Are YOU growing your MEDICINE this winter?

Posted December 2nd, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Dea Digs, Gardening, Greenhouses, Uncategorized
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With winter at our doorsteps…

Did you know there are plants you can grow to help with health and well-being during the holidays? How easy is to grow culinary/medicinal plants in your conservatory?

EXTREMELY! Here are four of my favorites with a special advanced exotic bonus.

ALOE VERA is a plant with a long, illustrious past. It doesn’t have the moniker of miracle cure for nothing; even the U.S. MILITARY studied and stockpiled it for RADIATION BURNS! No household should be without this AFRICAN NATIVE which once grew on an island Alexander the Great seized to keep the plant exclusively for his troops’ medicinal needs.


While it has multiple HEALING USES, the most well-known is its ability to heal burns quickly and its efficacy is astounding. If you’ve just pulled out the Christmas feast and managed to singe yourself in the process, just snip off a small length of a leaf and rub the sticky gel onto your wound. If it’s severe, multiple applications over an hour will pull the pain from any burn.

Aloe Vera_in pot

Aloe, being a succulent, is an EASY PLANT TO GROW. It is very forgiving. However, SUN, an occasional weak FEEDING, a high-quality succulent POTTING MIX, and regular WATERING (allow to go only just dry between waterings and let drain thoroughly) will keep the leaves plump and ready to serve you. If it outgrows its space, you can always divide out the ‘mother’ plant and keep however many ‘pups’ you want.

Our next MUST-HAVE was revered by the ANCIENT GREEKS and is known as LEMON BALM, or Melissa officinalis. Being another workhorse in the HERBALIST CABINET, this MEDITERRANEAN NATIVE was also beloved by notables such as WILLLIAM SHAKESPHERE and THOMAS JEFFERSON. It not only has ANTIVIRAL properties, but for centuries has been said to CHEER the mind. So in the dark days of winter, whether you’re having a little bout of SAD or feel a cold or flu coming on, just go out to the greenhouse and snip some stems off your Lemon Balm plant and MAKE TEA (allow it to steep for at least 5 minutes). Mixing Lemon Balm with kratom, which is a bit harder to grow at home, so I recommend buying it online and infusing the two into a tea! Lemon balm + kratom = the best all natural anxiety relief a woman can ask for. Speaking on anxiety and natural relief, CBD oil is a great solution if you’re suffering from anxiety. It may not work for you, but it’s always worth giving it a go and this CBD promo code will help you find the best deals. Those who have tried such products will be the first to report of the health benefits that they have experienced using the likes of CBD oil UK to address aches and pains or any mental issues they’re dealing with.

Lemon Balm2

Outside, it’s a perennial in the mint family; inside, just keep WATERING and snipping to MAINTAIN SIZE AND SHAPE, giving the OCCASIONAL LIGHT FEEDING. You don’t want to let the soil get too dry, but also likes to be relatively well-drained. The LEMONY SCENT that comes from just brushing against it will put a smile on your face in the dead of winter. It’s easy to dry for tea—but there’s NOTHING LIKE the fresh thing with a little honey to chase winter ‘blahs’ away.

Virtually all kitchens contain a jar of thyme for yummy, savory flavoring; but this herb has also been a major part of medicinal history. Thymus vulgaris, containing powerfully antiseptic thymol volatile oil, is also well-known as a great expectorant and is used in COUGH and SORE THROAT medicines. Just two teaspoons of Thyme leaves steeped for 10 minutes in a cup of boiled water.

Thymus vulgaris_indoor-gardening11

Written about since ancient times, Thyme is a wild, pretty little plant and has been used for all kinds of ailments. It needs WELL-DRAINED SOIL and CONSISTENT WATERING—however, it doesn’t like to be too moist for too long. To keep it from getting ratty-looking, or from ‘walking away’ from its pot, TRIM IT REGULARLY. If everyone’s staying healthy, just dry the leaves and store them for use in your favorite French culinary dish.

Lastly, for the slightly more ADVANCED medicinal/culinary herb grower, is Illicium verum, aka STAR ANISE. This fragrant, smallish evergreen tree, originally from SOUTHEAST ASIA, bears a fruit that has REMARKABLE MEDICINAL PROPERTIES, but is also beloved as an ASIAN COOKING SPICE. Once having been classified in the Magnolia family, Illicium verum’s pre-ripe fruit is commercially harvested for its Shikimic acid, which is the main ingredient used in the flu medicine, Tamiflu.

