This section is from the book "The Florists' Manual", by William Scott. Also available from Amazon: The Florist's Manual.
Now, happening to know several of these houses, I can vouch for the excellent quality of the flowers that are grown in them, and having two of them myself, I am ready to accord to them the several advantages and merits they possess. They are easy and cheap to build, much more so than the long-span-to-the-south. They are cheaply heated; less pipe will heat them than either of the other two styles. When there is any sun in our dreary winter you must get the direct rays, for the face of the south slope is about at right angles with the rays of the sun in our shortest days. They are most decidedly the coolest houses in summer, which is a decided advantage, and last they can be built attached with gutter and walls only separating them.
Greenhouse 54x701 Built for Growing Roses. Raised Wooden Tables were Used in this House.
The front or south bench being some two feet from the wall, there is not the slightest shade from the ridge of the house on the south. The fact of these houses being in a block, and the roof of one largely breaking the force of the wind to the north, is a great saving of fuel. I can only say that some of the best rose growers of the country, having adopted this style of house seven or -eight years ago, are highly satisfied with them and are still building more, and the quality of their product is evidence of their not being far wrong.
The equal-span house is to me about the ideal. It may take more heat, but it gives the best distribution of light. An equal-span of twenty-two feet should always be removed from another similar house twenty feet. The walls should be five feet, with two feet six inches of glass, a path against each wall, and two more separating the benches, and three benches each five feet wide. This house would take a 14-foot bar, and in addition to the main support in the center would need a purlin on each side.
Ample ventilation should be supplied on the south side of the ridge and opening at the ridge. Ventilation could be put into the walls of this house, but you would not use it for roses, and for carnations, if shading is attended to, I am convinced it is not necessary, as carnations in our equal-span houses with only top ventilation are often so vigorous and thriving at the end of August that it seems a sacrifice to throw them away.
We have on these equal-span houses some large ventilators on the north side that are not worked by any apparatus, and not used till settled warm weather, when they are raised up a foot or so on stout blocks, fastened down with wire and left open till planting time, or in some cases till there is danger of the houses getting too cold. I am sure that in carnation houses these ventilators to be used only in hot weather are of great use.
Why a steep roof always makes a lighter house than a flat roof is not easy to explain, but it is so, and unmistakably so. Many times have I compared the light in the three different styles of houses on the same day and the equal-span at an angle of about 45 degrees is much the lightest appearing house, and I believe although the short-span-to-the-south has many advantages, particularly on the score of economy of heat and space, that the equal-span, using the same glass and bar, has the most perfect diffusion of light and comes nearer the ideal for producing high-class flowers.
A violet house should run north and south. You get all the light you want in the winter and you would get too much sun in the early spring if the house faced south. Under the head of violets I will give you my idea of a violet house.
In conclusion all I have said about any of these houses, both for plants and flowers, applies only to those that you are going to build under your own supervision. If you have no mechanical genius at all, engage a horticultural builder. Some men have the bump of destruction and some of construction. The writer wishes no greater pleasure in this world than bossing the erection of glass structures. Poor fare and short hours in bed will do him then if he can only squint over those pieces of wood by which we get a line on the posts or hangers for the pipes.
There are now at least half a dozen firms who will put you up most excellent commercial houses and make them any shape or design you wish. What I have tried to convey is the method by which you can erect with the help of one good carpenter and his tools substantial, lasting houses that will grow flowers and plants equal to the best.
And if you are a builder yourself, not necessarily able to handle a jack plane, but to boss the job, you can build first-class houses at least fifty per cent cheaper than the ironframe houses of the horticultural builder, and a great deal cheaper and better than the local carpenter, glazier and steam-fitter.
It will be asked why I don't say what would be the cost per lineal foot of a house about twenty feet wide. As near as I could keep a record of the last house I built, nineteen feet wide, heated for carnations by hot water, using double thick glass, the Challenge ventilator, the best clear cypress lumber, red cedar posts and wooden benches, it cost about $10 per lineal foot. This was a year ago before the high tariff had had a chance to shed its beneficent blessings on the florists' calling.
Possibly at present prices of pipe and glass the same houses could not be built for less than $12 per lineal foot, but as glass is principally made of sand and fire and wind, with which we are well supplied, and there is iron enough in our mountains to last the world 10,000 years, neither the folly of alleged statesmanship nor the greed of corporations can long keep those commodities up to these artificial and preposterous prices.
We trust lumber will not go up in sympathy with the manufactured articles. There are broad miles (and I hope thousands of miles) yet in the southern states of cypress, and its great value seems only within this twenty years to have become widely known.
The Canadians use the wood of the larch (tamarax) for benches, and a most excellent wood it is for the purpose, possessing largely the good qualities of the cypress. They are both deciduous conifers. The tamarax is the larch of our northern swamps, and the southern cypress is a beautiful tree, Taxodium distichum.
In conclusion, no matter whether your intended building is to be large or small, send your ideas to one or more of the several good firms and get their figures. Your order will be executed to your great satisfaction, every piece cut to fit and it will be a pleasure to put it together. If you think you can't afford to let the whole job, erection and all, to a specialist, there is no excuse if you don't send your plans to a horticultural builder, who will save you lots of worry and money.
A Massachusetts Establishment Illustrating Many Styles of Construction.