Phipps spring flower show is ‘all about color’
Colors aren’t a hot topic this time of year in Pittsburgh.
It’s a city consistently ranked among the dreariest in the nation – except for gray, as in gray skies, and winter blues, although that’s more of a feeling than a shade on the color spectrum.
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens brings back the bright hues of a new season in its spring flower show, “Gardens of the Rainbow,” March 23-April 21 at the Oakland glasshouse.
Jordyn Melino, associate director of exhibits at Phipps, has done her homework in designing a show that focuses on the science of prisms, kaleidoscopes and rainbows, as well as the beauty of more than 60,000 colorful blooms — including tulips, daffodils, lilies, hydrangeas, snapdragons, hyacinths and more — throughout the month long show.
“It’s all about color, what people want to see after a long winter,” she says.
What bees see
The show starts in the Palm Court, where visitors will learn a little about how “A Bee Sees” flowers. A large cluster of oversized blue flower sculptures depict what the insects may see when they come upon plantings of pink cineraria growing below.
“We see red, bees cannot; bees see ultraviolet waves, we cannot,” Melino says.
The Palm Court pops with beds planted in “Senetti Super Blue” cineraria, “Colorworks Violet Star” petunias, two varieties of deep pink azalea and purple and yellow “Matrix Morpheus” pansies.
In the Serpentine Room, visitors will encounter the sequence of hues described as making up a rainbow, commonly called ROYGBIV, with the first letter of each color represented by several different plants in each section.
They include ‘Infinite Cherry’ New Guinea Impatiens (red), ‘Sensatia Blood Orange’ nemesia (orange), ‘Avalon’ Large Cup Daffodil (yellow), ‘Green Ball’ Sweet William (green), ‘Blue Jacket’ Garden Hyacinth (blue), ‘Sensation’ lilac (indigo) and ‘Pink Butterflies’ Kalanchoe (violet).
“You’re basically walking through a rainbow,” the designer says. “It will be striking visually.”
‘Wow factor’ peacock
In the South Conservatory, Phipps Garden Railroad has been removed until fall, replaced by a 9-foot-tall topiary peacock created from natural dry materials and royal blue and orange plants. Melino says the colorful oversized bird will be the “wow factor” in the spring show.
Other show highlights include interactive fountains that create patterns and reflections of lighted prism sculptures in the Victoria Room’s pool of water, and rotating water sculpture pinwheels in the East Room that create secondary colors by combining primary colors. The red flowering plants in the Sunken Garden pay tribute to birds, which along with butterflies tend to prefer red flowers for pollination.
The bulbs in “Gardens of the Rainbow” will be changed out from two to four times during the show’s run, depending on the bulb. Among the 60,000-plus bulbs being used in the show are 37,239 tulips, 10,620 muscari, 6,608 narcissus, 3,564 hyacinth, 864 scilla, 765 ornithogallum, 420 allium, 324 lilies and 210 amaryllis.
Phipps will hold its annual bulb sales from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on March 30, April 20 and April 27 in the Outdoor Garden. Prices are the same for all bulbs: two pots for $5.
Previously displayed show orchids also will be sold on the same dates and times as the bulbs, as long as they are available, for $5 per plant.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.