Out with the old, in with the new to us
If you have been to the gardens for a visit lately, you will have seen some hustle and bustle around the nursery. There has been heavy equipment and a dump truck doing what they do best, moving earth. Earlier this summer, our old and dilapidated “old shade house” as we so dearly called it was finally taken down. How it didn’t blow down in one of the multiple wind storms this past winter and spring is something we will never understand. That old house had started its life down the road where our neighbor 3rd Turn Oldham Gardens now is. In the early days of Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, it was dug out of the weeds down there and erected where our glasshouse now sits. In 2013, when it was time to start building the glasshouse, a group of staff and volunteers literally picked it up and carried it over to where it sat until this summer.
Since 2018, we had been using that house as a minimum heat house in the winter where we didn’t let the temps drop below 30 degrees. Inside of it we grew hellebores, ferns, and other shade-loving oddities we didn’t want to completely freeze during the winter. In the summer, we would cover it with a shade cloth where it served as a shade structure. As the structure was aging rapidly and needing serious renovations, we were also outgrowing it. We needed more room for the types of plants we had in there. That’s a good thing! If you need more room for shade-loving oddities, you’re doing something right! When we finished up growing our spring annuals this year in our large heated greenhouse, we began to transition it into what would become the new, larger area for a minimum heat shade house. Now that left us in a conundrum though!
Where were we going to grow next year’s spring annuals that you see planted all around the gardens? Enter a wonderful family who stepped up and helped us out. We were approached with an opportunity to receive a greenhouse structure that was only a few years old and in great shape. Perfect. We had a greenhouse frame that I quickly named our free puppy. If you have ever had a free puppy, you know they aren’t free for long. In the case of this puppy, we needed, heaters, walls, controls, and a way to cool it in the summer. That is where the fun started. We were able to sit down and figure out how we wanted to control the environment to best fit our needs and go about it in a sustainable approach. Much like our glasshouse, we are building this house to be passively cooled. No loud exhaust fans blowing all summer. A ridge vent on the top of the greenhouse will open up to let heat escape from the top and if that isn’t enough to keep it cool, both sides will roll up to allow air to flow through. Pretty cool, right? Pun most certainly intended. A combination of floor heating and hanging unit heaters will be used during the winter and spring. Using a heated floor system, again much like the one in the glasshouse, we will have the heat start out below the plants and keep the root zone warm.
There is still plenty of work to do between now and February when we move the first plants into it, but we’re excited to see it all coming together. When you walk around the gardens next spring, all of the annuals you see planted will have been grown in this soon-to-be structure. The timing of this couldn’t be better in relation to the Castle Gardens Capital Campaign. With construction for this new garden planned for 2024, we will have had a season of growing in our new greenhouse before we have to grow all of the annuals for the new areas around the castle in the spring of 2025!