How To Get More From Your Greenhouse

Posted March 16th, 2018 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Client Stories, Gardening, Greenhouses, Insights
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Imagine You are In Your Own Greenhouse – A Greenhouse Optimized not just for Plants but for People too …

It’s What We like to Call “The Joy of Living in Glass” and It’s How You Get More from Your Greenhouse Conservatory Project

After all, Glass architecture is not just a mere structural addition – it’s a lifestyle


Growing Under Glass

A Greenhouse – also known as “Glasshouse” – is more than just an addition to your home. It’s a “joie de vivre” that our clients find over and over again when they add Glasshouses to their Estates.

Architecturally, The Reason a Greenhouse brings such Joy is because it occupies a happy medium between two contrasting, yet complimentary styles of Building – the Conservatory and the Orangery. Conservatories are meant to be lived in, while Orangeries are meant to incubate the living – the exotic plants of the Renaissance Elite that could not withstand the harsh conditions outside.

The Blessing of the Greenhouse is that it allows the advantages of both – you can grow in it, such as in the cultivation of fresh herbs for your family’s meals – and You can “Grow” in it as you and your family enjoy the living force of nature that the flourishing and blossoming plants you cultivate continuously imbue the indoor environment with their life-force

The Horticultural Jewel Box

One example of this aesthetic-in-action is this Glasshouse. Our client is passionate about nature and wanted a greenhouse to show off their extensive plant collection which includes rare specimens of cacti and orchids.

In response Tanglewood designed and built for him a “Horticultural Jewel Box” combining all the elements of a gardener’s dream. On the inside, orchids inhabit the cracks and crevices between the stones and find their way up the walls. Additional touches include a medley of textures, such as the smoothly machined cedar surfaces of the windows which are contrasted with rough sawn cedar trim boards. All are stained a light golden amber and left to weather naturally.

Outside, the landscape designer skillfully integrated the Client’s new glasshouse into the scene by artistically incorporating a stone garden wall into the room itself.  Flowing outward, the well-mannered stone coursing erupts into a vigorously-charged stack of muscled blocks that at the flip of a switch transform themselves into an artistic waterfall filling the adjacent Koi pond.


Combining the inside with the outside, a seating nook was incorporated with the client’s delectable and edible plants overlooking the water – a little touch we borrowed from client’s own unique design aesthetic that made this greenhouse so unique – and theirs.

The Real Genius of the Design is what is Not seen – To allow the greenhouse to house a multitude of plant species the Horticultural Jewel Box required substantial heating and pumping equipment to make the climate consistent year ‘round. To hide the system and still keep the integrity of the design, Tanglewood integrated a wall of living plants rather than the typical stick-it-outside-and-hope-no-one-notices approach. Few people realize that plant wall actually hides the mechanical equipment!

Our plant collector loved the solution and loves showing it off to visitors. Our Partner Dea Schofield, an expert horticulturist who manages this client’s plant collection, talks more about the plants our collector grows – and more – in her blog “Difficult Challenges & Great Rewards


Tanglewood’s Nicole Mihalos notes that:

“Conservatories and custom greenhouses provide natural light. They also offer protection from harsh winter weather, allowing children the freedom and fun of outdoor -like play to continue all year long. Play in these protected special places allows children plenty of opportunities to be where plants, soil, and light mimic an almost natural environment.

Greenhouses and the conservatories mimic the outdoors, allowing the whole family to experience healthy benefits even when the wind is blowing and the outside air is cold and wet.”


Contact us today to learn more about how to design and build a greenhouse/glasshouse of your own! We look forward to meeting you.

410.479.4700 | Tanglewood Conservatories

70 Percent of medicines come from the most common of plants. Why not grow some for yourself?

Posted January 25th, 2017 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Client Stories, Gardening, Greenhouses, Uncategorized
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When people think about adding a greenhouse to their property they are usually thinking about growing fresh or exotic foods, or flowers in mid winter or just extending their growing season. And a greenhouse will make all these things possible. Often overlooked is the ability to grow some of your own medicine.

Have you considered a living green wall?

Our partner, Dea Schofield, writes about growing your own medicine in a blog she titled Are YOU Growing Your Medicine this Winter? Dea is an expert horticulturist we met through a client who was an avid plant collector.

