Friday, November 16, 2012

Phipps Conservatory

I am not a big fan of conservatories. Admittedly, my spotty knowledge of non-hardy plants makes me less fascinated than I could be, but more to the point I think they tend to be expensive energy glutons featuring two kinds of displays, throw away seasonal displays and tired fixed tropical plant accumulations. It's not that I avoid them. I do enjoy walking through them fairly quickly, typically finding a handful of pause worthy items. And I love the fern house at Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory, and the rockery, under glass at Calloway Gardens is very engaging. I also appreciate seeing plants I would not otherwise have the opportunity to see.

All this said, I loved my recent visit to Phipps Conservatory. What impressed me most about the place was how well it is cared for. It seems to have that rare combination of adequate funding, good horticultural care and some very nice design. They work aggressively to minimize their energy usage; their seasonal displays are artful and seem to be enhancements of existing gardens more than just temporary and expendable installations; and their permanent collections are fresh, vigorous and attractive. In fact Pittsburgh in general was a nice place to visit. I must get back there again.