Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Field Trip: The Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA

The Phipps Conservatory

A visit to a conservatory or botanical garden is not complete without a camera (though one should not let the camera interfere with the experience of just being there, but that is another story).  I was recently in Pittsburgh, PA and had the opportunity to visit the Phipps Conservatory.  The original glass house of the Phipps was built in 1893, and the new, LEED-certified expansion added over several years and completed in 2006. When they were planning their expansion, the Phipps went as "green" as they could ("green" as in environmentally friendly, not just in adding more plants!), with sustainable building methods and management practices. For example, the Phipps staff seek the least toxic alternative to dealing with pests and disease, incorporating beneficial insects as part of integrated pest management.  They also use mechanical removal (I call is picking and squashing) to remove pests. Even the lawn outside the conservatory is low maintenance: it is infected with a fungus that causes the roots to grow deeply (resulting in a need for less water) and the blades to grow shorter (meaning less frequent mowing).  The new construction is designed to minimize inputs and minimize energy loss to the outside.  In another example, you might see these beneficial insect feeling stations aroud the conservatory:

But the Phipps is also beautiful, strange and exotic, from the bizarre Buddha's hand (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis):

To the Bat Wing plant (Taca integrifolia):

The conservatory has several rooms, complete with lovely art glass pieces by many artisans:

Doorways into exotic places:
And charming surprises, like a sedum "tree":

Of course there are exotic orchids (some orchid plants were quite large!):

And water gardens (with more glass sculptures):

And Pittsburgh itself is full of art, from the Warhol Museum, to the Carnegie Museum of Art.  I will leave with one Pittsburgh community art project, "Locks of Love!"

The Phipps combines the old and new, with the original 1896 glass houses and the 2006 "Green" conservatory.  If you are in the area, it is well worth the visit!  Oh, the cafe, whihc uses locally-sources, mostly organic ingredients, is pretty good too!

Happy garden visiting!

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