Dea managed his exclusive collection of edible plants. He was passionate about nature and wanted a greenhouse to show off his extensive plant collection. To relate to their existing home we designed a “Horticultural Jewel Box” as it had often been referred that combined all the elements of a gardener’s dream; a seating nook, delectable and edible plants, overlooking the water, and a little touch of the client’s unique design touch that made this greenhouse so unique.

To allow the greenhouse to house a multitude of plant species it required substantial heating and pumping equipment to make the climate consistent year ‘round. To hide the system and still keep the integrity of the design, we integrated a wall of living plants rather than the typical stick-it-outside-and-hope-no-one-notices approach. Few people realize that plant wall actually hides the mechanical equipment! Our plant collector loved the solution, and loves showing it off to visitors.

Dea talks more about the plants our collector grew and more in her blog “Difficult Challenges & Great Rewards.”

Wild Medicine

Dea is not alone in recognizing the value of medicinal plants. Starting Jan. 21, 2016 the Enid Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Gardens is hosting Wild Medicine in the Tropics. Many of the plants exhibited there would work well in a home greenhouse and you can even get some tips and tricks on which are best for your area! If you’re also wanting to cultivate other medicinal plants, providing it’s legal in your location you may look to start growing medical marijuana to benefit from its properties by making home products similar to these Canada edibles as just one example of medical consumption.

Well respected Dr. Mercola points out that few people recognize that roughly 70 percent of the medicines we use in the U.S. are derived from plants and other products from nature. He lists seven underappreciated medicinal plants, some of which you may already be growing. All of them, listed below, can also be grown in a greenhouse year around.

· Ginger · Peppermint
· Garlic · Lavender
· Chamomile · Thyme
· Dandelion


A greenhouse with all the plants you cherish, from flowers through edibles and on to medicinal is a magical place, for you, your family and for your legacy.

Now’s the best time to start planning your conservatory or greenhouse so download our e-brochure or schedule a no obligation consultation with our team to learn more!

A Tiny Gardening Terrarium

Posted August 25th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Dea Digs, Gardening, Uncategorized
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T here is a fascination today with creating things in miniature. Micro houses, micro cars, micro technology. Even dog breeds can fit in a ‘teacup’. This is also true in the world of growing plants under glass. Glass containers have sprouted like loveable weeds in any store that has a reason to carry them. From three-inch glass bromeliad balls, to elaborate greenhouses made small, you can find a suitable repository for your favorite little plant. And why not have a micro-environment within the larger space of your Tanglewood conservatory!
A Bit of History
In 1842, Doctor Nathanial Bagshaw Ward, who had a keen interest in botany and entomology, discovered  that some plants and animals could be happily grown inside glass containers (the sphinx moth that he’d been observing, when he noticed a fern spore had germinated in the same vessel, was not credited). Ward went on to develop varying versions of the Wardian case—which we call terrariums today.
About Terrariums
A terrariums defining feature is that moisture can be kept relatively constant, which is a bonus for more persnickety specimens. For instance, if you have low humidity in your conservatory, a terrarium is the way to go if you just have to have a few specimens needing moist air. From desert plants, to aquatics, you can create an environment within glass that will thrive for ages.
There is a wonderful word for this that mashes Greek and German: Microlandschaft. It’s quite popular today to create little landscapes—complete with miniature people, animals and things. My current favorite terrarium plant is a tiny, tussock-like philodendron variety called ‘Pincushion’. It is possibly the most perfect plant I’ve ever worked with, as it continuously looks fantastic and grows at a slow to moderate rate that stays in perfect proportion to the two-gallon covered glass urn it has called home for two years.
Other great plants are bromeliads (aka air plants), small cacti, cryptanthus (aka Earth Stars), various begonias and gesnariads, small ferns, mosses, a few orchids, and many more. One can even have an aquatic version with the oh-so- easy to grow Hygrophila difformis (aka Water Wisteria). I have one with a betta fish in a one-gallon urn with no filtration—both fish and plant are thriving with the occasional partial water change. Other variations on the terrarium theme are the paludarium (terrestrial and aquatic combined), vivarium (plants and animals combined) and aquarium.
Beauty in Small Places
What makes terrarium gardening so wonderful is that it is possible for anyone, weather you live in a tiny bedsit or a massive mansion. Occasional misting can be all that is required for long periods depending on what you grow. There are numerous books and online sources dedicated to terrariums, and no matter your tastes—from modern minimalism to exquisite Victorian finery, you can find the ‘Wardian’ case to fit. Your creativity is all that’s needed to add that microlandshaft that will become a fascinating conversation piece.
Enjoy! Share a picture of your new terrarium with us at!
By Dea Schofield

Take a Journey to a Historic Botanical Gem

Posted June 29th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Dea Digs, Gardening, Greenhouses, Travels
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Around this verdant globe, you will find numerous botanical gardens.

