Investing in a greenhouse is 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 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 you prefer. You'll also want to have a power source for heat and light.
We've pre-filtered some glorious glasshouse options for you to help make your choice easier.
Head to our garden ideas for more inspiration for outdoor spaces.
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, Hartley Botanic.
A dwarf wall built in similar brickwork to your home can help a new greenhouse 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, aubergines, chillies and courgettes will all thrive under glass, while tougher crops can be grown in beds outside.
See our kitchen garden ideas for more inspiration and expertise.
4. Opt for graphic black
If you love the graphic lines of Crittall glazing, a black-framed greenhouse 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, White Cottage Greenhouses.
5. Add a shed
One part shed, one part greenhouse – grow-and-store garden buildings 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 in the storage area 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 at GBC Group.
‘It also provides better airflow and temperature regulation, which is important during the summer months when plants can be scorched.’
For more ideas, see our guide to the best produce 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, 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, 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.
'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,’ Baxter advises.
9. Go Victorian with a vinehouse
'The Victorians were the first to design vinehouse-style greenhouses, which utilise existing garden or house 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.
'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 greenhouses 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.
12. Ask for lightweight aluminium
Aluminium frame greenhouses 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, 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 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 extends 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 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.
See: Small vegetable garden ideas – growing inspiration for tiny spaces
'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.'
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