Friday, October 14, 2016

Are You Out of Your Gourd?

Friday evenings the Phipps Conservatory is open late, so Dear Husband picked me up after signout for dinner at the cafe and to enjoy the displays. We got lucky: the rooms were already set up for the Fall Flower Show: Bask in Nature's Bounty, which opened officially the next day. DH and I were not impressed by the baskets of fake apples, but there were also wicker squirrels and sheaves of corn stalks, scarecrows, pumpkins, and all manner of what DH called "haunted vegetables."

We got even luckier that there were performance artists in homemade costumes that evoked the gardens at the Conservatory that night. (I assume they were from one of the local colleges or universities.) Two wearing branches did interpretive dance. Two hid under an umbrella of fabric strips that gave the impression of being a giggling, shaggy plant-creature and interacted with the museum-goers. Two posed in the various galleries (I thought the one below was the best costume, being most representative of the gardens). DH's favorite two appear to have been modeled on an Asian legend, with one representing an evil spirit (with a head like a squash) and the other a good spirit (who struck a bell as if to drive the other one away). We could hear the clang all night, reminding us that the spirits were never far away.

Another exhibit was set to open the next day, the Garden Railroad: 200 Years of Pittsburgh. Little dioramas showcased famous parts of Pittsburgh history such as KDKA, the oldest commercial radio station; Three Rivers Stadium, with tiny football players lost in the real bed of grass on the "field"; and of course Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. I liked the rubber ducky floating near the replica of the Point, where the rivers converge. Many of the displays had buttons to push to make the trolley go up the Mount Washington incline, for instance, or to turn a model of the first-ever ferris wheel.

DH and I are particular fans of Dale Chihuly's glass art, of which there are at least four at the Phipps. Here were my favorites: a spiky yellow sun suspended above cacti and other succulents; and this assemblage on the right, which suggested underwater tropical plants to me. They have done a good job pairing the plants with the artwork, and with the lighting.

Honestly, it hadn't occurred to me until we arrived that it would be dark inside--because of course, most of the greenhouses' light comes from the sun. Once it sets, the interiors had the perfect mood lighting for spooky viewing. It really was perfect (almost) by accident. We enjoyed our hour-long visit so much that we went ahead and purchased an annual membership. It not only allows us unlimited visits for the year, but if one of us is busy (::cough::) the other one can bring a guest. Our next trip will be for the Winter Flower Show and Light Garden: Days of Snow and Nights Aglow. I can't wait for the schedule of live performers to come out for the Candlelight Evenings. And I look forward to the pictures I can take when the halls are lit with sunlight...

Editor's Note: If you liked this edition of That's So Pittsburgh (TSPGH), you might also like this post about the Regatta, this one about an iconic piece of Pittsburgh architecture, or this one about a centuries-old cemetery.

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