Illicium verum

Not only does the spice TASTE GREAT in food and LOOK GORGEOUS as decoration, but also makes a GREAT TEA! Again, the minute you’re sensing the flu or cold coming on, take a couple of your dried star anise, make a tea and sip comfortably. If space in your GREENHOUSE is limited, it’s also possible to buy bags of the whole spice at Asian grocers. Should you be enticed to grow the tree, be very sure that you’re getting the exact species Illicium verum, as there is a separate Japanese species which is toxic. Being a ZONE 8 PLANT, it should do just fine in a more NORTHERNLY GREENHOUSE, again with consistent watering and regular feeding.

Happy Holidays to all from Dea Schofield and Tanglewood!

Don’t forget to get that Aloe vera for the hectic cooks out there!

Halloween & Dia de los Muertos are a Great Time for Decorating the Conservatory

Posted October 28th, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Dea Digs, Events, Gardening, Greenhouses
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ART and DESIGN are ways of creatively CELEBRATING LIFE—AND DEATH! As the outdoor growing season dies, humans have celebrated this time since long ago as a symbol for the passing of life and the chance to honor the spirits. All cultures have some kind of similar celebration, and the ARTISTIC EXPRESSION that comes from it is not only ASTOUNDINGLY DIVERSE, but fascinatingly attractive; albeit often macabre. Sometimes, that macabre is an integral part of the celebration. After all, HALLOWEEN was a night when those spirits walked and it was imperative to scare them away!



In the BRITISH ISLES, long before anyone there grew pumpkins (an American native), turnips and mangelwurzel (field beets) were carved into lanterns with GHOULISH FACES. These were OUTFITTED WITH A CANDLE and hung on poles to be carried, or at gates, windows, and doors. Any spirit, malevolent or not, would think twice about harassing the carver. That tradition was carried to the Americas, where ‘THE GREAT PUMPKIN’ was born. Today, even in the U.K., pumpkins, squash, or gourds make a far more cooperative and satisfying JACK’O’LANTERN.


Where’s the DECORATION?

The ease and simplicity of adding these members of the Cucurbit family, carved or not, to YOUR CONSERVATORY OR GREENHOUSE for SEASONAL DECORATION is unrivaled. There are so many species and cultivars that you’ll grow dizzy from choice. They range from the MINI to the MASSIVE, from WHITE to nearly BLACK, and from PERFECTLY GEOMETRICAL to GNARLY. Carved out, they can even be used as ‘COSTUMESFOR YOUR PLANT POTS (just add a bag if it’s a snug fit so your pot doesn’t get slimy)! A bonus of placing them just prior to Halloween is that they can remain through Thanksgiving. Perhaps removing the carved ones so as not to scare Thanksgiving guests away. REMEMBER to add the ones you don’t turn into pie to the compost pile.




Looking for FUN?

There are other plants that can create a FUN and MACABRE EFFECT. One is the BEAUTIFUL and FRIGHTENING-LOOKING Solanum quitoense, a.k.a. Naranjilla. Spineless varieties of this are grown as a fruit crop, but I’m talking about the original species with its LARGE, SERRATED, SP]INY, PURPLE-HAIRED leaves. Don’t let those spines scare you—just your guests. This is a very easy plant to grow and does well in a pot. I have grown it a number of times and if you’re mindful, it won’t bite! In fact, you MAY FALL IN LOVE WITH IT. Its relative, the PORCUPINE TOMATO, a.k.a. Solanum pyracanthum, is an option, but while it’s even scarier, it’s not quite as pretty. Another FUN FACT is that these are part of the nightshade family—which we know witches have been using for centuries to weave their spells.

There is even a perfect ‘GOTHPLANT. It’s a sage species known as Salvia discolor and has everything you could want in FASHION REBEL. It’s got the closest you’ll find to BLACK FLOWERS, which should conveniently be blooming for Halloween, and a pale, silver-green foliage. If the KIDS touch it, they’ll ‘OOH’ and ‘ICK’ because of its sticky stems. It makes a WONDERFUL GREENHOUSE PLANT and tends to bloom more or less all year if kept warm. Even its scent is bizarrely attractive.



