Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Good Greenhouse Advice

If like me, you dream of some day owning a greenhouse, you’ll be interested in what Lorna Basso has to say about living with hers. Built by Hartley Botanic in 2010, Lorna’s greenhouse in her two-acre Atherton, California garden serves as both a design focal point and an elegant sanctuary. This month she shares her reflections and advice.

Shaded by a redwood tree canopy, the eight-by fourteen-foot structure has classic styling, dark green on a red brick foundation. It’s surrounded by dogwoods, ferns, azaleas and Japanese maples.

That half-shade location was important because Lorna feels that a full sun spot would have been too hot. So one of the first considerations for any greenhouse is to decide about optimal location based on a shade/sun balance.

But Lorna advises going beyond the practical. “Site your greenhouse where you can see it,” Lorna says, “because it really is beautiful.”

Even if no one steps into her garden at night, her greenhouse is a glowing centerpiece as seen from the windows of her home, “I have a string of lights from Pottery Barn,” Lorna says. “I turn those lights on when we have guests in the evening.” The greenhouse shines out into the surrounding trees and shrubs.

Of course, a greenhouse can do more than simply shelter plants. In Lorna’s, a small table and a comfortable rattan chair share the space with orchids and ferns. “It’s a real pretty place for the more tender things and I start seeds there,” Lorna says. But it also functions as a fine retreat. “I do a lot of reading in there because it’s so pretty and restful.”

Lorna’s only regret is that she didn’t make her greenhouse larger. For those with greenhouse aspirations, she offers this: “Make sure it’s big enough for a dinner table. It’s pretty and fun to have your friends enjoy the greenhouse too.”

Lorna’s interest in owning a greenhouse was sparked by garden tours in England and Scotland. “I saw them at the Chelsea Flower Show, and every house in Britain seemed to have one, even in the community plots.”

Hers is dedicated to the memory of her mother. “We call it Gramma Lil’s greenhouse,” she says. “She would approve.”

And now, in June, Gramma Lil’s greenhouse will be part of her grandson’s wedding., Before the ceremony in the garden, the groom and his groomsmen will be waiting in the greenhouse— among the ferns and flowers.