Our second year that the Arboretum’s Spring Show!


UofM Landscape Arboretum’s Spring Flower Show – Passport to Spring, and Conservatory Craftsmen!

In 2018, Conservatory Craftsmen custom-designed an English-style conservatory for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum “Fragrances of Spring” flower show. It was a hit with visitors, and we heard from so many guests who enjoyed seeing the kind of work we do.

This year, we created a European glass garden house as the centerpiece of the 2019 Arboretum spring flower show that runs Feb 1 through March 3, 2019. It will occupy the center of the Great Hall, and be surrounded by showpiece gardens of plants and themes from around the world.

The great country houses of Europe are known for their elegant formal gardens, but they were also hard-working estates that were self-sustaining, growing the herbs, fruit, and vegetables for kitchens that often had to feed many guests as well as the resident family.

To produce herbs for seasoning and for medicinal purposes, as well as shelter tender seedlings early in the growing season, practical workspaces for gardeners were found in glass houses. These practical structures were typically positioned near the kitchen, to make snipping basil and chives easier, and often featured cold frame growing beds attached or nearby, to accommodate more plants.

At the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show in London, MaryJo and I (Jim Hewitt) were inspired by not only the fantastic floral displays over three acres, but the focus on sustainability and eco-friendly growing techniques. You can read the blog on our trip here for more info. Greenhouses and glass houses offer tremendous potential for the home-owner.

We built this year’s glass house for the Arboretum flower show as a fairly authentic European kitchen garden. If we were to build this for a customer with all the technology we commonly use, the windows would operate on temperature controls, the blinds would fold up or down based on the time of day or amount of sunlight, and there would be automatic supplemental heating and an automatic fan.

To inspire your own kitchen garden, we created an Arboretum flower show takeaway. King Charlemagne famously specified specific plants for healing and herbs for health and cooking, and we’ve listed some of his favorites—you’ll see many of them at the Arboretum!

Come tour our glass house in the Great Hall at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum!

Next year, we are excited to announce that we will again be working with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to create an inspirational and unique glass structure for the garden. Stay tuned to see what develops!

The Chelsea Flower Show: Inspiration for the Minnesota Arboretum 2019 Glass House

Our Trip to the Chelsea Flower Show in England

The Chelsea Flower Show has been an annual London tradition since 1833 and is the most famous event of its kind.

On our trip to England in May, MaryJo and I were lucky enough to be able to attend this exclusive event—and we got inspired to bring a bit of it to the Arboretum for you!

The Chelsea Flower Show inspired the Conservatory Craftsmen approach to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Spring Flower Show, February 1 through March 3, 2019, which includes a centerpiece of a glass house designed and built by Conservatory Craftsmen, evoking those in the great gardens of Europe.

The see-and-be-seen Chelsea event lasts a mere five days—“mere” because, incredibly, 800 workers spend 33 days filling three acres with flowers, landscaping, and extraordinarily imaginative displays, only to take it all down in less than a week!

So many garden and plant themed exhibits!

Sculptures are crafted of veggies and tropical blooms, new varieties of all sorts of flowers are debuted, and the world’s leading nurseries and garden centers display their wares and the latest trends in gardening. Breeders and horticultural vendors compete for Product and Plant of the Year awards.

Gorgeously appointed shops and stalls feature garden-themed gifts and supplies, including watering cans, flowerpots, garden seating, and, of course, the plants themselves (until only a few years ago, garden gnomes were strictly prohibited!).

Plantings are arranged like artwork, and are grouped, tucked, and nestled into faux garden plots and exotic displays.

This show can draw a crowd

The UK flower show is hugely popular and also just plain huge. Some 150,000 visitors attend, including the Queen and her family, plus well-dressed and titled folks (oh, the hats alone!). The Main Pavilion alone houses more than 100 floral exhibits, and there are smaller tents and outdoor gardens to tour, as well.

The Chelsea show featured eco-friendly growing practices, including the use of cold frame plant beds and greenhouses.

The concept of a garden conservatory for cultivating plants in controlled environments originated in Britain. Many of the famous country houses and estates of the UK feature elaborate, even fanciful conservatories that have aesthetic value as well as practical applications.

