In the chill of winter, these indoor garden havens promise warmth, light, and visions of blooming days ahead.
Even in the South, stepping into a greenhouse in winter is an exercise in hope and solace. As JoHannah Biang, the horticulture manager at Hills & Dales Estate in LaGrange, Georgia, says, “It’s a reminder that things are still growing and blooming and that spring will come again.” Visiting a glasshouse or conservatory is also a visual way to learn from the pros, whether about rare orchids or tropical plants that can thrive in Southern heat, or how to layer the textures of shrubs and perennials in garden borders. Travelers to these seven standout greenhouses across the South can soak up some plant know-how and sneak in a little warmth, too.
Bellingrath Gardens-Theodore, Alabama
Bellingrath’s conservatory, designed by the leading American greenhouse design firm Lord & Burnham, was built in 1935 as a showplace for tropical curiosities. “The conservatory served not only as an obvious status symbol and entertaining hub, but also as a retreat to a tropical paradise without leaving one’s estate,” says executive director F. Todd Lasseigne. “One of those exotic species, a ponytail palm, has grown to thirty feet and is the signature plant in our central rotunda.” Decades after workers built the original raised tables, they converted them to in-ground beds to accommodate the growth of coffee plants and vanilla vines. Staghorn ferns still hang here and there. “We have a mild climate in Alabama, but people are transported to the steamy tropics when they come in winter,” Lasseigne says. “Our Winter Wednesdays classes are very popular this time of year. Members and the public can learn about establishing a vegetable garden, attend a travelogue about the gardens of Japan, or hear a lecture about a single plant family like azaleas.”
Jeremy Schmidt, Bellingrath’s director of horticulture, says winter allows time to schedule the year’s large and small tasks. “In 2024, we will begin restoring some of our older structures, like the Summer House, which sits in a less-known part of the garden. Our hope is the rejuvenation of these plantings will inspire visitors to try growing less-familiar plants.”
First published by Garden & Gun. Read the first article here.