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Phipps Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh: These Flowers are Art!

Step in to a world of butterflies and flowers.

Step in to a world of butterflies and flowers.

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.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a delight.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a delight.

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.

Graceful violet flowers.

Graceful violet flowers.

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.

This Phipps exhibit was Van Gough gardens.

This Phipps exhibit was Van Gough gardens.

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!

What a wonderful animal-like orchid.

Such a wonderful animal-like orchid.

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!

When cacti attack and take over a room!

When cacti attack and take over a room!

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. You can also check out these 21 cool museums around the USA.)

Do you see the butterfly hiding?

Do you see the butterfly hiding?

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.)

This Phipps exhibit was Van Gough gardens.

See the similarity between the Van Gogh and the garden?

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.

Watering all the flowers is a feat of engineering.

Watering all the flowers takes ingenuity.

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!

A Chihuly glass chandelier in the atrium.

A Chihuly glass chandelier in the atrium.

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.

This orchid is judging you.

This orchid is judging you.

A Van Gogh painting, rendered in cacti.

A Van Gogh painting, rendered in cacti?

The purple of that plant is phenomenal.

The purple of that plant is phenomenal.

Orange glass vines mixed with real green plants.

Orange glass vines mixed with real green plants.

A great Van Gogh quote.

A great Van Gogh quote.

Wonderful frills and fluffs on this flower.

Wonderful frills and fluffs on this flower.

Can you identify the Van Gogh painting?

Can you identify the Van Gogh painting?

Here it is: "Starry Night Over the Rhone."

Here it is: “Starry Night Over the Rhone.”

A fiery shock of scarlet in your face.

A fiery shock of scarlet in your face.

Love the light green of this insect.

Love the light green of this insect.

Watch out for those cacti spikes!

Watch out for those cacti spikes!

Lined up obediently in a flower row.

Lined up obediently in a flower row.

Can you guess this Van Gogh masterpiece?

Can you guess this Van Gogh masterpiece?

It's "The Night Cafe!"

It’s “The Night Cafe!”

The glass flowers. bring a pop of shine and dazzle.

The glass flowers. bring a pop of shine and dazzle.

Van Gogh, front and center.

Van Gogh, front and center.

My favorite flowers of the bunch! Loud and proud.

My favorite flowers of the bunch! Loud and proud.

The pouch of the orchid looks like a delicate purse.

The pouch of the orchid looks like a delicate purse.

Can you guess this Van Gogh painting?

Can you guess this Van Gogh painting?

Flames in flower form.

Flames in flower form.

The courtyard of Phipps Conservatory has these wonderful plant-like lamps.

The courtyard of Phipps Conservatory has these wonderful plant-like lamps.

Do these flower remind you of the courtyard lamps?

Do these flower remind you of the courtyard lamps?

Rainbow candy as a flower.

Rainbow candy as a flower.

A riot of color amid the green.

A riot of color amid the green.

Flower bloom explosion.

Flower bloom explosion.

Dainty flower lamps.

Dainty flower lamps.

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!

Can you imagine if the night sky was filled with flower stars?

Can you imagine if the night sky was filled with flower stars?

Other Things to Do in Pittsburgh:

A wave of blooms!

A wave of blooms!

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.

A puckered mouth flower to kiss you.

A puckered mouth flower to kiss you.

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!

 

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Suzanne Fluhr

Sunday 24th of May 2020

My husband grew up in Pittsburgh and we (with our then little boys in tow) used to drive the 327 miles from Philadelphia to there at least twice a year before we lost his parents. Our last trip there was in 1997. Now, on our travels around the world we seek out the botanical gardens to visit. We never had the chance to "visit" Pittsburgh. We spent our time with family. If we visited anywhere, it was a playground. So, thank you for sharing this. Maybe (definitely) we'll be doing more road trips in the new abnormal times. It's more likely now that we'll visit the other side of our state. We've already been to the other side of the world (Perth, Australia) few times.

Lillie Marshall

Sunday 24th of May 2020

Indeed, there are so many great places in our own backyard! Of course, make sure to check what's open at this time, but I'd wager many good things are still on offer.

Stephanie

Thursday 9th of April 2020

What amazing colors, this was definitely calming!

Lillie Marshall

Tuesday 14th of April 2020

So glad to hear it!

Caitlin Goodwin

Thursday 9th of April 2020

As much pains me to say as a lifelong Cleveland, Ohio resident- these pictures of Pittsburgh are beautiful. Maybe I will finally convince my family to make the trek that way.

Lillie Marshall

Thursday 9th of April 2020

Haha! We live in Cleveland every summer and make the 2-hour drive to the Pittsburgh area at least once during the stay. It's worth it!

Alexandra

Wednesday 8th of April 2020

Oh wow! You took some amazing pictures! I love butterflies and would love to visit this place one day! Thanks for sharing!

Lillie Marshall

Thursday 9th of April 2020

Butterfly love abounds!

Jen

Tuesday 7th of April 2020

So beautiful! I grew up in Pittsburgh but don't think I ever went here.

Lillie Marshall

Tuesday 7th of April 2020

So funny how we voyage far and wide but sometimes don't fully explore our own home treasures!

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