Saturday, March 20, 2010

Of pineapples and grapes

Today, I spent a fascinating (albeit cold and wet) day at Tatton Park, going around the gardens as one of a group of students. It was a day out organised by our lecturer Harry who, as well as being an expert horticulturalist, turned out to also have a detailed knowledge on the history of Tatton, lots of stories about plant hunters, and a wicked sense of humour.

The weather was rubbish - cold and wet, so photos were generally rather poor. But the rain made it a pleasure to get into the glasshouses. As we're currently studying 'protected environments' for the RHS Level 2 certificate, there was a lot of information on how glasshouses have developed over time. At Tatton, the glasshouses were added one at a time over a period of many years, so you can see the technical improvements over time. From very small glass panes with thick supporting structure, to larger and larger panes, and thinner and thinner structural support. And the engineering that went into opening the vents developed over this time period too, reaching a peak of complexity in the Victorian age.

Of course, the great houses didn't just make do with one glasshouse; with fruit needing to be supplied to the family all year round, a range of glasshouses were used to meet this need, supplemented with extensive fruit storage facilities. Apparently, by using a variety of cultivars, use of glasshouses, and storage of the picked fruits by placing their stems in grape storage bottles, grapes could be supplied to the house nearly all year round.

In one glasshouse, grapes were grown along with pineapples. This glasshouse was known as the "Pinery/Vinery". The pineapples were grown in around 3ft of rotting oak leaves (rotting and therefore heat production was encouraged by the addition of a nitrogen rich source to the leaves - urine). These particular pineapples weren't very happy as the building hadn't been heated over the winter.

This photo (below) shows the depth of the bed. You can't really see it on this small photo, but there are brick arches along the back wall where they meet the floor (back left of bed). Below the arches was kept free of bricks, to allow the vine roots of any vines grown indoors to make their way out into the garden.

The vines were planted outside, and then the stem fed through into the pinery/vinery. In the photo below, the holes that the vines came through are covered in slate. Incidentally, look at how small the glass panes are, and how thick the supporting structures are.

But pineapples and grapes are not the only fruits. The peaches were flowering in their glasshouse, and looked absolutely beautiful, fan trained against the wall.

Below gives an idea of the length of one part of the peach house, with Harry (in flat cap) explaining about fan training. You can also see, at the top, part of the clever engineering that is used to open the roof vents, using a lever next to the door.

More posts to come on this fascinating visit. Thank you, Harry!


Unknown said...

What a fascinating tour!

Despite the weather you took some great pics and the glasshouses alone must have occupied most of the day?

Those pineapples certainly do not look happy but be thankful that you weren't there on a hot day with the scent of rotting oak leaf with added urine filled the air!

I look forward to the next post!


Nell Jean said...

Really interesting gardening going on there. I'd like to grow pineapples; grapes and peaches fare very well here without protective structures.

Looking forward to the rest of your photos and thoughts on the glasshouses.

Jo said...

How lucky to get such a detailed tour with so much information. Sounds like you had a great day.

Lucy Corrander said...

Heart-achingly beautiful fan training.

I specially like Victorian-large-house-greenhouses. They ooze elegance and industry.

Sad to see the neglected pineapples. How did that happen? Cost?

Very, very interesting post.


dozenoaks said...

I love the science and engineering behind glass houses - thanks so much for this post. I had no idea you could grow pineapples like that :)

HappyMouffetard said...

Ryan - these photos came out quite well, as the white walls reflected the light nicely. By the time we came to the Japanese garden at nearly 4pm, the light was dreadful, so I had to delete a load of photos. Good point about the smell - it must have been "interesting".

Nell Jean - tanks for visiting. We cn grow both peaches and grapes outdoors, but the harvest is more assured in the glasshouses, and it extends the season for the folks in the 'big house'.

Jo - it was great. I could have written lots more in the post but didn't want to bore people!

Lucy - yes, the fan-trained peaches absolutely took your breath away, in flower against the white wall. I think the pineapples were just put in there to give an idea of how they were grown. The pinery/vinery has only been restored for a couple of years, and only one part has been fully restored. The other two parts are in progress. Apparently they used to have pineapples at three different stages in the three different sections. I presume it would have been very costly to keep it heated over winter. They don't have the vines feeding through into the glasshouse yet.

Dozen Oaks - thanks for visiting. Yes, the engineering was fascinating, especially seeing how the glasshouse design developed over time. It's not something I've thought about before as I've wandered round these sort of places, but I certainly will from now on.

Carol Michel said...

How interesting and fascinating! It sounds like a great tour, and we should all be so lucky as to have someone like Harry to walk around gardens and glasshouses with. Looking forward to reading more about your tour.

Alice Joyce said...

Fan training = Gorgeous!

Researching new garden spaces in London for upcoming trip. Very exciting...

Helen/patientgardener said...

I visited Tatton a couple of years ago, it rained in September as well. I hope you got to see the Japanese garden which I absolutely loved

Gail said...

The Pinery/Vinery~love the name and isn't the peach fan against the white wall perfect... I love visiting greenhouses on cold wet miserable days. Like today~I need a greenhouse. gail

HappyMouffetard said...

Carol - yes, everyone needs a Harry!

Alice - that sounds interesting.

PG - SomeBeans and I went in August - it didn't rain. I saw the Japanese Garden both then and on saturday. It is indeed beautiful - a brief post to come later, revisiting the one I made in August.

Gail - it's a great name, isn't it? I am lucky enough to have a small greenhouse, but I do envy the wonderful Victorian glasshouses.

Maureen said...

The second to last photo would look great on a greetings card it's beautiful.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

That peach is beautiful.