Confession: I had never been to Phipps Conservatory before, but I am now signed, sealed, delivered, and hooked.
Last fall, my mom, sister-in-law, and I started taking monthly jaunts to Pittsburgh to spend time with my sister, who lives in the city. Most times, we spend our precious hours in her beautiful rowhouse, talking, eating, and celebrating. This time [in my second-to-least favorite month of the year], we decided to fill our lungs with greenhouse air and our eyes with color. We toured Phipps.
I can’t even start describing it.
Except: If you get a chance, Go.
Phipps Conservatory dates from the late 1800s, and hosts an enormous variety of plants. Some room displays stay largely the same all year round (Palm Court, Fern Room) but many others (Broderie Room, Serpentine Room, Sunken Garden), are dramatically changed every three months to the theme of choice: Spring Flowers, Van Gogh art, Holiday Magic, and so on. This time, the building showcased thousands of poinsettias and Christmas decorations. The South Conservatory featured an entire miniature train set, with fairy-garden-sized plants and accessories. The children thought they’d died and gone to heaven.
I thought the Tropical Fruit and Spice Room would be my favorite, but I found the Orchid Room was. Now I was the one seeing Saint Peter and the angels.
Who knew there was such diversity in orchids? Did you know there are over 25,000 species, with additional tens of thousands of hybrids? And that Pennsylvania is home to 60? Did you know that vanilla beans come from the vanilla orchid, with its seed pods “requiring hand-pollination and nine months of ripening”? Who knew?
Did you know that what we call “Lady Slippers” – my beloved state flower growing up in Minnesota – is a subspecies of orchid? No wonder we thought they were magical.
In case your soul is a bit color-starved at the moment, as mine was, I will share my orchid pictures of the day in a slide show. Pictures are not as sweet as real life, but I do my best. The blooms ranged from the size of my thumbnail to nearly the size of my hand. And each had its own beauty: flecks, trailing tails, fur, rich color, ruffles.
For me, taking a shine to their intricacy became another form of worship. Who could ever have created so much beauty?
Which flower is your favorite?