Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Phipps Conservatory Part 1

On the Friday after Thanksgiving we toured the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh.  Built in 1893 it's a Lord & Burnham building just like the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory we visited earlier in the week while in Washington D.C.  Two conservatories in one week decked out for the holidays set a good holiday mood.

Phipps is located in Shenley Park near both Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh just east of downtown.  Although it looks a bit understated compared to the more dramatic placement of the U.S. Botanic Garden, the Phipps is much larger with impressive holiday displays.  Too big to get in one photo from the sidewalk, this is just the right side of the building.

This view of the left side shows how the glass houses form a "T" on each end, with another large glass house and outdoor gardens located on the back.  

The entrance walkway was built with automatic de-icing capability reducing the need for salt and shoveling in snowy Pittsburgh.

The exhibits at Phipps are so extensive it will take several posts to cover them all.  The first two posts will showcase the gorgeous holiday displays and I'll save the botanical exhibits for January.

The entrance dome, which is newer than the main conservatory, holds a large Chihuly glass sculpture positioned over a beautiful Christmas tree.

A stairwell (or elevator) takes you up inside the dome and the entrance to the gardens.

A look at the snowy ground level and structure of the conservatory outside the dome.

The entry court is a popular spot for photos.

The entry wall held three succulent wreath displays, the other two were membership ads.

Across the way a display of ferns and white orchids in pots decorate the brick arches.

We'll head to the left first to enjoy Holiday Spirit Past and Presents.

The fountains stacked with presents in the center sunken garden.

A peek in the desert exhibit which I'll explore more in a future post.  Hey, this gratuitous spiky plant theme with a Chihuly ornament looks like a Christmas display to many of us.

Loved this succulent tree.  It took some restraint not to poke around to see how they did this.

The butterfly tree in the Victoria Room was mesmerizing with its delicate and beautiful decorations.

The top of the tree and a look at the details in the glass structure above.

Reflections of the tree and other plants in the pool.

Around the perimeter, Dichondra, Poinsettias and Anthuriums dress the window boxes.

So many varieties of Poinsettia available now and it seems most of them were on display throughout the gardens.

Santa's Workshop occupied this room in bright green and red

These Norfolk pines rimmed the room and reminded me I don't see this once-popular houseplant much anymore.

The Broderie Room houses an elegant formal garden transformed into a Christmas scene.

The entrance steps were blocked so we couldn't walk around in here.


The official wishing well is here and visitors are asked to refrain from throwing coins in other water features throughout the gardens.  The concept is good but it doesn't seem to be working judging by the number of coins in all the water features.

Foxtail Fern, Orchids, Poinsettias and Star of Bethlehem backed by pink camellias make a beautiful display along one wall.

The display frames Butterfly Tree through the glass.

The holiday decorations were so amazing and extensive I could not do them justice in a single post, so we've got a lot more to see, including a model railroad in Part II.


  1. Wow, what a beautiful and large conservatory! I love all the brick but especially that brick wall with the arches. Hard to believe it is actually indoors.

    1. The architecture and structure is wonderful and I will show more details in future posts.

  2. I don't usually get excited about holiday decorations infused into conservatories and botanic gardens but all of these displays were exceptionally attractive. Coincidentally, I found myself looking for Norfolk Island pines when I was preparing 2 holiday-themed pots to sit by my front door - I found a few small ones at prohibitively high prices and so moved to plan B, only later coming across good-sized, reasonably ones at the supermarket of all places! Too late though.

    1. I've been looking since we returned several weeks ago but no luck so far. I think it might make a nice holiday display for the kitchen.

  3. The conservatory looks huge, and the festive display inside even more impressive!

    1. I was truly impressed and it compares favorably with many of the more famous holiday destinations we've seen.

  4. Stunning conservatory, Shirley! I love the fern wall, a succulent tree(! how did they make it?), poinsettias --so many, I have a bright red one at home. Think poinsettia and orchids are the best decorations for Christmas.
    I'd like to visit this Conservatory with you!

    1. It was wonderful, We enjoyed it all. I think they used a wire frame and must have started it early because I didn't see any pins or wires.

  5. Wow!!! Thanks for posting the photos of your trip to The Phipps! Can't wait to see the next post. How blessed you are to have seen it in person. ( And then get to come home to Texas! )

    1. It was nice to get back to a somewhat warmer and less messy climate.

  6. Beautifully maintained conservatory I must say. The climate under the conservatory is phenomenal.


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