June 30th, 2019
Guest Book Review

Dreaming of a Greenhouse

T.H. EVERETT ALPINE HOUSE, Wave Hill, New York, USA.
Photography copyright © India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson 2018.

Summer is for dreams: for exotic vacations we planned in January; for camping in the mountains with our family and the dog, or perhaps better, summer camp for our children and a carefree beach weekend with a partner and friends—dog optional. Summer also offers us time to ponder unrealized dreams: the opportunity for a new job, a new cause, or, in my case, a new greenhouse. This summer I am dreaming about growing plants under glass. A lot of plants. Under a lot of glass. We have the perfect sunny stretch of lawn, where I want to fling the doors of my imagined greenhouse open to the morning breezes and the scents of lavender, rose, and lily-of-the-valley perfuming my husband’s garden. My orchids are all in favor of more warmth and damp and light.

As with all of my dreams, I promptly called Preston to share this latest one. Confidante, beloved sister, and perennial dream catcher, Preston heard me out and just as quickly sent me the lush and lovely new book, Glasshouse Greenhouse (Rizzoli) written by British photographers and storytellers, Magnus Edmondson and India Hobson. Inveterate travelers for their company, Haarkon, Edmondson and Hobson discovered their fascination with greenhouses largely by happenstance. In Oxford to photograph a wedding, they wandered into England’s oldest university botanical garden. Entering the first of what they call “these places where man and nature come together,” the authors were immediately hooked by the garden’s greenhouse. Following that gray, chilly morning in Oxford, they set off in search of some of the greatest greenhouses on earth, as well as many of the most humble.

THE KIBBLE PALACE, Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Glasgow UK
Photography copyright © India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson 2018.

Glasshouse Greenhouse is a book for dreamers. The striking photographs of every imaginable plant—from jungle-like vines intertwined and impenetrable, to rowboat-sized lily pads, to towering cacti—offer readers multiple journeys to destinations many of us will never reach on our own. As they enter the world’s greenhouses, the authors share just enough history to satisfy our question of “when?” and details about the complicated technology to answer: “how on earth did they build that?”

CLOUD FOREST, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.
Photography copyright © India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson 2018.

Along the way we learn about microclimates, cloud forests, tropical displays, and arid desert houses. The book’s photos capture capacious expanses and private, singular spaces with equal grace. They invite us to sit beside koi ponds under soaring domes of glass illuminated by filtered sunlight and framed by intricate webs of steel. We read stories of the first ‘stove house’ at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, where in 1673 the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries planted flora they had acquired from around the world. We visit Orchid World in Barbados, where the “orchids are held in their cages like precious jewels in a museum,” and the heat and humidity are almost unbearable, except, of course, for the thriving orchids. We travel with the authors to conservation greenhouses around the world, from Adelaide, Australia, to New York City, and back to gardens almost in the authors’ backyard.

SHINJUKU GYOEN NATIONAL GARDEN GREENHOUSE, Tokyo, Japan.
Photography copyright © India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson 2018.

Throughout, Edmundson and Hobson share their wonder and curiosity with their readers. Their photos capture not just the grand scale of the great greenhouses, but also those far more intimate, personal houses of hobbyists. Many are miniature spaces tucked into garden corners. They are little more than cobbled together recycled windows leaning precariously over pots of pampered greenery. Regardless of size or location, the authors’ appreciation for their subjects is always palpable and generous. As I turn the final pages of this beautiful book, I realize that now is the time to transform my summer dream into an autumn reality.

Along with being Preston Davis’ sister, Dr. Erica Bastress-Dukehart is an associate professor of history at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. On sabbatical this year, she is currently working on her book, The Economy of Desire: Botany and Empire in Early Modern Europe.

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  • Now that’s a review! Book sounds great, your sister, amazing!

    NinaJuly 1st, 2019  5:28 AM

     
  • The book and inspirational review couldn’t have come at a better time. Have wanted a greenhouse forever and this inspired me to get going on it.

    MeredithJuly 1st, 2019  7:32 AM

     
  • This is such an inspiring review. This book will be a perfect hostess gift!

    Lisa EastmanJuly 1st, 2019  8:37 AM

     
  • What a fantastic post. I didn’t know that about your sister…she sounds amazing. I hope she gets her greenhouse. Beautiful book.

    KathyJuly 1st, 2019  8:47 AM

     
  • What a beautiful post. Congratulations to your sister! Beautiful siblings.

    JenniferJuly 1st, 2019  9:24 AM

     
  • What a wonderful post! Thank you, Preston, for having Erica review this book — it looks fantastic.

    SarahJuly 1st, 2019  3:33 PM

     
  • I enjoyed The Zimmern Chronicle very much. You and your family are brilliant people. Thank you.

    M. Kirk OkayJuly 1st, 2019  5:14 PM

     
  • That was Erica’s first book. My other sister is a Middle East expert and opened the first U. S. law firm office in Doha. I am one lucky little sister.

    PrestonJuly 1st, 2019  8:29 PM

     
  • Yes I saw that. With Squire Patton Boggs in Qatar. My father was from Istanbul. And there is an award given out in the name of your father at the Sandia National Laboratories. Was he an atomic scientist?

    M. Kirk OkayJuly 1st, 2019  9:36 PM

     
  • What a neat family story! I love stories that celebrate family!

    PaulaJuly 2nd, 2019  1:15 AM

     

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