Both Sides of the Glass

This time of year, a few hours in a conservatory renews the spirits. You may not have thought about looking in from the outside of the building, but the view from the other side of the glass can be very interesting.
































































These photos were made during two trips – one to the WW Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Tacoma, in November, one to the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle in December. Both glass houses are over a hundred years old, and they’re kept going thanks to dedicated staff and volunteers. Here’s to those hard working people who maintain the plants, the facilities and everything else that keeps these wonderful resources running and available to the public.

The photos:

  1. A Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) inside the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle.
  2. Dead leaves push against the glass, seen outside the WW Seymour Conservatory in Tacoma.
  3. More dried leaves pushing against the glass at the conservatory in Tacoma.
  4. A palm stem with coarse fibers surrounding the leaf sheath, inside the conservatory in Tacoma.
  5. A jumble of conservatory plants, including Spanish moss, or Tillandsia usneoides. That’s the familiar gray epiphyte which, draped heavily on live oak trees, is characteristic of much of the American south. It’s not a moss and it’s not from Spain – the original range was southeastern N. America, down through Central & S. America to Argentina. Now it has been introduced in other locations.
  6. A graceful orchid at the conservatory in Seattle.
  7. Dried plants settle against the windows of the WW Seymour conservatory in Tacoma.
  8. Ferns against the window at the conservatory in Tacoma. This photo was taken with a vintage lens, theΒ Pentax Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4.
  9. Palm leaves, alive and healthy, inside the conservatory in Tacoma. Also taken with the Takumar 50mm F/1.4.
  10. Looking up at palm fronds in the conservatory in Tacoma.
  11. A single orchid petal in the conservatory in Seattle.
  12. A cactus inside the conservatory in Seattle.
  13. Same.
  14. I think this is a fan aloe, Aloe plicatilis, aka Kumara plicatilis, a South African plant. Seen at the conservatory in Seattle.
  15. I could look up at palms all day. Inside the conservatory in Seattle. This was taken with a Lensbaby Composer.
  16. Inside a vestibule at the conservatory in Seattle, plants are pressed up against the windows. Taken with a Lensbaby Composer.
  17. A complex shot – looking across a conservatory room, through windows to another room, with reflections. Taken with a Lensbaby Composer.
  18. An orchid display (maybe Dendrobium sp.) anchored by maidenhair ferns at the conservatory in Seattle, taken with a Lensbaby Composer.
  19. The Coleus plants were going strong at the conservatory in Tacoma, and made an interesting picture as they pressed against the glass. I walked all around the conservatory, getting as close as I could to it, to find scenes like this.
  20. A view of the front of the WW Seymour Conservatory in Tacoma. It’s a small one, but it’s full of Victorian charm!




    • I hope I can keep making it hard for you to pick a favorite, Ken. #7 is very painterly, don’t you think? At first I was so disappointed when I got there and saw all the droplet patterns on the glass – before, it was more generally foggy. But you work with what you have, and there’s pleasure in the challenge.


      • Sometimes I have low expectations when I visit a site and I’m surprised at opportunities that can be found. Photos don’t take themselves. Sometimes you have to work for them. I love going to the Lamberton Conservatory here. I’m never disappointed.


    • Thank you, Hien, I enjoy making straightforward photos of certain subjects, but I also really like to branch out and do different things. I noticed plants pushed up against clear plastic tarps at a flower market five years ago, and ever since it’s something I look for.


  1. This is a wonderful album. I see jewelry, weavings & tribal patterned fabrics, mysterious jungles – – quite an exotic trip. The cactus in #13 is very appealing and looks like a coral reef creature. And the orchids in a bed of maidenhair ferns are just plain pretty.
    The light in #9 looks so nice to me right now, living in a pretty gray, snowy, slushy city- – it would be very nice to sit under those leaves and soak up some green-ness for a few hours. I’m really enjoying these posts.


    • Good title, too. I love these oldtime conservatories, too, and always exciting to find when they’ve survived & thrived. Especially during winter in the Northeast. Rochester, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, the Bronx, Longwood Gardens ( about an hour from Philly) all have cool ones from Victorian era or early 1900’s. When I lived in Milwaukee, their old one was torn down in the ’50’s but they put up glass domes, one desert, one tropical, and that was also nice during the winter.


