Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden
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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 I Feel Bad About My Neck—is interwoven with the fascinating history of conservatories from the Renaissance orangeries to the glass palaces of Kew.
on the guide, and only water if it registers that number or lower.” Right off the bat, I liked this alternative, this gardening-by-numbers approach. It was the way I cooked. Pop the frozen plastic package into the microwave, tap in the number of seconds or minutes indicated in the instructions, and push start. (The best recipe as far as I’m concerned is the one for microwave popcorn with its wonderfully measurable “continue until no more popping is heard for three seconds.”) “But exactly how
be nearly as open to the outdoors. So far, a “hmmm” was as much of a response as I’d gotten. One evening I was in my office talking on the phone when Ted, just home from work, walked in. He stood in front of the alcove, tie loosened, looking in on the grove. The window was black with night, a dramatic backdrop for the leaves and fruit that glowed almost surreally under the fluorescent blaze. Ted looked tired, and the lights silvered the gray in his dark hair. “I ran into John Meisner outside,”
luxury that only the very wealthy indulged in. Everyone else went to a swimming club. The thought of my own pool, even a single-serving-size one, made me feel like Leona Helmsley. But now it dawned on me that a conservatory provided not only a place to put a pool but also a compelling, unimpeachable reason for having one: humidity. Tropical plants require high levels of moisture in the air. They have thin leaves, and when the air has less than about 50 percent humidity, they lose water as vapor
door, to find myself in a living room with wingback chairs by a fireplace, polished oak floors, a sampler on the wall above a gateleg table, and a golden retriever wagging its tail in the doorway. Maybe someone would be sitting in one of those chairs, needle-pointing. Instead, the room I entered had never been fully constructed. Its floor and walls were dark, unfinished lumber. The only light was attenuated daylight that managed to penetrate some remarkably dusty windows. Along one wall was a
gesture than wasting food. Flutterby Gardens ships about five hundred butterflies a week in the peak of the summer wedding season. Connie led me through the backyard. The garden beds were nearly bare, with just a few patches of grass and a smattering of what looked like weeds. In fact, they were weeds, varieties of milkweed, which are the only plants monarch caterpillars will eat. Connie also pointed out a few short twists of vine hugging the ground. These were corky-stem passion vine