Archive for the ‘FOC News Blog’ Category

Volunteer Park Conservatory Pay Station – Instructions

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

PrintThe Volunteer Park Conservatory Pay Stations are now fully operational. The two machines are capable of  vending individual Day Passes and Annual Passes, and can now recognize recognize Annual Pass cards, and print Day Passes based on membership level.

Each time you visit Volunteer Park Conservatory, you will need to have a Day Pass visibly displayed on your clothing. Sales from Day and Annual Passes directly support the operation and maintenance of Volunteer Park Conservatory. You can feel proud when you display your sticker, knowing that you are helping to keep the doors open!



  1. DayPassBugSelect “BUY ONE DAY PASS” (Button A) from the menu options.
  2. Press “Add” or “Less” to select number of Adult Passes you wish to purchase
  3. Press Next to advance cursor to next category and repeat
  4. Step 2 for Youth and Child (if applicable)
  5. Confirm total number of passes and press DONE
  6. When green light appears, insert one-dollar bills, credit card, (with magnetic strip facing up and right) or coins in the appropriate slot (Please note: pay station does not give change)
  7. Pass(es) will dispense in lower slot
  8. Remove backing and place Day Pass visibly on your outer layer of clothing



Annual Pass

  1. Select “USE ANNUAL PASS CARD (Button C) from the menu options.
  2. Insert your Annual Pass with magnetic stripe facing up and to the right.
  3. If you have a Family Pass, press “Add” or “Less” to select number of adult, youth and child day passes to dispense.
  4. Pass(es) will dispense in lower slot
  5. Remove backing and place Day Pass visibly on your outer layer clothing
  6. Annual Passes can be used once every 24-hours.



  1. Select “Buy ANNUAL PASS CARD” (Button D) from the menu options.annualpassbugs
  2. Choose whether you wish to purchase an individual or family annual pass
  3. Press “Add” or “Less” or use numeric keypad to select the number of Passes you wish to purchase
  4. When green light appears, insert one-dollar bills, credit card, or coins in the appropriate slot (Please note: pay station does not give change)
  5. Receipt will dispense in lower slot.
  6. Take receipt to the PALM HOUSE GIFT SHOP to redeem for your annual pass card

Limited Edition Centennial Banner Bags

Thursday, August 1st, 2013


The Conservatory’s Centennial may have passed, but there’s still a chance to own a wonderful souvenir keepsake. The Friends of the Conservatory has produced a extremely limited run of durable, recycled shopping bags, made from the Centennial Banners which were displayed in Volunteer Park in 2012.

The bags were produced locally by Alchemy Goods and are constructed from reinforced vinyl mesh and upcycled seatbelts. The Centennial Banner Bag is a strong and lightweight carryall.

This Banner Bag is perfect for the gym, beach, a picnic, overnight, carryon and more. You can always toss it in the washing machine after a hard day. This is one of the only chances to own a part of Volunteer Park Conservatory history. These bags are selling fast, and once they’re gone, they will never be produced again.

Bags are for sale in the Palm House Gift Shop for $49 plus tax. 

Centennial Banner Bag features:
  • Made from upcycled advertising banners, no two are alike
  • Durable, washable vinyl material
  • Double reinforced bottom for long life
  • Handles made from upcycled seatbelt straps
  • Large size for large loads – 16″ (L) x 4.5″ (W) x 16″ (H)

Where’s my Annual Pass?

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Annual PassAfter a longer-than-expected delay, the firmware for the admission kiosks is ready to be installed, which will allow for self-serve day passes for Annual Pass holders.

Anyone who has not picked up their pass from the Palm House Gift Shop will receive it in the mail this month.

Until then, please feel free to visit the Conservatory as often as you like by following these simple steps:

• When you arrive, bypass the Pay Stations and go directly to the FOC Gift Shop (at the back of the Palm House)
• Ask the volunteer in the Gift Shop to look up your name in their computer by giving them your last name, or the last name of the family member who purchased the pass
• Receive your “paid” daily pass stickers for your INDIVIDUAL or FAMILY PASS members
• Place the sticker somewhere visible on your outermost layer

That’s it! You are free to wander the Conservatory until closing! (10 am until 7 pm – Tuesday through Sunday) Thank you so much!

Plant of the Month: Brugmansia

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

By Jeanne Schollmeyer, Conservatory Senior Gardener

brugmansia 2

Brugmansia or Angel’s Trumpets are in the Solanaceae or Nightshade family and are often confused with Datura, or Thorn Apples, understandable since the two genera were once combined together as Datura. Both have trumpet shaped corolla flowers, but the Datura’s flowers points upward and the Brugmansia’s flowers are nodding to totally pendulous. Daturas are short lived and herb-like, Brugmansias are long-lived, woody plants that can grow into shrubs or trees up to 26 feet.

