I am still in a dream state from my visit to Tower Hill Botanic Garden last weekend, where I crashed the American Begonia Society’s propagation class. After checking out the prize-winning begonias and gesneriads, I wandered into this magical place… The Orangerie. (You have to say it all grand and French… oraaaaaangerieeeeee.)
It’s a crazy cool green house/atrium, full of tropicals and everything lovely. I will admit I almost cried in there, for real. That’s what I want now. An oraaaangerieeee. (And in the house I live in, that’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. The husband and I are actually contemplating a little, sunny southern-facing unused balcony that’s just begging for some glass. Which would give me a place to play with my science projects during New England’s six-month winter. Apparently the Tower Hill gardeners have similar concerns.)
Here’s what I’ve learned about orangeries so far, if you believe the Internet. The earliest orangery was built in the late 1500s by Frances Carew. Queen Elizabeth I was believed to have visited it and tasted oranges for the first time. In the 18th century, orangeries thrived, and two landmark greenhouses were built in London — Kensington Palace in 1705 and Kew Gardens in 1761.
The Tower Hill Orangerie is a 4,000-square-foot “modern interpretation” of an 18th century-style greenhouse with a north/eastern exposure. It also contains a growing house, a “lift” to move plants, a potting shed, pit house and a “subterranean area where plants rest until the time is right to force them into growth.” (Really? You can do that?) Most plants here are reportedly winter-blooming or have “outstanding features” in winter, so I guess we know where my therapy couch will be, come February.
But aside from reveling in the obvious, over-the-top beauty of this luscious place, I had a personal revelation that was really exciting: I am on the right track, garden-wise. God knows I’m still a neophyte fighting a serious Thumb of Death… but I know where I’m going. I have an esthetic and this is it. Mind-blowing. I saw so many plants in the orangerie that I already have. On a MUCH smaller scale, obviously. But still… it was heartening. Purple spike, succulents, spider wort, obsessive amounts of Coleus. Check, check, check! I just need more, more, more and BIGGER! (And every other plant you see here — just as gigantic and healthy and lush — of course.)
Some more inspiration…