More than anything else, greenhouses provide practical advantages for farmers and hobby growers alike. For the more aesthetic-oriented home grower and gardener, however, the question of how your greenhouse looks can be an important part of the picture, too!
While these structures certainly add many invaluable benefits to your gardening dream, they can also be very large and conspicuous. What if you want to plant things nearby? How do you make their appearance flow well with how you want the rest of your growing space to look?
If you’re among the most creative landscaping gardeners who also owns a greenhouse, you may have plenty of ideas up your sleeve already. However, you’ll still have to consider a few limitations regarding what you should (and shouldn't) plant, build, or landscape close to your covered structure.
So before you start a new project to spruce things up, make sure to keep some of the following tips for planting around your greenhouse in mind.
GIVE IT SOME SPACE
You may be tempted to plan all sorts of beds, paths, containers, or decorative touches to go around the base of your structure – maybe even right up close to it. Remember, however, that you'll need to make sure that your structure is still accessible.
Of course, keep things clear for your doorways also. You won't want to plant or build anything that makes it harder for your comings and goings in and out of the structure, or that gets in the way of attending to your plants’ needs.
Do you have accessories that need space to be accessed, or to even function at all? This is important to consider, too. (After all, they’re called “access”-ories for a good reason). Roll-up sides will need space for someone to access and work them, which is important for proper ventilation.
Channels and wiggle wire, though more rudimentary, will also need to be easily accessible in order to open and shut greenhouse sides for managing temperature. The need for space could also apply to cooling systems, heating systems, shade systems, and even light deprivation systems that may need to be reached from the outside: whether for actual operation, routine fixes, or even upkeep, for that matter.
As such, if you want to plant something close to your covered structure, it’s wise to keep a barrier of somewhere between 3 and 5 feet clear for easy access.
NO TALL PLANTS
Like the idea of a lush greenhouse surrounded by enormous landscaped plants? Though it's no doubt a visually wonderful plan, you may have to bring it to a halt and think more so about the practical side of things. Tall hedges and trees, while beautiful, cast a great deal of shade on your structure if they’re not strategically planted – no matter how great they look.
For this reason, you'll only want to plant things close to your structure that won't shade it out too much. One good suggestion: opt for plants that will only grow to heights of around 3 feet or less. If you do want to go forward with towering plants instead, make sure to prune or shorten them regularly to keep them from getting too tall, though there are some ways you can get around that.
If you plant certain types at certain points around your structure for example – such as the south side or southwest corner – this can be quite helpful to your growing system. It can keep temperatures low, especially in the hottest regions or on the hottest days. While trees and tall plants may seem like something to be completely avoided since they can shade out your greenhouse, having them around for this effect doesn't have to be all bad – just make sure you’re positioning them right.
And as the previous tip described: make sure to plant anything a good distance away from your greenhouse, at least 3 feet. With trees especially, consider their root growth and how that might affect the foundation or other attachments to your structure (i.e. irrigation).
Also make sure that you choose trees or large plants that don't cast heavy, dense shade (evergreens are especially suspect). Light, dappled shade is much more preferred, according to SFGATE.
WHAT PLANTS ARE BEST?
Stepping out of the realm of the visual and into the practical: what plants might enhance the function of your covered structure beyond just making it look good? As mentioned above, choosing certain trees and shrubs can cast helpful shade when need be – though if you’re not careful, this can be more of a hindrance.
But what else can plants do if you plant them around your perimeter? For starters, the plants you select can have an impact on the wildlife you attract – and repel – from nearby your greenhouse.
On the one hand, planting certain shrubs and flowers could attract desirables to your garden, like butterflies and bees. This is especially helpful if you are planting vegetables or plants that require pollination, like tomatoes or zucchini. Flowers like bee balm and clover are irresistible to bees, while milkweeds, native prairie plants, and many more flowers persuade butterflies to come near – or even inside – your greenhouse.
If you want to repel certain critters from entering your greenhouse, this can be made possible too. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, flowers like azaleas, four ‘o’ clocks, and even herbs like basil are unpalatable to animals like rabbits and deer and make them want to stay away – and, ultimately, skip a trip inside your greenhouse. (Yes – this can sometimes happen during hot summer nights, if you leave your structures open!)
Want to keep cats from lounging in your sunny structure? Plant strong-smelling herbs that cats hate near your entrances, such as rue. And make sure to keep that catnip far away!
BE CAREFUL WITH STRUCTURES
What about other elements you'd want to add to your garden and near your greenhouse, but that aren't necessarily plants? Think trellises, fences, and even smaller outbuildings and other structures. Remember that, just like trees, these will cast shade too (and very dense shade at that).
Similar to fences, make sure that these also don't reach a height of over 3 feet tall, and stay at least that distance away from the greenhouse itself so as to not cast shade. The same could be said for trellises. Many landscape gardeners may enjoy building trellises right up close to their structures to boost their decorative appeal, especially with the addition of vining flowers: like clematises, hops, or bougainvillea, for example.
Still, such growers should consider how much shade these cast, no matter how pretty they look. Keep them 3-5 feet away from your covered structure, and place them on the north side of your greenhouse. This will ensure that the trellis’s shade doesn't cast on your covered structure, and at the expense of your plants growing within!
A smart tip too: avoid making the trellis an actual part of the greenhouse structure, or attached to it in any way. Beyond shade, this could encourage your vining plant to grow onto your building – which won’t just add more shade problems, but issues with weight and structure, too.
PATHS FOR GOING THE DISTANCE
The most avid landscapers can’t resist putting in a path to make things look good and neaten up their garden aesthetic. Whether its stone, gravel, cement, or brick, make sure to think thoroughly about placement the closer they get to your greenhouse. Obviously, a path straight to the doorway of your structure can’t go wrong.
Though if you’d like a path to go around your greenhouse, keep things like drainage and irrigation in mind, especially in regards to certain path materials. Is your path at the bottom of a slope near your greenhouse? Will flow or drainage of water out of the structure interfere with path foundations or materials in any way?
Will gravel paths erode or fall apart? Will a cement path shift, crack, and break? It’s wise to think about these questions, and how the material that goes into a path will interact with your structure. Lucky for most who landscape, more often than not you can put a path just about anywhere you’d like in relation to your greenhouse.
EDGING AND TRIMMING
The same with paths can apply to fancy edging and trimming. Since these obviously don’t cast shade or interfere with access too much, you can place them wherever you like without too much worry. Further, edges and trim can be combined with certain flowers and plants for a decorative appeal, as well as with paths themselves.
For edging made with mulch or wood chips, though, take care that the material doesn’t interfere with venting processes or other outdoor accessories: such as roll-up sides, channel and wiggle wire, or other elements. Drainage may also have an impact on laid mulch, too.
BEAUTIFY YOUR STRUCTURE – AND YOUR HOBBY
What you choose to plant – or build – around your greenhouse doesn’t have to be all about appearance. It can also be about function and enhancing your setup, too.
Strategically planted trees, flowers, and herbs won’t just make your greenhouse (and your garden) look gorgeous. Place them right, and they can provide shade and bring balance to the nature and wildlife around your growing system – so your greenhouse truly works in harmony with mother nature.