All Brugmansia are from South America and inhabit different areas from tropical coastal regions to the mountainous regions of the Andeas. There are seven species, which are broken down into two natural genetically, isolated groups. The Brugmansia section, causally called the warm group is comprised of B. aurea, B. insignis, B. suaveolens, B.versicolor and the hybrid x Candida. The second section Sphaerocarpium, causally called the cool group, consists of B. arborea, B. sanguinea, B. vulcaniola and the hybrid x Flava. From these species plant breeders from around the globe have created hundreds of cultivars, creating plants with single, double and those called “double and some” corolla blooms.

Although Brugmansia are not hardy in the Pacific Northwest, regional gardeners grow Angel’s Trumpets outside either as annuals or wintering them over in a protected structure to grow as perennials.  Angel’s Trumpets can be grown in the ground during our warm season or as large container plants, often displayed on decks and in glass houses.  Brugmansia have truly spectacular, pendulous flowers that are fragrant in the evening, and can bloom in great numbers on a single, healthy plant. Although these plants are known to gardeners in this area, few cultivars are available in local nurseries. A collection of 23 different cultivars and species are grown at the Volunteer Park Conservatory’s growing houses. They are displayed in the Conservatory as they come into bloom. We add and subtract to the collection and evaluate each one for desirable traits that work best for display.

Brugmansia ProductiTo create the Conservatory’s displays we bring in large containerized plants through the Conservatory’s narrow, century old passageways and lift the potted plants onto the benches. For this reason we value compact plants and that is why B. ‘Cypress Garden’ is a favorite; it is a very heavy bloomer with large white, fading to peach-tone flowers. We also love the ubiquitous upright growing hybrid B. ‘Charles Grimaldi’ for its intense orange-yellow, with lighter center, 13 inch long flower. Another valued orange flowered bloomer is B. ‘Jean Pasko’ which has a somewhat more horizontal growth pattern.

This is the second year we are evaluating ‘Herrenhauser Garten’. It is reputed to be stubborn to bud up and bloom but I feel the wait for its very dreamy, double, apricot blossoms is worthwhile.  It likes cool temperatures while budded up. Yes you read that right, there are some Angel’s Trumpets that appreciate shade and cooler temperatures. As does the species B. sanguinea, which has tube-shaped, multicolored flowers, green at the base, yellow or creamy in the middle and end red at the mouth. Another double flowered Brugmansia with which I am totally smitten is B. ‘Swingtime’. Unfortunately, this may have arrived mislabeled. Its desirable trait is that the white, double flowers don’t discolor as they open.  B. ‘Peaches and Cream’ is prized for its huge number of white, aging to light apricot, single blooms and the variegated cream and green foliage that goes so well with the flowers.

brug art - sandyThere are some new cultivars that are boasted to have very large flowers; I often find this trait goes hand in hand with very large plants. The majority of Brugmansia on display at the Conservatory are just one year old, grown each year from cuttings, taken from late summer to early winter. There are a few cultivars that I like to grow to an older age and I have found it useful to root prune these to keep the plants to a reasonable size. Native Habitat Double Peach, Xena, Marrakech, and Moonlight seem to be large growers whose traits are still being evaluated.

The newly donated B. ‘Shredded White Fantasy’ is causing some anticipation, its petals are shredded, (which doesn’t sound attractive) but I’ve been told that it is a must-have for the intense fragrance.  As the warm season progresses the Brugmansias will be continuity displayed in the Fern House.  Since their fragrance intensifies at dusk and in the evening, this season the public can delight in this perfume during the Conservatory’s Summer Hours. Volunteer Park Conservatory is open until 7:00 PM Tuesday through Sunday until September.

Art Opening: The Allure of Carnivorous Plants. Thursday June 13th

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Art Opening Information.

Art Opening Information.

Even as it is misting heavily this gray, June morning, I am excited about Thursday, June 13th’s Botanical Exotica II. Artist Jason Gamrath created amazing gigantic Glass Orchids for the first event on April 11th and this Thursday he will reveal Fantastical Carnivorous plants.

The April Opening was amazing, the Orchids are located in the Palm House of the Conservatory: each turn of a corner reveals yet another amazing art piece placed in amongst the plantings. As the sun sets, the play of color and texture and form in the Conservatory changes; creating a dynamic, evolving exhibit. The Orchids will be on display through the end of the Show this fall.

