Volunteer Park Conservatory
Jasper has reached the age where he is super engaged and interested in all the places we go. He is no longer interested in napping in the stroller or being carried in the Ergo so rather than an accessory to my every day he is an active and interested partner in crime. In an effort to capitalize on this period of time in our lives and engage his brain in new and exciting ways I have made it a point to devote two days a week to outings. Living so close to downtown Seattle we have a wide array of interesting places at our disposal ie. parks, outdoor markets, museums, children theater etc. I have decided to invest in a few annual passes and then just try my best to make the most of what is around me. We can only visit the local park for an hour or two a couple of days a week before we are both bored and in need of additional stimulation.
Here is our game plan for the following few months.
- We have a zoo, aquarium and now a Volunteer Park Conservatory annual pass. We plan to visit each of these once or twice a month for the next year. We like to go early and be home in the afternoon for lunch and nap.
- We are taking advantage of the First Thursday program and visiting all the museums we can for free. Last month was our first month doing so and we visited the Seattle Art Museum. Since Jasper is still so young and for the most part uninterested in lingering over a painting this way he can gain exposure to art and I don't have to pay an admission fee to chase him around.
- We like to visit our local parks to watch the eagles nest, the ferries come and go, spot sea lions and seal pups, and play on both rocky and sandy beaches. The real highlight of our park visits are all the dogs we come across. I once heard there are more dogs than children in Seattle and I certainly believe it!
- Seattle Public Library offers Baby, Toddler and Preschool Story time several times a month.
One of the most fun things about taking small children out is seeing what they will discover. Jasper loved the flowers and all the colors at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, but he was a pro at finding all the loose rocks and dirt while we were there. I watched him extra close in the Cactus Room, but he was too busy trying to rearrange the name sticks to touch the cacti. I found our afternoon at the Conservatory a delight for the senses and I am eager to return on a random rainy day and possibly have the place to ourselves.
Here is a fun little Q & A taken from volunteerparkconservatory.org
Q- How many panes of glass does the Conservatory have?
A- Volunteer Park Conservatory has 3,426 panes of glass. They were originally held in place by a swamp cyprus wood support structure. These supports were replaced in the 1950s, then again in the 1980s, before being replaced by long lasting aluminum in a restoration phases which started in 1993. The final phase of the Conservatory restoration was completed in 2014.
Q- What is the oldest part of the building?
A– The lunette or peacock window over the main entry is the only original wood and glass piece remaining from 1912 after two renovations. It was restored in 2000.
Q– What is the oldest plant in the Conservatory?
A– The oldest plants on display now are probably the Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) and the Jade Tree (Crassula argentea). Both are over 75 years old.
Q– Why are the windows white washed in the summer?
A– A chalky paint sprayed on the glass in early summer to protect the plants from excessive sun and heat. In the fall the white wash is removed when days become shorter and darker.
Q– How do you control the temperature and humidity?
A– The Conservatory heating system is computer controlled. Two natural gas fired boilers heat water and valves open allowing hot water into pipes located below the display benches. The overhead and under-bench vents are also computer controlled to regulate temperature and humidity. There is a sensing device in each house.
Q– Who is the statue out front?
A– William Henry Seward (1801-1872) was the US Secretary of State under President Lincoln. He negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 for 7.2 million dollars, about 2 cents per acre. This became known as “Seward’s Folly”.
Q– Do you sell any plants?
A– The FOC Palm House Gift Shop has a variety of plants for sale. We also have two large plant sales per year, on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend in May and a Saturday in mid-September.
Q– Do you have carnivorous plants?
A– Yes, they are usually found in the boggy planters flanking the pool in the Fern House. Our collection includes Venus Fly Traps, Sundews, Pitcher Plants and more.
Q– Are the fruits on the Fishtail Palm edible?
A– They are not palatable to humans, but are enjoyed by birds and monkeys in the wild.
Q– Where do your plants come from?
A– We grow plants in our production greenhouse space from seeds, cuttings and divisions. We accept selected donated plants from the public. We are a certified US Fish and Wildlife Plant Rescue Center, accepting plants confiscated by US Customs when they are illegally imported.
Q– Who is Ivan Von Katzen?
A– Ivan is our Conservatory spokescat who memorializes a real cat who lived at the Conservatory for many years. Ivan was a black and white feral cat who chose to stayed at the Conservatory long into old age. He passed away several years ago. Ivan von Katzen lives on as Conservatory spokes-cat on Facebook and Twitter. He’d love to be your friend and keep you up to date on what’s happening around here.