Sunday, February 13, 2011


Speaking in metaphor? Moi? Hah. I'm a very down-to-earth person--I'm talking about these glass houses:

Living in Glass Houses: My Trip to Longwood Gardens

Everywhere I've worked as an interpretive naturalist up and down the East Coast at far-from-obscure sanctuaries and parks, I've heard the refrain "I've lived here x-number of years/half my life/all my life and never knew this place was here/never thought to visit before". I don't find this refrain at all surprising, because I'm guilty of it myself.

I have spent nearly half of my life little more than (sometimes less than) a half an hour away from not only locally-famous but world-renowned locations without ever having visited them more than once or twice or even at all. Not for lack of interest. Not one good reason for not going, really. So when a popular artist-author-naturalist-public speaker mentioned that she had updated her events calendar on her website, curiosity made me check it out. This past fall I attended a local event where her husband gave the keynote address and I wanted the matched set, so to speak.

Much to my delight I discovered that she was going to be giving the keynote address for a public event at one of those places I had been looking for an excuse to visit. One of those places that was located "just up the road" from where I'd lived half my life, yet had only visited twice in all that time. It was do-able as a day trip from my current abode, so I signed up and made plans for a road trip. (And she thought no one would wish to travel a hundred miles to see her… Hah! [Okay, so it was more like 80. Whatever. Close enough.])

A beautiful (if frigid) early morning drive took me to a snow-covered Longwood Gardens. (Check out their Facebook page for stunning winter photos!) Winter does have its good points--would the fantastically tangled and twisted trunk of this tree have been as visible were the tree in full leaf?--but by February I'm more than ready for greenery and at least a hint of warmth.

A brisk walk from welcome center to conservatory led me to the perfect retreat from a cold February day.

Aaaahhh… That's more like it. The current display theme: Orchid Extravaganza.

I have unintentionally, and with great dismay, killed my fair share of orchids* so I wasn't tempted to fill my pockets with new victims. Much. I figured I would be able to enjoy without coveting. The two hour drive home in temperatures hovering around freezing was my guarantee that I'd not be committing first degree murder of (more) innocent plants. This trip, anyway.

I have had to narrow down the shots I gathered throughout the day so as not to overwhelm either my blog or my readers, so let's start with the bigger pictures. Due to the quirks of blog scrolling, the "older" posts are in fact the continuation of this one.

One little corner of the Children's Garden. I had to resist delving deeper into the garden because it features water. Lots of water. Flying water as well as fountains. Fantastic for kids and kids-at-heart who like to make a splash, but not so good for the electronic equipment hung 'round my neck…

For some reason, the large orchid display intended for this location (the Exhibition Hall) had been removed the night before and was not replaced. Even so it is a beautiful space in and of itself, and I was lucky enough to take this photo before the water had completely drained off the sunken floor later in the day. (Reflecting pools are marvels of artistry in and of themselves, and what an incredibly brilliant design feature to have the ability to flood an exhibition area for the purpose whenever it's desired.)

The Palm House. Oh, my...

And that's just the top of trees. (This makes an absolutely awesome desktop photo, by the by; let me know if you want a larger version.)

This building is stories-tall, and yet as you can see it has a below-ground level as well. I was too enthralled by the vegetation to allow my vertigo more than a passing acknowledgement.

I found myself often asking the question "how old?" in regards to the incredibly large specimens found throughout the gardens.

Podacarpus, a type of conifer sometimes called "fern pine", provides visual support columns in many corners of the conservatories. Visual and actual height is a very prominent feature here, and is reflected in the disproportionally large number of vertical photos I snapped...

The Mediterranean Garden.

The aptly-named Silver Garden, for the powdery green sheen often found in succulent species.

Not all succulents are lacking color, however, if you look at them from a different angle. (Oh, alright, perhaps the management snuck in a few unrelated blooms for accent, like adding a bright pillow to an otherwise monochromatic room…)

From one extreme to the other, dry to literally dripping. (Oh my poor optics.) I love the dense, little-bit-of-everything nature of the display in the Tropicals section of the gardens.

In such regal, even grandiose, surroundings it was surprising and delightful to discover that somebody on the staff outside of those responsible for the children's section has a quirky sense of humor.

Of course I had to know how the tillandsias (so-called "air plants") were affixed to the door!

Orchids, naturally, were tucked everywhere throughout the conservatories. Here they are elegantly adding color to the Fern Passage.

Cascade Garden. Please do not show this photo to my poor philodendrons and Monsteras; they would immediately die of shame and disgust (instead of experiencing a painfully protracted descent into probable death due to unfair incarceration in a fluctuating, temperate climate with forced air heat and no humidity to speak of for half the year and a caretaker who fails to provide adequate enough compensations for such conditions) if they ever saw what they were meant to be… *sob* I feel guilty enough as it is.

Just add birds and fish, and I'd be ready to move in to these glass houses...

*It's not that orchids are difficult. Some of them are purported to be rather user-friendly. It's just that they seem to like consistency, and I'm not very good with consistency when it comes to plants. It's really not a positive thing to walk around a conservatory saying "Oh, I've killed one of those! And one of those. Oh and that too, and it takes some doing to kill one of those…"