This opening will build upon the foundation of his Orchid display, the Carnivorous plants will be exhibited in the Fern House, and I anticipate another fantastical Opening.

Come and see this amazing display on Thursday Night from 5-8pm. There will be an entry fee of $12 for non-Annual Pass Holders and $8 for Annual Pass Holders. The Conservatory will closed from 4-5.

For more information, check out our Website: Or call us at: 206-322-4112.

Diary of Summer Camp

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Kids Getting Behind the Scenes
at The Volunteer Park Conservatory!

Have any favorite memories of school?

Haha! Sometimes it’s hard to get back into the frame of mind of being a young student… I loved the walks my middle school teacher Bill would take us on in parks to identify plants around Seattle. In art I had the freedom to draw what I wanted and gravitated towards the quite and observant world of botanical illustration. Yet the time outside of school often felt the most electric, because I did what I really wanted! Drama classes and choir camps… I think at an early age we know where our talents and sympathies lie. But often schools give such a broad over view of subjects and in such an abstract context that it can’t help but loose the spark of self initiation and personal relevance. Maybe partly because of this I’ve always thought it would be great fun to develop programs outside of school for students that love the same subjects. The kids have all chosen to be there, and you have freedom to be wildly interdisciplinary, while encouraging critical thinking skills. This year at the Volunteer Park Conservatory I’ve created a back door for kids to see into the inner workings of our greenhouses and learn more about where all our plants come from and why botany and environmental science are so important and fascinating.

We had two sessions for our day camp that we called “Around the World in Four Days” one at the beginning and another at the end of summer. Many students enrolled with friends, and some parents asked to be involved too. It was a community effort. I involved botany students from the University of Washington, gardeners from the Conservatory, and various specialists from the Friends of the Conservatory. It was a good group. We explored our way through the plant kingdom by visiting the collections, doing scavenger hunts, and building terrariums for deserts and rainforests. Kids could learn what belonged to a particular region, could curate the piece themselves labeling all the plants, and learned to care for them and took their terrariums home at the end of the four days.

Almost everyone came in having particular plants they gravitated towards, yet there was a much bigger picture those plants were a part of. We started class by looking at the regions the plants came from. We looked at how the wind, weather, and topography all work together to create the unique environments that plants grow out of and respond to as we pondered words like evolution…

Most of our students had been to the Conservatory before but many had never seen or touched a globe that didn’t divide down national boundaries. The globe I painted described regions where plants and animal communities share a common environment. This opened up a whole host of questions… Why are some spots warmer than others? What is weather? How does it move around the earth? We experimented making clouds in glass jars as well as saw how dew drops and rain forms with a little help from water and ice cubes inside metal cups. We even talked about how we make the climates in the various greenhouses at the Conservatory to reproduce the conditions nearer the equator the best we can. Throughout all this students each kept a detailed journal that they decorated and wrote their notes in.

We didn’t just talk about evolution as a concept we looked at how it happened over generations of plants living in a climate and successfully reproducing. We looked at orchids as an example of an incredibly diverse species of plants that has made a life most often in the canopy of trees, just where certain insects and birds can pollinate them. These orchids form bonds with their pollinator not only through offering it nectar but also mimicking how they look or creating the perfect landing pad for them.

Kids got to look at some of the many orchids in our collection, draw and label their parts,

and even pollinate their own flowers toothpicks in hand!

Then the orchids that they learned to pollinate went in their journals with a number of other pressed plant parts. It was cool to see students first botanical drawings next to the real plants. Their journals were full of drawings and keep sakes to remember all they learned.

After exploring the many things that shaped a plant above ground we also looked below at roots and soil. With collections of dirt from all over the state students saw how combining sand, clay, and humus in varying amounts formed very different soils for each region, and thus very different communities of plants. Some were hard and repelled water, while others were like big sponges. Everyone got to guess which soil belonged to which location.

Then we set up the microscopes and looked a little deeper…

even on the smallest level we could see life in the soil. Bacteria that formed beneficial relationships with plants actually helped roots absorb nutrients from the soil. Of course if there was more plant debris in the soil then there was likely to be more microorganisms, and more beneficial relationships. Maybe this next year we can test that theory, and find out if these cultures can be introduced to poorer soils for bioremediation projects. Or perhaps even better have some friends from EarthCorp teach us about how places like Gas Works Park have been cleaned up through introducing a network of the right microorganisms.

