Gardens to Drive For: Glasshouse Gardens

By Michael Leach

A tropical escape from the cold and slush of Midwestern winter comes with an admission ticket not a boarding pass. Summer awaits in glass house gardens, those amazing conservatories from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee to St. Louis. Some of these are new structures, others historic community icons. All reward with welcome warmth and a breath of fresh air — sometimes perfumed with tropical flowers.

Not all escape locations are as strictly botanical as these venues. Palm-filled atriums in office buildings, hotels and shopping malls provide a dose of warmth and chlorophyll, frequently accented with splashing water that refreshes winter weary souls.

Other escape hatches are large garden centers. Their houseplant sections afford not only summery warmth and humidity — but souvenirs to brighten windowsills at home.

In the next few weeks we’ll highlight special conservatory events, such as the Orchids! Vibrant Victoriana (Jan. 14 through April 8, 2012) at Franklin Park Conservatory in Ohio’s capital Columbus. The show blends works by glass artist Debora Moore with the flora. Please tell us about your favorite wintering spots.

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