Book review: Glasshouse Greenhouse

This beautiful book is a must-have for anyone who loves gardens, design, or architecture. Authors India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson explore some of the world’s most breath-taking glasshouses and greenhouses, with exceptional photography showcasing some truly amazing botanical spaces. No coffee table is complete without one…

At first glance, ‘Glasshouse Greenhouse’ looks like any another artsy coffee table book. However, once you start exploring its beautiful pages, you begin to recognise the immense amount of work, knowledge, and skill that has gone into it.

It’s hardly surprising that Glasshouse Greenhouse is as popular as it was when it first hit the shelves.  Published in October 2018 by Pavilion, this non-fiction book documents India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson’s favourite botanical glass structures, combining brilliant photography with plants, travel, architecture, and writing.

Sheffield-based photographers Hobson and Edmondson are the creative forces behind the book, which is based on the work of their bespoke photography brand, Haarkon. Before they even thought about writing a book, their work tended to focus on natural spaces and landscapes, and they were kept busy with private commissions and projects. Their talents didn’t go unnoticed and they were soon recognised as experts in their field, sitting on the judging panel for the 2018 RHS Photographic Competition.

Their career took an unexpected turn four years ago, on a cold morning in Oxford after they had photographed a wedding. They decided to take a tour of the city and found themselves in Oxford’s botanic garden, immediately falling for the raised glass ceiling and vibrant green plants.

The Palm House at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

One greenhouse wasn’t enough and they made plans to visit more, and so the Haarkon Greenhouse tour began – which has since taken them around the world photographing greenhouses and other botanical structures. Their interesting and unique idea seemed to appeal to people’s love of nature and architecture, and ELLE Decoration UK featured the Haarkon Greenhouse Tour in their ‘Power of Plants’ issue.

‘So far on our travels, we have yet to find two greenhouses that are exactly the same. There doesn’t seem to be an industry standard when it comes to their construction. And that playfulness in the architectural language is a huge part of their appeal.’

– Haarkon, Glasshouse Greenhouse

Glasshouse Greenhouse is their first publication, documenting the palm houses, orangeries, lean-to vineries, and tropical hothouses they discovered on their tour, from every country imaginable.

Adelaide Botanic Garden and the Bicentennial Conservatory

Rather than categorising their photographs by location, the book explores different concepts spread across seven chapters; including History, Specimen, Community, Research, Pleasure, Hobbyist, and Architecture. Each building they explore has a series of photo-essays that shows the architectural style, depicting the finer details and the plants that they contain, meaning that the reader gets a true sense of each glasshouse.

Tree fern beneath the glass and iron dome at the famous Kibble Palace – Glasgow

The wonderful thing about this book is that it’s written from the perspective of the authors themselves. They act as personal guides, introducing the reader to each building, telling stories about the structure and sharing the way they feel when they explore each space. Unlike other non-fiction books written in the third person, Glasshouse Greenhouse draws you in from a personal point of view, politely talking you through each project as if you were a guest.  

‘You may find the odd factual snippet here, but it’s much more about capturing the sentiment of the places that we visited, the essence of the greenhouses and the passion with which they have been created.’

– Haarkon, Glasshouse Greenhouse

Hobson and Edmondson don’t scrimp on their research either; they equip you with a light-hearted yet informative history of iconic British glasshouse designer, Joseph Paxton, and his innovative approach to developing new building methods.

This book is going to be a winner with anyone who appreciates stunning design or avidly follows the #ihavethisthingwithglasshouses hashtag on Instagram, but ultimately it will look great on anyone’s coffee table. The ‘Architecture’ section of the book is the largest, focusing completely on the greenhouses rather than the plants that are growing inside them. Haarkon explores the different projects in depth, looking at the effects that different materials have, showing the way that the designs have developed and the shapes work with one another.

Kew Gardens – London, UK

The one thing that you really take away from reading the book, is the magical way that man-made materials and nature can come together to make a very special and memorable space. The likely, predictable glasshouse buildings are included, such as Kew Gardens and the Eden Project, but they are approached with the same respect and attention as the enigmatic and unknown buildings, including Thornes Park Conservatory in West Yorkshire and a small sunhouse in San Francisco.

Glasshouse Greenhouse has over 200 pages crammed with oh-so-good plant photography, where every single project is celebrated for its unique design and purpose – juxtaposing opulent glass domes with quaint potting sheds for full effect. As you make your way through the chapters, you feel like you’re on the journey with the couple – discovering stunning glasshouses around the world.