A Trip To Richard’s Greenhouse

Richard Van Ingen was kind enough to let my partner and I stop by for a greenhouse tour and some plant shopping last weekend.  It was definitely a high point this winter! The greenhouse is a massive 1500 sf and 52×30 (about 400 sf bigger than our house…)  He did a lot of the greenhouse construction himself, and if I remember right just hired an electrician and someone to lay the foundation.  He did the plumbing and a lot of the construction by hand.

The high roof allows for plants to be grown far above head height, creating a very forested ambiance.  Richard did mention that this made it rather difficult to keep tabs on his plants, however, as he often found petals on the floor, not realizing from so high up that his orchids were flowering at all.  Despite not always been seen in full bloom, they looked quite happy growing up there.  It is a cool greenhouse, but to my surprise, got up to 95F during the summer without causing too much trouble.  He sprays everything down three times a day during such hot periods and the fan is set on a thermostat, pulling hot air out the back when needed.

One of the most remarkable features of his greenhouse is the amount of functional vertical growing spaces. Wire and faux-wood panels were utilized for many species of orchids and small ferns, and nearly all of the plaques had a few species growing on them (“with friends,” he said).

On the way to the greenhouse is Richard’s ceramic studio, where he makes beautiful pots for the plants in his greenhouse.  He doesn’t use a wheel, so no two are the same, and some of the shapes are more akin to roof tiles than what we think of as pots.  The inspiration for this, he said, came from hearing that many people in Ecuador would go to the forest to collect an orchid, and throw it up on their roof, where it would grow with little care from them.  His ’tiles’ are round discs about the size of a CD, with small holes throughout, and a larger hole in the middle for fixing a bar in which to hang the pot.  There were many designs, many of which I did not remember to take photos of.  Another interesting design was what he called ‘nose ring’ pots, where three more or less flat pieces of fired clay were fixed in a V shape with metal rings.  It is a very impressive collection of pottery!

Another highlight is the pond in the back of the greenhouse, inhabited by albino White Cloud fish.  A dripwall surrounds the entire pond and is home to a beautiful rambling Nepenthes and many species of Gesneriads, Peperomia, and Bromeliad.  There was even a tropical Rhododendron with dozens of Tillandsia growing on its woody stems.

My attempts at taking ‘real’ photos with my Fuji, even bringing two clunky lenses along, unfortunately, failed as there was no memory card in the camera! So, these phone photos will have to do.

And of course, we had to take some home…


6 thoughts on “A Trip To Richard’s Greenhouse

  1. I had no idea you were taking so many pictures. Then I liked your pictures of the new plants situated in your terrariums. Oh, my greenhouse is 52 ft X 30 feet and only 14 feet tall.

  2. Wow, my sense of proportion was so off! I can’t believe those ceilings were 14 feet tall, they really seemed closer to 30′ to me! Thanks for the correction 🙂

  3. I grew up near Longwood Gardens in SE Pennsylvania and that was an inspiration. It seemed obvious that building such a facility was a rich man’s hobby, Pierre Dupont’s hobby. I set out to prove that notion to be wrong. Sort of wrong, if you put your effort and enthusiasm into the plants and not the structure. I don’t have to comply with the ADA, provide parking, pay a staff, have fund raisers, or have lots of acres of formal gardens. I just did what I wanted, focused on the plants themselves. It’s not what a florist would do, it’s more like what a conservationist would do. Now that effort has to come to an end so I’m pleased to pass on interesting plants to people who will take care of them.

    1. Longwood looks beautiful! and formal, and huge. Portland is missing out not having a botanical garden, as you said. As for your method of keeping plants and building your greenhouse, I very much relate to that ideology. In vivarium culture, a lot of money and effort is put into tech, into the actual glass box etc., which has its upsides, but sometimes I think the lowest tech creations are the most interesting and beautiful.

      Seeing your greenhouse has definitely got me thinking big for a future greenhouse. Also, all the NOID’s I got from you have gone into my plant list as (genus if known) ‘sp. Richard’ 🙂

      Loree, thanks very much. There were still an overwhelming number of wonderful plants 🙂

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