Lack of space, budget, and materials wasn't going to stop Axton Burton from building a greenhouse in which to overwinter his prized, tropical houseplants. With his rented studio apartment clearly not an ideal location for such a structure and the majority of residential greenhouses too short to accommodate his ice cream banana tree (Musa acuminata × balbisiana 'Blue Java') anyway, he persuaded his parents to donate a spot on their rural property and together with his dad designed a greenhouse with suitable dimensions that could be constructed from (mostly) recycled materials.
While he initially considered using recycled windows for the walls, Axton realized that trying to get exactly the dimensions he needed could be both time consuming and frustrating, so instead opted to use recycled bottles; 4516 of them to be exact, in all shapes and sizes from nail polish bottles and spice jars to larger canning jars. These are glued into place to fill the frame.
"This has been my passion project," said Axton, admitting that the focus helped keep him grounded during months of COVID-induced isolation. He began in January 2020 and had mostly finished the greenhouse by September 1st 2021, "although I don't know when it will be ever truly finished," he admits.
Yet there was still the question of the glass bottles – where to find them? The answer was in his neighborhood. Axton is clearly much loved within the local community and he reached out to them via Facebook groups asking if anyone had any glass bottles to donate while explaining his idea. Intrigued friends, neighbors, strangers, and clients scoured their homes and donated what he needed, investing themselves into the projects' success at the same time. Axton also advertised using the Next Door app at which point "everything exploded!"
As the temperatures dip, Axton has started moving his precious plants into their winter residence, while admitting this is all something of an experiment. He has installed LED lights and a misting system, the latter being run from a rainwater collection system. A fountain, found for free via Craig's List, will add to the humidity his tropical plants need in order to thrive.
During summer months when the greenhouse isn't needed for his tropicals, Axton has considered using the space for date nights. "It's so romantic with all the lights," he notes, adding that his partner James is a great chef.
When Axton isn't tending his prized exotic fruiting plants he is an active transgender healthcare activist and also manages a senior rat rescue business with James. "We provide a rat-tirement home," he quips.
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