Wednesday, October 27, 2010

W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park

The drive from Portland, OR to Vancouver, BC is a long one, we decided to take it easy and spend a night in Tacoma, WA on the way up. While researching book stores to visit my husband also searched for gardens and found the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory. I was torn between a second visit to the fabulous Jungle Fever Exotics vs. the allure of the unknown. The unknown won, I figured a trip to Jungle Fever would result in plant lust…and since we wouldn’t be able to transport plants into and out of Canada why be tempted, right? So rational it scares me.

Since we were early (they don’t open until 10 am) we took advantage of the beautiful morning and wandered around Wright Park for a bit. Crisp fall air and leaves just beginning to change, it was lovely.
These huge banana’s were just outside the conservatory entrance.
As I was snapping the photo I realized I was being watched.
It’s time to enter the conservatory! But before we do a little background from their website: "Exotic tropical plants and floral displays await you at the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park. This historic glass conservatory, with its distinctive twelve-sided central dome, is listed on the City of Tacoma, Washington State and National historic registers. 3,000 panes of glass make up the dome and wings of the Conservatory.” Here are some of those panes of glass behind a few very tall Papyrus.
I love the base of this palm on the left, is it a Hyophorbe lagenicaulis, or Bottle Palm?
More from the website…

“The Permanent Collection includes:
More than 250 individual plant species
More than 200 orchids
Between 300-500 blooming plants on display year round
Large collections of tender azaleas, Vireya rhododendrons, Clivias, Cymbidium, Agapanthus, Epiphyllum Cacti, and exhibition Chrysanthemums”

Ok it’s those Chrysanthemums that I just couldn’t handle. Look at them all!
And their sad little stems tied with bread ties. In fact just now looking at this picture I notice there was an agave on the right. That’s how blindingly bad they were….they blinded me to an agave! I didn’t even see it when I was there but I did read this later on their website: “This specimen is a "pup" taken from an older plant that resided at Seymour Conservatory until it flowered in 1988. Its flowering stalk was 30 feet high and necessitated the removal of glass panes.” I wish I could have seen that!
But back to my rant: why waste precious space in a climate controlled building on supermarket mums? So annoying. Then I decided to get of my botanical high-horse for a moment and read the sign.
“Humans have cultivated Chrysanthemums for at least 2500 years. Exhibition mums are a good example of how humans manipulate plants. They are created by removing all the flower buds on the plant except one which makes the plant’s resources work to produce one oversized flower. The Conservatory’s flowers are the result of hard work, meticulous attention, and constant grooming. The exhibition mums are grown at Metro Parks’ Pt. Defiance greenhouses. A crew of three employees and nine volunteers care for the plants year round in a multi-step cultivation process.”

Well, I appreciate the sign explaining why these are here…and I understand the decades old tradition of bedding out plants (which some may use to rationalize the ever changing seasonal floral displays in conservatory buildings) but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! Moving on….beautiful color on this fern (no sign with a name that I could find).
Here is its green counterpart.
Usually I’m not one to like sculpture in a garden, but theirs I loved. Like this one with its Sago hair, again taken from their webstite: “Hidden amongst the displays are six sculptures created by Clarence Deming…The sculptures are artistic reinterpretations of religious art found all over the world and represent the traditions and legends of African, Maori, and Aztec cultures. Not exact replicas, the sculptures sample from several traditions.”
A bad picture of a great bloom, and a huge Staghorn Fern hanging from the ceiling.
Another sculpture, this one in the Aztec and Maori tradition: “This wall relief is an excellent example of Deming's sampling from multiple cultures in one art work. The central figure with its menacing expression and tongue is characteristic of Maori carving. Skulls, like the one on the left, decorate the exterior walls of many Mexican pyramids.”
I have no idea what this one is but I love it.
I’m sure I’ve seen Rhapis humilis, or Lady Palms (from SE Asia, China), before but I’ve never noticed the way they grow in a clump looking a little like bamboo.
Here is Quetzalcóatl “A plumed snake, Quetzalcóatl symbolizes fertilization of the earth. The reptile represents the earth and the feathers the sun. Quetzalcóatl was a spiritual guide with many roles. He is known as the inventor of the calendar and writing, teacher of maize (corn) growing, and muse to artists and craftsmen.”
And Chamaedorea metallica, or Seagreen Fishtail, from Mexico.
I couldn’t get a good photo of the foliage but it really did live up to its “metallica” name with a not so slight metallic sheen.
The conservatory also had a nice selection of plants available for sale in their gift shop, as well as a very sweet and knowledgeable older lady available to answer questions. There were a few plants I was tempted by, and their prices were great, but I had to leave them behind….next stop Canada!


  1. I love all the statues. It is always fun to find them hiding in the foliage.

  2. What a lovely guided tour of a gorgeous place! Thanks for sharing. Be sure to stop and shop on your way home from Canada.

  3. Hey Loree, you were about 3 blocks from my house/garden. If you passed it, it'll probably show up in a WWTT entry. Glad you enjoyed the park & conservatory. It is a little strange that they dedicate that whole entry wing to seasonal blooming stuff. You're lucky you missed the next phase: amaryllii & poinsettias as far as the eye can see. Festive but a horticulturally dull.

  4. Well, look at it this way: Tacoma is on the way home from BC. Why not give in to plant lust on the way home?

    I'm with you on the mums. I've grown pretty immune to them for the most part, although there are occasional encounters with some spectacularly trained plants that have earned a nod of appreciation and respect, if not outright plant lust.

  5. Spiky O, that's part of why these worked so well, they were hiding...not prominently placed.

    Weeping Sore, unfortunately when returning from Canada stopping to shop was the furthest thing from my mind. We were wiped out!

    Peter, seriously!? You live in a great part of town. And I doubt that it would have made a WWTT post! All the great plants you've got, I probably would have just stood and stared.

    James, there were so many beautiful things between Tacoma and the trip many plants I had to leave behind.

  6. That glass house would be worth the trip all by itself...and Tacoma is not all that far...and I keep reading about new reasons to visit. I remember it as practically a ghost town when we used to visit my uncle's amusement park on Point Defiance.

  7. ricki, make sure you plan to visit Jungle Fever when you are there!


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