MY FAVORITE plant for Halloween decorating is the BAT-LEAVED PASSION VINE. Passiflora coriacea (recently changed to sexocellata), especially a cultivar called Passiflora x ‘Manta’. This is a loveable, excellent greenhouse denizen that you can easily manipulate like a string of lights or garland. It gives you that PERFECT FLUTTERING BAT LOOK. You can set it up in a place of honor to impress your costumed guests, then put it back in its preferred spot when the festivities are over.



If you’re looking to create an atmosphere using DRIED PLANTS, one of the best is the SNAPDRAGON STEM LADEN with its skull-shaped seedpods. Mixing in red-hued grasses, orange Chinese lanterns and blackish Purple Majesty millet will give you a WONDERFULLY ATTRACTIVE, MYSTERIOUS VIBE that can also be left for the Thanksgiving decorations. Leaving off the lights and using candles (real or faux) on Halloween night will delight all.

Finally, ADD IN THE DARK METAL. Not necessarily the rock music kind, but iron, bronze, or copper (oxidized copper looks great). TUBS and CAULDRONS make great ‘PLANT POT COSTUMES’, old twisted gates are great for the vines, and sundry candleholders create ambiance.

Whether as extra room for a Halloween party or a haunted conservatory for your trick-or-treaters, your greenhouse will look phantabulous.

Happy All Hallows Eve!

By Dea Schofield

A Festival of Autumn Tasks

Posted September 2nd, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Dea Digs, Gardening
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In days of old, Autumn was a time of hard harvesting work, which was then rewarded with hard play in the form of fests. Today, if you have a garden, that work lives on in the tasks best done during this gorgeous time of year. Here are just a few suggestions for the temperate garden—bearing in mind that you can have your own ‘Herbst Fest’ afterwards!

Plant bulbs!

PicMonkey_3              Spanish Bluebell                                          Tulip                                                       Fritillaria

Everything from the common Crocus, Tulipa,  and Narcissus, to the more exotic Nerine, Lycoris, and Fritillaria (also known respectively as crocus, tulip, daffodil, spider lily bare naked lady, and fritillary/crown imperial) should be planted now. The vast majority of bulbs will benefit from amending your soil a little so that it’s got nice organic material, is well-draining, and not too acidic. Adding compost and lime, or bone meal will do the trick, especially in the mid-Atlantic region or anywhere with acidic, compacted clay which will eventually cause a decrease in your bulb population.

One notable exception is Hyacinthoides hispanica, (Spanish bluebell)—it’ll take over your beds beautifully but invasively if you let it! A trick for knowing how deep to plant a bulb, is measure 3-5 bulb-depths down. It’s also a good time to pot-up bulbs for your indoor winter displays!


Clean-up and feed winter-flowering shrubs and perennials

Three truly amazing winter-bloomers are Witchhazel (Hamemelis), Camellia (Camellia), and Helleborus (Hellebore or Lenten rose). Each of these has multiple species and cultivars that bloom over the colder months and keep their blossoms for very long periods.

PicMonkey_2Final                                      Camellia                                                                         Witchhazel

I recommend cleaning out dead or dying leaves before giving them a good slow-release ‘feast’. And a note about fertilizers: if you already have acidic soil, do not use a fertilizer for acid-loving plants! There is a limit to how acidic the soil should be.

Also, regarding Camellias—sorry to those of you who live north of zones 6/7. You can always have Tanglewood build a cool Camellia greenhouse! They do well in containers and can be wheeled around once they get large. There are varieties enough that you can have stunning flowers for seven months out of the year. You could even grow your own tea. I have met the Camellia-crazed and they are that way for good reason!


Lift/move/separate/clean-up perennials—especially Peonies

As perennials go dormant, they couldn’t care less about moving to a new home or ‘slimming down’. Autumn is the best time for this, and the safest time to do so for tired peonies. They’ll thank you for it!

PicMonkey_1Peonies                                                                                      Peonies

Other perennials can be cleaned up at your leisure, but I like to let most things go nearly completely dormant before pulling the leaves, stalks, and stems. I know this might be hard for the neatnicks, but you’ll find the task much easier and quicker because things just come right up or out with a gentle tug. The debris comes out much more cleanly too, making a second, later sweep unnecessary, as well as no Spring clean-up needed! The yellows, golds, and oranges the leaves turn as they die make up for any messiness some might perceive and reflect nicely the changing colors of the tree canopy!After all that hard work, perhaps you can fête yourself in your Tanglewood greenhouse or conservatory with Neuer wein (Federweisser or ‘new wine’), some Zwieblekuchen (onion pie), and pumpkin soup while looking out over your lovely handiwork!