    • What a pleasure it is to read your reactions, Robert. That conservatory uses Maidenhair ferns to excess maybe, but it’s a favorite plant of mine and it works, it fills in spaces so beautifully. I know what you mean by gravitating towards that green, glowing light at this time of year – when I was putting this together I felt that way about #10, because we are once again in a gray & overcast period.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It sounds like you don’t have a conservatory nearby now. I may move next year and won’t be as close any more – I really, really love them and will miss having one to visit. I used to work at the NY Botanical Garden conservatory (the one you mention in the BX), a really huge one. It was a great job, even if I was hauling wheelbarrows full of stuff around and getting pricked by cactus plants. I never got to Longwood Gardens, though I know of it. Too bad Milwaukie tore theirs down but I’m glad they put up the domes.
        Here’s a post about the Seattle conservatory from last January.
        Thank you, Robert!


    • Thank you Svenja, so glad you stopped by and enjoyed the post. I hadn’t seen that either, and I’m wondering of the color deepens as the flower opens, but I think some varieties are just different colors. It was great to see those buds!


  2. I’m currently working in Boston, don’t know how long. I can walk to the Harvard arboretum, but haven’t been to any conservatories here, I left my car at home, too expensive to park around here. There’s some greenhouses at Wellesley College, and I think at their zoo, but haven’t been yet. That’s cool that you worked at the one in NYC, I’ve been there twice, once when I was a kid, and remember seeing the Xmas train setup and miniature houses, etc. it was great
    One of the other Dupont estates, near Longwood, is Winterthur, mostly a huge house full of ceramic stuff (one wing just for soup tureens, seriously!) but it has a nice little woodland park. In the kid’s area of the woods, when you walk among the artificial toadstools, a motion detector turns on a fog generator, and the kids can run around in the mist. Pretty cool.


    • A wing of soup tureens seems to say something about excess, doesn’t it? I never get to Winterthur either, oh well. Sometimes smaller places are nicer anyway – on Staten Island there’s a wonderful smaller conservatory that’s a bit wild – wild enough for certain trees to break the glass in the roof. I bet the Wellesley greenhouses are worth checking out. The fog machine sounds like fun, and I know how much those Christmas trains delight – there’s one here at the Seattle conservatory too; it’s fun to hear the whistle & see the smoke. I bet Christmas in Boston has some charm to it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The trains & miniature houses still fascinate a lot of us, I never miss a display if I can.
        I work down in the old part of Boston, and yep, it’s nice to be walking around streets from colonial times.
        The soup tureens were actually a blast, the ceramics guys and silversmiths just went all out bananas.
        I’m glad to know about the Staten Island one, been wanting to go over there sometime to see Richmondtown, and could see it then.
        ‘I forgot, there’s also an old one in Canandaigua (in between Syracuse & Rochester) at Sonnenberg, an old estate. A lot of the greenhouses are still total wrecks, but the big conservatory has been fixed up.


  3. there is something about a glass house that offers us hope… a bubble in this world that allows us to overcome our limitations.
    I always enjoy a little time there. Enjoyed your visit with the camera.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My take is that #5 has some of that wild tropical feeling you may have grown up with – maybe? I’m very drawn to tropical flora, so conservatories feel good to me. Thanks so much for your comments, Angela, good to hear from you. I hope you’re not impacted too much by the fires or smoke conditions these days.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You may be right. There’s probably a bit of that in my fondness for the image. Actually, several of them remind me of different flora from Brazil. Thanks for your concern about the fires. Los Angeles is pretty much free of fire and smoke but the fires are not contained everywhere and are now in beautiful Santa Barbara and vicinities. Just tragic. πŸ˜”


  4. Outside looking in, what a good idea, and you certainly have a feel for plants, an empathy maybe. And I remember Super Takumars, I had a 135 I think. Here, the top photo, 1, really hits me, the shapes, the colours, ohhhh! Then in 2 I love the symmetry, and the faint eeriness – Day of the Triffids? And 5 gets to me too, all those slivers coming down from the left, the bright browns, the white tangle. And 9 is a botanical utopia, I could drown in it. Good stiff! A πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, #1 & #2 have very different moods, don’t they, but I guess that’s part of the fun – go inside and soak up all the tropical warmth and lushness, then step outside and look for beauty in the sparer compositions that happen when no one’s paying attention. As for #5, sometimes I shoot almost randomly into dense foliage, then crop it into something that makes sense when I get home. I think that was one of those times. Thanks for your attention, Adrian!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Your comments are falling on eager ears, Paula! I first noticed flowers & leaves behind clear plastic tarps at Pike Place flower market five years ago. Ever since, I’ve looked for variations on that theme. The market replaced the wonderfully worn old plastic tarps with shiny new ones that don’t make the cut photographically. We just have to move on, don’t we?


