Paradise under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden

Paradise under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden

by Ruth Kassinger
     
 

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Paradise Under Glass is a witty and absorbing memoir about one woman’s unlikely desire to build, stock, and tend a small conservatory in her suburban Maryland home. Ruth Kassinger’s 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

Overview

Paradise Under Glass is a witty and absorbing memoir about one woman’s unlikely desire to build, stock, and tend a small conservatory in her suburban Maryland home. Ruth Kassinger’s 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.

Editorial Reviews

Katherine Bouton
Ms. Kassinger's writing is chatty and intimate, but she has clearly done her library research…[she] embroiders much of her historical information with colorful sociological detail.
—The New York Times
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.
Publishers Weekly
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. (May)
International Herald Tribune
“Ms. Kassinger’s writing is chatty and intimate, but she has clearly done her library research.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A sumptuously written history of greenhouse horticulture.”
International Herald Tribune on Paradise Under Glass
“Ms. Kassinger’s writing is chatty and intimate, but she has clearly done her library research.”
New York Times Book Review
“Ms. Kassinger’s writing is chatty and intimate, but she has clearly done her library research.”
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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061991301
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/20/2010
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
54,365
File size:
3 MB

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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