Many will have UNIQUE QUALITIES, and some will seem MAGNIFICENT or much like another in their creative and artful displays. But there is one that stands apart—a humble, but studious little gem nestled in the heart of the ANCIENT CITY OF PADUA, twenty-five miles to the west of Venice. So special is this botanical wonder, that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. It holds interest for the plant-lover, the historian, the medically curious, the architecturally or philosophically inclined, and the environmentally conscious.

The Orto botanico di Padova, or Botanical gardens of Padua, began life in 1545, making it the OLDEST CONTINUOUS BOTANICAL GARDENS in the world. Originally, it was created for the study of medicinal plants and has watched the science of botany blossom from that singular occupation to include all study of plants. The garden’s original design still gives it it’s unique look—encompassing a little sacred, symbolic geometry, which soon had to be ringed with a wall in 1552 to protect from early ‘drug’ thieves.


Through the centuries, there have been changes and phases. Various greenhouses have come and gone, but one will find small, utilitarian antique and vintage examples. There is an orchid hothouse amongst other older buildings.

But the garden has survived so long because it has also moved with times and knowledge, becoming not only a home of RESEARCH, but of SPECIES PRESERVATION. A large greenhouse using state-of-the-art green technology, mixed with old fashioned ingenuity, sits in modernist contrast to the early architecture. It makes for a fascinating journey from ancient to futuristic.

The UNESCO World Heritage Convention states,

For more than five centuries, the Botanical Garden of Padua has represented an exceptional testimony of scientific and cultural significance. Its position, size and main characteristics, as well as its main research and didactic features, have remained essentially unchanged over centuries with a constant adaptation to the most advanced discoveries in botanical and educational sciences.”


When visiting the old part of the gardens, one must imagine the likes of Padua University alumni like Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei walking the cardinally-aligned paths on their way to lectures. Perhaps another alumnus, Giacomo Casanova stole a medicinal rose blossom (Rosa centifolia or gallica) to entice a feminine conquest. And the ‘Goethe Palm’, a dwarf fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) planted in 1585, (and beloved by its namesake) which has its own personally-constructed greenhouse, stands as a testament to mankind’s potential, and particularly, our very special and necessary relationship with plants. This is a garden to be viewed & appreciated with attention to its deep history and contributions to human knowledge.

Buon Viaggio!

By Dea Schofield

How can you change the lives of a community?

Posted May 25th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Client Stories, Conservatory Projects, Events, Gardening, Greenhouses, Preservation Maryland, Uncategorized
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In 1999 Brookside Gardens created a strategic, master plan to transform their gardens into a world-class destination. The first phase in their plan called to simply pave an unused space near the visitor’s center enlarging the parking lot, but Brookside’s landscape architect Ching-Fang and her team, Stephanie Oberle, Phil Normandy, and Ellen Bennett ENVISIONED SOMETHING MUCH GREATER – an integrated parking and garden landscape – parking AS a landscape!

With the help of several generous donors, beautiful elements, such as a waterway and gatehouse, were able to bring life to their vision. Made of ALL NATURAL, ORGANIC MATERIALS, from the stone brick wall to the beautiful planted flowers, all elements resting in this entryway has a purpose in the gardens, including the gatehouse inspired by Tanglewood’s modern-styled custom greenhouse!

“This particular gatehouse, designed by Tanglewood Conservatories, was designed to resemble a greenhouse. At night it evokes images of a lantern at the entrance, a beacon lighting the way to a beautiful garden experience… and adding a compelling new garden element.”

-Brookside Gardens


Brookside Gatehouse_Copyright

Brookside’s vision for this project was to create an inviting and inspiring space that welcomes people to the gardens and fully embraces the visitor’s functional needs.