We wrapped camp up by looking again at these many relationships on a large scale. Students drew the plants and animals they’d learned about and placed them where they would normally live on a giant mural. And every student got to tell their own story about how that being was special and an important part of the woven tapestry of life. Parents arrived for the presentation and for pictures. And after the students had packed up all their drawings, terrariums, and other goodies we got to hear from parents and guardians how much the kids were talking about class every day over dinner. When you’re growing corn from a kernel, measuring it’s growth, studying it’s structure, making tortillas from ground corn fried in a skillet with melted cheese on top, you’re gonna have a lot to say, right? After such a successful class and such great students I’m happy to see summer around the corner and kids already signing up to explore the Conservatory and some of our worlds many treasures.

Visit for more blogs by Sara Lawrence.


Conservatory Winter Update!

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

It’s that time of year again when the trees in Volunteer Park are putting on one final display of beauty before winter’s dormancy. While we may have been short-changed on a long, hot summer this year, the magnificent colors of the foliage seem to be trying to compensate and will not certainly disappoint anyone making the trip.

Volunteer Park’s crown jewel, the Conservatory watches proudly from the north, no doubt contemplating the final few weeks of being in the double-digits. 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Conservatory in Volunteer Park which will be commemorated throughout the entire year through events and programs open to the public.

The Friends of the Conservatory, now in its 31st year of service, has had one of its most active years in recent memory. Our two plant sales in May and September were extremely successful; the Spring Sale was the most successful sale on record! The Education Committee sponsored the Urban Safari Summer Camp program for grade-school students received glowing praise from participants and parents and will be expanded next year. The summer also bore a series of open houses to remind the Capitol Hill neighborhood of the perhaps-overlooked treasure right in their backyards. Visitors were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour, live music, and a book signing with Sara Chapman, author of an extensive and beautiful book chronicling the Conservatory collection throughout the year: “Flowers of Volunteer Park Conservatory: Blooming Month by Month” (available for purchase in the Conservatory Gift Shop.)

At the end of October, the Conservatory gardeners surprised us with the first-annual Haunted Conservatory After-Hour Open in which the tropical paradise was transformed with spooky decorations, chilling special effects, treats for visitors, and a screening of “Little Shop of Horrors” in the cactus house. December brings our annual Holiday Open House including a very special treat in just time for the centennial; the Conservatory will be outfitted with thousands of energy-efficient LED bulbs which will shine bright starting in December and remain installed for the duration of 2012 to commemorate the festive occasion. The FOC Gift Shop, located in the Conservatory has had a remarkably successful year with October sales up 68% over the previous October, and overall sales are up 19% from last year!

We are hoping you can join us for the festivities in the New Year! The Centennial Committee has some terrific events planned throughout the entire year, and we look forward to sharing them with you! For information about upcoming events or to learn how you can get involved, contact or call 206.322.4112.

Read more Conservatory updates in the FOC 2011 Fall/Winter Newsletter!

Welcome to the new Friends of the Conservatory Website!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

First Blog!

One of the first duties I tackled when I first started volunteering for the Friends of the Conservatory was taking a stab at redesigning our organization’s website. Having served time as a web designer in the heady days of the dot-com ’90s I still had a little HTML up my sleeve and in 2007 launched version 2.3 of our website to the public. While the redesign modernized the look and feel of the initial site, the design remained static with little opportunity for interaction. Changes had to be manually edited and uploaded and which made it difficult to ensure timely publication, and also led to the possibility of stagnant content. As time passed, the redesign of the website showed signs of age. Unfortunately priorities had changed and my 20th century web design knowledge was no longer sufficient to implement the features every contemporary website should have.

In late 2010, my attention was drawn to the Seattle Central Community College Advanced Web Design 210 Class. Each year, students choose from several non-profit organizations and design (or redesign) a website as a class project. We applied for consideration and were chosen as one of the projects for the 2011 summer quarter.

Our capable team consisted of Reed Wacker, Laura Sammons, and Brian Kluck . The process was very straightforward; the team asked about our needs and goals, and where we envisioned the site going. With the Conservatory’s upcoming centennial, we wanted to update our look. We also had a strong desire to allow visitors to interact with the site, integrating social media and blogging. Most importantly, we wanted to allow for varied contributors and editors who will help make the site vibrant.

From static HTML to dynamic WordPress PHP, in just over two months, the redesign was complete. We are still learning the ropes of our new technologies, so please bear with us as we work out a few of the kinks.

We are hoping that version 3.0 of our site will be welcoming, useful and fun to visitors!

Please let us know how you like it!



Anthonio Mighuel Bishop Pettit
President, Friends of the Conservatory