Happy Autumn!

Dea Schofield 


An Alluring Anthurium

Posted July 31st, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Conservatory Projects, Dea Digs, Gardening
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In its native habitat, Anthurium scherzerianum, or Flamingo Flower, grows happily in the high rainforests of Costa Rica. But you won’t find its aristocratic child, ‘Rothschildianum’ there. This manageable, beautiful variety can, however, grow happily in your conservatory if you give it the easy care it needs. And don’t worry, it only needs a moment or two a day. The fascinating, long-lasting flowers—heart-shaped, white and red-mottled spathe with corkscrew spadix—are well-worth it, while its wide, lance-like leaves will remain attractively architectural.


‘Rothschildianum’, like most other anthuriums, is generally an epiphyte, meaning it uses its roots to cling to trees and rocks, sucking moisture and nutrients from the air and any debris which falls on them. It thrives best in orchid bark and other loose, organic mixes. Pumice, lava rock, or large perlite pieces are important added-ingredients for holding moisture. The plant can also be trained to cling to a large piece of bark or wood, or even lava rock. A display can be very creative and employ all sorts of décor styles.

While it loves a warm, temperate environment, the important secret to its happiness is humidity. A conservatory, unlike a tropical greenhouse, isn’t kept at 85% humidity, so you have to create a microenvironment. This is best achieved by placing the plant on a gravel-filled tray (at least 2” wider than the pot, rock, or wood) kept topped-up with water. It also prefers bright, filtered light—not direct sunlight. It can actually get sun-burned!

PicMonkey - AnthuriumscherzerianumRothschildian

A daily misting (twice in summer) with a once-a-week light feeding will be especially appreciated. I recommend distilled, rain, or soft water (low/neutral pH) in the mister and feed water, as chlorine and alkaline water can cause crisping of leaf edges. The thing to remember is never let the roots stay wet. Just moist is great, but the plant quickly rots from being too moist. Conversely, if you feel your environment is just too dry, you can always try a ‘Wardian case’, or miniature greenhouse. Attractive, tabletop greenhouses can be found easily now.

With success will come the eventual ‘up-growing’ of your ‘Rothschildianum’. You can then wrap the stem/ arial roots in moist moss to encourage growth, then cut the plant at the base and repot or reattach. Then you can enjoy your elegant piece of the cloud forest for years to come!

By Dea Schofield

Let’s Decorate!

Posted July 24th, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Conservatory Projects, Dea Digs, Gardening, Uncategorized
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Stuck on décor?

Each structure we create holds special meaning to our clients. When we incorporate your passion and personality into the structure its magic, but what you do after tells the whole story. Below we put together some decorating hot spots to get you started!

Your Vision

Watching these rooms transform inspire. What’s your vision? Are you looking for a place to work, a getaway or a place for gatherings? What about a lookout over your favorite waterfront view? Whatever it may be take a look inside your dreams and let it fly.

conservatory, tanglewood conservatories

What’s Your Style?

Conservatories are extraordinary structures, but what makes them unique is a touch of you. Are you more classic or modern, abstract or modest? Decorative additions such as collection pieces and treasures from your travels are great storytellers – they really showcase your passion and tell who you are. Patterns and textures are also great additions – play around and see which styles suit you!

Let It Shine!

Now, this special space should stand out and what better way than to shine some light on it! Our advice – let the light dance through your room. As the sun moves it creates visual interest tempting your guests to look around.


Add a Little Life

Plants are great because they add life to a room – but which one? Expert Horticulturist Dea Schofield has a plant in mind for you; Anthurium Scherzerianum Rothschildanum. She says, “This versatile plant not only has elegant, yet unique flowers, the entire plant has fascinating architectural quality! While it is a tropical plant and craves humidity, it’s easy to provide for due to its small size and can tolerate variable light conditions – including ways of display.” For more stay tuned July 31st for Dea’s next blog!

PicMonkey_Anthurium Scherzerianum Rothschildanum


Feeling inspired?

Click on the links to uncover more and contact us to get your dream room started!

The Candlenut Tree

Posted July 3rd, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Conservatory Projects, Dea Digs, Gardening
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Ever heard of Aleurites Moluccana?

