Greenhouse Jungle


W02May2017In addition to the magnificent grounds and gardens of Biltmore in Asheville, there is always something to see in the amazing conservatory. Built over a century ago, it has 7000 square feet of plants. Currently there is an extensive display of orchids, with hundreds blooming in lush variety. These are rotated in and out as different species bloom. Of course this is only a tiny subset of the roughly 28,000 species found worldwide, but I still spent a long time admiring the amazing details of these delicate blooms.

They are incredibly diverse as might be expected from having so many species. They range in size from almost microscopic to over 4000 pounds. There can be up to 3 million seeds in a single orchid seedpod, looking almost like dust specks. The tiny seeds have no energy reserve and rely on fungus to germinate and grow. Perhaps it is good for all of us that not all the seeds meet a fungus. Otherwise the world would be stuffed so full of orchids there would be little room for much else.

Orchids are used as food, for medicine, in perfumes, and here in the US have become the most popular houseplants. My favorite is vanilla, though to be honest chocolate would be if it grew from an orchid! But mainly I just like to admire them, and the conservatory had a rich assortment to enjoy. In my visits to Biltmore the past month the greenhouses were always busy, and it took patience to get the shot of this scene as if it was taken in a remote rainforest. Well, I suppose the bench also gives it away, along with the assorted flowerpots. But if I closed my eyes I could be transported to a jungle. The aroma of orchids filled the air with a rich sweetness. High above, cold rain pattering on the roof became a warm tropical storm pelting giant leaves of enormous trees. At least for a few moments I enjoyed my hothouse illusion on this unseasonably cool spring evening.