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, the 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!




Wandering through Seattle’s Volunteer Park Conservatory keeps me sane in winter months. It can’t compare to the Enid Haupt Conservatory that I used to visit in New York, but like so many places in Seattle, it has a charm of its own.

The holiday season means pretty lights and a room full of poinsettias – not my favorite plant, but oh well – with a model train running through it. When the holiday cuteness irritates my aesthetic sense the Cactus House, with its quiet gray-green colors and interesting shapes, satisfies. There’s also the Bromiliad House, and a Palm House set with orchids tucked into glass cases surrounded by Maidenhair ferns, so really, what better place on a gray winter day?

Here is an admittedly eccentric group of images from a visit last week:


Gray Day, Greenhouse

These photos were taken at the University of Washington Greenhouse, a facility primarily used for research. A local photography club I belong to made an arrangement with the manager, and we had a few hours amidst the collections on Sunday. The actual research areas were off limits.

The orchid on the top is Epidendrum nocturnum. The bottom orchid is a Bulbophyllum orchid; I don’t know which one. And the third photo is Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides, an epiphytic plant that anyone who’s spent time in America’s southeast knows well. I intentionally moved the camera on a long shutter speed for the second shot.

It was good to let gray skies disappear and lose myself in the tropics…a poor person’s vacation.


I can’t resist adding a few more – the greenhouse door from the inside;

a water lily (Nymphaea caerulea);

intertwined tropical leaves;

one of many hungry Nepenthes, a carnivorous plant fed with leftover caterpillars from research projects;

a posy of candy-colored Passionflowers floated in a bowl of water (like what my grandmother used to do with her rhodos!);

and a large tropical leaf shot from underneath (yes, the black dot is a bug). They maintain a very delicate balance in the greenhouse. Hopefully there are not so many pests that plants are destroyed, but not so few that bugs are absent. Natural pest control, not the sterile conditions that heavy use of chemical pest deterrents would create, is the goal.











This week, The Daily Post at WordPress challenged readers to post photographs on the subject of illumination. Here are  illuminations of scenes that brightened my day: subtle auras surrounding hothouse orchids, a crescent moon rising over New York harbor and twinkling lights screening a landmark building in the making.

The first two pictures were taken at Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle. It’s warm, humid conditions contrasted sharply with dry, frosty January air, and it felt good being surrounded by orchids and tropical plants, basking in radiant sunlight that’s in scarce supply during the Northwest winter. Our winter color palette plays the deep greens of Douglas firs and sword ferns off soft grays and browns, but inside the greenhouse, hot colors soaked up the sunlight, casting tropical candy auras around the voluptuous flowers.

At Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, a November sunset created an unusually quiet moment at the edge of the city that never sleeps.  The street lamps, reproductions of posts dating back about a hundred years, seem to tilt because of the wide angle lens, leaning in towards the distant Statue of Liberty. Smudgy gray clouds almost conceal a crescent moon and a plane heading up the Hudson River.

On a cool fall evening in Lower Manhattan, tiny lights threaded through the trees of Zuccotti Park cast pinpricks of light against the still incomplete One World Trade Center.  Over ten years ago this park and surrounding blocks were severely damaged by the 9/11 attacks. New York politics has prevented timely completion of the Twin Towers replacement – you can see a construction crew elevator ascending the corner of the building –  but it is almost finished.  Zuccotti Park also was the site of the recent Occupy Wall Street Movement; on this night, the delicate filigree of honey locust tree leaves against a soft blue sky belied the unrest of the past.

Illumination, along with those light bulbs constantly popping with ideas behind my eyes, allows me to create photographs that I can share with you. Thanks for visiting!

The challenge: