Pittsburgh, PA and Bushnell, FL - Events of Sunday, December 29, 2013 to Wednesday, January 1, 2014
On Sunday, Lora, Margery and Paul headed to Phipps Conservatory to check out the holiday flower display. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens was founded in 1893 by Henry Phipps who was a Pittsburgh steel and real estate magnate. The conservatory and gardens are located in Schenley Park in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. The conservatory has a number of special events throughout the year, but their biggest events are the Spring Flower Show, the Fall Flower Show and the Winter Light and Flower Show.
Phipps Conservatory has lots of pleasant memories for Paul. His maternal grandfather sometimes used to take him there on Sundays. Paul credits those visits, along with the vegetable gardening expertise of his paternal grandfather, for kindling in him a keen interest in gardening. We also used to go to Phipps as a family to enjoy the Spring Flower Show after long, dreary Pittsburgh winters, and Lora seems to have fond memories of Phipps, too. In fact, going to the Winter Flower Show was her idea.
There is limited parking in the vicinity of Phipps Conservatory. Some of it is free for flower show attendees, and some is metered ($.25 for each 15 minutes). After two passes, we lucked out and found a free space.
The conservatory has undergone extensive changes since we were last there. The entry has been moved to the lower level of a new addition which sits in front of the original entrance. The new entrance includes a café and a gift shop that is much enlarged from what they used to have.
Other recent changes to Phipps include an enlarged outdoor garden area and the addition of a new building that houses the Sustainable Landscape Center. Phipps has also embraced "green" technology with the addition of things like solar panels, wind turbines and a solar still for water purification.
Admission to Phipps is $15 for adults and $14 for seniors. We paid our admission and headed up the stairs to the conservatory. From the top of the steps, we got a nice view of the Christmas tree in the lobby below.
The main room where visitors enter the conservatory is known as the Palm Court, which is a tropical room that houses palm trees, some of which are up to 50 feet tall. We were greeted by a display of poinsettias and amaryllis among the tropical foliage and palm trees.
The first room to the right of the Palm Court is the Serpentine Room, which gets its name from the serpentine brick walkway that passes through that area. Both sides of the walk were lined with lighted evergreen trees and different varieties and colors of poinsettias.
The doors at the far end of the Serpentine Room lead to the Fern Room. In 2007, Phipps hosted an exhibit of glass sculptures by artist Dale Chihuly. They retained 4 of the exhibit's more prominent works and subsequently purchased 26 smaller pieces to keep on permanent display throughout the conservatory. The next photo shows a glass fern sculpture displayed among the living ferns in the Fern Room.
From the Fern Room, we entered the Orchid Room.
Also in the Orchid Room are bromiliads and other tropical plants with colorful foliage. Note that the plant to the right of center in the next photo with the red stem and blue leaves is another Chihuly glass sculpture. The rest of the plants are real.
Next on our tour was the South Conservatory where the garden railway is on display.
A new, major addition to Phipps is the Tropical Forest Conservatory. At 12,000 square feet it is the largest room of the conservatory complex. It features a multi-level exhibit of tropical plants, winding walkways, waterfalls and a fish pond.
After the Tropical Forest Conservatory, we passed through the Sunken Garden Room where there were more holiday flowers.
The Desert Room extends off the Sunken Garden. Now that we have visited the southwest we have a greater appreciation for the Desert Room. The Desert Room contains one of the 4 major Chihuly sculptures initially retained by the conservatory. It is called Desert Gold Star.
The Victoria Room featured a Christmas tree reflecting in the water of a lagoon. When the tree is not there, visitors can control an interactive display of fountains, water jets and lights in the lagoon.
The Broderie Room is modeled after a formal French garden.
In addition to the holiday flowers in the planting beds throughout the conservatory complex, there were picturesque displays of various container gardens like the ones shown below.
Last but not least on our tour of Phipps Conservatory was the East Room, which featured another holiday display with a cottage and a gift-filled sleigh by a stream.
We didn't visit the outdoor garden because not only wasn't there much to see in the way of plant material since it was winter, but it was raining and cold. However, the conservatory is open on Friday evenings to view the light displays both inside the conservatory and outside in the outdoor garden area.
After we finished our tour of the conservatory, we headed back to the house where we began packing for our departure the next morning. On Monday, we said our good-byes and were on the road by 7:40 a.m. Although there were a couple of slow-downs on I-77 north of Charlotte and again a few miles north of the South Carolina-Georgia border where I-95 is still only 4 lanes (I-95 is 6 and 8 lanes wide through Georgia and into Florida), it was the lightest southbound traffic we have seen in the 7 years we have been traveling north for Christmas.
We arrived back at Blueberry Hill about 10:45 p.m. We slept in a little on Tuesday morning, then headed to Walmart and to the local Winn Dixie to get some essential groceries and to pick up a couple of movies for New Year's Eve. As usual, we struggled to stay awake to watch the ball drop in New York City.
On New Year's Day, we relaxed by reading, napping and watching a little college football. Later in the day, we had our traditional dinner of kielbasi and sauerkraut.
We wish all our readers a happy and healthy New Year.