From the Puget Sound Urban Nature Series


A jewel in the midst

by Rebecca Bailey

Without a doubt, the Conservatory is a special part of Volunteer Park, which is located in the Capital Hill area of Seattle. The 6,300 square foot conservatory connects five unique greenhouses, lushly filled with plants from a variety of geographical areas. Park literature says that its greenhouses have 10, 400 square feet of production space under glass. 

Upon entering the building, you instantly feel good and soon realize it’s not a place for a quick look. It is all smiles and politeness as you navigate the narrow walkways, lush with a variety of plants from floor to ceiling. Voices are quiet, even hushed. Bright flowering displays in orange, yellow and purple occasionally accent the lush green plants, along with beautiful displays of orchids. Interpretive signs offer interesting facts about the plants.

In the fern and palm houses towering palms, filtered light, soothing water features, and warm temperatures create a pleasant tropical experience. Bromeliad and cactus houses bookend the five greenhouses offering a dramatic climate change from the other middle houses. A beautiful lemon tree is in the bromeliad house and a 75 year-old jade tree can be found in the cactus house.

Tucked in the back along a narrow walkway is a tiny charming gift store that sells “long lasting” orchids.

Benches, overhead wooden trellises and cobbled paths are interspersed. The conservancy houses two unusual pieces of art. A sculptured bell that is “intended to honor life and the human spirit,” created by Toshiko Takaezu and a sculptural instrument created by Oregon sound artist Dan Senn.

After a visit, you'll feel oh-so serene.