Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > April 2014 > KEEPING IT INTERESTING


Most of us are not lucky enough to own a conservatory.  Sunrooms are more and more common these days, but they are not the same thing.  Conservatories were extremely popular with the very wealthy in Europe and America beginning in the 19th century and continuing today.  The general public has often benefited when these beautiful exotic plant spaces have been donated to municipalities or horticultural organizations.  We have Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens right here in Richmond with its new conservatory, and I would recommend that any plant lover pay a visit to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania to see its grand early twentieth century conservatory built by Pierre du Pont.

We are in the business of selling plants, but we do carry a nice selection of conservatory plants.  These are plants that do not adapt well to our homes or offices.  Most require more light and humidity than can be found within our air-conditioned/centrally heated environments.  Sometimes these plants have simply grown too large for the average home.  Our conservatory plants make the shopping experience more interesting and broaden our plant knowledge.  Occasionally, an estate with a conservatory or large greenhouse will purchase one of our specimens, but most of these plants have to go when they outgrow our maximum height capacity.

If you visit us this spring, you will see the 15’ Triangle Palm and its elegantly arching gray-green fronds or our now very elderly hanging Staghorn Fern, looking rather like a paper wasps nest with a few green ferns attached.  We have the commercial Chocolate Tree, Theobroma cacao, which often sports tiny pinkish flowers that bloom right on the main trunks and branches.  Our huge Black Olive tree (Bucida bucerus) is a popular street tree in the tropics, with an interesting zig-zag branching pattern.  The smaller species Bucida spinosa makes a wonderful bonsai, although we have a large one of these, also.

The “SausageTree”, Kigelia, has never produced flowers or the long, dangling sausage-like seed pods, but we still hope!  Hanging over one of our aroid tables is a gigantic Philodendron ‘Red Empress’,  and look, but don’t touch, our “False Monkey Puzzle” tree (Araucaria bidwillii), aka “Bunya-Bunya Pine”, or you’ll be pricked by its needle-sharp leaves.  A large Clusia guttifera anchors our succulent section.  Its thick bright green leaves and long wild aerial roots add to the Clusia’s appeal.

We have a very slow growing Coccothrinix crinita, “Old Man Palm”, its trunk thickly covered with beige “hair”, and a very old Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) that is about 9’ tall and growing in a container only 8” deep, proving that you don’t have to keep potting plants up in size as long as you supply the necessary water and nutrients.  Its aerial roots are numerous and robust, adding to the overall girth of the trunk.

These are just a few of our larger, showy specimen plants.   Someone recently purchased our 12’ Pony Tail, and I wanted to grab hold and shout “you can’t take my baby!”  However, I’m sure it went to a good home, and I now have a new spot to fill in the greenhouse!  Hmmm…I wonder if I can find one of those giant stinky Amorphophallus titanum?

Posted: 4/10/2014 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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