Episode 87: conservatory love with Ruth Kassinger, plus #OTLsowalong part one
Do you remember that one key moment when you realised you wanted - or needed - to be surrounded by plants? In popular science writer Ruth Kassinger’s book Paradise Under Glass: The Education of an Indoor Gardener, she chronicles her transformation from very reluctant gardener to the keeping of a verdant conservatory - what she calls ‘her personal tropical paradise’.
I had the pleasure to chat to Ruth about her book, her plants and the many fascinating things she discovered in writing this book, which is more than just a personal memoir - it’s also a history of the conservatory itself. Keep reading for more information on the subjects I discuss with Ruth, plus images of some of the conservatories we talk about.
Ruth Kassinger’s book Paradise Under Glass was published by Harper Collins in 2011.
Read more about Ruth Kassinger’s conservatory in this article.
Watch Ruth doing some repotting in her conservatory in this video.
Ruth mentions the traveller’s palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) as one of the plants she grew - if you’ve never heard of this plant, do check it out as it’s really stunning!
Here’s more on the curious history of the pineapple, including renting it out as a status symbol, and pineapple pits.
There’s more on the history of UK glasshouses on the Hartley Botanic website.
If you want to know more about the now long-gone London nursery Loddiges, check out this blogpost, The Loddiges Wikipedia entry: this House of Hackney page shows how Loddiges is still having an influence today.
Want to know more about lacewings as biological controls? Read this RHS page.
Ruth’s other books are A Garden of Marvels, published in 2014, and Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Us, coming out in June 2019 (these are the shoes made from algae Ruth mentions!).
Patreon subscribers of $5 a month or more can hear an extract from Ruth’s book read out loud by the author in An Extra Leaf 24 (and find out more about the exclusive digital artwork coming your way!).
On The Ledge sowalong is here!
Don’t forget to share your sowing progress by posting the hashtag #otlsowalong on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
In part one of my guide to the sowalong, this week I talk about where to source seeds. Here are some useful tips:
Not all seed suppliers are reliable! There are many stories of people getting cress seeds instead of a ‘blue-leaved Coleus’ or something equally impossibly rare! Be particularly careful with suppliers based in China.
Check suppliers’ feedback ratings and go on a personal recommendation if you can.
If you are not sure, do a ‘test order’ of just one packet to see if you get the seeds you have been promised.
Check out Facebook group Houseplant Fans of On The Ledge to compare notes on good suppliers with other listeners.
Question of the week
Lauren wanted to know whether she should worry about the white fluffy stuff that had turned up on the surface of the soil of her fiddle leaf fig. The good news for Lauren is the answer is no. Fungus is in pretty much all soils in one form or another, and fuzzy white mould found on the surface of houseplants is saprophytic fungus, which feeds on dead organic matter in the soil and is harmless. Some people with asthma find mould spores are a problem, in which case you can mulch pots with gravel or expanded clay pebbles to stop it forming.
It may be a sign that the FLF is holding a bit more water than it should, so I advised Lauren to check her compost to see if it was a bit waterlogged or maybe had slumped in the pot, reducing the air pockets available to the roots. Air pockets can be reintroduced by giving the soil a poke with a chopstick.
Introducing this week’s sponsor…
KiwiCo designs hands-on projects delivered to your door for kids aged 0-16+. The great thing about Kiwico is each crate comes with absolutely everything your child needs to complete an awesome, accessible project that makes learning fun - with no need to rush out and buy craft materials. Simply choose your line of crates and get them shipped monthly. You can also cancel or pause your plan at any time.
Kiwico has hundreds of products to choose from, each focusing on different aspects of STEAM - that’s science, technology, engineering, art and maths. Change the way your child plays with Kiwico! Visit kiwico.com/ontheledge and get your first crate free!
Help me hit my target of 100 - make that 200! - patrons…
As I hit my goal of getting 100 patrons before I hit my 100th episode sometime in June, I have decided that I need to up my game a bit and try for 200 patrons in the same time frame. GULP. Everyone who signs up as a patron before the 100th episode comes out will get the exclusive digital artwork promised to the first 100 patrons, plus something else yet to be decided - stay tuned! Any tier counts, so by pledging just $1 a month you could help me reach my target!
If you like the idea of supporting On The Ledge on a regular basis but don't know what Patreon's all about, check out the FAQ here: if you still have questions, leave a comment or email me - firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're already supporting others via Patreon, just click here to set up your rewards!
For those who prefer to make a one-off donation, you can still buy me a coffee! A donation of just £3 helps keep On The Ledge going: helping to pay for me to travel to interviews, and for expenses like website hosting and audio equipment. Don't forget to join the Facebook page for news of what's coming up on the show and bonus blogposts!
If you prefer to support the show in other ways, please do go and rate and review On The Ledge on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen. It's lovely to read your kind comments, and it really helps new listeners to find the show.
This week's show featured Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops, Quasi Motion by Kevin Macleod, An Instrument the Boy Called Happy Day Gorkana by Samuel Corwin and Overthrown by Josh Woodward. Ad music was Dill Pickles by the Heftone Banjo Orchestra. All tracks licensed under Creative Commons.
Logo design by Jacqueline Colley.