Glass houses are the hard-working and less fussy relatives of more extravagant greenhouses, functioning as hothouse and potting shed. Here is where many a British garden would grow kitchen herbs and plants used for medicinal purposes.

With current trends in sustainability practices and increased interest in organic diets, we saw many useful applications for garden glasshouses back in the States: growing herbs and vegetables year-round, starting tender seedlings, extending the growing season in cold zones.

Inspiration for the Landscape Arboretum show

We built a glass house for the Arboretum flower show as a fairly authentic European kitchen garden. If we were to build this for a customer with all the technology we can put to use today, the windows would operate on temperature controls, the blinds would fold up or down based on the time of day or amount of sunlight, and there would be automatic supplemental heating and an automatic fan.

We also created special takeaway cards with a European theme. To inspire your own kitchen garden, we created a fun reference card of kitchen herbs and healing plants dating back to the historic origins of kitchen gardens in Europe. King Charlemagne famously championed herbs and aromatic and healing plants in his gardens, and we’ve listed some of his favorites—you’ll see many of them at the Arboretum!

At the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2018, Mary Jo and I were inspired by this practical and attractive cold frame system attached to a classic English garden glass house.

The World Horti Research Center

I never tire of a new trip to the Netherlands. The Dutch have such electricity in the air. Its as if they have discovered a secret, and being Dutch, they are only too happy to share it. My current trip to the Netherlands is to spend some time at the World Horti Research Center, where horticulture has just crashed headlong into agriculture, and it’s winning.

Whatever we were growing for fresh food in a field in the past, can be more efficiently and effectively grown in a greenhouse.

  • We visited a greenhouse that had dug a well 2.4KM into the earth to obtain the heat required to heat the greenhouse, year round. After the initial investment, all heating costs were no cost from that day forward.
  • Glass evenly distributes the sunlight to all plants the same so there are no slow/fast maturing spots in the greenhouse, just even ripening.
  • There is also a device that can be installed where you go through it to get into the greenhouse, and it cleans your feet and hands. Sanitation is an utmost priority!

Whether tomatoes or flowers, massive quantities are grown on no wasted water, grown evenly, because the market shopper wants all produce to look the same every day of the year.

The WHRC has three main objectives.

A third of the building is dedicated to education. Students from far corners of the earth come to learn. These students are learning the most current methods of crop production and taking these skills back to China, Russia, USA – you name it. The Dutch are not about to keep this a secret.

They realized is that there are few people in the world prepared to embrace this new form of Ag/Hort. There are plenty of eager investors around the globe that are ready to throw money at these forms of crop production, but few candidates can apply who have the necessary skills.

Another third of the building is dedicated to companies in the industry who want to display their contribution to the new technology. Locally, Honeywell is well represented as a forerunner in environmental controls. Other companies display growing mediums, automation of many kinds. For example, there are lasers that prune plants to consistent sizes, screens that not only keep bugs out of the greenhouse, but keep the pollinating bees in the greenhouse (special bees are rotated every 30 days in the fruiting greenhouses [tomatoes]). Every new innovator of production products is there in a 365 trade show set up for all the world travelers that come daily to visit.

The final third of the structure is research greenhouses. New varieties are tested for market, new techniques are tested, and quantitative research is shared here. Companies will lease a greenhouse bay about 25′ X 60′, segregated from the attached growing area next door, and they will work intensively to explore new depths in the world of greenhouse growing.

The WHRC is located in the shadows of the International Flower Auction, a 2.5 million sq ft building in which the bulk of the world’s flowers are brought in fresh in the morning and shipped to markets around the world at night. I was here merely a year ago when the first steel column was set in the soil to begin construction. Today, it is a vibrant, bustling center for business and knowledge converging on an untapped frontier of world horticulture.

Trends ‘grow’ quickly here. A year ago, I never saw a ‘living wall’ today they are everywhere. Inside and outside of buildings, signs for companies are made of living walls, highway barriers are living walls. It’s just an example of how fast these trends are being adopted and made commonplace throughout the world as the Dutch set the pace for the industry that will soon feed the world.

Maximize Rooftop Space with a Conservatory

When people talk about expanding interior space, they immediately think about taking down walls and building new rooms. These are plausible solutions, but only if your plot of land can accommodate the extra floor space. If your property is in the middle of the city, however, or if you like your structure as is, then you might want to turn your gaze upward.

