Riding into summer: Phipps flower show highlights trains

| Friday, May 9, 2014, 8:12 p.m.

The seasonal Summer Flower Show this year at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens showcases the childlike fun of miniature toy trains, which wind throughout the Oakland conservatory and invite visitors to make the trains move with pushable buttons.

“We always like to have a little bit of whimsy in our shows,” says Jordyn Melino, Phipps exhibit coordinator who designed the summer show along with two colleagues. “Kids and adults alike love those interactive buttons.”

The summer show, featuring numerous seasonal plants and flowers including cannas, New Guinea impatiens and many tropical plants, has a long, four-and-a-half-month run and closes Oct. 5, less than two weeks before the fall show debuts Oct. 18.

Designers of the exhibit — Melino, and Phipps officials Laura Schoch and Curt Pesanka — chose the train theme for playfulness and fun, and because the Garden Railroad, on display much of the year in the South Conservatory, has been so popular. It's been especially popular recently because of the dinosaur theme, Melino says.

“I think the show is a lot of fun,” she says. “People would really get a kick out of operating the trains in each of the rooms.

“My favorite part of the summer show is that it's so bright and colorful, and tropical,” Melino says. “It's a great way to get away and really enjoy beautiful, bright tropicals.”

The train theme shows up in nine rooms throughout the conservatory, including some rooms that usually don't change, like the Desert Room, which has a mine-car train. A clock and phone booth reminiscent of old-fashioned train-station style greet you in the Palm Court.

Three trains, including a circus train, wind through the curvy Serpentine room. Train tracks wrap around the rim of the Sunken Garden. An alpine scene rises from the pond of the Victoria Room, with a little train chugging around a big, white mountain, complete with miniature aerial gondolas that visitors can operate.

After visitors explore the summer show's components inside, they can go to the outdoor, kid-friendly Discovery Garden, where visitors can touch, smell and taste plants, and kids can play. This garden, which includes an area full of tall dahlias, stays open usually into the fall, weather permitting.

Along with the Summer Flower Show, there will be lots of activity at Phipps in the next few months.

May 10: The annual May Market continues from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a variety of vendors on the grounds of the conservatory

May 24: Discovery Garden Day features lots of kids activities in the outside garden.

Starting June 4: Farmers at Phipps brings a farmers market to the conservatory from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday through October.

Party in the Tropics: This 21-and-over event with food, drinks and dancing is from 7 to 11 p.m. the first Friday of each month, except July, when it will be July 11.

June 12: Jazz in the Garden features an all-star lineup of Pittsburgh jazz musicians along with food and drinks in the outside gardens.

July 12: Tropical Forest India Mango Festival celebrates the mango and its important role in Indian culture.

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

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