It was such a treat to see the entire collection and the whole production process and THE WORK it takes to produce the amazing displays in the conservatory.
Here's Jeanne letting us have a peak inside the mist-bench where she propagates most of the plants for the conservatory.
It was also a treat to see not just the more common and flashy displays of potted plants and flowers, but a few rare oddities like the highly unusual and richly scented snail vine, Vigna caracalla.
They have a large selection or orchids they're growing on such as a spectacular purple Cattleya relative (below). Another interesting fact she shared was the connection with USDA plant protection and customs and how Volunteer Park is often the recipient of plants, mostly orchids, illegally smuggled into the United States. These are then cared for, grown on and propagated, and depending on what it is exactly, often they're kept in the collection or shared with other botanical institutions for display and research.
I hope to come back and do a more thorough tour and, perhaps, an interview with Jeanne.
It truly is heart-breaking to hear that a place like Volunteer Park Conservatory could lose its funding. State officials kind of treat it as an "unnecessary, expensive and frivolous item" on their agenda. Much like the arboretum and other major parks in Seattle, it has a very limited staff and state budget cuts are getting more and more severe and places like this are often the first to get canned.
Everyone is "trying to be important" these days in the eyes of legislature and also private donors and such, but it's an ongoing struggle as if citizens don't care about such places. They're not aware of the meticulous work it takes to grow these plants for their enjoyment, which is usually free for the public to see.
They can look at a plant and say, "oh how pretty" and not realize just what it took to get it to look that pretty. They just assume that the staff just makes it happen and it will always be there for them, but I wish they could see what goes on behind the scenes and learn about the difficulties they face trying to do what they do, but then you learn about how many of their positions could be on the line.
Many people in this position often lose the motivation to give it their all with the attitude "what's the point of working to the fullest with limited resources and potentially being laid off soon". There's a chance that Seattle Parks and Recreation could shut down the conservatory, but with diligent and passionate people like Jeanne and the conservatory staff and volunteers, they go AND GROW full force to continue to enlighten and inspire visitors even with the slim hope that support and funding improves. For more information about what you could do to help, please visit the Friends of the Conservatory and read about the petition and how you could contact officials.
Here we all are at the end of the evening. Inspired and hopefully for a brighter future for the conservatory! From the left: Giselle Blythe, Sara Chapman, me and Jeanne.
Jeanne shared a pretty awesome video y'all should take a look at!