October 16, 2012

Historic Victorian Glasshouses at The Phipps Conservatory

RED CHINESE PAPER LANTERNS FLOAT ABOVE GOLDEN CHRYSANTHEMUMS ON THE OPENING DAY OF THE ANNUAL FALL FLOWER SHOW AT PITTSBURGH'S PHIPPS CONSERVATORY.

America has only a few historic glasshouses - Longwood, Smith College and the New York Botanical Garden come to mind, but the Phipps Conservatory is special, located within the city of Pittsburgh, it shares something with all of the above - it was a gift from a wealthy industrialist. In 1893, Henry Phipps built the conservatory because he wanted to "erect something that will prove a source of instruction as well as pleasure to the people." Designed by the New York Firm Lord & Burnham, the conservatory cost $100,000. (twice what my greenhouse cost!). The plant material came from the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago after it closed in 1893. Located in Schenley Park, the conservatory stands today as a cultural and architectural centerpiece, a proud legacy for the citizens of Pittsburgh.

FALL CRYSANTHEMUMS DOMINATE THE FALL FLOWER SHOW AT THE PHIPPS. BUT FEW ARE TRAINED IN THE CLASSICAL CHINESE OR JAPANESE STYLES,ALSO,  FEW WERE TRUE EXHIBITION MUMS, THOSE OFTEN TRAINED TO SINGLE STEMS OR ELABORATE FORMS, BUT IT WAS EARLY. SURELY MORE WILL BE PLACED INTO THE DISPLAYS AS THEY COME INTO BLOOM.
THE EARLY LORD & BURNHAM GREENHOUSES AT THE PHIPPS CONSERVATORY CALL TO MIND THE GREAT PALM HOUSE AT KEW
Victorian glasshouses are gems from another era. They are both art and architecture, functional and decorative. Their elaborate arched roof lines constructed from glass, steel and wood elevate these buildings from being merely functional greenhouses, they are crystal palaces. Inside one is transported not only geographically into the tropical rainforest's of India or equatorial Africa, but one is also transported back in time since so little has changed from 1885. The opulence and grandeur remains as impressive today, as it undoubtedly was over a century ago - quite a feat in a world where modern architecture and fancy electronics and media rule our everyday lives. One can only imagine the impact such structures had on visitors 120 years ago when the electric light was considered a novel modern invention. Towering palms, steamy heat and jungle orchids in the middle of January must have been an incredible experience.



INSIDE THE PHIPPS CONSERVATORY, TRANPORT ONE IN BOTH TIME AND PLACE TO ANOTHER WORLD WHERE DISPLAYS OF EXOTIC JUNGLE PLANTS AND SEASONAL FLORAL DISPLAYS ONCE ENTERTAINED BOTH THE LEISURE CLASS AND THE WORKING CLASS IN A TIME OF TRANSITION

ERA'S MERGE IN A NINETEENTH CENTURY GLASS HOUSE WITH A TWENTY FIRST CENTURY DALE CHIHULY GLASS SCULPTURE

DALE CHIHULY'S CELADON AND ROYAL PURPLE GILDEN FIORI, 2007 DEMONTRATES LITERALLY HOW GLASS CAN TRANSFORM INTO AN INFLORESCENCE

DALE CHIHULY, MACHIA FOREST, 2007 at the PHIPPS CONSERVATORY, PITTSBURGH, PA

FERNS OF ALL TYPES FROM TREE'S TO HANGING BASKETS COMBINE WITH VICTORIAN GLASS ARCHITECTURE TRANSPORTS ONE BACK IN TIME 

THIS RED CONE-SHAPED STRUCTURE CALLED A STROBILUS IS THE MALE 'ORGAN' ON A RARE ZUZULAND CYCAD -THE SLOW GROWING ENCEPHALARTOS FEROX. THIS PLANT LAST BLOOMED IN 2006,  SO THIS WAS A RARE TREAT TO SEE. MY ENCEPHALARTOS HORRIDUS PROBABLY HAS A CENTURY TO GROW BEFORE IT BLOOMS!

IN THE SPECIAL INSTALLATION CALLED THE TROPICAL RAINFOREST OF INDIA DISPLAY, A RARE BLUE CALOTROPIS GIGANTEA, AN OBVIOUS RELATIVE OF THE COMMON MILKWEED, BLOOMS. WHEN I LIVED IN HAWAII, WE WOULD MAKE LEI'S WITH THESE WHERE THEY WERE CALLED 'CROWN FLOWER'.

FALL BLOOMING ORCHIDS IN THE FRANK SARRIS ORCHID ROOM
FALL ALSO MEAN ORCHIDS, AS MANY SPECIES BLOOM NOW. THIS LARGE CATTLEYA HYBRID  IN A STYLISH PALETTE OF TANGERINE AND RED COMBINED PERFECTLY WITH THE CHIHULY GLASS INSTALLATIONS, AND, OF COURSE, THE SEASON. 

CATTLEYA BOWRINGIANA, A CLASSIC, EVEN HEIRLOOM ORCHID WAS INTRODUCED BY VEITCH IN LONDON IN 1885. IT WAS ALSO ONCE KNOWN AS CATTLEYA AUTUMNALIS,  AS  IT BLOOMS NOW, AS THE DAYS SHORTEN. NATIVE TO GUATAMAL, IT GROWS NEAR WATERFALLS  ADN FAST MOVING STREAMS IN THE WILD.

THERE ARE SPECIAL, TINY ORCHIDS IN THIS CONTEMPORARY WARDIAN CASE. 

EPILAELIOCATTLEYA  - DON HERMAN 'GOLD RUSH'

4 comments :

  1. What a fabulous glasshouse, certainly reminiscent of Kew. Long may it stand.

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  2. All the good orchids are in that wardian case.... I see Masdevallias!!!!!!

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  3. Buffalo, NY has a 1900 Lord and Burnham glass house (based on the Crystal Palace) as part of South Park, one of only two remaining L&B conservatories worked into an Olmstead-designed park.

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  4. Hi Ms. Wis, I never knew that Buffalo has such a place! I will have to check it out the next time I visit relatives near there. Thanks for sharing!

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