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Paxton Sold ‘Hothouses for the Millions’

Joseph Paxton (1803-1865) was not only a gardener, but also an architect, famous for his glass structures.

He designed and built glass houses for his employer the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth, including one for the Duke’s orchid collection.

Eventually Paxton proposed a plan for the largest greenhouse England had ever seen, the Crystal Palace. This cast-iron and plate-glass structure was built to house London’s Great Exhibition from spring to fall in 1851 in Hyde Park.

From the start the goal for Paxton was to make the Chrystal Palace a permanent structure.

After the Exhibition it was rebuilt in an affluent south London suburb where it stood until fire destroyed it in 1936.

Paxton sought to help the middle class gardener, first through his garden magazine. Later he would make and sell his own inexpensive greenhouse called ‘Hothouses for the Millions.”  Paxton’s name appeared in an 1860 ad for his company’s hothouses. [below]

ad in 1860 issue of Gardeners' Chronicle
Ad in the 1860 issue of Gardeners’ Chronicle

Paxton had the same portable greenhouses at his own home near London which the Duke built for him.

Kate Colquhoun in her book about Paxton, A Thing in Disguise: The Visionary Life of Joseph Paxton writes that each greenhouse was “crowded with plants that had wintered in pots ready for ‘bedding out.’ There were tens of varieties of fruit and vegetables, including forced strawberries, early potatoes, kidney beans and melon.”

Thus he showed in his own gardening the usefulness of his “Hothouses for the Millions.”

Colquhoun says, “In this garden, as he had at Chatsworth, Paxton proved himself the greatest garden authority of his time.”

Paxton not only built, advertised, and sold his own greenhouses, but demonstrated by his own gardening in them how helpful they were to the ordinary middle class gardener.



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