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Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden
Synopses & Reviews
Like many baby boomers in middle age, Ruth Kassinger was at an emotional crossroads. Confronted with the death of a beloved sister, her children's departure for college, and her own recent battle with breast cancer, she was searching for a way forward. One cold, gray evening, flooded with thoughts of change and loss, she wandered into the U.S. Botanic Garden's conservatory—and a dream was born. Dazzled by the vast and dense tangle of greenery, she began a quest to create a verdant sanctuary of her own at her home in suburban Washington, D.C.
Yet all she knew of indoor gardening was a lone, neglected houseplant at the top of her basement stairs. Paradise Under Glass chronicles her journey from brown thumb to green—a project that takes her across the country. Along the way she meets commercial growers with acres under glass in Florida, a clivia hybridizer whose Delaware home is filled with thousands of specimens, a beneficial bug grower in California, entrepreneurs in Ohio who have a veritable Noah's Ark of rare tropicals, and many others who share their enthusiasms and knowledge.
Kassinger takes us step-by-step from the construction of her conservatory through her efforts to identify the easiest to grow, most beautiful houseplants. She combats pests, raises Monarch butterflies, and harvests kumquats and coffee beans. Her Garden of Eden is complete with a pint-sized pool and a "living wall" she invents.
Kassinger's journey to create her own tropical refuge is also a lively narrative tour of the glasshouses of the past, including Renaissance orangeries, the whimsical follies of Georgian England, the legendary Crystal Palace, and secluded Victorian ferneries.
Throughout, she shares the knowledge and insights that creating and sustaining her garden has bestowed, lessons of loss and letting go, nurturing and rebirth, challenge and change, love and serenity. Paradise Under Glass is the remarkable story of the fruition of a dream that is sure to inspire the gardener in us all.
"After a bout with cancer, the loss of a beloved sister to a brain tumor, and the onset of an empty nest, science and health writer Kassinger, inspired by Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Palm House, decided that a conservatory (or more prosaically, sunroom) 'would be the perfect antidote to the losses and changes of middle age.' The book vividly chronicles her initiation into the world of indoor gardening as well as the fascinating and unlikely histories of greenhouses and the flamboyant gardens they have housed, from 15th-century windowless arancieras built to winter orange trees to the Industrial Age, glass-and-iron 18-acre Crystal Palace. The characters Kassinger encounters, literarily and in the flesh, are as quirky as their plants. Michel Adanson, the 'first botanist to go on a collecting venture in equatorial Africa,' declared the country ' 'delicious' in all ways,' despite facing 'lions, tigers, wild boars, huge 'serpents,' ' masses of mosquitoes, and 'red ants that blistered him all over.' Breadfruit trees collected by David Nelson, a 'quiet and unassuming' botanist, may have been responsible for Captain Bligh's Bounty mutiny. Tom Winn and Ken Frieling, whose Glasshouse Works is housed in a remote Ohio former hotel, now old-age home, reject growing marketable plants like poinsettias in favor of having fun. Kassinger's lush writing and exotic stories will delight the armchair gardener and historian." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Paradise Under Glass is a witty and absorbing memoir about one womans unlikely desire to build, stock, and tend a small conservatory in her suburban Maryland home. Ruth Kassingers wonderful story of the unique way she chose to cope with the profound changes in her life—a book that will delight readers of Eat, Pray, Love and I Feel Bad About My Neck—is interwoven with the fascinating history of conservatories from the Renaissance orangeries to the glass palaces of Kew.
About the Author
Ruth Kassingers science and health writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, National Geographic Explorer, Health magazine, Science Weekly, and other publications. The author of numerous award-winning science and history books for young adults, she lives with her husband, Ted, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
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