Volunteer Park Conservatory (Seattle): Part Five, The Bromeliad House

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This—the last room on this visit we’ve been having for about a week now—is the Bromeliad House.

Dischidia ‘Thailand Blush’.
I am sorry I don’t know as much about these plants as I’d like to, but in my home, they are simply too difficult to care for and that always complicates things. I’d love to take them on, but maybe I will have to let a few other plants die first. Yes, I said that.
Air plants are everywhere here, but there are other plants too.
There is a different kind of Staghorn Fern and…
more and more of the Tillandsia and other Bromeliads.
I found some lovely blooms though.
Aechmea warasii variegata.
This was a nice view but it reminded me of The Muppets for some reason. Maybe I’m tiring of calling everything Seussian?
There was a musical artwork made by an artist from Portland, Oregon installed overhead and it was really kind of nice in that it wasn’t really overdone or obtrusive. It complemented the whole atmosphere.

As the musical chimes played I admired blooms nearby and listened to the melodic tones.

Agapetes ‘Ludgvan Cross’.
I like these plants more and more whenever I see them. They look like hand-painted China and are so stimulating to the eye.

Agapetes ‘Ludgvan Cross’.

Before I left I walked around outside admiring the beds of annuals. It was such a nice way to relax and clear my mind before heading back home to Portland.
I don’t know much about this aspect of their work here at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, but when plants are confiscated from people trying to ship them in or out of the country illegally this is where they are sent. I was happy to know they didn’t necessarily just wind up in a garbage can somewhere. Not that I have thought about this a lot but…
Maybe the seeds I accidentally attempted to import legally that were on the DO NOT IMPORT list ended up here and are out back in their plant pokey? If so, I hope they’re doing well. I am just relieved that the only harm I caused myself was the worry about where my seeds had gone. I had no idea they were being held up because of my mistake. Note to self: Order more carefully next time.

Volunteer Park Conservatory (Seattle): Part Four, The Fern House

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The Fern House in the Volunteer Park Conservatory is probably my favorite House, but that is first and foremost due to the fact I am such a plant nerd and this area holds a super special plant right now. It is probably the rarest plant I have ever seen. Now I will share it with you too. It is a coffee relative from Chiapas, Mexico and it has the kind of story I swoon over.

Hard to believe, but a chance encounter between a population of Deppea splendens, and a man named Dennis Breedlove, led to the plant’s survival. In 1981 Breedlove collected seeds of this plant in the mountains of Chiapas where the only known population lived. He sent out seeds to different botanical gardens, and the seeds were grown. In 1986, he returned to the same place in Mexico only to discover the entire area had been tilled under and the plants were gone. It is now considered extinct in the wild but you can find specimens in botanical gardens.

I dug around for the name tag for this draping Coleus, but I could not find one. It reminded me though how not long ago I’d sought some out. Draping Coleus could make a great houseplant in the right place. I’d better get back on that so that next summer I can have amazing drapers.

Chinese Glory Bower, or Clerodendrum chinense, is new to me, but it sure made a great impression with its large leaves and tissue-like multi-peteled blooms.

Angel’s Trumpets scare me because I know they are poisonous to cats, but I love them when my cats are not around. Cats and plants are a funny thing though because I know for a fact I have other poisonous plants but I truly have found that if you offer the felines plenty of the plants they like, they tend to turn their noses up at the others. (This is Brugmansia versicolor ‘Ecuador Pink’.)

Ah, the rest of the Fern House was amazing too. So many of these plants are often offered as houseplants and so often I fall for them.

The laminated placard below explains how ariel roots function. Makes you feel bad for stuffing all of that into a pot and not allowing it to take over an entire bathroom.

At this point in the Fern House I let go of my fact checking.

I knew this was a Passion Vine though.

The ant plant is nice, but I wonder how it survives next to its flashy neighbor. Nepenthes is never a plant you want to be near—especially if you’re an insect who cannot resist it. BEWARE.

This sundew lives by the little pool seen earlier with the ariel roots. It’s a Drosera dichotoma ‘Giant’. I would love to see these in the wild someday. Until then I will rest here beside the pool.

Of course the collection had to contain an Australian tree fern!
An Aristolochia had to be here too.
Feast your eyes as I did!
The view from the final room, looking back at where we just toured, is really verdant. Hey, I like green and I bet if you’re reading this, so do you!

