Paradise Under Glass: The Education of an Indoor Gardener

Overview

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. Then one cold, gray evening, she wandered into the U.S. Botanic Garden’s conservatory—and a dream was born.

Dazzled by the vast and dense tangle of greenery, Kassinger decided to create a verdant sanctuary in her own home, even though the sum total of her previous ...

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Paradise under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden

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Overview

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. Then one cold, gray evening, she wandered into the U.S. Botanic Garden’s conservatory—and a dream was born.

Dazzled by the vast and dense tangle of greenery, Kassinger decided to create a verdant sanctuary in her own home, even though the sum total of her previous indoor gardening experience was one neglected houseplant at the top of her basement stairs. In Paradise Under Glass, Ruth chronicles her journey from brown thumb to green, while sharing the knowledge and insights that creating and sustaining her fabulous garden has bestowed—lessons of loss and letting go, nurturing and rebirth, challenge and change, love and serenity.

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Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
“A sumptuously written history of greenhouse horticulture.”
New York Times Book Review
“Ms. Kassinger’s writing is chatty and intimate, but she has clearly done her library research.”
International Herald Tribune on Paradise Under Glass
“Ms. Kassinger’s writing is chatty and intimate, but she has clearly done her library research.”
Kirkus Reviews
A cancer survivor's foray into horticulture and healing. After losing a sister to cancer and surviving a bout of her own, science and health writer Kassinger (Glass: From Cinderella's Slipper to Fiber Optics, 2003, etc.) embarked on a personal journey to construct a small conservatory in her home, investigating the history of mankind's understanding and acquisition of plants. The early addition of an orange tree to her collection leads to an exploration of the plant's Chinese origins and early spread across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The subtropical plant, writes the author, took root in Europe despite the area's inhospitable winters, thanks to the development of "orangeries" among 16th-century nobility. From the utilitarian orangeries-basically sooty, windowless rooms heated by roaring fires and seen only by gardeners-came windowed greenhouses, glass lean-tos and splendorous glass-houses that allowed in vast quantities of sunlight and, ultimately, the public. Kassinger's own conservatory developed in fits and starts as she learned the ropes from the local garden-supply store. Eventually, she expanded her horizons by visiting historic and eclectic green- and glass-houses around the Eastern United States. As she relates the exotic adventures and practical challenges faced by Enlightenment-era "plant hunters" in far-flung lands across the seas, we see the technological advancements that allowed for a deeper understanding and cultivation of plants and the commercialization of gardening. As Kassinger's conservatory develops, she works through her own tale of loss and survival, examining the mercurial nature of life and nature and the solace to be found in that symmetry. The authorcolorfully describes her new herbaceous friends and writes about family and mortality with a colloquial zest.
Library Journal
Kassinger (Build a Better Mousetrap) was experiencing a midlife crisis when she wandered into the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory in Washington, DC, and concluded that she wanted a verdant indoor garden. Though the sole houseplant she owned was hardly thriving, this journalist and award-winning author of YA science and history books enthusiastically immersed herself in exploring the history of indoor gardening and experimenting in her own new conservatory—a room filled with tropical plants, butterflies, and loved ones. Her lively, detailed descriptions allow readers effortlessly to feel as though they are witnessing eureka moments in the development of winter gardens and tagging along with historic plant adventurers like those featured in Mary and John Gribbin's scholarly Flower Hunters. Readers easily transition back to the present, vicariously visiting Kassinger's local garden center and getting a ringside seat as she chats with contemporary heavyweights like Byron Martin, owner of the famous Logee's Greenhouses. VERDICT Informative and extremely entertaining, Kassinger's indoor garden memoir seems a surefire antidote for a midlife crisis or the winter blues. Highly recommended.—Bonnie Poquette, Milwaukee
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061547768
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/9/2011
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 939,114
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruth Kassinger is the author of Paradise Under Glass, as well as a number of award-winning science and history books for young adults. She has written for the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Health magazine, Science Weekly, and other publications.

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