This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
Primarily a glasshouse in which plants that have been brought to perfection-usually in other greenhouses-are to be placed for display or to be kept in condition.
The conservatory should be as near the residence as possible; if not an architectural unit of the house, it may be connected by a corridor or pergola. The size of a conservatory depends of course upon the requirements or taste of the family; some are as small as 6 by 10 feet, while others are as large as 35 by 75. The aspect or side of the dwelling best suited to a conservatory is on the east, and preferably against a gable, so that sliding snow from the roof of the dwelling will not give trouble. If this is not convenient, the glass roof of the conservatory must be protected with snow-guards. A lean-to house is subject to great fluctuations if placed against the south side.
Since much attention has been given to the building of conservatories within the past few years, they can now be made attractive in architectural design, and at the same time supply the best possible conditions for the well-being of the plants. A curvilinear roof is usually more attractive and is better for the plants than a flat roof, but abundant ventilation must be provided. The roof glass should be ground or, frosted, as plants remain in flower much longer under a subdued light than when exposed to direct sunlight. Even ground glass is not sufficient in summer, some shading being required; roller shades are hard to adjust and not altogether practicable; whitewash applied to the glass outside is unsightly and damages the painted wooden strips in which the glass is laid. The following has been, found to be an excellent shading mixture: Sixteen ounces white lead, thirty-eight ounces turpentine, two ounces linseed oil; apply to the glass outside with an ordinary paint-brush. The advantages of this mixture are that it is not unsightly, is easily applied, and wears off as winter comes on.
The heating of a conservatory is an important matter, since even night temperatures must be maintained as in other greenhouses. This can easily be arranged if the dwelling is heated by hot water, which is the best for any conservatory; but with steam or hot air it is more difficult; if possible when these methods of heating the dwelling are used, a separate small hot-water system should be installed for the conservatory. The temperature at which conservatories are to be kept depends upon the plants grown in them. Palms, ferns, orchids and ornamental-leaved plants generally require a night temperature of about 60°. Flowering plants, such as chrysanthemums, azaleas, primulas and bulbs, do better in a temperature of 45° to 50° at night with a rise of '15° to 20° for both classes of plants by day before opening the ventilators, and these, in winter especially, must be opened with caution, admitting the outside air very sparingly.
The floor of a conservatory may be of tiles and the interior may be arranged with rugs and easy chairs in the center with the plants arranged on tables around the outside or over the heating-pipes. The catalogues of the principal greenhouse builders show some very artistic arrangements, both inside and outside.
A conservatory is often a part of a commercial greenhouse establishment, being in effect the display house or room into which interesting and perfected plants are brought for inspection; and in large cities conservatories are often attached to florists' stores, not only as a display house but because plants will keep in much better health and condition for a much longer time than in the ordinary conditions of the florist's store; but commonly the word is used as above to designate an adjunct to a home. Edward J. Canning.