A greenhouse is typically a building in which plants grown in environmentally controlled conditions. Thus, you can grow plants which ideally only grow in winter, during the summer time too. While the conjurer of this idea has not yet been traced, the process is known to have existed in the Roman era. Tiberius, a Roman emperor had a habit of eating a cucumber like vegetable regularly. Now cucumber typically grows in warm conditions. But Tiberius apparently was not able to control his fetish till summer, prompting the gardeners to use artificial methods of growing the vegetable. These methods are conjectured to have been similar to the modern greenhouse process.
The gardeners planted the cucumbers in wheeled carts, allowed them to bathe in the sun during the day, and carried them inside to keep them warm at night. Pliny The Elder elaborated that cucumber were stored under frames or in cucumber houses glazed with either oiled cloth known as 'specularia', or with sheets of selenite.
Actual greenhouses are known to have been built in Italy, way back in the 13th century. Surprisingly, they were not used to grow plants in there. The early Italian greenhouses, or as they were called 'giardini botanici' (botanical gardens), were used to conserve exotic plants plucked from tropical explorations.
The development in technology and the human brain made way for more sophisticated greenhouses after a couple of centuries. The temperature and humidity controlled greenhouses appeared Korea, in 1450 AD. The system reached Europe much later. The Netherlands and England harbored poor versions of the Korean greenhouses, which required a lot of manual work. The heat control system also had some serious issues back then. However, today, Netherlands boasts of some of the largest greenhouses in the world, producing millions of vegetables every year!
The first modern greenhouse was arguably developed by a French botanist, Charles Lucien Bonaparte. It was built in Leiden, Holland during the 1800s in order to grow medicinal tropical plants, and many other countries followed suit later. The notable Palace of Versailles was one type of modern greenhouse. It was visually grand and aesthetically appealing which showed that the early Europeans concentrated more on the design. The French named their greenhouses 'orangeries', since they were used to protect orange trees from freezing. 'Pineries' for pineapples and other such denominations followed.
The Victorian era saw the development of some of the world's largest greenhouses. The royal class of people contributed heavily in building some of the most profound structures. A notable greenhouse of that era is the Kew Gardens. Many other large greenhouses were built in the 19th century, prominently the Crystal Palace in London, the Munich's Glaspalast, the New York Crystal Palace, and the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken.
The signature part of modern greenhouses, the geodesic dome, wasn't implemented until the dawn of the 20th century. Greenhouses evolved radically in the 1960s with the increased availability of wider sheets of polyethylene film. Aluminum extrusions or special galvanized steel tubing reduced the construction costs by a huge margin. Today, even the developing countries boast of rows and rows of greenhouses.
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