News / USA

    Woman Creates Indoor Garden of Eden

    Amateur gardener nurtures a conservatory garden in 'Paradise Under Glass'

    Ruth Kassinger’s conservatory started as a refuge and has evolved to become a central family gathering place.
    Ruth Kassinger’s conservatory started as a refuge and has evolved to become a central family gathering place.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    It’s a cold winter day and Ruth Kassinger is eating fresh kumquats that she’s just picked from a tree inside her suburban Washington home. The kumquat is among a variety of tropical plants in the sunroom Kassinger calls her conservatory.

    A chance visit to the National Botanic Garden in Washington gave her the idea to build her more modest version. "I walked in and the glass doors opened and I stepped into a beautiful green lush, warm and humid jungle, and I walked around for a while, and was just stunned by how beautiful and full of life this place was."

    This living wall, covered with dozens of foliage plants, is watered four times a day by a hose hooked up to a pump.
    This living wall, covered with dozens of foliage plants, is watered four times a day by a hose hooked up to a pump.

    Kassinger wanted a place of refuge, where she could heal after her sister’s untimely death and her own recent bout with breast cancer. But getting started presented some hurdles.

    "I hated gardening," she says. "I really hated the bugs and oppressive summer humidity in Washington.”

    The solution was simple: she would grow plants indoors in pots.



    In place of a worn backyard deck, Kassinger built a room with tall windows. She installed ceiling skylights, overhead fluorescents and heat lamps. A small exercise pool could also provide needed humidity. Gradually, Kassinger began filling the new room with orange, lime and lemon trees and an unusual yellow citrus with tentacle-like fingers called a Buddha’s Hand. "I like the idea of them being useful plants as well as beautiful plants," she says.

    In contrast to her husband’s dormant vegetable garden, the fragrance of orange blossoms ensures it is always spring in the conservatory. Kassinger tends a dense array of ferns, thick, leafy plants and red heart-shaped flowers with tall spikes, native to tropical jungles.

    Among Ruth Kassinger’s prized citrus varieties is this Buddha’s Hand, native to more tropical climes.
    Among Ruth Kassinger’s prized citrus varieties is this Buddha’s Hand, native to more tropical climes.

    One wall is covered by dozens of small foliage plants growing hydroponically between thin layers of synthetic felt. Kassinger says this floor-to-ceiling garden is watered by a fountain pump attached to a hose that runs across the top of the wall.

    "And the water trickles down four times a day. It’s really great for a lazy gardener as I am because you really don’t have to do anything other than once a week, add more water and fertilizer to the trough."  

    Kassinger says her conservatory has grown in unexpected ways. She had envisioned a space where she could be cocooned from decline and loss, but it evolved into something quite different.

    "Once we had the conservatory, we moved a kitchen table in there and now we eat all of our meals in the conservatory. This Garden of Eden for me did show me that the real joy of life is not to be isolated by myself without my family and friends."

    Rather, Kassinger says, it is to be connected with people she loves.

    The Kassingers' conservatory addition to their house.
    The Kassingers' conservatory addition to their house.

    Today, in that paradise, she is having a cup of tea with her youngest daughter Alice, home from college on vacation. The green world around them has become a part of their everyday lives.

    "A conservatory never stands still. Plants are always growing. They are in some phase of their development. They are either fruiting or flowering. A conservatory can be a metaphor for life."

    Kassinger says her Garden of Eden reminds her every day that she can live with life’s inevitable losses, both large and small. She weaves her story into a book on the history of conservatories called "Paradise under Glass." She writes, "A real paradise is not a quiet, immutable refuge, but a place where there is always something new under the sun."

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora