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Phipps show offers seasonal, prehistoric delights

| Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 7:13 p.m.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A detail of the train display Monday November 25, 2013 inside the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Glass blown by Jenn Figg and Matthew McCormack Monday November 25, 2013 inside the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A a poinsettia tree adorns the entry hall Monday November 25, 2013 inside the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
William Stroup trims a giant tree in the Victoria Room Monday November 25, 2013 inside the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
The entry hall Monday November 25, 2013 inside the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Presents hang from the ceiling Monday November 25, 2013 inside the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Poinsettia's adorn the entry hall Monday November 25, 2013 inside the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland.

Poinsettias are invading Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and so are mini dinosaurs.

The Winter Flower Show and Winter Light Garden, which opens Nov. 29, fills the Oakland conservatory with lighted Christmas trees, poinsettias, whimsical touches like wrapped gift packages and retired carousel horses, glass sculptures and more.

And the annual Garden Railroad, a miniature train set in the South Conservatory, has a comical, “Jurassic Park”-like theme of dinosaurs escaping from a park and taking over Phipps Prehistoric Park. Little dinosaur figurines appear throughout the platform, wreaking havoc.

Though it's not the event's official title, Phipps officials say this year's show has a “sparkle and shine” theme — which you'll especially see during the illuminated evenings, offered every day until 11 p.m.

“We're encouraging people to come during the day, and then come again at night,” Phipps spokeswoman Liz Fetchin says. “It's a very different experience.”

When you walk into the Palm Court, a “tree” made out of red poinsettias greets you, along with two flanking, lighted Christmas trees and poinsettias in the surrounding flowerbeds. Wrapped gift boxes hang from the ceiling over the red, pink and white poinsettia-filled Sunken Garden, where two retired, wooden carousel horses from Kennywood Park greet visitors at each entrance.

In the winding Serpentine Room, glass mushrooms that illuminate at night surround Christmas trees, red amaryllis and poinsettias. Curvy, glass snowflake-like creations hang from the Serpentine Room ceiling, and they will light up at night to look like the aurora borealis, Phipps officials say. Matthew McCormack and Jenn Figg, Baltimore-based artists, made the glass creations that appear throughout Phipps.

In the Fern Room and Orchid Room — two rooms that usually don't have features from Phipps' seasonal shows — visitors will see some more glass sculptures, of ferns, bromeliads and more.

An 18-foot Christmas tree decorated with ribbons and fabric butterflies towers over the Victoria Room, while pink poinsettias and white amaryllis fill the adjacent Broderie Room. The adjoining East Room, usually the most whimsical spot in each Phipps seasonal show, has a wooden Santa's Workshop, a sleigh full of gifts and reindeers made out of twigs.

Outside, visitors can walk through the Winter Light Garden, with numerous glowing, colorful orbs, dripping icicles, lit trees and a fountain of light.

Laura Schoch, Phipps plant recorder and display horticulturist, says that the winter show, timed with the holidays, has become a beloved tradition for many Pittsburghers.

“We love it,” she says. “People bring their kids. It's a family-oriented thing.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7824 or kgormly@tribweb.com.

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