ISSUE 33  |  Kitchen Week

Modern Vertical Gardens for a Victorian Glass Palace

August 14, 2012 7:00 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

San Francisco’s very proper Conservatory of Flowers, the oldest public conservatory in the western hemisphere, has added a 21st century touch to its collection of carnivorous plants, its rare tropical shrubs, and its serene lily pad garden: a vertical garden kit made of recycled water bottles.

Famously restored at a cost of $25 million after a severe storm severely damaged its 10,800 panes of glass and delicate white wooden arches nearly 20 years ago, the Conservatory has a new vertical garden in its lobby. Here’s a glimpse, first spotted via Plants on Walls, of the installation as it got underway the other day in Golden Gate Park:

Photographs via Plants on Walls, except where noted.


Above: The conservatory’s high domed confection of a lobby. Photograph by Jennifer, via Flickr.

For another Victorian glasshouse with modern exhibits, see “Baby, It’s Warm Inside: The Phipps Conservatory.”

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Above: The vertical garden in progress (R).

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Above: A Florafelt Vertical Garden Planter, made from recycled water bottles, costs from $59 to $159, depending on size, from Plants on Walls. To make your own vertical garden kit, see DIY Vertical Garden Kit: Just Add Water (and a Wall).

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Above: Filling the pockets with a variety of tropical plants. In the lobby, 32 Florafelt wall mounted planters are attached to a galvanized steel frame.

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Above: The wall’s 360 pockets are filled with exotic species from the conservatory’s collection as well as with other, donated plants.


Above: Inside the conservatory, a very tall philodendren keeps company with tropical neighbors. Photograph by Vladimir Sanchez via Flickr.


Above: The conservatory is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30, Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays). Photograph by Leslieak via Flickr.


Above: Mystery surrounds the conservatory’s history.The building was discovered in a crate in a barn in San Jose in 1876. Tests of the structure, conducted 15 years ago, revealed that more than two-thirds of the building was made of redwood, a common material in Northern California. Photograph by Che Holts via Flickr.

For a story about a glasshouse in Norfolk, England that was abandoned for decades before being restored, see “How to Restore a (Rather Large) Kitchen Garden.”