of the best things about a greenhouse is that you have a view of the garden no matter which way you look. Your glass ceiling provides a view of the clouds scudding across blue sky, or maybe even an evening panorama of stars and moon.
You may choose a greenhouse even if you don’t plan to use it for plant propagation or overwintering the geraniums. In fact, some people convert their greenhouse structures into offices, as this professional did in San Francisco. His office looks out onto the city lights, offering an amazing view and heat that is provided simply by a space heater.
The greenhouse she shed has a storied past and a bright future. Done well, it can shine like a sparkling diamond in the midst of your garden while offering a very practical place to take care of your plants … or art … or writing. The choice is yours.