More From the Conservatory

This cactus has a very blue cast. I wonder what those two furry places are in the center – the beginning of flowers?  In any case, this cactus is an attention getter, with its big size and fuzzy textures.  I’m not one for anthropomorphizing or getting cute, but I have to say, this cactus has the look of a Sesame Street character.

Long ago I had a temporary job in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden – what a gorgeous, magical place to work. I loved it, hard work and all, but weeding the beds in the desert houses is tricky – at least once I got a bottom-full of cactus spines after squatting down to weed in a narrow space.

This is a Tillandsia, a kind of “air plant” that obtains moisture and nutrients through the air, using other plants as a support. These dry looking plants have beautiful gray green color and pleasing symmetry.

This is some kind of Bromeliad. They also absorb moisture from the air, collecting it in the central rosette, where there is often enough water to harbor insects, or even animals, which depend on it. The shiny red and deep green leaves in this species are not at all subtle!  The flower is in the middle, and that’s Spanish moss in the right-hand corner.

As I took the photo on a longish exposure, I turned the lens to zoom out, creating the blur. You could do this with a tripod and get the center more perfectly in focus but I have little patience for tripods.

Next time I have to be more disciplined about noting the names…this is an I-don’t-know plant, in the cactus house.

Another Tillandsia.   The image was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.  I moved the camera a little when I took it, to emphasize the exuberant feeling of movement in the leaves.

Also in the Cactus House, I’m pretty sure this is an agave. These succulent plants bloom only once, and were an important food source in the drier, warmer parts of the Americas where they grow. I zoomed the lens again to blur the image, then made the digital color photo into a black and white image in Lightroom.

All photos taken recently at the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle. It’s looking greener and greener outside here – no need to depend on a conservatory for botanical inspiration. Soon I’ll go out and dodge the raindrops for photos of buds, blossoms and branches.


  1. I love what you’re doing with these beautiful botanicals, it takes me on a fantasy voyage into another realm. I believe the fuzzy whorls on the blue(!) cactus are indeed the beginnings of blossoms, I had similar experiences in my cactus garden in New Mexico, in particular the hybrids. Thanks!


    • Oh, that’s great. I’m glad you came along. Makes sense about the whorls of fuzziness. A cactus garden – must have been very different from the moss garden I had in a shady, damp spot behind my house in upstate NY a while back. I could come home and literally sit down in the moss, picking out the grass blades one by one, de-stressing from the day. With a cactus garden, the evenings must have been really pretty.


      • Outside cactus garden in New Mexico was definitely low maintenance. Most of mine were “rescue” plants saved from being lost to flash floods along the dry washes or being trampled in the process of putting in a driveway and building site. They bloom briefly each spring and summer, each one a little different timing. Fun to anticipate.


  2. Wow, Lynn, as always your photos are fascinating. I love that Bromeliad and that Sesame Street character cactus!! I’m sure it was dangerous working in that cactus room at the conservatory!! 🙂


  3. I love your varied and imaginative treatment of these plants. You obviously got to know them well – in each case you reveal something of their character.


  4. What a captivating, intriguing and close-up world these images take us into Lynn. These are stunning, intimate portraits made by someone who can see deeply into beauty of Nature. I truly enjoyed viewing each one. Well done and many thanks.


    • Wow, that’s quite a compliment coming from someone so good with a camera. I appreciate your observation about seeing deeply into nature – I can always depend on nature, no matter what. Always have, always will.


  5. Pingback: The Weekly View: Tillandsia Utriculata, 3/16/13 | small house/BIG GARDEN

  6. What an inspiring set of images you have posted. I often visit our Royal Botanic Garden here in Edinburgh and I too love the grey-blue hues of some of these big cacti. Wow, you are lucky to have worked in the green houses and i can see it has had a lasting impression on you.
    I also enjoyed reading about your photographic techniques, especially purposely blurring the images, very effective indeed. I especially like the agave image – you have inspired me to visit the hot houses this week which will be nice as we still have very cold weather and have snow swirling around today!


    • That’s very nice of you – I enjoy your blog – there’s nothing else quite like it. Oh, still snow around? Yes, perfect time to go over there – I’m glad I reminded you. It’ll be a comforting respite. And I’m really glad you like the agave – than you for taking the time to comment!


      • Well you have really, really inspired me and I’m raring to get out to the hot houses tomorrow with my camera and I am excited to try out your idea of studying a small part of an image. Brilliant! Thank you 🙂


  7. I absolutely love the blue fuzzy one the way you’ve captured it here, and the red one that you zoomed during the exposure is especially lovely too. How awesome to have worked in a Conservatory. I love visiting them and just sitting in the cactus room on a rainy day. I have been depriving myself of much beauty by missing out on your posts lately! I’ll be back to spend some time soon!


  8. Some really great shots here Lynn. During the March break last week I went into the Montreal biodome with daughter and grandkids and got some shots of similar subjects, which I have yet to post.


  9. Pingback: GLASSHOUSE IMPRESSIONS « bluebrightly

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