Thursday, November 29, 2018

Inside the Amazon Spheres Part One: green-walls and carnivorous plants

When I visited Seattle last February, for the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, the Amazon Spheres had just opened. I wandered around outside snapping lots of photos (shared here) and dreamt about getting inside. Back then the only way in was to be an employee, or take the Amazon Headquarters tour which visited several their buildings and spent a little time in the Spheres. The horticulture community was all up in arms, we wanted to get in and see the plants!

Well, enough of us asked, and Amazon listened, the spheres are now open to visitors two Saturdays a month by reservation—link here—and get this, it's free! My friend Erin and I showed up on Saturday, October 20th and were ushered inside. I had prepared myself for the inevitable docent-lead tour, where you shuffle around with 75 other people, not able to pause in front of that plant you're particularly interested in, or maybe not even able to get up close to it. But that didn't happen! We were completely free to roam, on our own, for as long as we liked. Wow, well played Amazon!

I took about a 160 photos, a little crazy right? I edited them way down and broke them into two posts. Today we'll take a look at their amazing (huge) green-wall, a few other vertical plantings, and a great carnivorous plant collection. I think there were four floors total that we wandered around.

I'd seen the green-wall from outside the Spheres and in photos my friend Steve took and shared with me (posted here), but I was not prepared for how awe-inspiring it is in person.

The size, and sheer quantity of plants used, was unbelievable.

Several ferns had babies on their fronds...

Others were so delicate they looked like lace.

I really wanted to get up close and touch all the leaves, but I also didn't want to be kicked out.

Each floor we ascended got us up-close and personal with a different section of the wall.

There are misters hidden in with the foliage.

And giant air-circulators at the very top.

This green-wall may just have been my favorite part of the whole Spheres experience. I could have stared at it for hours.

There was another "mini wall" that you could stand in front of for a selfie or group-shot. Plenty of folks were doing just that, I had to move fast to get this shot with no people.

Tucked in here and there through-out the Spheres's plantings were fake trunks with other plants growing on their surface.

A few of them looked so real it took me awhile to realize they were fake.

But when you look down on them from above you see they're concealing giant fans. I wonder if they have a remote control to adjust the direction of airflow? Or do they do it manually?

I love this tightly growing vine but didn't see a label—plant ID was rather limited—only the big things got named. Does anyone know what this might be?

Additional vertical gardening elements included these shadow boxes

And this piece, which I meant to go look at closer, but forgot to circle back around to.

Obviously! So I want to look at the horticulture, I can go back there, right?

I'm not sure I like this vertical planting.

This photo cracked me up. I don't think I even noticed the tropical pitchers plants when I snapped it, I was concentrating on the tree fern. Doesn't it look like the fern is a huge mouth about to take in all those pitchers?

But about those Nepenthes, wow.

They were huge.

And the different pitchers weren't all hanging, several were tucked in a ground level. These were labeled, they're Nepenthes robcantleyi, Asian pitcher plant. Of course that's assuming I matched up the right label to the right plant.

Did you notice this beauty in the photo above?

Here's another, slightly different. When Mark Leichty of Little Prince visited he caught name, Petrocosmea rossettifolia. Some of you no doubt recognize the plant, and/or the name, I did not. They're African violets people! I'm lusting after an African violet!! (hangs head in shame, but not really)...

Oh ya, and what are the chances that I timed my visit to coincide with the blooming of their Amorphophallus titanum? Pretty slim right? This plant only blooms every four to five years and when it does, the bloom only lasts a day or two. It started opening the night before our visit (there was a party) and beginning it's decline by the time we were there the next afternoon.

From what I can find online the window was cut in the side of the plant for pollination purposes. In case you're wondering I didn't detect any of the famous "rotting meat" stench.

The final few plants I'm sharing today are part of a new display of carnivorous plants.

The sundews (Drosera species) were so delicate.

My only photo of the butterworts (Pinguicula) is a little blurry.

