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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs