The dream of an orangery
How do you realise the dream of a great orangery without going bankrupt or getting divorced along the way? In this series of articles, Danish Louise Køster from Rabarbergaarden talks about how the idea of a greenhouse became a reality.
Text and photos: Louise Køster, Rabarbergaarden
Over the last many years, we have travelled a lot in England, and if there is one thing they can do there, it is to use greenhouses and orangeries in a completely different way than we are used to here in Denmark.
In England, they often use their greenhouses as living space. A furnished place where they stay. It is not only private individuals who use their greenhouses and orangeries in a different way. So do nurseries and what they call farm restaurants.
The Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, just outside London, is one of those places. Here they have converted the large old greenhouses into the finest tea house, the most beautiful restaurant and nursery.
When we visited Petersham for the first time in 2016, it laid the groundwork for the dream of an orangery at Rabarbergaarden. A dream that introduced us to the journey where location, dimensions, materials, light, shadow and not least acoustics gave both headaches and surprises.
Why an orangery at Rabarbergaarden?
Because we lack space, not for plants but for guests. Since we moved the restaurant from a busy main street and home to the farm in 2015, more and more people want to come and eat in the farm's restaurant, shop in the farm shop, and experience where the organic vegetables, berries, fruit, and meat come from.
Rabarbergaarden's restaurant is located on the old farm, from 1875, and unless we have to move out ourselves, there is no possibility to expand with room for more guests.
Therefore, the visit to Petersham inspired us to see an orangery as a possible extension of our restaurant and work.
In 2013, we got our first Juliana Gartner Greenhouse, which over the years has served us really well as a greenhouse. Apart from the fact that it has been solid, the design fits well with the thatched roof.
Therefore, it made good sense for us to continue with Juliana. But we now had to go from a size of 226 square feet to one that was more than twice as big. We went from a tile floor to excavation, insulation, and casting of foundation. We went from a greenhouse that had served as a workplace to an orangery that was supposed to be a restaurant but still retains the feel of sitting in a place where things are growing. A place where you sit inside but have a feeling of being close to nature.
It was, it turned out, a somewhat different, larger, and more complicated task than when the Juliana team came and set up our Juliana Gardner.
Building our own orangery is a much bigger task than when Juliana delivered and assembled our Juliana Gardner.
Where to start?
There are quite a few things to consider when building such a large orangery. Therefore, we made a list of questions we had to investigate and answer:
- Location: Where it is most appropriate in relation to use and beautiful in relation to the existing buildings?
- Size: How big must it be for it to give us the opportunities we need?
- Content: What do we need besides a room? Flooring, electricity, heating, lighting, furniture.
- Advantages and disadvantages: What are the consequences of building an orangery in addition to providing more space? E.g., new possibilities for outdoor space. Disrupt the good view.
- Budget: What is the maximum cost we are willing to pay for everything included?
We started by deciding where the orangery should be located, and that was exactly where our Gardner greenhouse stood. So, it had to be moved. That brought a few additional questions; Where should we place the old greenhouse? Which consequences will that bring? And what would it cost to get it moved?
We found the new location for the Gardner greenhouse, and the consequences turned out to be a big bonus. It was located at our small nursery, where we propagate plants and fruit bushes and have some of our rhubarb plants standing. With the greenhouse's new location, we had created the opportunity to create a small nursery from where we could sell plants and good garden equipment, and it became a place where we could hold garden courses and guide our customers. This was something we had dreamed of starting the last few years.
Financially, we had to add that part to the budget, as well as laying new flooring inside the Gardner greenhouse.
Size is always exciting to talk about when you want to go up a size. Can it even get big enough? We wanted to accommodate 35 seated guests. We wanted the tables to be able to be set up as single tables for a la carte evenings, but also as a long table with room for a minimum of 30 people.
We had actually already decided that we would go with a Juliana solution, and once we had found the location, the size was self-evident. The orangery was to face east-west in length, so a stable building and the main house naturally limited the size. We quickly fell for the Botanica model. It had a beautiful design and solid construction that would match the foundation and base we wanted. In its 560 square feet, we could accommodate the number of guests we wanted.
Deciding the content of an orangery is just as important as deciding what type of orangery it should be. For us, it was important that it could be used year-round. Therefore, we decided to have insulation laid in the foundation. We wanted flooring that could hold on to the heat during the day and that would become more beautiful with wear and tear. Therefore, we went with reddish burnt bricks that not only keep the heat but also look warm.
Since the orangery should also be used in the evening, it was necessary to think about light which was not only candlelight. Therefore, we needed power.
When you want to use an orangery all year round, warmth is a chapter in itself. At hand, we could not agree on how the heat source should be designed. We knew it was in the form of a fire, but should it be a wood burning stove and steel chimney, or should it be a built-in fireplace with a brick chimney? So initially, that decision was put aside for reconsideration.
However, we could agree on the furnishing. It should be a piece of furniture where we could both have an a la carte line-up with single tables and also make a long table setting. We already had beautiful garden furniture in teak. They have been outside in the courtyard for the last three seasons and have gotten the most beautiful silver-grey colour. To make it coherent, we wanted to recreate the colours and materials inside the orangery, so we went with a model that is smaller in construction, but also in teak.
When building new buildings, they always come with consequences, both good and less good. We drew down a sketch of the location of the orangery in relation to the existing buildings, and what clearly stood out was a courtyard that was suddenly more closed and intimate.
It became a new room, which we quickly renamed the rose garden. Because when the orangery was up, we could put up a trellis on the west wall where roses can grow and thereby create a rose garden. A place where guests could sit in the scent of roses, eat their food, or drink their coffee. That was a big plus.
A minus was the fact that at the location of the orangery, we closed off the nice view of horse paddocks and fields that was from the courtyard. You would of course see the fields through the glass, but the great view from the first floor would be closed off. In return, the guests would get that view in the orangery.
It is expensive to build and often more expensive than you immediately think. Therefore, it is important to do thorough research on what things cost, lay a construction budget with a 'buffer' and which is realistic, as there along the way, will be challenges that require solutions that cost money. But honestly, all the above is written based on the experiences we made along the way.
We started out by researching, and we made a budget and yes, we also went over. How much and why will be revealed in the next part of “The dream of an orangery”.
Om Nanna Stærmose
Nanna is the Danish writer of many of the articles in the Greenhouse Forum.
Nanna visits happy greenhouse owners and tells their stories about basic cultivation, but also those stories that are more oblique.
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