The Conservatory of Flowers, which resembles a huge wood and glass bird cage, was modeled after the greenhouse at London’s Key Gardens. Located in Golden Gate Park and opened in 1879, it’s the oldest glass-and-wood Victorian greenhouse in the Western Hemisphere.
(Named for its “fangs.”)
The Conservatory is a living museum comprised of four galleries – Lowland Tropics, Highland Tropics, Aquatics, and Potted Plants – it houses carnivorous plants, rare orchids, prized century-old philodendron, and lily pads so sturdy they can hold the weight of a small child. The conservatory has been saved from rot and the wrecking ball several times most recently from 1995-2003 when its 16,800 lead paint-glazed window panes were replaced with safety glass.
Admission is free the first Tuesday of each month.
Routinely, often around Christmas, the Conservatory hosts special exhibits. Currently, until April 12, 2015, they’re offering Aquascapes: The Art of Underwater Gardening.
Aquascaping is defined as a craft or an art, depending on whom you talk to, and consists of artfully arranging plants, stones, caves, and driftwood in aquarium. It’s under water gardening. An aquascape can be Zen and imitate ancient forests, abstract, or imitate any number of riparian or tropical habitats. Begun in the 1930s by the Dutch, aquascaping has spread to countless countries and is particularly popular in Japan. There are annual aquascaping competitions with hundreds of entries per contest.
Cleaning an African Crinum plant
with a toothbrush
The Conservatory exhibit consists of freshwater tropical fish and plants from Africa, Asia and South America that swish about in aquariums cut into Disneyesque hard plastic rock walls. The fish and plants will grow and change over the course of the exhibit so you may want to visit more than once to witness the transformations.