Think of a greenhouse as a sanctuary, a vacation home for certain flowers and plants to winter in before their onward journey to the garden in the spring. It is your sanctuary too, a most pleasant spot in which to nurture your mini garden and watch it grow.
The hibiscus is a tropical flower, native to Southern China, that must be protected in a greenhouse from frost and cold temperatures to which it is not accustomed. The hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii, and in Fiji it is the subject of an annual,week-long Hibiscus Festival. Colorful hibiscus flowers have graced Europe since the 1700s and the United States since the 1800s. Lovely as they are, hibiscus flowers do not normally last more than a day or so, but they do bloom profusely. A variety of hibiscus called Hibiscus speciosus was brought to the United States from England in 1778. It is now a popular flower in South Carolina. Another variety of hibiscus that is suitable to place in a greenhouse is the Hibiscus Chinensis, a very hardy species. Be sure to keep hibiscus plant soil well moistened, but be careful not to overwater these plants.
There are thousands of species of orchids, which are members of the Orchidaceae family. These beautiful and exotic plants are often thought of as delicate when they are actually sticklers for specific conditions. Orchids definitely prefer lots of bright light, which is why they usually thrive in a greenhouse that receives the best possible light from several directions. At the same time, orchids require some shade too, so it is advisable to place them in a part of the greenhouse that is shaded. Make sure that there are no drafts that disturb orchids. Give orchids the conditions they need, and you will be rewarded with some of the world's most dazzling flowers, though expect the process to be a long one, usually lasting several years.
Herb gardens are increasingly popular as many of us focus on better eating habits. You can start a herb garden by planting the seeds in pots in the greenhouse and nurturing them until the weather grows warmer and allows transplanting to the garden. Think about planting basil, rosemary and thyme for starters. Basil leaves can be used fresh, or in dried form as a cooking herb, a condiment, and a spice. This versatile herb is considered an antidote to headaches and coughs and also contains antioxidants. The pine-scented leaves and flowers of rosemary are a pleasant addition to fresh salads, roast chicken or lamb, even in soups. Interestingly, ancient Greek scholars used to tie garlands of rosemary to their heads because it was thought to aid memory and rejuvenate the senses. The pungent flavor of thyme makes it a favorite of chefs in seasoning meats, pizzas and soups in particular, once it has left the cosseting comfort of the greenhouse.