ith so many new varieties [of plants] pouring into Britain, horticulture was under pressure to grow and mature. As early as the 1760s, Philip Miller had experimented with different methods of plant acclimatization and found that many tender plants would thrive outside the greenhouse. Many, however, would not, and these were often the rarest. the first freestanding glasshouses, using iron and wood instead of brick and stone, were emerging, themselves demanding further experiments designed to optimize the stability of the structures, the light they admitted, and the most efficient forms of heating. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the horticultural journalist and revolutionary John Claudius Loudon invented, among many other novelties, a form of root design that he called "ridge and furrow" — a zigzag glass construction that maximized the access of light and therefore heat, particularly in the early morning and late evening, when the sun was low in the sky. Loudon, however, maintained a preference for using glass in the more normal, flat construction.
Loudon's greatest technological innovation came in 1816, when he patented a flexible wrought-iron glazing bar that could be bent in any direction without reducing its strength, making curvilinear, even conical, glazing possible. One of the first indications of the future use of iron for its strength and flexibility, Loudon's breakthrough initiated a new mania for building glasshouses in iron for their light and elegant appearance. Although Loudon was a man of vision, his suggestions were not always practical. He saw a day when animals and birds would be introduced into the different hothouse climates, along with "examples of the human species from the different countries imitated, habited in their particular costumes ... who may serve as gardeners or curators of the different productions." 
Colquhoun, Kate. "The Busiest Man in England:" A Life of Joseph Paxton, Gardener, Architect, and Visionary. Boston: David R. Godine, 2006. 300 pages. Many illustrations. ISBN 1-56792-301-1. [Review by GPL]
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Last modified 19 August 2006