    • I appreciate that, Emily…still feeling guilty that I didn’t manage to do anything with the letter journey project. Funny you mention the textures, because the images with raindrop shapes might not have happened…at first I was dismayed to see the windows covered with those drops, but I made photographs anyway, and it worked out. We have to adapt to circumstances, don’t we! I hope you’re finding the time and inspiration to do satisfying work these days.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh please don’t feel guilty! I have the project sitting at home and now am wondering where to go next with it… I am thinking to put it in a book or something. You’re right about adapting; some of my best work started out as mistakes or experiments! X


  5. Splendid photographs, Lynn! So many favorites here. Maybe I’m most taken by the photos of plants pressed against the glass, and maybe that’s because there’s something transgressive about them. It’s not the way they “should” be seen in a greenhouse or conservatory. The leaves in number 5 makes me think of a rib cage. Number 11 is pure Lynn. The colors in number 16 are sooo beautiful; does the Lensbaby make those colors?

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    • I love that notion – plants behind the glass, a transgressive view…I just realized that the first time I photographed this phenomenon was when I did a series of conceptual pieces back in school – early 70’s (!). I placed a 3 ft square piece of glass on a grassy field on a warm summer day and watched the blades of grass flatten and moisture accumulate (like your plastic sheets). Five years ago, I saw the Pike Place market flower stall employees shoving extra flowers against scratched plastic tarps, and it was heaven. Maybe I’ll post those again. The market replaced the tarps so it’s no longer interesting there, but there are always new images, aren’t there?
      Sweet of you to say #11 is pure Lynn – I do have a fondness for that kind of curve, and of course, close-ups. I desaturated #16; the lensbaby doesn’t have much effect on color. I would desaturate more often but sometimes it seems the life is taken out with the color. Other times though, it can unify an image. Thank you for your thoughts, Linda! I am trying to restrain my jealousy when thinking of you in Florida, but yesterday I looked though photos from Rookery Bay & the Everglades, 2011 – aargh!


      • One of the things I like best about going far away is that you see plants unlike the ones you see at home. I still turn on to palm leaves even though I’ve been seeing them for over a decade. But there are things I miss about the winter landscape up north, at least in Ohio and Michigan, both states I’ve lived in. I miss the way lines stand out, and I miss the subtle colorations. But I don’t miss the gloom that hangs around when I’m not photographing it.


  6. Hard to choose, but you outdid yourself with #17. The depth is truly amazing. If I must choose, I’d add #18 (the cheerful color) & #19 (pressed against the glass gives it a lovely, soft old-timey feel). Then again if I scroll back through other favs pop up! Impossible to choose! Really.


    • Well, #19 may be my favorite, but I was happy with the way #17 worked, because it’s a really complex scene, teetering on the edge of chaos, but the image seemed to be coherent. Part of what I adore about conservatories and tropical places is that crazy chaos of foliage. Just the lopposite of the southwest landscape that we both love, right?


      • After diving back into #17, it struck me as chaos emerging from structure (focus), or the opposite. As for #19… yes, it’s quite evocative. Is that a half of a young girls face at the left edge? Or am I seeing things? Either way it adds a hidden beauty.
        This… is what I love about your images. They’re so good to linger over or go back to.


  7. Think I saw something about you being a botanical artist in your “About” – it really shows up here. You’ve got a great eye for pattern and detail that suggests you’ve spent careful time with a colored pencil as well as with a camera.

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  8. Your shots here are getting better and better Lynn..these are really thought provoking images. I get a feeling of melancholy and eternal strength all in one, things both alive and contained, tied up and yet coming loose, both an expectancy and a retiring glance..lovely.

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    • This is the kind of critique we all really appreciate: thoughtful, useful. I’m trying to inject more emotion, but my approach is, as always, largely intuitive and almost devoid of specific conscious intention. OK, maybe not that brainless but I think you get where I’m going. That makes your comment even more valuable; it helps me see where I’m going.


      • Well I think your intuition is really working! I’m not sure that the intention always comes clearly at first, and in fact sometimes I think that there can be a dryness to work that is too specifically intentioned.. it’s great to let your intuition be the spark and the guide, the story often tends to unfold later, I think. The difference between documentation and art…perhaps….? (just my rambling thoughts here..!)


