Garden Photo of the Day

GPOD on the road: Potawatomi Conservatory

Escaping winter to a greenhouse

This is your GPOD editor, Joseph, from my frozen garden in northern Indiana. Winter has well and truly arrived for me here, we’ve had a few snows, good hard freezes. Not much is going on in the garden outside, but luckily for me, I live a short walk from a wonderful public conservatory. I love public spaces like these, a little magical escape from the winter cold into a delightful haven of plants. Here’s a little taste of some things that caught my eye on my last visit:

Where you’ll usually find me in the conservatory… that little set of table and chairs is a great place to work when working from home is starting to get a little old.

I love seeing the bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae, Zone 10 – 11) in bloom. These huge flowers are structured to be pollinated by sunbirds in their native South Africa. Unlike hummingbirds, sunbirds can’t hover, so the base of the flower is very strong to provide them with a perch while they get in at the nectar and pollinate the blooms.

This huge plant is another bird-of-paradise, this one with white flowers (Strelitzia nicolai). THey’re just as cool looking, but the plants are so big it is much harder to actually get a good look at the blooms.

Some of the oldest plants in the conservatory started as houseplants that came to live their best lives here. This is the familiar jade plant (Cassula ovata), but I’ve never seen it get half this huge on a windowsill!

I love these plant stands, which display a wide array of cool succulent plants. It is always fun to take a close look at each of these living sculptures.

This specimen caught my eye today – a variegated agave (Agave victoriaereginae ‘Golden Princess’).

The desert dome is a favorite part of the conservatory.  The huge home covers a wide range of dry-adapted plants and really makes it feel like I’ve stepped out into another world.

Most dramatic are these huge agaves (Agave americana, Zone 8 – 11). I wonder how old they might be… they certainly have been here a while, and just look amazing.

All along the edge of the desert dome are more potted treasures. This is a cool cactus grafted onto another cactus rootstock. Grafting difficult or fussy cactus onto a more vigorous variety is a surprisingly easy way to make them a lot easier to grow.

I’m in love with this paper spine cactus (Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus). How cool are those long, flat spines?

An assortment of cool cactus filling a big planter. Many of these species are very slow growing, and these massive specimens are truly special and wonderful to see.

How are you escaping with the winter slow down in gardening? Visiting conservatories? Enjoying your houseplants? Or do you just live somewhere warm enough that gardening goes on all year? Please send in your photos! Those of us in a cold climate need some vicarious gardening to get through the snowy months!


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  1. User avater
    simplesue 12/22/2023

    Thanks for a nice tropical escape from winter with this post! I can almost feel the heat and smell the air looking at your photos!

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