14 September 2017

Greenhouses – a means to grow crops out of season or which aren’t suited to a certain climate


Greenhouses – a means to grow crops out of season or which aren’t suited to a certain climate

Sometimes we seek to consume food that is not grown where we live (not too many avocado farms in North Carolina) or items which are only seasonably available (strawberries come to mind) and this is not a new phenomenon, though, I hadn’t realized how long humans have been striving to cultivate what, in theory, mother nature doesn’t allow.

As usual, this was sparked by reading an article for fun via Atlas Obscura -- The Search for the World’s Most Enchanting GreenhousesAs with many recent posts, I am sharing a fascination with learning more about and appreciating how “things” might have been the different, yet the same for our ancestors.

The Wikipedia page on Greenhouses states …

The idea of growing plants in environmentally controlled areas has existed since Roman times. The Roman emperor Tiberius ate a cucumber-like[6] vegetable daily. The Roman gardeners used artificial methods (similar to the greenhouse system) of growing to have it available for his table every day of the year. Cucumbers were planted in wheeled carts which were put in the sun daily, then taken inside to keep them warm at night. The cucumbers were stored under frames or in cucumber houses glazed with either oiled cloth known as specularia or with sheets of selenite (a.k.a. lapis specularis), according to the description by Pliny the Elder.[7][8]

In the 13th century, greenhouses were built in Italy[9] to house the exotic plants that explorers brought back from the tropics. They were originally called giardini botanici (botanical gardens)…

I’ve had ancestors who have “stored” food through the winter using various methods though I am not aware of any efforts to create environments where plants could be grown regardless of the weather outside.  I more associate greenhouses with nurseries and large homes.

I found that Internet Archive has a collection of various treatises and catalogs with regard to greenhouses.

The Granger Historical Picture Archive has a collection of images through time of greenhouses.

The New York Botanical Garden has manuscript collections including one for Lord & Burnham Co – “The Lord & Burnham Company originated when Frederick Lord began building greenhouses as a sideline to his carpentry business in Buffalo, New York in 1849”.


What means of growing herbs or foods out-of-season did your ancestors employ?

Did any of your ancestors have greenhouses? What is the oldest one you are aware of?

Have an image of an ancestor’s greenhouse or similar? Please post!

What other resources might genealogists consult to learn more about this topic and/or whether their ancestors participated?

Was there a periodical/magazine that 19th and early 20th greenhouse enthusiasts enjoyed?









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