A Place of Shelter
One of the most important things a glasshouse can do is to provide additional warmth and protection from the elements and there is one particular aspect of this role which can often be largely forgotten. While cold frames and mini glasshouses manage this very effectively for plants, they offer the grower very little shelter. The opportunity to bring on plants in the grey, wet days of winter to steal a march on the spring garden is a very attractive idea, but not a particularly practical one when having to stand out in the worst of the seasons icy blasts and rain!
With the chance to shut the door behind you, pottering about and checking how things are coming on becomes a considerably more pleasant prospect and with power laid on heat and light are readily available to extend the useful hours you can spend there. Nor is it just the grower alone who gains; if you have to be working with the cold frame open, the plants can get chilled - in the glasshouse they are always just as protected as you are.
The glasshouse too offers unparalleled opportunities to grow at least some of your own food as well as your own plants. All manner of fruit and vegetables lend themselves to be grown even in unheated conditions - and the choice is not limited to tomatoes. With a little supplementary heat during the colder months, the choices become even wider.
Another aspect of the glasshouse which sometimes tends to get overlooked is the real contribution it can make to the garden as a whole. Not only does it make bringing on your own seedlings, cuttings and food possible, at a fraction of the cost of buying them and with more satisfaction in the process - but a well arranged glasshouse can also provide an interesting and colourful display itself. A glasshouse enhances the garden becoming a feature in its own right.
Glass has unique properties of high light transmission (especially important for plant growth during the critical period of early spring) and allows in solar heat energy, trapping warmth re-emitted from soil, structure and plants. Glass is timeless, rigid, optically superior, wont't scratch and aesthetically pleasing (unlike plastics which show age degradation and have limited life spans). Its polished smooth surface retains less deposits, is more resistant to environmental staining and is easily replaced.
Perhaps most of the real benefits that the glasshouse brings comes down to one simple thing... It makes all year round gardening possible. Unheated, cool, warm or wet, there is always the chance to grow something to provide a little splash of colour in the house or modest contribution to the kitchen table.