      • I know what you mean – and documentation appeals a lot to me. So does dryness, actually, but I know dryness doesn’t have “hooks.” In a review I read today there was some discussion about art being both beautiful and conceptual – (“a bracing reminder that beauty and ideas are not mutually exclusive…” from a New Yorker review of a Hockney show) Art can be both pleasing or at least interesting to the senses, and engage the mind. In that framework I guess the emotions are on the sensual/beauty side. In any case, I like your notion of intuition being the spark and the story unfolding from there. Also, wanted to say that in your first comment, the contradictions being present – the both/and nature of the world – conceptually that’s always been important to me, but I wouldn’t necessarily know how to show that. And if I tried it would probably fall flat,as you note. So it’s great to know you sensed that. Thank you!


  9. These are exceptionally good–the muted colors and that cross/back lighting in #5, all that green in #9, the hairdo on #12, the diamonds through the leaves in #15, the vignette blur on #18–really nice. Love gardens and conservatories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s great to hear from you, Paul. You know I’ve admired your way with leaves and plants for years; it still mystifies me, how you can get such beautiful results. So, a compliment from you is well appreciated. That topknot hairdo on the cactus was fun to see!


      • You’re so kind. I’m thinking about doing more plants and leaves again–I miss those rambles around the lake. I wanted to get better at people, so I’ve poured all my effort in that direction, but lately I’ve tapered on new shoots–maybe it’s a good time to go solo in the woods again. Thanks for your encouragement, no matter what happens next.


  10. I remember another time you used this outside-in perspective, and it was fully as satisfying. So many of these have the feel of botanical prints, and a few brought to mind the tapestries of William Morris. There’s an out-of-time quality to some which appeals to me greatly, as do the reminders of what it was like to live in a different climate, where the contrast between the cold and dry outside and a warm, humid inside could be considerable. Now that I think about it, that could be a reasonable metaphor for the intellectual/emotional contrast you mentioned above.


  11. As it has happened, I’ve gradually slided away from WP the past years. Not willingly, but due to lack of time and attention, I guess, and perhaps (to be really honest) because I got pulled into Instagram’s very speedy web, offering indeed instant satisfaction, and all if it designed for the phone. But here I am now, and guess what, your post here speaks volumes about what I think WP stands for. Depth, time, full attention, interesting conversations – and my heart sings! I LOVE your photos here, and I will not even try to pick a favourite. I can’t even remember when I last visited a botanical garden or conservatory, but I do think that your view will keep my eyes sharper the next time I do. Beautiful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you about Instagram – it’s a very different experience. I scroll through it from time to time (always on my phone) and post there, too, but I find it unsatisfying compared to WP. Your words are very kind, since spending more time and attention on – well, anything I guess – is something I believe in. It’s so hard these days. I hope you have an opportunity to visit a conservatory sometime soon – I think you’d find plenty of inspiration for your work. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!


  12. The day was quite good until now, but you made it even better with your wonderful photographs !!! I love them all and as many other people mentioned here, it is hard to select a favourite. But I don’t have to, right πŸ™‚ ? Okay, 4,5,6,8,9,10,11,16 and 17 ! are even more fantastic. Nr .17 is very special. It is like a painting for me, a kind of triptych. Your fotos are really very inspiring. I sometimes say, when I see something exciting/thrilling, it is like patterns in my head ! It is prickling beneath my scalp πŸ™‚ (I hope it doesn’t sound too strange now πŸ˜‰ What a good idea from you to see to the other side of the glass ! When I see the plants and their structures: no wonder nature has always been a source of ideas for mankind. Some pictures remind me of tribal art. Very very nice !!! Greetings, Almuth

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, you certainly don’t have to pick a favorite, but I’m very pleased that you enjoyed this so much. I love the idea of patterns in your head, prickling beneath your scalp! πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for being here and sharing your thoughts, it nourishes me.

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  13. Ah, through the seeing-glass! I have done the same on several occasions and have been very pleased with the results as well. I’m grateful for your timely reminder to stay open to different perspectives like these. I’m particularly fond of your 4, 9, 13, and 19β€”but oh! That glorious 7!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s great to hear that you’ve also taken photos from the other side of the window. I think #19 was the one that I felt was most successful for getting that across, but of course I can never resist including more normal photos from inside. Thanks so much for your comments, I appreciate hearing from you!


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  15. I love the Bird of Paradise photo! Thanks for sharing! I have a poetry blog here on WordPress and today’s poem is a lighthearted one about cacti in case you have time to look? Have a sunny day, Sam πŸ™‚


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