Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Phipps Conservatory

For the first time in a few days I got a fantastic night's sleep. Normally I don't sleep that well in a hotel but I put in earplugs and slept like a baby who sleeps well. It was heavenly.

After I got myself coffee and breakfast, I decided to head to the Phipps Conservatory. I'd read about it in the "things to do" package in the room; it's fairly close to the hotel and it seemed like an interesting place to visit. It turned out to be an awesome place; even more interesting than I'd hoped it would be, and one that I was very happy I'd visited

The conservatory was built in the late 19th century and is beautiful and huge. According to the fellow who took my ticket, people miss entire rooms when they're taking the tour through the place. The best path to follow is to always take the right-hand path (basically a right-hand rule). You see a few central rooms more than once, from different angles, but you'll definitely get to see every room.

The fellow who took my ticket also told me that there was a Bird of Paradise tree that had not one but two flowers. In his six years there, he'd only ever seen one flower on that tree, so two flowers is very rare and a sight to see. I made it a point to see that plant. :)

Oh, and there's a room with three awesome model train sets. And another room especially for weddings, with a beautiful garden and archway and beautifully scented plants.

Each of the many sections has a different style of plant, from ferns to orchids to cacti and more. The newest room is a replica of the Amazon headwaters; it was very hot and humid but definitely a joy to see. The conservatory is committed to minimizing its power requirements, and there were lots of plaques describing how they managed to put a piece of the Amazon climate into a place where it gets cold. The Amazon room is quite an achievement.

The conservatory also has special exhibits. This week was the tail end of the Frabel glass exhibit and they were setting up for the orchid exhibit that opens next week. Only one room was affected; the glass was removed and orchids were being planted. There were Frabel glass pieces and sculptures throughout the rest of the conservatory so I didn't feel like I missed anything. Plus I got to see lots of orchids.

Frabel pieces were available in the gift shop but they're very expensive. A clear lizard was about $1000 and there were pieces that were much more expensive that that. His work is spectacular and I'd love to own some of these pieces but that's not a practical purchase right now. The gift shop also has a fine selection of orchids for sale... I'd love love love to have those but there's no way that one would make the trip home.

If you're in the Pittsburgh area, I highly recommend a visit to the Phipps Conservatory - even if you don't love plants. There's so much there for everyone.

I took a ton of pictures while I was there so that I could share my visit with you. Here's a selection of those photos, starting with the Frabel glass.

First, some Frabel masks in the wild.

 Next, some Frabel sprites, cavorting about:

Frabel likes to make these Longfellows, or figures with elongated torsos and limbs. Here are pictures of some Longfellow installations:

A Longfellow fountain

Longfellow cubes. I love love love this installation, with the three open cubes and the Longfellows all over the place. I have a lot of pictures of this installation from different angles... between the open cubes and the water and the Longfellows, I was captivated.

Similar to Longfellows are clowns... another favourite Frabel theme.

Clowns on coloured balls. I have a kabillion pictures of this installation, too, because I was fascinated by the interplay between the water, coloured balls, and clowns.

Clown fountain. I thought there would be water running down the fountain but there wasn't.

Frabel also created a number of lizard and frog pieces for the Amazon rainforest exhibit.

How many lizards do you see?

Each one of the frogs in this picture is a life-size replica of an endangered frog.

Frabel doesn't just do figurines; he also creates abstract and flower-like objects. These are at least as beautiful as the other figures.

There are many, many, many more Frabel pieces throughout the conservatory, but I didn't want to post too many pictures of them. :) Instead, I'd like to show some of the other flower and plant pictures that I took.

First, the Bird of Paradise flowers; you can see the second one slightly behind and to the left of the first.

Next, a plant with red puffball flowers. This was the coolest plant ever, I think, because each flower is a puffball. This deserved two pics; a close-up and a picture of the whole plant. You can see one of Frabel's frosted white bowl-type sculptures towards the lower left of the photo of the whole puffball tree.

I have no idea what this plant is, but it's cool.

Finally, pictures of different orchids. Those are some beautiful flowers, all right.


Robin said...

It all looks so beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Staghorn Fern.