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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

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Entries in indoor gardening (1)


A Conservatory Garden Can Be a Paradise Under Glass: Book Review for

Paradise Under Glass: An  Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden  Ruth Kassinger, Harper Collins 

The publisher would have us believe that this book is a history of growing plants in glass houses. It is far more than that. This is a chronicle of one person’s wade into unknown waters and returning strengthened by the experience. Richly detailed anecdotes, drawn from the world of botany, history, science, and backed by a bibliography of over 90 publications, are spun into fascinating tales that create a background to a story of personal triumph. For in the end, this book, ostensibly about botany and horticulture, is really a story about loss and letting go, about nurturing and rebirth, and about love and serenity.

The story begins at a low point in the author’s personal life, when a convergence of events ignites the author’s desire for a conservatory of her own.  Her children are away at college, a sister has recently died of a brain tumor, and the author herself has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. A walk through Washington D.C. on a cold winter evening brings her to the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory where she is dazzled by the jungle of greenery. It was ironic that she should choose to grow plants indoors, as an affirmation of life; up until then, she had been unable to care for even one houseplant. This publication, therefore, is the chronicle of the author’s personal growth from a low ebb in her life to the crest of a new found passion for horticulture.

Through a talent for story telling, the author takes us on a journey  through  the historical evolution of residential greenhouses, the sea voyages and adventures of 18th and 19th century plant collectors, and the history of the development of Botanic scholarship. Readers will learn how to shop for and populate a conservatory, about the history of the toxic pesticide industry, and how installing a swimming pool in a home conservatory changes the dynamics of family life.

Furthermore, one is taught about the evolution of the plant breeding business, how to grow food on walls in order to save precious land, and why we should look forward to algae providing us with inexpensive energy for our power plants, cars, and planes. Moreover, readers will learn, in a most touching way, that for each of us there is a defining moment when paradise on earth is revealed, in most unlikely places.

One will discover that this is more than just a chronicle of the history of conservatories, greenhouses, hot houses, winter gardens, and solariums. Be prepared to be enchanted by stories of travel, adventure, and rebirth. It is the sign of a great author who can take several seemingly unrelated topics and synergize them into a subject of substance. I have just finished reading an intricately woven tapestry.