The Greenhouse Complex, constructed of acrylic panes on the inside and glass panes on the outside, replaces the aging greenhouses which were not open to the public. The old greenhouses, built of untempered glass and heated by clay pipes, collapsed before they were scheduled to be demolished.
The expansion project was funded through the Better Denver Bond program, a ballot initiative passed by Denver voters in 2007. Prior to the Better Denver program, the Botanic Gardens had not received bonds since 1979.
The showpiece of the new complex, which includes 12 greenhouses, is the Orangery inspired by French gardening traditions. Wealthy French landowners would install a greenhouse for orange trees to enjoy fresh-squeezed orange juice all year round.
The Orangery has glass doors that can roll up and down depending on the weather outside, which is a valuable addition for Denver's fickle climate. "Imagine a blizzard outside, and you walk in here and are surrounded by camellias and citruses..." said Vogt, gesturing to the Orangery corridor with a view of the gardens outside.
The Greenhouse Complex connects to Marine's Pavilion, which currently houses the garden's collection of orchids. The transition to the pavilion also includes waterfalls and a synthetic mountain mimicking the natural habitat of orchids and other tropical plants such as bromeliads.
Six of the 12 greenhouses at the Greenhouse Complex are scheduled to open to the public by Labor Day. The other six greenhouses will cultivate plants for the gardens. The Greenhouse Complex also features office space, public classrooms, a plant tissue culture lab, as well as showers and lockers for horticultural workers.
"Horticulture's work is never done," said Vogt.