Origins Of Orangeries

The word Orange made its first appearance around the 14th century, a term derived from Sanskrit.

At the same time the Portuguese traders introduced the fruit Orange to Europe, as a take-home present from India. These oranges from Asia rapidly took the place of the bitter variety that was grown around that time.

With the popularity of the fruit, actual cultivation of the trees is the next logical step. The Italians first constructed the earliest orangeries. The first European Botanical Gardens was established in 1544 at the University of Pisa, and the following year an orangery was constructed in Padua.

These initially constructed orangeries have no indoor heating, and so fires were started inside to warm the edifice during particularly harsh winters. With the advent of the Age of Exploration, protected gardening and orangeries truly began.

Orangeries as fashion began in Holland, and the English nobles eagerly adapted it. Merchants had already begun importation of orange trees together with other citrus fruits from Southern Italy following the reign of peace at the end of the 80 years war in the year 1648.

As these plants are hard-pressed to survive a Northern European winter, the ability to cultivate and nurture an orange tree is an excellent indication of the status of the owner. Gardeners sought ways to protect these plants, and the innovative orangery gave the perfect answer.

Orangeries, though intended for the oranges and other citruses, soon housed all styles of exotic plants. They became famous as a status symbol among the wealthy. Cost of maintenance of this rare collection of plants alone was very expensive.

Orangeries built to offer protection to these exotic yet fragile plants employed a distinct architecture. A plethora of tall windows rested on brick walls were built on the side facing south to take advantage of the warmth offered by the afternoon sunlight.

The side facing north was solidly built as protection against the wind and the cold. Sloping tiled roofs replaced simple roofs, and as knowledge increased, this too was replaced by glass roofs.

Insulation was the main reason for the health of the most fragile plants. Buckwheat shells were also used to cover walls and shutters. Sprit stoves and other heaters warmed plants grown in tubs made of wood during the cruelest of winter.

The decorative element of the orangery became more important during the nineteenth century. Orangeries were built near homes and they became closely related to landscape and garden designs, with the actual structures more ornately decorated. And with the increase of knowledge, glasses were also incorporated in the orangery designs of today.