With the summer and Green Festival ending, and then the sky darkening early and thunder roaring in the distant (ok, maybe not that part), my plant-loving side had taken a hit by the clouds. As such, my exploration side decided to visit the Conservatory of Flower:
I had always know what the Conservatory building look like since I had a sketchbook field trip there when I was young, but now that I look at it, the world “Britain. Prefab. Kids on giant lotus. Industrial age glasshouse architecture. 18th century.” would always pop up.
I blame this on my architecture history professor. Not that they would mind – I can hear them chuckling in the background of my mental sphere of thought.
I knew that I was a bit late for the tour though (found out last minute), and so I rushed over inside… wait, the ticket booth is outside the building? *Rushed over to the booth outside.*
Luckily, the tour just started and was still near the entrance. I happily skittered over there. Before I knew it, my eyeglasses fogged up as I was greeting the tour docent and the group.
Uh, I can’t see!
The main area resembled the climate of a tropical forest. There were a lot of moisture. and they had gutters all the way around the interior premises. Which by the way, shows some very elegant detail:
The area is, in fact, the area right below the central circular… atrium?
This parts raised above the other arms of the building, allowing the trees native to tropical climate to grow. According to the docent, at least one of the tree can protrude the building if given the chance.
My favorite tropical plant is, naturally, the coffee tree:
Sadly, there was only one. So, no, the Conservatory will not have their own private brand of coffee. Nor would they have their own private banana, chocolate, and jasmine perfume, though they do have the plants. The docents also showed this little gem:
It was how greenhouse first started. Back in the exploration age, plant collectors/scientists wanted to bring tropical plants back, but those plants would wither and die as they left their native forest. So someone thought of this brilliant idea – a glassbox to keep the heat and moisture in. With it, the age of glass conservatory soon arrives to Britain. A beautiful combination of orchids grown in this particular box. In fact, there were other orchards in hanging basket. Ah, I would love one in a basket (daydreams…):
“This gallery provides an intimate glimpse of life in the cloud forests of the tropics, where the high elevations of 3,000 feet or more bring refreshingly cool temperatures.”
-by Conservatory of Flowers brochure
Yes, cool indeed. I can feel it when the docent pushed open the doors. I immediately put on my jacket, then my jaw dropped when a giant tree structure at the center popped up in my view line:
Then the docent told me it is actually a concrete structure.
Whoever crafted all the concrete tree trunks and fake boulders did a fine job. The structure enclosed by metal railing (another beautiful detail…) with its trunks growing from below the floor. The entire “tree” is decorated with different combination of tropical moss, orchards, and other plants. No wonder people are so addicted to orchard (the cult of Orchard is rather famous, especially after the book “Orchard Thieve”), the variation are amazing. There are hanging orchard, miniature orchards, orchards that grows on tree like moss, orchard where the buds hangs, and orchards that looks nothing like orchard. Here’s one example that I like:
They are the same plant. Amazing. Here another one, with special effect:
The highland tropics preference also means many orchard grow well indoor. Adapted to the conditions of tropical, its roots can be shallow, making it great for pots. The Conservatory had several of them on some shelves, which is another beautiful structure in the building:
They have the same shelves with orchards in the Aquatic Plants section as well. There are really orchard species for everywhere.
Ah, the famous lotus leaves.
My architecture professors should arrange a field trip whenever they talked about the industrial age.
The leaves here weren’t so big that a kid can sit on it, but it was a beautiful sight, especially since water always enchants me. My love of water expands to my love of plants, and my favorite flower has always been the lotus:
There were also some algae that I initially thought was a relative to the lotus plant… can you believe algae could be so elegant looking?
The carnivores flowers was strange yet eye-catching, and, respite eating rice almost everyday of my life, today is actually the first time I had ever saw a rice plant in real life. Nope, the Conservatory didn’t have their own brand of rice either.
A sectional view of the pond:
The Conservatory cheated a bit by using pots underwater. Now that I look at the photo, I wonder how the Conservatory worker prevented the pots from growing moss and eroding?
For the next part, there were even more pot plant. Let us move from the British design to a more Asian one, shall we?
An Japanese pavilion placed at the center of the entrance. Hmm, the designer do love making a grand entrance. I loved how the bright yellow orchard expanded into the lower parts of the central circular frame, forming a lower visual support with the pale poinsettia below and brings the eyes to the serene central circle.
Oh! Tiny glasshouse. I wonder if I can buy one?
This flower is name Bleeding Heart. Another flower that I love on first sight.
The pavilion frames the ending element of the Potted Plants home, which is a sculptural stone container (or I think its stone, could be concrete now that I think about it.) and a benched space with plant overhang. After this wall would be another different space, though I can hear the voice before I even enter.
Store and Exhibition
Conservatory is doing an exhibition right now on the Playland that used to be a famous seaside amusement park. To my regret, they just did an exhibition based on the book Wicked Plant, which I started reading. Right now, a miniature version of Playland sits in the room of Poinsettia:
Cute and very festival with lots of music, though I wished I arrived a few weeks ago so I can see the Wicked Plant exhibition as well.
The store was tempting. They had miniature pots with seeds and even coffee bean starter kit. They also had the seeds for the plant Money Tree. The egg-shaped container are difficult to resist. It was probably a good thing I had around ten different packages of seeds that I still needed to grow, and that the box of egg-shaped container with seed was way too expensive. If they are just selling the egg-shaped container for a single digit price, I would probably caved and brought something.
For a Conservatory though, the store is smaller than I expected. I guess being a Conservatory, selling plants was probably not the focus.
Eventually I pulled myself away from the store area with my wallet intact and unharmed. As I left, I noticed the model at the entrance is a donation box.
I love models… I wonder how they made it?
The Conservatory was nice to visit as a tourist. The way that plants grow in different climate is definitely intriguing. The Conservatory was an essentially a museum. It was different from Golden Gate park, where I can sit down and read outdoor while watching ducks swimming in the ponds.
I would go to the Conservatory for exhibition and education, but not for relaxing and getting in touch with nature. The is something so serene and powerful about standing outdoor with trees after trees encircling me and expanding upward into the sky. It is a different atmosphere from the Conservatory.
Would I return to the Conservatory? I will, especially if there is an exhibition on Wicked Plants again. It is one thing to read book on plants, but seeing it makes it real and alive in my mind.
The next exhibition is… let me google…
They are doing an exhibition of dinosaurs in April!
Oh yea, I am returning. (<— archeology fan).