Woman finds solace in creating own conservatory garden

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "All my hurts my garden spade can heal."

Author Ruth Kassinger was looking for a way to heal and relieve stress and emotional overload after the loss of her sister, her own battle with breast cancer, and the overwhelming sadness of an empty nest. She found solace in the dense, reviving atmosphere of the U.S. Botanical Garden’s conservatory. The lush greenery, the oxygen-rich air and the peace she found was so relaxing and appealing, Kassinger wondered if she could re-create the same magic in her own home.

Kassinger’s journey to create her own conservatory is documented in her book, “Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory.”

This book is no ordinary memoir of one woman’s efforts, although Kassinger does give a complete accounting of her struggles to find the right plants, the right amount of sun, and even the right builder to help her reach her dream. But she also includes an in-depth and surprisingly lively look at the history of some of the most famous conservatories in the world, as well as stories about the people who set out to find the rarest plants on Earth to fill these houses of glass. From the aromatic orangeries so popular during the Renaissance to the sedate ferneries of the Victorian era, Kassinger visits all the palaces of plants that were early forerunners to her humble, yet equally loved home conservatory.

What endeared Kassinger the most to me was her honest confession of not known a thing in the world about gardening when she began this project (she admitted her husband did most of the family gardening), and how she set out to learn as much as she could from as many experts as she could contact in order to make her dream come true. This is a lady who knew what she wanted, and in spite of the many experiments that went awry (her adventures with a mass of wayward butterflies had me wiping tears of laughter from my eyes), she created the peaceful tropical setting she longed for. She turned her brown thumb into a flourishing green one.

“Paradise Under Glass” will appeal to gardeners, those who want to be gardeners, and those who just admire efforts of gardeners alike.