“We wanted the visitor center to become the heart of the gardens and extend Brookside’s horticulture and education,” Phil and Ching-Fang said. “We saw the gatehouse as our opportunity to start developing a quality design aesthetic. This is why we chose Tanglewood to design the gatehouse. It is a perfect match to its setting. We are delighted with the results.”


Great Challenges Bring Great Rewards

According to Stephanie, Brookside Gardens’ Director, their BIGGEST CHALLENGE was fundraising. Although they had a steep learning curve with fundraising and the creation and management of the project as a whole, Brookside’s staff, volunteers, and donors were dedicated to bringing this center to fruition. According to the team,

“The staff and volunteers are truly dedicated to Brookside Gardens and the project hit close to home for everyone. We are passionate about these gardens and everything we stand for.”

IF THEY COULD DO IT OVER AGAIN, the team said they would have asked a lot more questions. This was the first time they have completed a project of this magnitude. Between fundraising, lead time changes, and roadblocks, this first project brought on some great challenges but it also brought great reward.

This great change within Brookside turned out beautifully. We were not surprised we were able to work so well with Brookside Gardens. After all, our founders, Nancy Virts and Alan Stein, were married there over 20 years ago!


Moving forward

Stephanie says their team is wiser and more knowledgeable about how to take on future projects of this magnitude. Next on their list is a GROWING GREENHOUSE roughly 10,000sq.ft. and a new CONSERVATORY to replace their now 50 year old beauty! Stephanie tells us,

The estimate for the new conservatory, one that matches all our dreams, is around $25 million. Obviously, more fundraising is on our horizon,”

For more information about Brookside or your project, GIVE US A CALL at 410.479.4700 or fill out our contact form!

Fruit of our labor!

Posted May 4th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Dea Digs, Gardening, Greenhouses
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Of the many purposes to which a greenhouse is put, perhaps growing edibles is the most satisfying, and certainly the most sensible—just ask many Englishmen, who tend their greenhouse-grown tomatoes with pride and loving care, whether the greenhouse is attached to a small cottage or a stately home.

Growing edibles under glass also requires a keen eye and some knowledge! But there are ideal prospects that even the most advanced greenhouse farmer will grow (albeit, perhaps heirloom varieties). Regardless of which delectables you choose, a few basic considerations must be applied. These involve: light, air circulation, temperature, and humidity. Proper control of these (and of course water and phosphorus-rich fertilizer) will ensure a healthy crop with no need for pesticides.


Sun. Sun. Sun.

The majority of plants grown for food need full sun. This means that if you’re growing off-season, you’ll have several months out of the year that you’ll need to mimic the sun—best done through strong artificial light with the fullest spectrum possible. There are multiple options out there these days for lighting type and you can learn all about ‘footcandle’ (unit of light measurement) requirements for each type of plant.

Air circulation is critical in most conditions, but especially for plants with tasty parts that insects find so appealing, and not to mention helping control fungal and bacterial infection. Keeping the breeze consistent, yet moving, make aphids, mealy bugs, and spider mites uncomfortable (I mentioned that they like edibles as much as we—but they tend to go more for the plant itself). Both ventilation and fans are needed. A little note here about ‘design’ for growth: for any vines, like indeterminate (continuous growth) tomatoes, legumes (beans, peas), and cucurbits (cucumbers, squash, melons), be sure to create a trellis (can even hang from the ceiling) or growing frame of some kind, which will keep them tidy, maximize space, as well as make for easy ventilation.

Temperature Control

Though some herbs can be grown relatively well in temperatures below 70°, the vast majority of greenhouse grown edibles are subtropical or tropical and require higher temperatures once fruit has set. Beans, peppers, and tomatoes need temps consistently at least around 70° to initially set flower and pollinate (which you may assist with an artist’s paintbrush). Cucumbers and other cucurbits like temperatures at least five degrees warmer to set flower, so you can easily up your heating to between 75° and 80° to keep everyone happy. Your tropical plants will love it, and any citrus will surely thank you by producing more happily. If you choose to sow seed, remember that even warmer temps, 80° or more, are necessary for germination. Heat mats under your seed trays take care of that handily. Plants like bananas, papaya, or guava will expect you to provide a toasty environment year round in order to offer you their fruits.


