When I was in middle or high school, I learnt about the greenhouse effect, and learnt from my textbook that “glass houses” are an example of greenhouses. These glass houses are used to control temperature inside, I read, and this helps to grow a specific kind of plants. While all this sounded good in theory, the problem was that it didn’t really fit the example I had seen in real life.
I’ve known glass houses from the time I was very young, thanks to the one in Lalbagh in Bangalore, which was erected in 1889 to commemorate the visit of Prince Albert Victor (Queen Victoria’s husband) to Bangalore. Lalbagh being located close to home, I would go there every other weekend, and the routine consisted of walking through the glass house and sitting on one of the bull statues in front of it.
From memory (I’ve hardly gone to Lalbagh in adulthood), the glass house was always empty, except for exhibition times in August and January every year, when it would be full of flowering plants. And the glass house being largely open, the temperature and humidity insight wasn’t noticeably different from that outside. And that meant that I couldn’t particularly appreciate my science lesson that glass houses are greenhouses.
All that changed yesterday when we visited the Palm House in Kew Gardens in London. It was an unusually warm day for February in London, but even then the difference between the inside and outside of the glass house was rather noticeable. The Palm House houses tropical plants from Asia, Africa and the Americas, and consequently a tropical weather is maintained. And this is achieved by dint of it being a glass house (i.e. a grenhouse), and also frequent waterings to increase humidity in the house. And this meant that while it’s still winter in London, tropical plants were blooming and buzzing in the Palm House!
I don’t know what it will cost Lalbagh to maintain a permanent collection of plants in the glass house. Also Bangalore can get warm in summer and maintaining a different temperature inside may not be desirable. Nevertheless, thinking back, it would have immensely helped me in high school had the glass house in Bangalore actually functioned as a Glass House!