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What is a Glass Cloche?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2016
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Certain garden plants, especially sensitive flowers and young seedlings, require protection from the elements and a more hospitable atmosphere in order to grow well. Since constructing a miniature greenhouse around every plant would be impractical, some gardeners create the same effect by using a device known as a glass cloche. A glass cloche, also known as a bell jar or garden cloche, is a piece of thin, hollow glass which flares out in a curved bell shape. The glass cloche is placed over a flower or seedling in order to protect it from predators and provide an enclosed atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide and heated by the sun. Moisture in the form of condensation can also be found on the inner walls of a glass cloche.

In essence, a glass cloche works like a miniature greenhouse or hot house, which is ideal for many species of plants which require well-controlled environments in order to thrive. Glass cloches also thwart the efforts of many insects, since they cannot penetrate the glass or burrow under the cloche. The transparency of the glass also allows visitors to view the flowers without disturbing the flower bed itself.

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A traditional glass cloche has a thick glass knob or decorative finial for the gardener to use as a handle, but many collectible glass cloches no longer have this feature. During the Victorian era, when the use of garden cloches was most popular, many gardeners would break off the knob or finial of a glass cloche because it tended to act like a magnifying glass during use. The additional heat would often kill or damage the very plants the cloche was designed to protect. This is why many collectible glass cloches do not lose much of their value if they are missing a knob or finial.

The use of glass cloches in an outdoor garden setting largely fell out of popularity during the 20th century, but a number of people still use them for other purposes. A tall glass cloche is ideal for displaying a valuable doll or delicate collectibles, for example. Some people use a glass cloche to cover individual flowers displayed as part of a dinner tablescape. Others use a glass cloche and saucer plate to display and protect an elaborate dessert or decorated cake. A glass cloche can be an elegant way to protect delicate items from the elements without sacrificing visibility or accessibility.

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anon336532
Post 4

Thank you WiseGeek and also to Starjo. I used a glass cloche for the 1st time this year to start zucchini seeds. We had a week long cold spell but they sprouted quickly and are growing well. I rested one side on a stone so it was always vented. Since it is getting in the 70's I will take it off during the day and put it back on before sundown. I want to find some more for next year!

lighth0se33
Post 3

@seag47 - Glass cloches have saved many of my cookies from insects and dogs, too! I'm spoiled from using them, and though I baked cookies for years before I got one, I don't think I could go without one now.

I have a large cloche to cover baked goods, but I recently got a smaller one to cover a little garden of succulents that I made. I saw some succulents in a magazine, and I really loved the way they looked.

When I found out that they could grow with only a tiny bit of soil as long as they had enough moisture, I decided to get some and cover them with a glass cloche. This traps the moisture inside and nourishes the succulents, and it also makes them look more ornate and special.

seag47
Post 2

I have a beautiful vintage glass cloche that has been handed down in my family for generations. It is big enough to use as a transparent cake cover, which is what my mom and I both have done.

I like to make decorative cakes, and it's great to be able to display them without worrying about bugs getting on them or children sticking their fingers into the frosting. This fall, I made a pumpkin shaped cake with orange frosting and a green stem made from half a zucchini. I preserved it by encasing it in the glass cloche.

It's a good thing that I did, because my daughter left the front door open for about an hour, and flies got into the house. They lit on the cloche, but they could not reach the cake itself.

StarJo
Post 1

In the spring, when the weather is highly unpredictable and new seedlings are vulnerable to sudden temperature changes, I use glass cloches to protect them. This way, all my hard work will not be lost in one cold night.

When tiny plants are doing well during the warm, sunny daylight hours, I put a cloche over them just before sundown to trap some of that warmth inside. During the night, if frost forms on everything else, the seedlings are protected.

I remove the cloche around noon to let the plant breathe. I find that glass cloches work best when used part time. Too much protection can actually harm them, because it isn't natural.

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