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Volunteer Park Conservatory
Conservatory Information: (206) 684-4743
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Take a Mini-Tropical Tour!
WEDDINGS AT THE CONSERVATORY
Imagine a wedding at the Conservatory’s lovely, tranquil Seasonal House, surrounded by fragrance and beauty.
Recent modifications to the space mean that it can accommodate up to 25 people. For more information, please go to our ceremony scheduling page.
THE FIVE HOUSES OF THE CONSERVATORY
Bromeliad species, members of the pineapple family, number over 2000.
Located primarily in the New World tropics, they are predominantly epiphytic. The bromeliad's central flower structure is surrounded by whorls of colorful leaves. High humidity is essential, as they absorb moisture from the air and collect water in their rosettes.
Other highlights include several species of Platycerium, "Staghorn
Fern," also an epiphyte. The beautiful wrought iron display trees
for the Tillandsia collection were created in 1999 by Randy Benson and
his staff at Folia Fabric Botanicals in Seattle. In spring, Epiphyllum
hybrids (Orchid Cactus) from the collection are displayed with their
The palm family has about 1200 species, some of which can be seen here.
Most important commercial resources are the Coco, Date, Oil, and Sago
palms. Large banana plants and their allied genera, Strelitzia (Giant
Bird of Paradise), Heliconia, and Ginger plants bloom with most interesting
flowers. Orchids grace the showcases all year around. Orchids are one
of the largest plant families with about 20,000 species. Thirteen species
occur in the Pacific Northwest. The fruit of Vanilla planifolia, a vine-like
orchid plant, finds good use in the kitchen.
A collection of tropical ferns and other exotics are featured here.
On entering, observe the Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm) belonging to a family
of plants which is among the oldest known to man. Tropical and subtropical
flowering plants, including Brugmansias, Begonias, Aroids, and Hibiscus
are part of a rotating display. A highlight in the Fern House is a small
pond with moving water surrounded by Monstera (Mexican breadfruit) and
Ferns. Carnivorous plants and Papyrus grow in the bogs beside the pond.
The atmosphere is settling and creates a perfect place to stop and rest.
Seasonal Display House
Major floral displays change with the seasons making this spacious park-like greenhouse a year-round delight.
Some of the foliage plants shown here are easily recognized as common house plants, for example Algerian ivy, peperomia, coleus, ferns and ficus trees.
The unusual form, structure, and size of the cacti and succulents presents an intriguing plantscape. All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Nearly all succulents are descendants of plants which adapted to dry, hot conditions when the earth began to warm up after the last Ice Age. This exhibit is especially spectacular when it is springtime in the desert of the Cactus House.
There is a 95 year old Crassula argentea (Jade Plant) that blooms beautifully November to January, as well as a potted collection of Sansevierias.
HISTORY OF THE GARDEN
In 1878, the City of Seattle acquired about 45 acres on north Capitol Hill from a sawmill engineer for $2000. First called City Park, the acreage was improved during the turn of the century using plans designed by the famous Olmsted brothers, landscape architects. In 1901 City Park was renamed Volunteer Park to honor the volunteers who served in the Spanish-American War.
The Conservatory, first proposed in 1893, was not completed until 1912. The City purchased the Conservatory design and framework from Hitchings Company of New York. It was erected by Parks staff. In 1922 growing greenhouses were built to grow and propagate plants in support of the conservatory and annual flower production for general public display use.
Over the years various specialty plant collections have been built primarily from donated materials. The rather extensive orchid collection began as a gift from Mrs. Anna H. Clise in 1921.
As time passed the Conservatory became badly deteriorated. Through public awareness brought on by the Friends of the Conservatory and the Citys desire to maintain this historical site, funds were made available for renovation of the structure beginning in 1980. Renovation of various portions is ongoing.The conservatory buildings and staff today remain under the auspices of the Seattle Parks Department.
The Conservatory is a registered US Fish & Wildlife Department repository for confiscated plants seized from attempted illegal import activities. Restricted plants such as orchids, cacti and cycads are received from USFW agents, kept in quarantine for 30 days, then must remain in the Conservatory collection thereafter. They may not be sold, only traded to other botanical gardens and used for propagation.
Updated February 27, 2014
You can make a tax deductible donation to this park through the Seattle Parks Foundation.
Photo by Giselle Blythe
Photo by Beth Somerfield
Photo by Josh Eckels
Photo by Beth Somerfield
Tour photos by Giselle Blythe
Guide to the ConservatoryHomage In Green - 1981
In the top of the entry vestibule is a 35 panel hand blown and etched stained glass canopy by Richard T. Spaulding titled "Homage In Green". Around it's border designs trace 300 years of style evolution in English and American art history. Lilies, convolvulus and passion flowers etched in the center glass enhance the Victorian motif of the conservatory.
The ornate half-circle beveled glass lunette above the central entry door is original to the Conservatory's construction in 1912, with the green glass pieces added to it in 1982 and 1995 by Richard Spaulding to complement the Homage In Green art glass.
Amorphophallus titanum“Corpse Flower”
"Corpse Flower" at Volunteer Park Conservatory in 2005
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