My posting from last month, Night Skies and Night Flowers, prompted one of Tanglewood’s clients to write in about her twelve foot night-blooming cereus as well as a tree she believes makes a wonderful conservatory prospect. Because of its fascinating history and properties, Tanglewood and I decided to focus on that tree for this week’s post. We thank the client for her recommendation and hope more of you will reach out with suggestions, comments, and questions at 410.479.4700 or by email at

Now, on to the inimitable Candlenut Tree, more properly known as Aleurites moluccana.

About the Candle Nut TreePicMonkey_AleuritesTree

Hawaiians know it as the Kukui and is their official state tree. While the Candlenut is not an original native to Hawaii, the ancient Polynesians who first populated those islands brought the nuts of the tree with them at least two thousand years ago. What the American Bison and Maize were to early Americans, the Candlenut was to these early Hawaiian settlers. They used every part of the tree, from the trunks to the nuts; kayaks, medicine, food, wood, preservatives, weaving fibers, etc. came from various parts of the Kukui.

And why is it called the ‘Candlenut’? The oil-laden nuts can be burned like a candle, lasting 15 to twenty minutes each! The nuts are still extensively harvested and even polished and used in popular leis.

There are so many stories and mythologies surrounding the beautiful, silver-leaved Candlenut, that to try to list them here would be impossible. For centuries, the tree travelled with ancient peoples all across the Pacific and parts of Asia and even Australia, gaining religious significance.

The Kukui tree is a symbol of enlightenment, protection and peace.

PicMonkey_CollegeIs this the plant for your Conservatory?

It’s a tough, vigorous plant, so the first thing you’ll want to know is that it gets big in its outdoor habitat—50 to 60 feet tall. So like any other medium to large tree kept under glass, it will need regular branch pruning to control its size (keep the fertilizing on the light side). As it grows and you pot it up into ever-larger containers, root pruning will keep it healthy and happy. This is an important skill to know (or have askilled horticulturist at your service) if you’re going to keep any large specimens so that they stay manageable. Proper root pruning is eventually critical to longevity of your Candlenut and will also help with flowering and fruiting. Be aware that size is the one factor that could eventually lead you to either disposing of or losing your tree, but remember that Bonzai has been in existence for over a thousand years and some of those trees get even bigger than the Candlenut in nature.


So how messy is this plant?

It’ll be tidy until it flowers, then you’ll eventually have dying petals and flower parts to contend with (if you’ve grown avocados, you’ll know what it’s like), as they are said to be heavy fruiters which bear twice a year. Also, many tropical evergreens will shed some leaves at some point in the year, replacing them with fresh new ones. The occasional clean-up is well worth it! Candlenuts are monoecious, meaning they have male and female flowers on the same plant. Therefore, you only need one to get the lovely, tasty seeds, but never eat the seeds raw—they must be roasted to render them properly edible.

Being tropical, your tree will be fairly thirsty, especially once it gets some size to it. In the clients words, the Candlenut ‘. . . makes an excellent, no perfect, conservatory tree. Evergreen, clean, and can be easily pruned.’ We look forward to hearing how her specimen does over the years and wish her a crop of lovely Kukui nuts to polish for leis, or maybe even light on the nights that her Cereus blooms!

Check out more gardening tips in Dea’s Digs and take a look at some of our breathtaking conservatory designs!

Night Skies & Night Flowers

Posted May 29th, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Dea Digs, Gardening
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Of ­all things in our experience, the night sky is truly the most awesome. For city dwellers, not even ‘pollution’ from nighttime illumination can dampen the full moon, Mars, or Venus. For those living farther out in the darker domains, even greater wonders are there on any cloud-free night. And for those with a Tanglewood conservatory, these wonders can be enjoyed year-round in the most special of ways.

Imagine: on a lovely clear night, you relax with your favorite beverage in hand and a tray of tantalizing snacks at the ready. You’ve made a special appointment with the universe—one of a rare number throughout the year. The universe wants to treat you to the most marvelous of shows: the Quadrantids, Lyrids, Eta Aquarids, Perseids, Draconids, hylcrsgtmlnsOrionids, Taurids, Leonids, or Geminids. These are the yearly meteor showers which rain mystery down into our atmosphere.

And as you wait excitedly for that first falling star, something else can be there to enhance the experience and delight your senses. There are many plants that are active at night, sending out perfume and flaunting their beauty in hopes of attracting night-time pollinators like moths and bats.

