Glasshouses are more than just somewhere to shelter on a rainy day - they can house fascinating plant collections, from alpines to pineapples.
We explore glasshouses to visit at eight Partner Gardens around the UK - from working glasshouses producing beautiful display plants for a castle to the world's largest single-span glasshouse. Each garden is an RHS Partner Garden offering free entry to members either throughout its open period or at selected times; simply click on the garden name to find out opening arrangements.
Winterbourne House and Garden, Birmingham
Meet plants from around the globe
The Display Houses are a showcase for plant collections from across the globe. Step into the humidity of the Orchid House to see tender plants including bromeliads, orchids and Spanish moss in natural growing conditions, and be intrigued by the Carnivorous House, home to many native species including Sarracenia and Dionaea.
The Arid House has a wide range of cacti and succulents, including the rare-blooming queen of the night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum), and get up close to some alpine gems in the Alpine House and adjacent scree.
More about Winterbourne House and Garden
Floors Castle Gardens, Roxburghshire
From pelargoniums to peaches
In 2016, the estate opened its three large glasshouses and vinery to visitors for the first time. These are working glasshouses, geared to growing pleasing display plants - such as regal pelargoniums, jasmine, pot chrysanthemums and carnations - and fruit for the castle.
Streptocarpus are a mainstay, flowering from May until the end of October. S. 'Charlotte' is a favourite, with its soft blue flowers and compact foliage, as is soft pink Fuchsia 'Walz Jubelteen', favoured for its upright flowers. In the Vinery, see the impressive grapevine 'Muscat of Alexandria', one of the stars of the garden, as well as ripening white-fleshed peaches and nectarines, which are pollinated by lightly dabbing a rabbit’s tail onto the blossoms.
More about Floors Castle Gardens
National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire
A taste of the Med
The centrepiece of the botanic garden is Lord Foster’s Great Glasshouse, the largest single-span glasshouse in the world. Poised in the landscape like a giant raindrop, it houses Mediterranean climate-zone plants including proteas from South Africa, banksias and eucalypts from Australia, Puya from Chile, Californian lilac and poppies, olives, rosemary, and Echium and dragon trees from the Canary Islands.
In the newer Butterfly House, you'll find tropical plantings and butterfly food plants including bananas, lantana and orchids.
More about the National Botanic Garden of Wales
Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, Devon
Plant conservation in the spotlight
The garden's six public display glasshouses are as much about education as they are about beauty. They show the diversity of the plant world and interpret how plants have evolved, the threats to global biodiversity, and the role we can play in plant conservation.
In the Tropical House you can see some of the rarest plants on the planet - in fact, 75% of the collection will be on the Red List of Threatened Species by 2020. Here, seeds of Abutilon pitcairnense (pictured) are collected for banking at the Millennium Seedbank; an important part of the garden's conservation mission.
For sheer spectacle, the historic Palm House itself is a treat. Pre-dating Kew's famous palm house, it was constructed from a staggering 18,000 panes of glass. 'It is the oldest example of this style of glasshouse architecture in the country,' said Curator Neville Evans.
More about Bicton Park Botanical Gardens
Parham House and Gardens, West Sussex
A future for heritage cultivars
You can also see plant conservation in action in the 1920s display glasshouse at Parham House, where the focus is on flower and scent. When Head Gardener Tom Brown struggled to source older cultivars of pelargoniums and heliotrope, he decided to start a collection to help preserve them.
The collection is displayed alongside fuchsias, plectranthus and annuals for additional seasonal 'fireworks'. 'If well fed and deadheaded, they give colour and interest from April to October,' said Tom.
Among Tom's favourite pelargoniums are dark purple, pink-edged P. 'Lord Bute' (pictured) and P. 'Voodoo', which has dark red blooms with a dark centre. Brush against the foliage of vigorous P. tomentosum, a good plant for containers, to release its minty scent. Visit the collections house, behind the display house, to see where the 'mother' plants - three of each cultivar - are propagated and cared for.
More about Parham House and Gardens
Tatton Park Gardens, Cheshire
From ferns to pineapples
No trip to Tatton Park would be complete without a visit to the Fernery, designed by Joseph Paxton in the 1850s, and filled with lush collections of Antipodean ferns and tree ferns.
Another special feature is the Pinery, thought to be the UK's only fruiting pineapple house. The estate's original pinery was designed during the heyday of the pineapple as a status symbol, with individual fruits sold for the equivalent of £5,000 today. Hot water pipes and oak leaf compost provide a tropical 26.7C (80F), making it a particularly appealing destination on a chilly day!
More about Tatton Park Gardens
Ripley Castle Gardens, North Yorkshire
The spice of life
The planting in the Georgian-era glasshouse was refreshed in 2014. Now divided into seven distinct sections, and with many new plants added, it rewards exploration. See unusual varieties of tropical spice, including vanilla orchids, turmeric, nutmeg and aniseed, as well as established carnivorous plants. There are unusual tropical orchids to enjoy too, including Oncidium Sharry Baby gx and spider orchids.
More about Ripley Castle Gardens
Dumfries House Gardens, Ayrshire
A rainbow of pelargoniums
The central display house in the Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden features a rainbow of flowering pelargoniums and fuchsias, displayed in traditional terracotta pots on tiered benching. Admire the diverse colours, from pale salmon 'Little Primular' to deep crimson 'Bold Beacon', and breathe in the scents of cultivars including 'Pink Capricorn' (lemon rose), 'Clorinda' (cedar) and 'Lara Candy Dancer' (Turkish delight).
The public display house is one of two glasshouses in the Walled Garden, both constructed on the same position as the original glasshouses. It's hard to believe that, prior to the recent restoration of the walled garden and opening in 2014, this was a derelict site.
More about Dumfries House Gardens