Proper humidity is essential to the comfort of most plants. Some will prefer less and some will prefer more, but you’ll likely want a minimum of 60%. There are multiple ways to provide it more locally too. If you’re a homebody who loves to potter in your greenhouse, a nice morning watering, followed by a midafternoon misting will do wonders (just be sure not to give your plants a sunburn—as water on leaves can act as a magnifier in full sun). High-tech misters, or even a lovely bubbling water feature, will add ambient moisture. Again, insects don’t care for happy, relatively moist leaves. Proper, consistent water, whether in soil or air, is the single greatest control to keeping your plants happy. In fact, if you should get any of the aforementioned creatures, as you probably might from time to time, simply spraying them away with water is just as effective, and less toxic, than using pesticides.

I have mentioned some of the best options, but this is really just a start. Herbs, citrus, beans, bananas, cucumbers, mini pumpkins, guava, papaya, cinnamon and even strawberries for the winter months are just a few of the lovely possibilities which have cultivars made specifically for greenhouse growing. So happy growing!

Happy eating!

By Dea Schofield

Have you seen us in Virginia?

Posted April 27th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Gardening, Greenhouses, Magazine Articles
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… an elegant greenhouse designed to be a simple expression of the honest use of NATURAL MATERIALS. Resting in a beautiful garden, you can’t help but love it. Made of smooth, hand-crafted cedar with copper and stone accents, its CALMING ARCHITECTURE abounds with rare specimens of cacti and orchids – all in your own backyard!best-of

Recently featured in NORTHERN VIRGINIA MAGAZINE, this unique greenhouse is not only used to grow some unusual edible plants, but relished by its owner for the exotic feeling of being outdoors while completely enclosed within a glass jewel.


A Natural Retreat

Lynn Norusis, managing editor for Northern Virginia Magazine, wrote an article about this CEDAR GREENHOUSE in the May 2016 issue.

Lynn writes: “Tanglewood Conservatories builds rooms that blend the aesthetic of the 19th century with 21st century technology to create WONDERFUL, LIGHT-FILLED INDOOR/OUTDOOR SPACES. For those of us around the world who have a love for something about these old structures…the greenhouse in McLean hits a note with every aspect of its design.”

Read Lynn’s article, “A cedar greenhouse provides a natural retreat in McLeanand LEARN MORE about the project and the excitement and challenges of creating a custom unique greenhouse.

CALL US at 410.479.4700 to start your own project!

Get the Facts. Improve Your Health.

Posted April 13th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Gardening, General, Greenhouses
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What plants need to be in YOUR GREENHOUSE this season?

According to Harvard’s Health Blog,

Growing your own food has many health benefits… you decide what kinds of fertilizers and pesticides come in contact with your food [and] it lets you control when to harvest your food. Vegetables that ripen in [your] garden have more nutrients than some store-bought vegetables.”

So what is wrong with what you are buying in stores?

What are you really buying?

Advances in biotechnology have allowed scientists to GENETICALLY ALTER different species to create plants that can resist certain insects and grow in unfavorable climates. There are several health and safety concerns such as accelerated aging, antibiotic resistance, and endocrine disruption. Some genetically modified organisms, or GMO’s, can be found in corn, rice, tomatoes, canola oil, papaya, potatoes, bananas, and some meats. Although most of us cannot control how our meat is raised, we can control how our vegetables are grown!

Eat. Sleep. Grow.

There is something about growing your own food that sparks SATISFACTION and HAPPINESS; the feeling that what you are bringing to your table is 100% healthy and nurtured by your own efforts. With the ENDLESS GROWING POSSIBILITIES a greenhouse permits, people around the world are cultivating their own gardens Growing Collageto enjoy the health benefits freshly grown foods can bring. With a growing desire to create HEALTHY FAMILIES and HEALTHY COMMUNITIES, expert horticulturalist Dea Schofield recommends these plants to start growing in your greenhouse!

  • Citrus
  • Peppers
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Papayas
  • Herbs
  • Lettuce

Dea says, “These are all great plants which adapt well under glass. Some are a bit attractive to bugs, but they are easy to control.”

Start Your Growing Season!

These are just some of the many varieties of plants your family can enjoy growing in your home to bring a happier and healthier you! GIVE US A CALL today at 410.479.4700 and EXTEND YOUR GROWING SEASON with a custom greenhouse to fit your family’s growing needs.