Conservatory Craftsmen offers an opportunity to expand your interior space without doing any major renovations. By building a rooftop conservatory or greenhouse, we add one more inhabitable space to your property.

Residential Comforts

Rooftop conservatories designed by Conservatory Craftsmen have sustainable features that are trendy today: energy-efficient, automated, and eco-friendly. Although they are still more popular in the UK, more American homeowners are starting to see their benefits and are now integrating conservatories into their homes.

With their glass walls and roofs, conservatories allow natural light to come in. Conservatory Craftsmen also adds large glass doors and windows that open either manually or automatically. As a result, the houses we work on become bright and airy even if their owners keep the lights and air conditioning off during the day. So, they get to enjoy the outdoors without stepping outside their homes and save on electricity bills.

Whether you use it as a greenhouse or a sunroom, a rooftop conservatory offers comforts and efficiencies that appeal to your modern sensibilities.

The Advantage to Commercial Buildings

Rooftop conservatories are flexible; commercial property owners can find multiple uses for them. They are suitable as an events space, for example, or as structural covers for hotel rooftop swimming pools. Other possible uses for them are as art studios, dance studios, and cafe lounges.

Food establishments and fresh produce stores can also take advantage of their rooftop spaces by converting them into commercial greenhouses. They can grow some of the products they sell or use in their dishes. A commercial greenhouse can be a selling point for health-conscious consumers and supporters of sustainable farming.

One of the specialties of Conservatory Craftsmen is commercial greenhouse construction, so if the idea above appeals to you, you’re already in the right place.

Modern Features

Automation is the mark of a modern conservatory, and it is a luxury that’s worth spending on.

Fully-automated conservatories boast self-closing roof blinds that are heat-activated. Once the interior reaches a specific temperature, the system triggers the blinds to extend across the glass roof. Automated windows work the same way. With the addition of a rain detector, you don’t have to run up to the conservatory and pull the windows closed if it rains.

Conservatory Craftsmen offers these features, including remote automation which allows you to control automation settings from your smartphone or through a voice-controlled speaker.

We do our best to maximize technology to give you something extra. Why settle for plain additional space when you can have it plus modern luxuries? If this sounds good to you, let’s talk. Get in touch with Conservatory Craftsmen today.

Rooftop Event Center in Rockford IL

Our company is no stranger to large commercial projects, take a look at this rooftop conservatory event center we built.

In the last 10 years adding on valuable square footage to a rooftop has been growing in popularity for entertaining, co-op growing or in this case – an event center / wedding venue in Rockford, IL. The team that was in charge of this building (The Standard) had goals for a destination wedding venue. The construction of this project was to coincide with the building renaissance taking place on the Rockford, IL riverfront. Conservatory Craftsmen was brought on for a the crowing jewel of the three story masterpiece – the rooftop conservatory.

The owners were intent on building the finest rooftop conservatory in the Chicago area. They knew they wanted something that would draw a wedding party out of the Windy city into a nearby venue with more to offer. Their dream was to have a rooftop event center that a couple would dream of being married in, and that also gave them the assurance that no matter what the weather was, the wedding could be ‘outdoors’.

Given the plan by the owners and architects, we called up aluminum extrusions out of Belgium to be the basis of this structure. Able to withstand the 130 mph winds and massive snow loads that torture a structure in this exposure.

The roof top of this 100 year old building was the biggest challenge.

There were walls here and there that had to be used to create connections. Decks weren’t level, and the winter installation on a rooftop was indeed a chilling experience our crews will never forget.

All material was set on the roof by crane to start the project. Our crews worked long days and weekends to set the portal, sub frame, that would be the support basis for the entire structure.

Unique glazing window frames allowed the glass to be set from the inside out, avoiding the problems of setting glass with a crane. Christmas lights from the City below helped maintain a cheery working environment for the crew of 5, even in the cold weather. In all, 6.5 tons of tempered and laminated glass graced this stout roof. A layer of dark tint was added to the outer pane to cut down sun glare, but still allow massive amounts of light. A good balance between heat and light was the goal.

The project was complete in less than a month.