The flytraps (Dionaea muscipula) were the most picturesque, planted en-masse as they were.

Luckily there was a rope keeping us gawkers back, so these wouldn't have to suffer the stress of being touched 700 times by little kid-fingers.

That's it for today's Amazon plant-porn. Come back tomorrow for more!

Weather Diary, Nov 28: Hi 52, Low 45/ Precip .32"

All material © 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. I enjoyed my own visit there very much only a month previous to yours. Isn't it a magical place? It looks like they change things up quite frequently, because you've shown some things (the carnivorous plants and the Amorphophallus) that weren't there when I was there in September. I found the big green wall awe-inspiring too. Worth visiting more than once.

    1. I figured they probably moved the Amorphophallus into place when the flowering looked eminent. I definitely can't wait to go back!

  2. The tightly growing plant on the fake trunk looks like a Marcgravia species.

    Beautiful photos, thanks very much for sharing!

  3. Your original post from way back in February sparked my own interest in visiting the sphere, which I did once I realized Amazon opened the space to the public. "Amazon plant-por" cracked me up! It certainly explains my own complete satisfaction... a repeat visit is only a matter of time; the place is inspiring, and I'm certain you already have ideas brewing to implement in your own garden, home and/or basement.

  4. I have very mixed feelings about Amazon but these photos might be enough to make me re-think my attitude. What a place to work. Do you have any sense if employees enjoy/appreciate/interact with all this horticultural richness?

    1. How could they not? It's my understanding this area is flexible work space they can enjoy as the please, nobody actually spends their entire work day in the Spheres. Well, that is until I move there.

  5. Dreams do come true! How fortunate that you got to see this amazing place. I wish all workplaces had green walls - a benefit that would outweigh its cost, I do believe. I wonder if you could finagle a tour with the company that tends the plants? You know, as a professional blogger/horticulturist, inquiring minds need to know and all that?? It would be really interesting to get the backstory and ongoing challenges met and solved.
    Thanks for sharing your tour with us, Loree, I loved it.

    1. I know a few people who've toured with the hort folks and even gone to their offsite greenhouses. It would be great fun to do so! (scheming commences)

  6. Now that is pretty damn fabulous ! Do you know if the temperature is kept constant in there all year? Was it warm or just not cold ?

    1. I've read that the humidity goes way up at night, when there are no humans and computers to worry about, but I'm not sure about any temperature shifts. I remember being comfortable, but I don't remember what I was wearing!

    2. Temperatures are 68F-72F during the day and 60% RH. Overnight, things drop to 55F and 80%+ RH. Comfort is subjective, of course, but most folks seem to find it refreshing. Certainly compared to a conservatory with a tropical lowland collection...

  7. Oh, now I have yet another reason to convince my husband we need to take a trip to Seattle "to visit his brother." Unfortunately, it looks like plans for a kitchen remodel are going to put that off yet another year. As a fern fanatic you must have been in heaven over than vertical garden. I've got the image of the bromeliads with the ferns in my head now and may feel compelled to copy it (on a much, much smaller scale of course).

    1. Here's what you should do... plan a solo trip up for the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival in February, and be sure to book a visit to the Spheres while you're there!

  8. Impressive! I wonder if they lure insects in to feed all those carnivorous plants. Thanks for the info and link. Must get there one of these days to see it in person.

    1. Yes you must! And now you've got me wondering about the insects.

  9. Don't disparage docent-led tours at the Spheres! I went one of the NHS-organized tours in September. We were divided into groups of 10 and our guide was one of the 2 men who created, installed, and now maintain the wall. All the guides were Amazon horticulture people and they knew the answers to our questions or who to ask if they didn't. I'm definitely signing up for another tour!

    1. I stand corrected! Now that would be heaven. A knowledgeable leader and a small enough group. Sign me up!

  10. They dont feed them insects, instead the suplement with high nitrogen fertilizer in the pitchers and as a foliar spray, (I just learned that today!)


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