CONSERVATORY, from Page 8
Although the Night exhibit was a popular and much-loved display, zoo officials made the difficult decision to close the house, saying it was one of the largest energy users.
In confronting this current economic plight, the Conservatory’s Helgeson assured that “the future of Conservatory is pretty bright,” with lots of community support.
“The community really values the Conservatory,” he said.
Housed within the 3,426 glass panels are four permanent houses: Bromeliad, Fern, Palm and Cactus, and one seasonal house.
The Palm House holds the more than 1,500 orchids, the largest collection on the West coast, Helgeson said.
The Conservatory’s orchid collection was started from a donation in the 1921 from Anna Clise, founder of Seattle Children’s Hospital.
While the Conservatory accepts “select” donations from the public, many of the plants within its vast collection were started from seeds, cuttings or divisions.
One such plant is a jade tree in the Cactus House. The tree was started from a cutting and is nearly as old as the conservatory itself.
The botanical garden also serves as a rescue facility for endangered plants and for plants that come into the country illegally.
“We get two to three acquisitions a year from the U. S. Department of Agriculture,” Helgeson said.
The plants that are on view to the public are regularly rotated into the Conservatory from an additional 15,000 square feet of support gardens.
Helgeson said about 90,000 people a year visit the Conservatory, more than double the number of visitors in 1982.
But the recent news of possible closure has brought even more people in, he said.
When Gail and James Reed of Shoreline heard of the possible closure, they knew they had to visit right away.
Gail Reed said the Conservatory holds a special meaning for her and goes back in her family history. “My grandmother [Evelyn Carmen] was Miss Seattle in 1930, and we have photos of her posed in a car outside of the Conservatory,” she said.
Another visitor to the conservatory, Murray Stenson, a well-known Seattle bartender, also rushed up to sit within the lush confines of the Conservatory’s glass-paned walls.
“I love to sit in here and take in the smells and sights,” he said, sitting next to a display of insect-eating pitcher plants. “I find it to be a very relaxing and meditative place.”
Helgeson calls this centennial year a critical one for the Conservatory. “There are lots of ways for people to become involved and participate to keep it going for the next 100 years,” he said.
A public hearing on the plan for the Volunteer Park Conservatory is scheduled for Wednesday, March 7, at the Montlake Community Center, 1618 E. Calhoun St., from 7 to 8:30 p. m. Representatives from the parks department, Friends of the Conservatory and consultant Rick Daley are scheduled to attend.
For more information about the Friends of the Conservatory, visit www.volunteerparkconservatory.org.