Interior finishes were applied by the local contractor and the first event was held a week after the last piece of glass was set.  We definitely considered that a job well done! And it’s a rooftop conservatory we’re proud to put our name on.

We’ve seen numerous weddings and events at The Standard on the internet since the completion of the project and it appears that the goal was achieved by both the owners, and our conservatory crew.

With the addition of micro breweries and popular restaurants, downtown Rockford is paving the way to make it a fun and successful destination for any event.

Maybe you have a rooftop on your commercial property that could be transformed into a remarkable and useful area, that could be used year-round and in any weather?  Then give us a call at 888-345-7915 and we can discuss it, or you can contact us online too.

Rooftop Conservatory Event Center - the StandardRooftop Conservatory Event Center - the StandardRooftop Conservatory Event Center - the StandardRooftop Conservatory Event Center - the Standard

Project Profile: Southern Minnesota Lean-To

 

At a Glance: An underused and underwhelming patio space is converted into year-round living room on a historic home

 

 

What Happens Here?: Entertaining, relaxing, and growing

Location: Frontenac, MN

Size: Conservatory is 300 sq.ft.

Project Manager: Pioneer Renovations

Conservatory: Conservatory Craftsmen

This rambling Victorian river home was built on Lake Pepin, which is the widest naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River. Lake Pepin is located approximately 60 miles downstream from Saint Paul, Minnesota and is the perfect retreat for our clients. A pergola stretched out from behind the house with a beautiful, rustic view of a Minnesota State Park. Sadly, the pergola was very much underused due to exposure from bugs and weather. The extraordinary potential of this lush arboreal space, however, was easily recognizable by its owners, so they reached out to Jim Hewitt for a consultation. With the assistance of our expert team at Conservatory Craftsmen, a new vision for this space was conceived.

The existing space created a bit of a challenge for the design team. Tucked away inside a ‘U’ shaped area of the house, and under the second-floor windows, an opportunity existed.

Getting the structure to look ‘original’ to the home, and create a functional space was the goal of the new design. The team worked on plans, knowing that a single pitch, (lean-to) roof was the only option. The length of the roof rafters, however, required a ‘work around’.

It’s a matter of geometry. The longer the rafter, the more elevation drops over the run. If we had made the rafter attach to the house below the window and pitch 18′ to the front wall, the front wall would have been 5′ high. To solve this, Mike came up with the idea of a flat roof soffit along the house to bring the room out 4′ before the drop began.

Work began and once removal of the existing pergola was completed, footings were dug and a frost foundation was installed.

Architects – click for plans! MN Lean-to

Foam insulation was placed on the bare ground and hydronic piping was attached before the 3″ concrete slab was poured. The hydronic piping supplies the heat from a boiler for the in-floor heating system. The insulation keeps the heat from going down into the earth and forces it up into the concrete floor. Once the slab is warm, it holds this heat for a long time. Even a sunny day can work to warm the slab and keep the room comfortable well into the evening.

The crew framed the knee walls and the new soffit wall so the conservatory could then be installed.

The conservatory, a wooden, mahogany frame was painted a soft white in the paint booth of the shop to ensure an even coating, under controlled moisture conditions. This micro-porous paint application will ‘breathe’ and last for many, many years.

Installation of the conservatory itself was the easy part of this project! Now it was on to the finishing touches.

A natural field stone had been used as a foundation stone in other areas of the house, so we elected to face the exterior knee wall of the conservatory with stone to keep a unified look. As we framed and installed the gas fireplace on the interior of the room, we also used this field stone on the wall and surround of the fireplace. Ceramic tile was selected and installed. Ceramic is the natural choice on a concrete slab over in floor hydronic heat.

A mini-split air conditioner was installed on the house wall. Two ceiling fans were integrated into the soffit ceiling along with 3 new recessed lights. Removing the exterior door trim and replacing the trim in the room with interior trim gave the room a feeling of an inside space, not a space that was added to the exterior of the house. Millwork and sheet rocked walls were painted and we were good to go!

Pinoleum ceiling blinds were installed and automated. They gave a decorative touch to the room as well as shading the space from harsh sun.

Finally, all elements of the room were tied together with the automation system we now offer on every room.

