A Day in the Tropics

Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too.  ~William Cowper 

We are fortunate to have the Phipps Conservatory, a wonderful glass house, in the heart of Pittsburgh. A visit to Phipps in the dead of winter is a treat for the senses, and members can take a tripod for photography early on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday, my friend Suzan and I indulged in a ninety minute whirlwind of intense picture taking amid the tropical splendor of an orchid show. Not only was this a great winter interlude, it was also an opportunity for me to give my new camera a workout and test the waters for the equipment I may need for my  A Year in Penn’s Woods project. The challenge of taking photos with limited space in which to maneuver a tripod and varied sources of light was useful in determining what worked with my current camera gear and what needed to be changed. I’m convinced that a few more trips to this warm green space filled with flowers will be required to continue my research this winter 🙂

Enjoy the tour of my morning in the tropics.

What, I sometimes wonder, would it be like if I lived in a country where winter is a matter of a few chilly days and a few weeks’ rain; where the sun is never far away, and the flowers bloom all year long? ~ Anna Neagle

33 thoughts on “A Day in the Tropics

  1. Jean was right about Hawaii’s “floral fecundity.” My allergic senses practically flattened me and I love flowers so much!

    Anyway, I think your new camera works. These flowers are stunning and so is the glasswork. Thank you for a lovely lift on a Sunday morn. Cheers!

  2. When I went to Hawai’i (twice) I was blown over by the floral fecundity. But really the equatorial strength of the sun sapped my energy. I suppose I could adjust. Vancouver has the mildest winters in Canada and hence, you will find flowers much bigger, bright and foliage more lush. Some palm trees do survive here and there. 🙂

    • Jean, I love the “floral fecundity” phrase – great way to put it! I know of many gardeners who live in B.C. for exactly that reason – I have a lovely book about gardens in Victoia (?). In fact, I have always been envious of the mild PNW climate; I’ve been to Seattle many times, which probably has a similar climate to Vancouver, and have often fantasized about living and gardening there 🙂

  3. Lovely! I, like Catherine a few comments up, was reminded of the Mitchell Park domes as well. You’re right about so many of us being lucky to have a conservatory close by. Growing up the domes were just a short car ride away, and it was magical to walk in at the height of winter and suddenly be surrounded bygrapefruit trees and birds and so much heat and humidity. Strangely enough there doesn’t seem to be a conservatory on this level in Boston, though there is a wonderful one at the Isabella Gardner Museum. I’ll have to pay a visit.

    As for the orchids – I became especially entranced by the deep purple spidery one. I worry that I’m one of those people who aimlessly wander into a orchid show and walk away penniless from buying a few transfixing specimens. They’re so bewitching.

    Also I love the railroad garden and that, perhaps more than anything else, brings me back to time spent in the “Show Dome,” where model railroads oft-prevail.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Jenny, I love that spidery orchid too; I have to go back and retrieve the name of it. I like spidery flowers in general; I have several “spider form” daylilies in my garden and their open form seems so graceful and whimsical. And “bewitching” 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the model train show; there are a lot of gardeners who create miniature railroad gardens, something I admire but would never attempt. Though I do still have my model train . . . hmmmm. Thanks for visiting!

      • I would love to have the name of that orchid! And your spidery lilies definitely do sound bewitching.

        The thought of a railroad through the garden is fantastically charming. I say go for it! Unfortunately, even if I had little railroad of my own it would be dangerously exposed in my community garden. Ah well, someday I will have a garden of my own with a little RR enclave. A good goal to look forward to 🙂

  4. Great pictures. Orchids are so beautiful. We have a conservatory in St. Paul where they have an orchid show too. And come Valentine’s Day, the conservatory hosts a special 4-course dinner among the tropics!

    • Paula, I totally agree with you about the orchids. I don’t grow any myself so I especially appreciate seeing them at the conservatory. I think they are having a similar Valentine’s dinner at Phipps; such a great use of the space, isn’t it?

  5. Reminds me of the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago (right down to the Chiluly glass) and the White River Gardens in Indianapolis. I said that I should get out to Garfield Park at least once this winter…and maybe I can still fit it in some time in February. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Kerry, it’s interesting how many people do have access to a conservatory in their neighborhoods – it is certainly a resource for me, as both a gardener and a photographer. And there is nothing like walking around in shirtsleeves among plants and flowers in the middle of winter, taking photos. Hope you get to Garfield Park and enjoy the winter respite.

  6. I know you had a great time – it’s the perfect winter day for starved botanizers, gardeners and flower lovers. I just did the same thing the other day (a conservatory in Seattle), but my battery ran out and the back-up was dead so the photography was cut short. Your white & pale pink orchids are so lovely. I too kick myself later for not writing down names of things, but it’s hard to do while you’re there.

    • You are so right, I did have a great time. This is the first time I’ve taken a tripod; it is very hard to get good shots in some of the rooms because of the limited light, so I was pleased at the difference it made in getting good shots. Bummer about the dead batteries, but it is a great excuse to return 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  7. I can feel the warm, humid air from the greenhouse! Reminds me of the Enid Haupt Conservatory from New York BGarden. Such wonderful places to visit, especially in the winter time – I bet you’ll have to go back many times to test your new photo equip. 🙂

  8. I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, well I have but I don’t count the airport as being in Pittsburgh. That said, your day in paradise has me drooling, so am making a very decisive mental note to visit the tropics there. An easy weekender from where I live, even closer if it wasn’t for Lake Erie.

    Thought the Dale Chihuly glass pieces were fitting. Not just for the way they conform and harmoniously blended into the lushness. They remind one that it is important to back up and see the colour, form and texture of these plants as living art. Paris has the Louvre but Pittsburgh has the Phipps Conservatory now that’s a glass bubble for dreary short days of winter.

    • Pittsburgh and Paris – Hudson, I love that comparison! Phipps had a large Chihuly exhibit a few years ago and kept some of the pieces through the help of donors. I am always amazed at how beautifully they are placed throughout the conservatory, especially the sun in the Desert Room. They are also eminently photographable. Here’s to some of life’s moments spent in the “glass bubble” 🙂

  9. What a gorgeous escape and what magnificent photographs, Lynn! The Conservatory reminds me of the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee…always a treat, but especially in the midst of winter, when the heart needs to match its garden yearnings with a dose of the possible…or at least match the imagination’s version of the possible! 🙂 Thank you!

    • “at least match the imagination’s version of the possible” – that’s a great way to put it, Kitty! Yes, I think most older cities have one of these beautiful old conservatories and they are at their most magnificent when providing a respite from winter. Glad you enjoyed the visit!

    • Frank, glad you liked the photos – I only wish I had taken notes on the names, but by the time I was shooting in the orchid room, more non-photographers were crowding in and bumping into me. I guess I’ll have to go back for another visit 🙂 Thanks for posting the link to the Krohn; it is from a different era but definitely offers many of the same programs and contained beauty. Any city with one of these lovely places is providing a blessing to its residents.

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