Volunteer Park Conservatory (Seattle): Part Three, The Palm House

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Walking from the Cactus House, back through the Seasonal Display House, you arrive where I originally entered at the middle of the building. It is the Palm House and you can see it through the door below. You know, the lovely one framed by the pair of Ficus.
At the actual entrance to the building, you will find a variegated Ficus on one side of the front door, and surprise! surprise!—at the other side too.
The ferns that drape beneath the plants really act as such an amazing barrier but I have to admit that it is very difficult to achieve this kind of look in a home. The humidity necessary can be seen if you look closely at the windows. I struggle and toil with my poor ferns here at home and so often I really wonder why I bother. I think it has something to do with the fact I simply love plants.
I do not know a lot about the Strelitzia (commonly known as the Bird of Paradise flower) except to say that their leaves are really interesting to look at from down below. I know some folks like to grow them as houseplants, but it’s one of those plants that just never seems happy indoors.
This does not look like your average houseplant version though.
Oh, and did I mention the orchids? In true Victorian fashion, they have those too. What makes them even more wonderful is that they are displayed like art. Isn’t if funny how these odd plants fascinate us so much?
The Conservatory’s orchid collection was started in 1921when they were given to the garden by Ms. Anna H. Clise. Staff appear to keep the collection going in the greenhouses behind the conservatory. Only the best ones are put on display. (I am so jealous we don’t have something like this in Portland!)
These always remind me of ribbons on little gift boxes.
Mounted up high on the wall is the true trophy: a Staghorn or Elkhorn Fern. Although these are ferns, they are truly epiphytic. This is a magnificent example of how amazing their form is when they are cared for properly.
The whole Palm House is truly very palm filled and lush.
This last picture is of a really great groundcovering palm relative I’ve never heard of: Palm Grass aka Curculigo capitulata. It reminded me so much of my Panama Hat Palm but after close examination they are very different!

Two more stops to make before I wrap this up! I simply enjoy this place far too much to rush this visit.

Volunteer Park Conservatory (Seattle): Part Two, The Cactus House

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Unfortunately I was unable to document all of the plants here, and there is a bit of a reason that I must fess up to right now. Due to my complete and total love for so many of these plants as houseplants, I did overload the capacity my home has for their maintenance and upkeep this past year. Let’s face it, there are only so many plants that can stand in the light, and I cannot care for them all—not yet at least.

Believe it or not, this Jade Tree was started from a large cutting back in 1916. Wow.

Volunteer Park Conservatory (Seattle): Part One, The Seasonal Display House

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There is no denying that I had a wonderful time this past week up in Seattle. I could go on and on about all the reasons it was so wonderful, but I’d rather now right now. As wonderful as the whole experience was, it was not the kind of vacation that allowed me to rest and I am seriously paying heavily for that right now with my health. If it hadn’t been the fling, it would have been something else, so I am not complaining.
I did the drive back to Portland solo and this allowed me to see some other gardens before I left town. This may seem like a strange idea, but in this case, I’d planned to visit places I usually frequent. I just didn’t want to visit them with anyone who was paying attention to time.
The Volunteer Park Conservatory is a favorite place of mine to visit. Like the other two historic Victorian glasshouses open to the public on the West Coast, no matter what time of year you’re there visiting, it is always amazing. First considered in 1893, the main building was not completed until 1912. Inside there are five main houses: Bromelaid, Palm, Fern, Seasonal Display and Cactus. I am doing each separately so you can see all the pretty pictures.

The first house you actually enter into from the front door is the Palm House. This is a beautiful view from the Seasonal Display House looking back at it. During this trip I kind of rushed into this room first because a seniors group of Japanese-Americans came in for a walk and I wanted to be sure to give them enough space to get around me.

This house had a lot of annuals mixed in with sturdy perennials. The foundation plantings really consist of this large Yucca and a Sansevieria Collection.

The Yucca gigante is very impressive and while the group of senior citizens walked through the room one of the women remarked to a nurse, “Wow, that’s really old. Old like us!” The younger woman could then be heard giggling as the group walked off together. I thought it was kind of funny too.

Low at the bottom you can see a really nice Sansevieria with a lot of white stripes. I guess it’s a Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Bantel’s Sensation’. Time to put that on my fall/winter plant shopping list.

 
It’s an understatement to say that these groupings are impressive. They are overwhelmingly breathtaking and I felt honored to spend some quiet time with them as though we were attending plant church together.

So before I overwhelm you, I will leave you a taste for what beacons as you reach the Cactus House.

Awe! Those menacingly attractive little guys look a lot like buddies to me. Don’t you think so too?

Volunteer Park Conservatory

Loving Sinningia

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There is nothing like walking into a glasshouse on a wet and gray wintery day in the Pacific NW. It’s a shame that there aren’t more conservatories, even if they are difficult to keep up and care for no matter where they are in the world, since they can be such a joy to behold.

This Sinningia welcomed us when we entered into the Seymour Botanical Conservatory located in Tacoma, WA, but it was truly the whole setting that really drew us in to admire the place’s charms. There were amateur photographers in a wide variety of positions attempting to capture the best close-ups possible. There were so many flowers everywhere that it was full of a kind of plant energy that only a conservatory can give off. It’s intoxicating whether or not you’re an asthmatic like me. (Yes, this is true and a drawback to my love of greenhouses in general.)

The sculpture is one of several staged throughout the structure. They were made by the former conservator Clarence Deming. These add such a great deal to the feeling at the location. Otherwise, without them, the conservatory could somehow be seen simply as a collection of large, overgrown houseplants. The little sculptures throughout add some context, and even perspective.

The Seymour Conservatory is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. And as far as I know, it is one of only a handful of historic public conservatories on the West Coast. Built in 1907, the entire structure holds about 3,500 panes of glass, and the collection there currently contains about 550 plant species. In addition, the floral display in the image above is part of their ongoing program to always have a blooming display year-round.