Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Volunteer Park Conservatory

The Volunteer Park Conservatory
Sometimes your GPS leads you to places you did not really think of visiting - at least just then. These mistakes can sometimes turn out really well. Last February, when we were visiting Seattle to try to figure out where to live, the GPS in our rental can directed us to Seattle Asian Art Museum, instead of Seattle Art Museum. This meant that I found Volunteer Park Conservatory on this first trip to Seattle. I felt directly much more friends with the city as this place was just like one of my old favourites in Sweden, the Palm House at the Garden Society of Gothenburg.

Palm House at Volunteer Park

The Palm House in Gothenburg was erected in 1878 and Volunteer Park Conservatory in 1912. Though on a small scale, they share a similar history. Both were fashioned after the Crystal Palace in London, the huge cast iron and glass structure by Joseph Paxton which housed the Great Exhibition of 1851 (and burned down in 1936). Volunteer Park Conservatory is situated on Capitol Hill in Seattle, and the park surrounding it was designed by John Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (nephew-stepson and son of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., well known for his design for N.Y. Central Park). It was manufactured in New York and shipped to Seattle.

Palm House at Volunteer Park

Volunteer Park Conservatory has five houses representing different environments from the world. The entrance leads you directly to the Palm House, with many species of palms, an Orchid Collection, anthuriums from Hawaii and Central America, Crotons, Musa (banana) and Hedychium (ginger) plants.

Fern House at Volunteer Park

To the left from the Palm House, you come to the Fern House, which numerous species of ferns and other tropical plants. Also, this house has a collection of primitive plants from the dinosaur era and diverse carnivorous plants. The permanent plant collections are "hotted up" with displays of exotic seasonal plants, such as Brugmansias, Aristolochias, Passifloras, Begonias etc. In my eyes, a little less would have done more, but I'm sure many of the visitors appreciate these colourful additions.

Bromeliad House at Volunteer Park

Bromeliad House contains a large collection of well... members of the bromeliad family, of which pineapple is one of the most well-known ones. Many of these plants are epiphytes attaching themselves on rough sufraces as tree branches or rocks. Tillandsias are also shown in this room.

Cactus House at Volunteer Park

The fourth house is the Seasonal Display House, which I found quite boring (this time) with lots of blue Hydrangeas and other uninteresting plants. The only quite interesting plant here was the Amorphophallus titanum, which is expected to flower again some time in late July 2008. This plant was discovered in 1878 by Italian botanist and explorer Odoardo Beccari (1843-1920) in Sumatra, at the height of plant hunting during the Victorian era. It has the largest undivided inflorescence of all plants, and reminds of... well, just what it's name means.

Cactus House at Volunteer Park

Cactus House at Volunteer Park
The fifth and last room is the Cactus House, with cacti and succulents, all adapted to dry and hot conditions. As the leaflet from Volunteer Park says, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Last February, when I visited this conservatory for the first time, many of the cacti were flowering vibrantly. Now, most of them were just looking prickly - or maybe I was born far too North to really appreciate their beauty.

Cactus House at Volunteer Park

Cactus House at Volunteer Park.


Sunita Mohan said...

I hate to say this but those big leaved plants in the Fern House (colocassias? not sure of the English name)... they grow like weeds here in India, especially during the monsoon season. And we pull them out and throw them away.

chaiselongue said...

Beautiful pictures. Thanks for adding me to your favourites on Blotanical and introducing me to your blog.

RURAL said...

I remember visiting that wonderful conservatory when I was in college, many years ago. I have always wanted to go back and see it again, after I realized how much gardening meant to me. But never made it. Thanks for the virtual tour, it brings back great memories.

Muddy Boot Dreams

Anonymous said...

Så roligt att det fanns ett systerväxthus till Trädgårdsföreningens så långt borta!
Jättefina bilder!

Tack för trevlig läsning på din fina blogg!


The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Sunita - thank for the comments, I just love hearing about the "weeds" of India! Reminds me of my friend in Australia, who hated the "ghostly" white birches, a trendy designer tree there, until I told her about the beautiful forests of them in their natural environment in Scendinavia.

Muddy boots, just checked your blog and will be back...

Monica, härligt att få besök från Sverige! Och visst är det härligt att få besöka en liten tvillingsyster till sitt favoritväxthus här, så långt borta! Fast jag skulle varit sugen att besöka trädgårdsutställningarna i Göteborg i år.

Anonymous said...

Ja, Göteborg är bra vackert, och i år är det ju lite extra ståhej här i stan! Fast jag undrar om inte gamla trotjänaren Rosariet i Trädgårdsföreningen första veckan i juli slår det mesta!
Väldigt trevlig blogg - så kul att få se trädgårdar från andra sidan jordklotet!
(hittade hit via Trädgå