Last month I was so distressed by winter weather that I invited myself to visit the famous greenhouse of Chevy Chase author Ruth Kassinger – famous thanks to her popular book about it, Paradise Under Glass. Ruth is a storyteller, not a typical garden writer, and the story this book tells is about how a greenhouse helped her cope with life. As described on her website, she “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. Then one cold, gray evening, she wandered into the U.S. Botanic Garden’s conservatory—and a dream was born.
“Dazzled by the vast and dense tangle of greenery, Kassinger decided to create a verdant sanctuary in her own home, even though the sum total of her previous indoor gardening experience was one neglected houseplant at the top of her basement stairs. In Paradise Under Glass, Ruth chronicles her journey from brown thumb to green, while sharing the knowledge and insights that creating and sustaining her fabulous garden has bestowed—lessons of loss and letting go, nurturing and rebirth, challenge and change, love and serenity.”
In inviting myself to Ruth’s home and greenhouse I got the chance to connect with plants in the dead of winter, but her greenhouse also inspired me to imagine ways I could have more plants inside my own home. After all, her greenhouse isn’t in an ideal location – its skylights face north – so maybe with some supplemental lighting, I could grow Meyer lemons, too?
And it turns out that her version of a greenhouse is prettier and more homey than the usual type because it’s a large addition that flows naturally into the living room but can be closed off to retain moisture and the right temperature. Here’s a quick video, and a couple more photos.
Ruth sent me home with kumquats and Meyer lemons. They’re so much tastier than the ones shipped up from Florida in winter.
Posted by Susan Harris.