Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flirty Fleurs and Smith College Greenhouses

I had a great time recently meeting up with one half of the Flirty Fleurs blogging team, Alicia, at the Smith College Conservatory in Northampton MA.

As you can see they are late 19th century glass greenhouses, pretty neat and old fashioned in this era of generic big box garden centers.  Charming is just the word.

The buildings were obviously built over a period of time and not all at once and were a bit of a maze.

The first "house" we came to was the cacti and succulent house.  It's hard not be mesmerized by the thorny patterns on this cactus, isn't it?

So I have this degree in horticulture, but half the time I had no idea what we were looking at.  Good thing most everything is labeled.  That said, did I photograph the corresponding labels?

Of course not.  So this tree, which I'm going to call a palm, which we can all say is completely wrong, made the greatest sound when a tall kid walked under the leaves.

Pretty awesome.

Here we have an aeonium, a cool succulent which you'll see from time to time in my shop.  I know some folks get a little upset when leaves fall of their plants, but for some plants, like this one, it's to be expected and perfectly normal.

You can't expect it to remain cute and stumpy forever.

A lovely, old looking Wardian case - a little greenhouse to-go.  Just the sort of thing you'd have on your exotic plant collecting travels so you could ship specimens, by ship, back home.

Again, going with some kind of palm thing here.  But who cares?  It was pretty cool!

In an old greenhouse such as this one at Smith, besides life and growth, there's also a sense of decay.  There is always something not at its peak of perfection, losing a leaf, coming out of dormancy, or in the case of this wooden orchid container, just outright rot.


Really.  Why do we expect everything to look just like a catalog?  Living things are going to grow, change, mature, have offspring,'s part of why we keep looking at them, isn't it?

OK, I am totally mad for these begonia leaves.  If my mother were around she would have quick snapped a leaf off and tucked it into her purse for rooting back at home.

I was forever mortified when we would go to some fancy historic mansion and she would whip a baggie out of her purse and break off columbine seed heads or some such.

I need to get one of these plants.  I'll pay.

We never figured out these pond things, but they were absolutely primeval.  And the little "sensitive" plants were right nearby!  I love those things!  They are one of the plants of my childhood - and always remind me of trips to creaky old greenhouses.

Pretty, pretty, purple, velvety.  In a crusty old terra cotta pot to boot.  Each glass house we entered had a completely different climate.  If you should go, be prepared to shed a few layers as you switch greenhouses.  And your camera lens may fog up.

You are warned.

More cool leafy textures to put on the "I want" list.

These are small greenhouses, but the abundance and the climate makes you forget there's an out there.

And orchid plants, because what trip to an old greenhouse such as this is complete without an orchid plant or two?

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