Greenhouse ideas are something all keen gardeners will consider at some point – after all, who wouldn't want to expand their growing options by making the most of the microclimate in a backyard glasshouse?
Once the preserve of grand country houses and botanic gardens, domestic greenhouses became an affordable option for keen gardeners in the 20th century.
'For those with enough time and space, the opportunity to raise seedlings, grow indoor crops and overwinter tender plants will surely never go out of fashion,' says horticulturalist Rebecca Bevan.
When you're searching for greenhouse design ideas and inspiration, consider how much room you have available to accommodate the structure, whether it will be freestanding or will lean against a wall, and the style of greenhouse that would fit best with the rest of your garden ideas. You'll also want to have a power source for heat and light.
We've pre-filtered some glorious glasshouse options and stunning greenhouse ideas for you, to help make your choice easier.
1. Build a wall at the base
A greenhouse with a dwarf wall has several advantages over all-glass structures. The wall protects against low-level breakages from misfired footballs or errant stones sent into orbit by your mower, and hides any unsightly gardening paraphernalia like grow bags and weedkiller.
‘Dwarf walls also provide the opportunity to be creative in your use of materials and produce a very aesthetically pleasing result,’ says Christopher White of Hartley Botanic.
When planning a greenhouse, a dwarf wall built in similar brickwork to your home can help it settle harmoniously into place.
2. Increase your options
Keen gardeners with room to grow – literally – can opt for multiple greenhouses to create optimum growing conditions for different plants.
Different heating options, from cold frames and temperate to steamy and tropical, will broaden your horticultural horizons, creating unique microclimates in your own backyard.
3. Incorporate a kitchen garden
Position your greenhouse at the heart of your kitchen garden and increase the amount and variety of ingredients you can grow.
Tender herbs such as basil, juicy tomatoes, winter salads, egg plants, chilies and zucchinis will all thrive under glass, while tougher crops can be incorporated into your kitchen garden ideas and grown in beds outside.
4. Opt for graphic black
If you love the graphic lines of Crittall glazing, black-framed greenhouse ideas could be for you. Get the look for less with a design made from black aluminum or black-painted timber.
‘If you’re going for a strong color, opt for a greenhouse with a less elaborate design. Our Croft greenhouse has an Arts and Crafts feel but with fewer decorative details,’ says Graeme Runeckles of White Cottage Greenhouses.
5. Add a shed
One part shed, one part greenhouse – grow-and-store garden buildings, that fuse greenhouse and shed ideas, are set to be big.
This design has a glazed front half, which provides an attractive space to showcase your plants, while your gardening clutter and potting compost can be kept neatly out of sight as part of the shed storage ideas behind.
6. Pick a pitched roof
‘The extra height, created by a traditional Victorian 45-degree pitch roof, gives more room for specimen plants and tall crops, such as cucumbers and tomatoes,’ says Matt Jordan of GBC Group.
‘It also provides better airflow and temperature regulation, which is important during the summer months when plants can be scorched.’ – all important factors when considering the best vegetables to grow in a greenhouse.
7. Bridge the gap
A glazed structure can provide a charming link between two buildings with different types of construction. It will also create a green oasis in the centre of your home.
'Here, the steep pitch roof, low eaves and feature doors help bridge the change in levels between the house and outbuildings,' explains Lisa Morton, director of Vale Garden Houses.
8. Keep it small
‘Just because you have a big garden, doesn’t mean you need a big greenhouse. Evaluate how many plants you plan to cultivate in your greenhouse and pick a size to suit,’ advises Andy Baxter, managing director of Internet Gardener.
The best thing about a small greenhouse is that it will fit in just about any space. So it’s easier to find a south-facing spot or find room to fit a greenhouse into small garden ideas.
Baxter also has some greenhouse tips to help you make the most of a compact space: 'Tall, narrow greenhouses are better at holding light than shorter ones. Small greenhouses can get very hot, very quickly, so it’s important to have adequate ventilation and keep everything fed and watered.’
9. Go Victorian with a vinehouse
'The Victorians were the first to design vinehouse-style greenhouses, which utilise existing house or garden walls,' says Catherine Kirkland, marketing manager at Gabriel Ash.
One advantage of a vinehouse over a lean-to greenhouse is that the roof pitch is offset, so it doesn't require such a high wall to achieve a structure of decent height and width.
'The wall acts like a giant storage heater, absorbing warmth from the sun in the day and slowly releasing it during the night,' says Kirkland.
10. Choose clear glazing
Virtually invisible, a frameless glass structure, like this bespoke model from Pure Greenhouse, allows clear views of your garden’s flowers and produce, both inside and out.
Made from 10mm-thick toughened glass joined by slimline stainless-steel brackets, this design features an innovative full-ridge glass-to-glass ventilation system that promises commercial-level air control.
Even the shelving is frameless, allowing maximum light to reach plants on the lower levels, a perfect small vegetable garden idea for optimizing your growing space.
'We set out to create a long-lasting, beautiful greenhouse that could perform as well as anything on the market,' says Pure Greenhouse founder Joe Ellis. 'The toughened glass retains heat well in winter.'
11. Get the natural look with wood
The latest innovations mean classic wooden greenhouse ideas aren't the hassle they once were in terms of upkeep.
'Canadian western red cedar is very high in natural preservative oils, making it virtually immune from decay and a great choice for greenhouses,' says Richard Baggaley, director at The Greenhouse People.
Cedar also has a unique subtle aroma that can deter pests – handy when planning the best food to grow in a greenhouse.
12. Ask for lightweight aluminium
Aluminium framed greenhouse ideas are loved for their lightweight composition, making construction quick and easy.
‘Aluminium also enables thin but strong frames and glazing bars, allowing more light to flood the space,’ says Tom Hall, managing director of Alitex.
‘For extra strength and longevity, aluminium can be finished in a polyester powder coat. This extra layer is highly resistant to scratching, cracking, peeling, UV rays and rust. Maintenance is minimal – an annual clean is all that’s required.’
13. Lean in to a wall
Even the smallest of gardens or patio ideas usually has enough space to incorporate a lean-to style glasshouse, positioned against the wall of the property.
‘The close proximity to your house means it’s much easier to run electricity and water into the greenhouse,’ says Tom Hall, owner of Alitex.
‘A power source means you can include outdoor lighting ideas to extend the hours you can garden during the winter, and will also allow you to consider growing exotic fruits.’
Should I buy a greenhouse?
'The decision about whether to install a greenhouse very much depends on your garden and gardening ambitions,' says horticulturalist Rebecca Bevan, author of The National Trust School of Gardening.
'If you need only to raise a few seedlings or overwinter a couple of tender plants, a sunny windowsill or cold frame may be sufficient. If you wish to raise a wide range of vegetables and flowers from seed, grow exotics or have a reliable crop of tomatoes, a greenhouse is a must.'
Where should I position my greenhouse?
'The most important consideration is to try to find somewhere that has little or no shade cast on it from trees, buildings or hills,' says Rebecca Bevan.
'It is also best to avoid areas that receive a lot of wind, weakening the greenhouse and cooling it in winter. A few well-placed shrubs can help to reduce the impact of winds.'
What greenhouse design ideas should I choose?
'Most modern greenhouses are freestanding, but lean-to styles that can be erected against walls are also available,' says Rebecca Bevan. 'Lean-tos have the advantage that heat absorbed by the wall during the day is released into the greenhouse at night, helping to maintain an even temperature.
'Most domestic greenhouses are glazed all the way to the base, which is good for growing crops at ground level. It is also possible to find highly attractive models that are glazed only part of the way to the ground and stand on a few brick courses, making them slightly warmer.'