The roof vents open and close with the side wall windows based on temperature of the room and weather conditions. As a safeguard, they are automatically closed by a rain sensor during inclement weather. The ceiling blinds will go up and down based on the time of day, time of year and weather conditions. The room will not heat up from solar gain with these blinds in place.

Did we mention the ceiling fans also are temperature controlled? When it gets warm and the vents open, the ceiling fans go on. During the cold months, they will spin at low speed in order to “stir” the air, ensuring even room heating.

Too hot for ventilation? Then the windows close and the mini-split air conditioner takes over.

Cold day today? No problem. On cold days the blinds go up to conserve heat and the in-floor heating takes over. As a back-up for heat in the room, the fireplace will kick on to keep the room from freezing.

Now, what if I want the blinds down for some star gazing? All functions in this room are controlled by either your smart phone, or a series of smart switches on the wall.

Lastly, our staff is available to monitor day to day functions remotely from our office. If any function needs adjustment due to seasonality, it is easily adjusted remotely.

More information is available on our web site or by calling us at 888 345 7915

 

Conservatory Building: 5 Decisions to Make Before You Begin

The materials, the style and many other factors of building a conservatory can help or hurt the environment.

Conservatory Construction Techniques Can Fight Global Climate Change

The natural resources of the world, though abundant, are being threatened by climate change and global warming. As a result, people are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint; how much energy we consume, the environmental factors in which their food is grown, and how to incorporate it all into our everyday life. A conservatory or greenhouse is where lifestyle meets practicality and sustainability.

When planning a home renovation, consider a conservatory or greenhouse. Traditional orangeries that originally functioned only as a place to grow plants and flowers have evolved into truly unique spaces in which to live. Conservatories and greenhouses are as custom as any other room addition; specialty muntins, hand woodworked details and stained glass makes each crystal palace one of a kind. Temperature control features keep the room comfortably tempered, without adding to electricity bills.

Read the guide below for the five decisions to make before you begin building a conservatory, or any home extension:

1. Know your goals.
Before anything else, you need to determine what you’re using the space for. Understand the size your property can accommodate, and how the design will work with the existing structure of the home.

2. Create a plan.
Now that you know what you want and what purpose the addition is for, you need to map out your plan. Communicate openly and regularly with your builder; make sure that all payment installments are in writing, and that expectation is set in terms of time to completion.

3. Set up a budget.
In setting up a budget, make sure it is realistic and within your means. This is a complicated process as the budget can restrict the whole process. Get quotes from several trusted contractors and understand the cost of labor in relation to the cost of materials.

4. Hire the right people.
Ask for as many references and feedback as you can before handing over any deposits. Check for negative feedback and complaints as well as certifications. Your choice will depend on your goals and budget, but there should be a long line of clients willing to offer a recommendation.

5. Prepare for inconveniences.
Because you hired the right people, this step, in theory, should be unnecessary. But the reality is that big projects with many details can run into unforeseen issues. Make sure to set aside a few extra dollars for unexpected problems.

The Case of the Homeless Lemon

 

This lemon needed a conservatory home built for it in Atlanta, GA.

The “Homeless” Meyer Lemon

I received a call from a lady with a slight southern charm to her voice, right after Christmas.

She said, she needed a conservatory and was coming to see me, ON NEW YEAR’S DAY!

Well she showed up, Meyer lemon in hand and declared that this lemon “needed a home.”

As it turned out, a recent storm had removed a huge beech tree from her back yard, and it was time for a ‘do over’ of the back yard.

Coupled with the fact that she had just bought a Tesla and had no place to charge the vehicle, a garage was also on the list.

She had studied and planned for quite a while and was clear what she wanted to have.

A conservatory to her was a place to grow many varieties of plants for great joy and healthy eating.

She grows herbs and other edibles and wanted access to them all year round. In addition to growing plants, she also wanted to be able to spend serious time in the conservatory, enjoying the Atlanta seasons and even sleeping in her room as well.

Carol commissioned CC to build a conservatory to house her Meyer Lemon tree.

Jim and Our New Friend, Carol

I first visited her when the construction of the garage was first breaking ground. She had a great contractor named Wes who looked after her every detail.