In the case of the Night-blooming cereus, that pollinator could be you! This common moniker actually refers to quite a few cacti, but if you own the Hylocereus genre (species undatus—to be exact), you could pollinate those huge, stunning starry blooms by hand and be rewarded with dragonfruit in a few months. There is even a wonderful dwarf version that is very free-flowering. What a special thing to do on a special night—something adults and children alike would find as magical as the meteors.

It cannot be overstated that the variety of cacti that bloom at night is astounding, particularly the epiphytes (tree or rock-dwelling). It is well worth the time to do a little research into what fits your environment best. Some are desert-dwelling and others come from the rainforest; they are generally very forgiving plants. But cacti aren’t the only nocturnal bloomers.

Night-blooming plants haBrgmnsve a tendency to be highly perfumed, because unlike the stars, moon, and meteors, they aren’t necessarily illuminated. A bat or moth needs to be able to find them, so they often out-scent even the finest roses. However, the majority of them tend to be colored in the lighter range—often white or lighter shades of yellow, blue, or pink.

Another wonderful nocternal conservatory contender is anything in the Brugmansia genus, aka Angel’s Trumpet. These semi-tree/shrubs are fairly easy container growers and have huge, trumpet-shaped hanging flowers with a beauty to match their night-time scent. There are so many varieties available due to avid fans of the plants that you’ll have a hard time choosing a cultivar. This is one plant that will entice you into trying several types. Its upright-flowered sibling, Datura, is just as lovely with a very special double purple variety that’s better grown as an annual—easily done from seed. It will bloom and bloom and bloom. Both species need consistent watering and benefit from daily showering if grown under glass. There is much to learn about these plants, which have a depth that make them great star-gazing companions.

Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) is a tropical tree prized for its scent and used in perfumes. Its heavenly scent is deepest at night and will send you skyward toward those stars at which you’re gazing! You can try growing it, or more manageably, there is a dwarf variety (Cananga odorata var. fruticosa). As with other tropical night-bloomers, warmth and humidity (easily created with the pot saucer filled with gravel and water) make for the best scent.

The flowers on the umbels of night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) are so perfectly star-shaped, a star-gazer can only marvel. The scent is so heavy that some might even prefer other jasmines, such as Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac), which is more free-flowering and a smaller, more manageable plant.


Other sweet-scented night-bloomers are Moonflower (Ipomoea alba), Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa), and Night Phlox, aka Midnight Candy (Zaluzianskya capensis). These require a bit more care and planning—to be treated like annuals rather than continuous greenhouse specimens. It would be easy to time them to bloom during one of the meteor events or a full moon.

You’re bound to fall in love with some or all of these plants, even enticing you into throwing a night-time party not only for celestial entertainment, but to also do some botanical star-gazing. There are so many choices that they nearly rival the boundless numbers of stars.


Enjoy your wonderful nighttime activities and you might just catch Cassiopeia winking at you!



Dea Digs….Perfect Plants for your Poolhouse

Posted March 20th, 2015 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Dea Digs, Gardening, Pool Enclosures
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Some would say it is the height of fortune to possess a natatorium, or pool enclosure, especially if designed and created by Tanglewood. Is there anything that could possibly add to that fortune? Of course—and that would be plants.

Such a building has a very different environment from greenhouses and conservatories due to evaporation of the large body of water it contains and its main purpose. Heat and humidity are what make the major difference. As with all such structures, each is unique, so temperatures and moisture will vary slightly. But because they will generally be within a range humans need for comfort while swimming year-round, it’s a fairly static tropical environment.

An important factor to consider is your interest in plants. How much care and attention will be provided and how much ‘house-cleaning’ is tolerable? Ferns are pretty universally loved, but they can be somewhat messy residents—a major concern around a pool. So I’ll start with some more unusual suggestions for the minimalist ‘neatniks’. (Dracaenas, Ficus and Aglaonema are not mentioned because they are so common—by the way, of these, only some Ficus are messy, especially the classic benjamina).

Some of the loveliest, easiest and most unusual plants are in the Aroid family. These include Alocasias, Anthuriums, Philodendrons, and Monstera. There are hundreds of species and varieties. They are often seen as slow to moderate-growing vines, either creating their own trunk/stalk or hugging a large wooden or fiber post. Some get very large. Their generally heart-shaped leaves come in the most astounding colors, sizes, and variations. Some are so artistic in appearance that they will generate serious admiration! All eventually flower, some a little more colorfully than others. Many of the Anthuriums have particularly lovely spathes. Watering, pruning, and feeding will be moderate.

perfect plant_collage 1

Many plants in the Zingiberaceae family are great, rather tidy contenders too. These include ornamental gingers, Calatheas, Alpinias, Heliconias (Lobster Claw/Parrot Flower), Strelizia (Bird of Paradise). Many have colorful, unusual flowers. Some can get rather large, so it’s a good idea to know the final height of your botanical treasure!

