Volunteer Park Conservatory is a warm place to visit on a cold winter day. It’s a fun and free activity in Seattle with great views of the city and fabulous plant life. Conservatories are glass houses or greenhouses that have been used historically to grow tropical plants in temperate climates. This Conservatory was built in 1912 and many of the plant collections have come from generous local donations. The Volunteer Park conservatory houses five separate environments: the bromeliad house, the palm house, the fern house, the cactus house and the seasonal display house. Each house has a different temperature and humidity to best grow the individual plants in it.
I visited the conservatory this week and loved the seasonal display….a room full of poinsettias, all healthy and happy, not dropping leaves like the one at my house. It was a bright and beautiful display for the holidays. I also was fascinated by the cactus house with all the weird shapes and colors that are so different from our standard Northwest green. Here were plants that looked like sticks, plants that seemed to have hair and some plants that looked like they belonged to a coral reef. My kids enjoyed seeing a banana tree with a small bunch of bananas hanging down. It’s always good to see where we get our food (plants). Many tropical plants have leaves in giant proportions to capture sunlight in a jungle understory (photosynthesis must go on). It’s incredible to see these plants with enormous leaves growing in the conservatory. Also in the collection is a 75 year old Jade plant which blooms in the winter months and colorful and delicate orchids which are also for sale in the gift shop.
Located at 1400 East Galer St. in Seattle, the Conservatory is open Tuesday through Sunday 10 to 4pm and admission is free, but donations are welcome. When I went, on New Years Eve, there was a small crowd of visitors, making it slightly difficult to navigate and photograph in the narrow greenhouse aisles. Better not to go on a holiday. They have an amazing collection of plants, including the famous corpse flower Amorphophallus titanum, which many of us stood in line to see blooming in 2005. Also at the park is the Asian art museum and a water tower with great views from the top. Take a tropical plant expedition to Seattle and visit the conservatory!