02 January 2013 By Elaine Mallory & Jessica Tubb
Towards the end of 2012, the Customer Point team from Alitex and two special guests from Harrier Heating went to see an inspiring greenhouse in a village close to our premises at Torberry Farm.
After a series of beautiful crisp and frosty mornings, it turned out to be a wet and rainy day for our visit to see one of our larger multi-zone structures in action.
Thankful to be out of the rain, we were shown into the cosy potting shed on arrival by Head Gardener Dom and his team - including Orrin the ex-rescue dog, who kept a watchful eye on proceedings to make sure we did not get up to mischief! With a wood burner in the corner, beautiful kitchen units and brick pavers picked out with blue Moroccan tiles, it was clear this would be no ordinary greenhouse and we were in for a treat.
The greenhouse in question (a ¾ span lean-to measuring approximately 4.3 m x 19 m) replaced two older Alitex greenhouses which were estimated to be 30 – 40 years old. The structures were still in use so rather than simply get rid of them, they were resold and relocated to Ireland.
The walled garden and the greenhouse took approximately 3 years to complete, with the gardening team photographing the progress. They have since put a photo album together showing all the key stages from excavation to greenhouse installation which we were lucky enough to see.
Simon from Harrier Heating started the day off by giving an overview of the boiler-fed, hot water heating system. What appeared at first glance to be a bewildering array of pipes and gauges soon was explained. Each zone of the greenhouse – hot, temperate and cold – has its own mixing group comprising actuator, a 3-port valve and a pump to enable different temperatures in each zone to be easily maintained.
Each mixing group has its own control panel, so controlling the temperatures in each zone is really as simple as pressing a button. Separate temperatures at which the roof vents can automatically open and close during the day and night can also be set, with a manual override available should a sudden summer hailstorm require the vents to be closed unexpectedly! Despite the luxurious setting of the potting shed, Simon explained it is possible for the boiler, mixing group(s) and control panel(s) to be contained within the main greenhouse if circumstances require.
As well as a hands on Q&A session about the workings of the greenhouse, this was the perfect opportunity to take the time to admire all the hard work the owner and his gardening team have put into creating such an idyllic garden and its surroundings.
Dom and his team are justifiably proud of the greenhouse and this shines through in the high attention to detail inside the structure; even cables had been buried inside walls for the neatest possible finish. As for the plants, the greenhouse is full of bulbs and cuttings, with an olive tree taking pride of place in the central section – a beautiful display and quite definitely one of the tidiest greenhouses I have had the pleasure to visit. Dom assured us this was not on our account and was just typical of the high standards with which all aspects of the garden and estate are run.
With external shades and cold frames either side of the lobby, the greenhouse is in use all year round to its full potential.
We ventured outside (the rain had eased off at this point) to admire the greenhouse from afar and could see how the Wood Sage colour chosen by the owner matched the colour of the windows of the main house.
Our visit was rounded off with a tour of the pool house, complete with fish-themed sauna and dining area. We didn’t believe Dom when he told us the ‘trees’ were made of concrete, until we carried out the very technical and scientifically proven tap test – they had been made by the same people that create the scenery and props for places such as Alton Towers! This man-made fantasy island came complete with tropical butterflies, bananas and even a chocolate-scented orchid – truly a feast for the senses!
Alitex and Harrier Heating would like to extend their thanks once again to Dom and his team and we vow to be back – this time in the sunshine!