British painter Hillmore turns novelist, sort of, in this brief tale of the life and death of a stately greenhouse, a Giving Tree for grown-ups. The greenhouse is made to stand not only for the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to create a self-sufficient world by containing part of nature, but also for the parched human heroine Vanessa--whose fate it mirrors from the beginning of the story (""The greenhouse had always felt a particular bond between itself and Vanessa""). Ignored and secluded because of her crippled leg, Vanessa grows up unloved by everyone but her much younger brother Hugo. At 40, still living in isolation, she's raped by a wandering stranger and bears Edgar--a sadistic child who rejects her love, preferring instead to destroy plants, torture animals, set fires in the greenhouse, and attack his own girlfriend. Vanessa dies on witnessing this last outrage; shortly thereafter, the greenhouse, in its one significant action, kills Edgar; eventually Hugo, numbed by loss, dies as well, and his philistine widow has the greenhouse pulled down. Though the story's pace is sedate, the imagery throughout is overripe, contrasting the cycle of growth and regeneration with the human characters' barrenness. Depending on your point of view, either a delicately severe parable or a disappointingly reticent sketch.