We had come up with a plan for the conservatory that was a bit of a cruciform with a linkway to the garage, as there was a second floor to the garage plan (a bit of an apartment) and it had a window we could not remove. Solution? A linkway from the garage to the conservatory.

We also designed a lantern roof for the second elevation of the roof to gain a lot of height, for tall plants and trees.

She invited me to stay as a guest at her house and we got started early every day, laying out and planning the room.

Her Tesla was being charged from a cord that extended from the driveway into the laundry area, where she unplugged her dryer to charge up the car! She was so very eager to get the project to a point where she could park in the garage and charge her cool car.

The landscape garden was laid out and the room was designed to fit as a feature in the garden.

We did the pre-manufacture of the room and shipped it and our crew to site. On site we assembled the steel portal frame (for the lantern roof) and began to build the conservatory.

Local stone masons were on hand building the stone knee walls and work progressed along in a wonderful fashion.

Jim and Mary, the great neighbors next door, put up the crew for the 10 days we were there and everyone got to work and relax with one another. Truly a unique experience.

We completed the Conservatory and left Carol to fill in the blanks with her many orphan plants from the patio and the house.

An arial shot of the completed conservatory complete with the hanging bed she had envisioned.

Completed Conservatory with “Tingling” Bed

Her conservatory was designed and built to serve many functions.

The Conservatory’s Hanging “Tingling” Bed

She then began a plan. She wanted a work table to hang in the middle of the room, but she also wanted this work table to transform into a bed, so she had a place to stay on the beautiful Atlanta star lit nights.
She called it a Tingling Bed but it is a wonderful creation that doubles as a work table and a comfy sleeping quarters for a truly remarkable lady from the south who is as smart and gracious as any Southern Lady could be.

How to Dine Al Fresco Inside

 

Minnetonka Orangery Angled Front View

The Perfect Orangery for this Dollhouse

Sometimes we just need more natural light in the house. There is nothing more satisfying than enjoying the morning sunrise with your breakfast, coffee and the newspaper.

Recently, we were asked to develop a plan for integrating a conservatory into a kitchen and eating area, located in the western part of Minneapolis.

A kitchen is a challenging spot to add a glass roof because of cooking moisture and condensation on glass, but with proper air ventilation design, this has never been an issue in this great kitchen.

A traditional home requires a traditional design to the windows and detailed trims. This addition fits this home perfectly.

Don’t make the mistake of adding to your home and making your living spaces dark and dreary.

Think about glass, and all that Conservatory Craftsmen can offer to enhance your life.

Minnetonka Orangery Kitchen View

The Orangery is a Natural Extension of the Kitchen

Orangery ceiling and glass

There’s Nothing Like Dining Outside… Inside

 

Orangery or Conservatory? What is the Difference?

queen-anneOrangeries have become the most popular conservatory project in England today. An orangery is much like a conservatory. One deciding feature is more ‘mass’ on the wall design and less window. This differs from a typical conservatory, which strives to have little in the way of structure on the walls, and the maximum amount of glass.

The orangery fits well with ‘Georgian’ architecture or homes/buildings that need more structure to give a good visual fit.

The Queen Anne Orangery at Kensington Palace in London was built in 1506 (shown to the left).

Its design allowed citrus trees to be rolled out onto the terrace during good weather and rolled back into the orangery when not.

The large windows were all opening doors at that time. It is currently open to the public for traditional tea time, situated among the formal gardens of the palace.

Move ahead in history a bit and the Orangery’s primary use is still the same but to also add space and a tie into one’s existing home.

img_5606-e1411679526222img_5632Here are photos from a recent Conservatory Craftsmen orangery project. You will notice that part of the roof is actually solid and flat. This is like a ‘soffit’ on the roof and allows us to conceal the gutters. Today’s modern truss joists allow us to build this sort of roof and engineer it for maximum loads.

 

img_5745Now, also exciting news! Open the front wall with a folding door exclusively from Conservatory Craftsmen, and you have an indoor/outdoor space.

 

img_5747img_5748The interior has some nice sun blocking features and attractive soffit in which accent lighting is placed. Also, sound and mechanicals can hide in this soffit.

 

img_5749A wide open space, lots of light, a true transition to the outdoor garden from your orangery. This could be you!