Take a relaxing journey through floral beauty…
Though you may not be able to visit Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens of Pittsburgh, PA in person right now, the good news is that my fancy camera and I traveled there last summer to lap up the sights in order to bring the beauty back to you now. Sit back and scroll this ride to feel good.
Enter the “Green” Greenhouse.
Walk up the path and see the largest, most graceful mega-greenhouse imaginable. Crafted in 1893 in Victorian style of rounded glass and steel, the building looks like a dollop of whipped cream, frozen in an upward swoop. All that artistry — and it’s one of the most sustainable and “green” buildings in the world! Let’s step inside.
Themed Flower Garden Exhibits
Phipps periodically changes their display themes, and when we (famed Pittsburgh expert, Jeremy, and I) visited in July of 2019, the theme was Van Gogh paintings… rendered in flowers!
Each exhibit room had a print of the painting below the sculpted garden, with each paint stroke rendered in tulips or daffodils or countless other flowers. Below, see the scene from “Houses at Auvers.” The details are spot-on, down to the red flowers at the bottom of the frame.
Beautiful Orchids on Display:
Meanwhile, some rooms at Phipps are such classics, they don’t change with the display theme. The Orchid Room is one such gem. As my college roommate’s family runs an orchid farm in Hawaii, orchids have always held a special fascination for me for their delicate complexity — paired with fierce ordinality… almost to the point of seeming alien. Look at this one, here. What a personality!
Another famed Phipps room which always pleases is the Desert Room: bristling with cacti and yellow-greens. This mass of tendrils, below, reminded me of a grasping octopus (much like this tree octopus sculpture from Curacao) — except since it has over 50 arms, it would be a quinquaginti-pus!
The most magical room of all is the Butterfly Forest — an enclosure a-flutter with winged rainbows. Find this spot between spring and fall in the Stove Room: so named because of its 80 degree temperature and tropical plants. A butterfly might even land on your nose! (Note: If you’re a super butterfly buddy, drive one hour south of Pittsburgh to the SAMA museum and gardens, to see more.)
Just how big is this botanical garden? There are FOURTEEN large rooms at Phipps, each of them action-packed. This means your visit could last you all day — but should be at least an hour and a half to even begin to do justice to the space. All ages are welcome, and there are specific exhibits, events, and rooms just for kids. (Traveling in the region as a family? The Westmoreland Museum of Art in nearby Greensburg also has excellent children’s resources.)
What about the watering? Imagine the skill, staffing, and coordination it takes to create and maintain this 15-acre living museum! The hydration systems alone are a feat of engineering and precision, keeping every bloom fresh and perky for the half a million visitors Phipps conservatory welcomes each year.
Chihuly Glass in the Gardens
What a thrill for this glass art lover to discover that Phipps has several sculptures from glass master, Dale Chihuly! His work pairs perfectly with real-life gardens, as the curves and shapes of his studio’s work mirror plants. If you enjoyed Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, WA, Phipps has fun echoes of it — though is obviously MUCH more extensive with the “garden” aspect!
Now let’s mosey through the gardens, stopping to smell the petals and ogle the displays. Pay close attention as I’ll ask you in the end (good teacher that I am) which are your favorite sights.
If you enjoy these flower pics, perhaps you’d dig this cartoon-illustrated short story on my new art site about a flower crown saleswoman and the pickle she finds herself in when an unexpected guest arrives at the door!
Other Things to Do in Pittsburgh:
- Love colors? You MUST see Randyland: the wild candy-colored house museum!
- Ogle Bicycle Heaven: A collection of over 3,500 vintage bikes.
- Explore Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning: a gorgeous tower
- Follow Discover the Burgh, my friend Jeremy’s top-notch Pittsburgh blog.
Attractions in the Laurel Highlands:
Want to venture a bit further? The Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania, an hour south of Pittsburgh, is teeming with fabulous sights and activities.
- See Fallingwater: the most famous house architecture in America.
- Follow the Fred Rogers Trail in Latrobe, PA: Mr. Rogers’ real neighborhood.
- See this art gallery in Ligonier, PA.
- Hike Linn Run State Park and Forbes State Forest!
Thank You, Magical Phipps Botanical Gardens!
Did this nature make you feel good? I hope so! Now, which are your favorite flower photos of the bunch? If you’re a gardening or art lover, did you see anything you’d like to point out to other readers? Do share!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!