Zen and the art of Bonsai in Your Conservatory

Posted March 25th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Dea Digs, Gardening, Uncategorized
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It is an old axiom that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone sees the appeal of a Kandinsky, Mapplethorpe, or even Van Gogh. But when it comes to Nature’s artworks, a giant Sequoia for instance, no one denies the awe they instill—or the sense of humility and impermanence. And it’s not necessarily scale that elicits a long, wondering gaze—but form, color, scent and time.


How many of us, fraught with stresses of the modern world, seek or find solace in nature? Many of us cannot easily get there, others haven’t the luxury of time, and still others haven’t the actual ability. So we in the west have begun to rapidly embrace an ancient Eastern concept that helps us cope—mindfulness and meditation. How does all this relate to horticulture? In a word: Bonsai.

So back to that giant Sequoia–only let’s make it miniature, so that we might bring it home and even meditate with/on it. If you were to consider the time, effort and care that goes into a proper creation of a redwood bonsai, your awe would perhaps not equal seeing the real thing in the forest, but your appreciation would certainly raise. There is more than horticultural skill required. The properties of Zen art are what truly make a bonsai a bonsai. It is art using the medium of nature via the action of horticulture—and if one approaches it with from the Zen philosophy—well then you can be one with the Giant Sequoia.

Japanese beech

Here are those Zen qualities:

  1. Asymmetry. For a Buddhist, a perfect form is impossible. So it shouldn’t be striven for in the first place. Everything is somewhat irregular, not balanced, informal. This should be reflected in the work of art.
  2. Simplicity, plainness, avoidance of complexity. A bonsai should not contain more than necessary.
  3. Austere sublimity. Zen art is not youthful, sensual or opulent. It fits better with advanced age and shows a certain rigor and austerity. Removing all external splendor is supposed to lead into the heart of the message. The weathered branches of an old pine, lanky and emaciated by storm and snow, show this sublimity.
  4. Naturalness. This is a concept that needs interpretation. What is meant is not a pine which might occur as well in nature, but a pine that shows the essence of a pine, the prototypical pine. It should not look artificial or even artistic, but effortless and informal, as if it always had been that way and could not be different, as if it hadn’t been styled by man.
  5. Subtle profoundness. The work of art should express more than the shown subject. The pine is not only a pine. It can symbolize dignity, perseverance, the season of winter, closeness to death or virility. It is desirable to have a richness of implications, associations, deepness of thought, innuendos that leave room for interpretation, that also have some vagueness. The tree should not be easy to see through. Its essence might be hidden first and only reveal itself step by step.
  6. Freedom from attachments to mundane things, to habits, conventions, customs, or rules. Zen does not accept constraints of thinking or acting. The transgression of conventional ways of thinking is an essential feature of Zen. A pine that obviously has been designed according to the classical rules of a formal upright tree doesn’t satisfy the requirements of the Zen aesthetic. This doesn’t mean that the rules wouldn’t have any value though. They might be useful for a beginner. But if it enhances the Zen character of a bonsai, the rules should be broken. Rules should enable, not restrict.
  7. Tranquility, loneliness, peace of mind. This is the feeling that a tree should convey. Zen art is directed inwards. Everything that disrupts this peace needs to be eliminated.

(from: Hoseki Shin’ichi Hisamatsu (in Zen and the Fine Arts, translation by Gishin Tokiwa, Tokyo 1971)


The act of creating and tending a bonsai is one of meditation and mindfulness. We can lose ourselves in creating this tiny version of a piece of the cosmos, while at the very same time, endeavor to find our true ourselves. It is even said that creating bonsai is like contemplating a Zen riddle, or Koan.

Consider the remarkable specimen at The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum (National Arboretum) of a Japanese White Pine that began life as a bonsai in 1626. Yes, 1626! How many generations would have carefully and mindfully tended that tree before being gifted to the United States by the Bonsai Master, Masaru Yamaki—a Hiroshima survivor? The tree was a Hiroshima survivor as well.


There are innumerable books, classes, and even Youtube videos that attempt to teach the art of bonsai. But time is what really teaches us how our nature is at its best when working with nature. And what better piece of nature could your Tanglewood conservatory serve to house than your own carefully crafted bonsai?

