by Michaela Mulligan
The warm moist air fills my nose as I walk into the greenhouse and my eyes are opened by the light and dark greens I see. My body begins to heat up as I start to walk around the displays with plants and greenery of every size. From the tall trees that tower over me to the small flowers I bend down closer to see, there are plants growing all around me.
I walk to one of the other rooms to be greeted by a display of red poinsettias and ivy hanging off of the tables covered with purple, orange, and white flowers. The soft sound of water running can be heard in the background as well as the humming sound made by fans regulating the temperature.
I am transported into the desert in another section of the greenhouse where cacti pop out of their pots and I avoid poking myself. Plants from Africa, South America and Asia coexist within the displays, giving me an opportunity to see plants I wouldn’t normally see. Visiting the Gaiser Conservatory greenhouses in Manito Park, I get a glimpse of what the rest of the world looks like.
The Gaiser Conservatory was built in 1912 as a conservatory and as a backup greenhouse to support the Manito Park system. In 1974, the greenhouse was refurbished and in 1988 the dome was enlarged to accommodate more plants. The conservatory is named after Dr. David Gaiser, a longtime Spokane Park Board member.
Every month of the year there are plants blooming within the conservatory, allowing visitors to visit Manito Park, even when the gardens outside are not in bloom. Another draw to the conservatory is that it houses plants from different countries from around the world. Examples of plants include the Red Pineapple plant from southern Brazil, Umbrella Plant from Madagascar and Old Man cactus from central Mexico.
Stephanie O’Byrne works at Manito Park, and she thinks people like to visit the conservatory because they can see plants that don’t normally grow in Spokane. “You’re going to see a lot of orchids, a lot of flowering crops and a wide variety of plants,” O’Byrne said.
She also encourages visitors to stop by the conservatory while visiting Manito Park because they get to experience a new environment and have a place to warm up during the cold winter months.
When you walk into the conservatory, it is split up into three main areas: the center greenhouse and two adjoining greenhouses. The center area is filled with tropical trees, flowers and plants, making you feel like you’re on vacation in the jungle. A wall is dedicated to orchids, each one hanging in a pot off the wall. More plants frame a small water feature that creates a calming feeling within the conservatory.
In one of the attached greenhouses, a family of cacti lives together. One cactus stands out from the rest of them: the Christmas Cactus. Pink flowers dangle off of the green spiky leaves and underneath the foliage a sign reads “Christmas Cactus, Alumbergera Bridgesii, Propagated in 1906.” Over 100 years old, the Christmas Cactus is the oldest plant within the conservatory. “A lot of people like seeing a lot of mature cactus and succulents, the aloes,” said gardener Kevin Kilgore.
By just walking through the entire conservatory, you get to see plants from all six continents. Each plant has a tag that tells you the name of plant as well as where it is from. The names of the plants vary from English Ivy to Chin Cactus and span from Mexico to Vietnam.
Kilgore thinks the conservatory is interesting because of “… the fact that it’s over 100 years old now and that it does have such a diverse variety; I mean there are tropicals and cactus and annuals and trees, it’s really amazing.”
The Gaiser Conservatory is open year round except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Martin Luther King Jr. Day; and the admission is free. You don’t have to leave Spokane to see the world; all you have to do is step into the Gaiser Conservatory at Manito Park and immerse yourself in the plants.