Other plants on the tidier, showy spectrum are the epiphytes (which get moisture and nutrients from the air and grow on rocks, logs or other plants). These include orchids, bromiliads and some cactus which can be very artfully displayed. I don’t recommend terrestrial orchids unless you can simulate seasonal changes.

perfect plant_collage 2If your pool enclosure is on the dryer side, terrestrial cactus and succulents of all species and varieties can be used. They’re easy, clean, and may reward you with some of the most beautiful flowers on the planet. Some are spectacular night-bloomers—cause for a celebratory midnight swimming party!

I haven’t mentioned palms yet because many not only have a mess-factor, but because most need a more watchful eye when grown under glass. I recommend them for plant people or those employing knowledgeable gardeners. If you really love that fluffy, handsome, full look of ferns, palms, and perhaps even cycads, arrange for them to be ‘washed’ once a week with a showering. The leaves not only drop detritus, but they are prone to catching debris and developing the occasional insect infestation (clearly, pesticides aren’t recommended in a pool enclosure). But they can be used in other areas of your garden. Certain plants in your backyard may welcome this sort of infestation from pests and so you may want to do something about this before they can affect your poolhouse. Pest control experts, similar to this one that you can find in Oregon, ( may be your first point of call to make sure that they don’t come any near your poolhouse and disturb anyone who may be using it. It is important that you are aware that you shouldn’t use pesticides in a pool enclosure.

There are so many appropriate species and varieties that it’s impossible to mention them all in a blog post. But if there’s something you particularly love, a little research and an attempt are always worth it—the most important criteria is whether the plant is suitable for a static, tropical environment.

Success will be from the very things that make a successful natatorium. Air circulation is critical, so be sure a slight breeze flows over the plants, either from a fan or venting. Also, watch out with that pool water and its chemicals. NEVER get bleach, ammonia, chlorine, or bromine on the plants and never use pool water to water them. If mold/mildew are an issue in a particularly humid space, an organic fungicide (like a copper spray/drench) will take care of the problem.

Finally, if you go the plant route, know that they will positively affect the air quality of your environment—adding oxygen, absorbing carbon dioxide, and critically—bringing artful living beauty to your lovely structure.

Passionate About Conservatories

Posted February 27th, 2015 by Bonnie Hall and filed in Dea Digs, Gardening, Greenhouses, latest
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It’s no secret that everyone at Tanglewood is passionate about what we do – from our founders, Alan and Nancy to our craftsmen in the shop, to the team of architects and engineers, to even our Hospitality Ambassador (front desk!) – we truly live and breathe conservatories, greenhouses and all things glass. But one other observation struck us – many of our clients and contacts are also very passionate about various topics such as gardening, art collecting, community activism, activities that all go hand in hand with the work we do at Tanglewood. As a result of this observation, we thought it would be intriguing, insightful and certainly interesting for us to ‘dig’ a little deeper over the upcoming year and explore these passions that surround us.

Tanglewood Conservatories is very excited to announce our partnership with Dea Schofield – a noted horticulturist. She will be working with Tanglewood to help ensure that a Tanglewood greenhouse is not only a beautiful building, but also optimized for functionality and to also give tips on plant care, systems, etc. She will be featured as a guest blogger on Tanglewood’s blog under the keywords, Dea Digs.

Dea’s Bio


20130915 - jf photography - 8296-2After extensive training to become a Master Gardener, I went on to teach classes on indoor/tropical/potted/container plants for future Master Gardeners. As a mom to an elementary-schooler, I needed to be available and working part-time at a nursery made that possible. I soon found myself being offered a horticultural position at Green Spring Gardens Park, in Virginia. Through them, I was able to obtain more training, which included seminars and lectures by pre-eminent people, hosted specifically for Smithsonian horticulturists, botanists, and biologists. Training included regular travel for field trips and lectures at places like Longwood Gardens or Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  I then found myself at Hillwood Museum and Gardens as greenhouse and floral display manager, where I also cared for the orchids there for many months (a huge, separate task that I cherished). Eventually, I struck out on my own in order to do design work, solve horticultural problems, and create gardens for others. Today, I have clients who say they just want my presence in their garden occasionally to be sure things stay green and happy—which is the utmost compliment.


