Monday, January 24, 2011

Kicking Off the Conservatory World Tour

Yesterday began the Conservatory World Tour Week, where garden bloggers can visit any botanical conservatory and share their visit with the rest of us through words and photos. For those of us in the cold climates, it seems as if this winter might never end, but stepping into a lush, green, warm conservatory lets us remember what surely will come. We just need patience!

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory
Every year around this time, our family pays our local conservatory a visit. Conversation yesterday came up with the guess that we've now been celebrating this annual event for at least five years, possibly six. Most times, we eat lunch before we head to the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Yesterday, we chose the Mad Anthony Brewing Company.

Mad Anthony's is a local brew pub, famous for its Scoobie Snacks and locally brewed beer. The decor is nostalgic, if you grew up in the '60s and '70s (which Romie and I did). Our kids love it too and were the ones that suggested we eat there.

The conservatory is only a few blocks away, located across from just one of the churches that helped Fort Wayne achieve one of its nicknames, "The City of Churches." The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1859, is the oldest church in continual use in the city. It is also the burial site of Chief Richardville, the last chief of the Miami tribe.

The day was much colder than the normal for January, and the conservatory was a welcome respite from the -1°F we'd experienced at 8:00 that morning. (Average low for this date is 19°F.) The bright blue sky and brilliant sunshine were deceiving and made it appear much warmer than it was.

The conservatory, which opened in 1983, has three rooms: Showcase Garden (temperate), Tropical Garden, and Desert Garden. Four times a year, the displays in the Showcase Garden change. The current theme is Peter Pan, which I don't really "get," but there was a large pirate ship that greeted us as we walked into the garden.

When you enter the Showcase Garden, immediately to your
right is a large Brugmansia tree. It was blooming, but it's a
gorgeous sight (and scent) when it's covered with blooms,
as it was in January, 2009.

This time of year, I can always count on the conservatory
to have plenty of florist's cyclamen on display - and for sale.
If I didn't kill them from the moment I bring them into the
house, I'd buy one or two.

Romie really liked the Foxtail Ferns (Asparagus densiflorus),
so perhaps I'll try to find some and integrate them into our
container plantings this summer.

There were primroses of several types, but the frilly Fairy
Primrose (Primula malacoides 'Prima Pink') was
especially pretty.

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana were planted en masse,
accented with Ranunculus and lilies.

I love both the exfoliating bark on this tree, as well as its
common name - Jaboticaba (Myrciaria cauliflora), also
known as Brazilian Grape Tree. If we'd known the fruit was
edible, we would have partaken of one of the many laying
on the ground below it.

In the Tropical Garden, a large Lacy Tree Fern(Sphaeropteris cooperi) had amazing fiddleheads, which
you can see up close in the slide show below.

Looking up through the tree fern's fronds.

The Tropical Garden has several different levels...

...and two waterfalls.

Beautiful bloom of the Amazon Lily (Eucharis grandiflora).

One of the many large agaves growing in the Desert
Room. Readers of this blog know how much I love these
and long to have one of this size in a container.

Yuccas in the Desert Room

This day it was much too chilly in the Desert Room to sit
and rest there.

One thing I love about the Desert Room is the wide variation
in form and habit of things growing there. It's a bit
monochromatic, but that just emphasizes the architectural
quality of it all.

The Fishhook Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus tiburonensis) was 
blooming. For a more detailed view of the cactus spines, see
the slide show below.


A trip to the conservatory wouldn't be complete without  a visit to the Tulip Tree Gift Shop. There, you can purchase amazing plants at equally amazing prices. I bought a huge Arrowhead Vine (Syngonium sp.) plant for nine dollars, tax and all!  Did I need another houseplant? No, but that's beside the point. :-)

Random facts about the conservatory

  • The plants are irrigated by city water with its pH adjusted to an average of 6.5.
  • The conservatory serves as one of 62 rescue centers in the United States for internationally protected plants brought illegally into the country.
  • There are over 1200 plants and over 500 species in the conservatory, which covers 24,500 square feet. There are 72 types of cactus.
  • In the Tropical Gardens live Japanese white eyes - small songbirds that fly quickly and sing with bell-like voices.
  • A beefsteak begonia was the first plant installed in the conservatory.

Won't you join in on the Conservatory World Tour? Visit any conservatory, blog about it, and let me know by leaving a comment, so I can post a link back to your blog post when I compile a list this coming Sunday or Monday.  We want to see other conservatories, and what better way is there to spend a winter's day?


Diana said...

Don't you just love conservatories? I do. I love those kinds of plants, and it makes me feel like I'm a tiny little person in my own terrarium!

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