Difficult Challenges and Great Rewards!

Posted February 25th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Client Stories, Dea Digs, Gardening, Greenhouses
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Clients come with needs and wishes in all shapes and sizes. And sometimes the most challenging are the most rewarding.

In 2010 I was introduced to an exclusive collector client by a landscape architect I met while displaying at the Washington Home and Garden Show. The client was having a unique conservatory built by none other than wonderful Tanglewood Conservatories. But no one involved, even the architect’s firm’s landscape maintenance division, had experience with caring for plants under glass. They knew they needed an uncommon expert. I was that expert for five years.

Bullock_Final Exterior CopyrightClick here to read more about this greenhouse!

At the start, I didn’t know I’d have to call on all my experience, knowledge, creativity, and the occasional miracle to make things happen for this client. Tanglewood worked their magic in creating a beautiful structure. The landscape architect then subcontracted the rest out before I was brought in. Rather than the usual benches, tables, and pots, there were stone beds built (similar to institutional greenhouses) that I would then design and fill.

After consulting with the client, the challenge was to keep plants from multiple climates in a very limited space. I designed an interior landscape I was sure he and his family would enjoy, with lots of unusual and flowering tropicals as well as some which produced fruit. I was asked to incorporate a good-sized lemon tree he’d had which was dying from nematodes. But after some specialized intervention, the tree rebounded and did very well. There was a succulent/cactus bed, an orchid bed, a large tree fern, bananas, angel’s trumpets, and many other wonders. A rock wall was planted with epiphytes and appropriate climbers. A lovely café table and chairs was added in order to enjoy the beautiful space.

The first two challenges to the health of the plants was the heating, which was built into the floor (sort of a modern version of Roman-style), and the automated watering system (which was an outdoor landscaping system tailored to fit the beds). Both were great in theory, but unfortunately terrible in practice. I strongly recommend against such heating systems for built-in beds and also against automated watering for greenhouses housing multiple climate species. While I couldn’t do much about the heating, at least the watering could be done by hand and the automated system shut down. A Horticulturist must combine botany, biology, chemistry, geology, meteorology—well, I hope I’m making the point that it’s an interdisciplinary thing usually resting heavily on experience. It’s one area where you can’t your fake your way—which leads to an important note about contained systems like greenhouses. They just can’t be fully automated if you’re planning on growing several different species. Unfortunately, in a complex, eclectic collection, each plant needs weekly and even daily care. It was clear the collection needed a caretaker and I was asked to come twice a week.

After the first year I learned not to get too attached to the plants, as I was used to in my own greenhouse or that of other clients. This client was ever keen to replace and try new things. We collaborated on various changes many times during my tenure. The bed which originally housed the angel’s trumpets, eventually became the home of various hot pepper cultivars. More edible plants were added, including an avocado which happily bloomed, but because a ‘mate’ had not been provided, there were no avocados. However, there were plenty of lemons, limes, and tangerines.

There were ever-blooming hibiscus, many re-blooming orchids, herbs, and myriad other plants. The bromeliads and miniature vines in the stone wall eventually took it over. I refused to use pesticides as not only were small children frequent visitors, but also because of the animals.  Thank goodness for herpetological skills, because caught reptiles and amphibians were regularly deposited into this burgeoning ecosystem by the client’s children. (I aided in the escape of many natives, like skinks, toads, Eastern Box Tortoises, and frogs). My ‘green’ sensibilities found natural ways to keep pests under control, which included using lady beetles, praying mantises, spiders, and tiny predatory wasps. It worked very well.

Wonderful triumphs, most unknown to the client, came of solving the challenging problems presented by such an eclectic collection. I kept a watchful, preventative eye, which told me when to do things like specialized pruning, root drenches, or move lady beetles from plant to plant in order to target aphids. When the time came for me to leave the tricky care of that unique conservatory to others, I knew how much I would miss it—despite the sometimes stressful challenges.

The ending of that wonderful experience offered an unexpected gift, thanks to that beautiful, solid structure that housed and protected so much life—the chance to connect with Nancy, Alan, and the Tanglewood artisans. Like me, they appreciate the unique, remarkable, and well-crafted, especially when it comes to conservatories and the treasures they might contain.

By Dea Schofield

To view the details about the Greenhouse, CLICK HERE!