Passion Found
As a child, I couldn’t stand to be inside. I wanted to be out exploring, looking for plants and creatures. My first memories of a fascination for plants involved the sensory excitement they induced. Pussy Willows and Birch Catkins were irresistible to an outdoorsy little girl. I think the first plant to intrigue me on an intellectual level was the Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica. Growing up in Germany, I discovered the plant was everywhere along roads and paths that were untended. From that early age, I knew there was something special about the herb. How could something that you could safely touch one way cause such discomfort when you touched it another? Why did it do that? Why were the fuzzy leaves sort of oily too? Why did people drink tea made of it? There was fun to be had with them too. I could get friends to shriek in horror by touching the tops of the leaves, knowing secretly that there were no trichomes, or stinging hairs, in that spot. Today, I know how to cultivate it and that the plant has been in medicinal service to humans for thousands of years. This kind of discovery is something I’m still crazy about.
It was also in Europe where I was exposed to the many variations on public gardens. From the manicured palace, castle and manor home gardens, to planted decoration of towns and cities, and individual homes and apartment windows, flowers were ubiquitous. For Europeans, the garden, both for food and enjoyment, was especially important. That rubbed off on me.  When we moved to Texas for a few years, I truly missed the color of Europe—but there were other things to discover, like Prickly Pear (with its edible fruit!) and Bluebonnets. It was there where I had my very first potted plant—a Purple Velvet Plant, or Gynura aurantiaca. At twelve or thirteen, I found the fuzzy, purple leaves irresistible, much like the pussy willows. Little did I know that the cute, diminutive plant would become a small monster, not unlike my plant passion (which grew to much greater proportions).

hibis collage

After years of travel and living abroad, I was finally able to have my first greenhouse here in the States. That morphed into a career that went from extremist hobbyist to Master Gardener to Expert Horticulturist. Today, I have the same fascination for plants as that little girl who couldn’t resist them!

Cultivating the Passion
One way I cultivated my passion for gardening was through education—constantly learning is not only essential to truly engaging in a passion, but I’m addicted to it as well! I love to learn about the art and science of plants and their cultivation. You might call me a plant fanatic. There are multiple facets to horticulture and I’ve tried to learn about and become experienced with them all. I’ve also have had my own collections for decades and have cultivated innumerable varieties and species. I also visit gardens, natural areas and botanical gardens wherever I travel (I’m especially attracted to places with greenhouses and conservatories).  It’s not hard to nurture something you love.

green collage

A Passion’s Impact
You probably won’t find a greater impact than having a hobby become a career! But here’s a brief tale of how much my love of plants affects how I think. Five years ago, I decided to reduce my carbon footprint significantly. I donated, gave away, and sold-off most of my collection and greenhouse in the process. But there was no way I’d live without plants. I checked out places and none felt adequate (despite being lovely inside), until one day I stepped into an older condo that was south-facing with floor-to-ceiling windows and overlooked a tree-covered hill. It was just a simple, large studio—but it had a great balcony. Due to the perfect direction for growing and the huge, green view, I took it on the spot. Today, I grow herbs, orchids and other tropicals—and my favorite, Passion Flowers. The vines love to cover the balcony railings by summer’s end. Then everyone but the hardy herbs comes in for winter. I chose my living space based on the needs of plants!

Top Secret Revealed
As a master horticulturist, the best advice I can give is to LISTEN. Listen to what your plants are saying and that will enable you to nurture them and meet their needs. For example, I walked into a very hot and humid greenhouse one day with my client and many of the plants had lost their turgidity and ‘looked’ to be wilted. My clients first response was to set the sprinklers off and water all these ‘wilted’ plants. I was able to show my client that the plant’s wilted structure was not from lack of water (a quick finger check in the soil, which was moist) but from the high heat and humidity. As soon as those variables returned to a more normal range for the plant, the turgidity would also rectify. Below is a picture of a Rose of Sharon – while the normal observer would see the flower and bee, a good ‘listener’ would also notice the plant has leaf scorch. The leaf scorch could be because it’s in too dry of a location, or because an A/C unit blew on it, or both.

rose of sharon

To ask Dea a question or to find out more about building your own Tanglewood Conservatory, click here to email us. If you would like to follow Dea on social media, click on her facebook.