One of the most beautiful buildings in the manor ensemble is the orangery – conservatory.

Glass-covered hotbeds for growing melons, watermelons, and fresh lettuce were used in Palmse already at the end of the 18th century. The present greenhouses, or more elegantly orangeries, were built around Alexander von der Pahlen’s time in the 1870s.


Considering that the original orangery was built so long ago, we can grow a great variety of plants and still remain faithful to the manor’s heyday period. Never before had growing exotic plants been as popular as in the 19th century. There were two main reasons for this phenomenon – a large selection of available plants (by the beginning of the 19th century, more than 5,000 new species had been brought to Europe from oversees colonies) and reducing growing expenses. Heating systems had developed quite a lot, and glass prices plummeted as well – technology for producing glass panes was invented.

And when new engineering and technical skills allowed constructing cast metal greenhouse frames, the result was a boom of building greenhouses and conservatories. It culminated with the building of the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.

The so-called Wardian case, although already in use for ten years, was also displayed on the exhibition. It was a method, discovered by Nathaniel Ward, for growing plants in a closed environment, and it allowed plants to be transported to Europe from faraway lands without much loss. This invention also contributed to the fast distribution of exotic plants in Europe.

Ever newer and fancier conservatories were built for previously unseen plants, which gave rise to a new gardening style called gardenesque, which consisted in the gardeners’ attempt to outmatch each other with rarities. One of the most important features of the period’s garden design fashion was patterned flowerbeds, which were mostly built on exotic plants wintered in greenhouses or conservatories. For the summer, gardeners brought outdoors as many plants as possible, starting from palm trees and agaves placed in the centre of flowerbeds to species from the genus Echeveria and other succulents that were used for forming patterns.

This trend also brought growing houseplants on a large scale into Estonia. The first conservatories and greenhouses were built near manors already in the first decade of the 19th century, and the first greenhouses in the University of Tartu Botanical Gardens were built in the same period. The truly grandiose conservatories, however, started to be built in the second half of the 19th century. By the end of the century, the diversity of exotic plants grown in Estonia was surprisingly great.

In Estonia, palm trees of different kinds were considered the most valuable houseplants, but Cordyline species, Aspidistra species, laurel trees, myrtle bushes, and also fuchsias and pelargoniums were popular as well. The last two found their way to the commoners’ windowsills quite fast.

In spite of the rather large selection of exotic plants, the 19th century conservatories were mainly recreational or entertainment places for the family, greenhouses for growing exotic fruits, and/or wintering greenhouses for plants that were planted outside for the summer. Pot plants were also often grown in conservatories in order to use them to decorate the manor house.

Decorative plants in conservatories were, therefore, mainly grown in pots and on shelves. Plants were planted directly into the ground either only when the conservatory was very large, or in case of a few select plants or fruit cultivars like grapes.

By the beginning of the 1970s, only the western portion and stone walls of the conservatory were still extant. The orangery was rebuilt according to old photos and it was fully renovated in 2014/2015.