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 conservatoryand 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 greena 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.