I love greenhouses and conservatories because they have the power to transport us into a another world: A world with its own unique climate – one designed to give the plants living there everything that they need to thrive.
But what happens when someone takes this concept even farther? When a giant corporation with progressive ideas collaborates with some of the most innovative architects and botanists out there?
The Amazon Spheres
One beautiful summer day, I stumbled upon The Spheres by accident. I was rushing to an appointment.
I’d seen photos of The Spheres, but I didn’t realize I’d be passing them on my route. I’d sort of written them off as another one of those poorly conceived pipe dreams that blight our urban landscape.
But in real life, they looked amazing – fragile, elegant, and unique. It was love at first sight.
I caught glimpses of the plant life inside.
Then from the security desk, which was as far as I was allowed to go, I saw part of the massive vertical garden. I wanted in!
But for me to get inside, I would have to get tickets in advance and come back on a designated Saturday. And I already knew who I would invite: Someone who enjoys gardens and futuristic stuff – my mom, Erika.
Reconnecting with Nature
The Spheres were designed as a place for employees at Amazon’s Seattle Headquarters to go to reconnect with nature and do a little creative thinking. Quite the job perk!
But on this Saturday, The Spheres were open to those members of the public who had booked a timed ticket in advance. Mom and I were among them.
Once past the security desk, we were greeted by the 60-foot living wall.
We’d already learned that The Spheres are home to 40,000 plants, most native to high-elevation cloud forests. And after seeing that living wall, I believed it!
The Spheres’ structure seemed much bigger from the inside. Aside from the living wall, we really hadn’t known what to expect. There was a jungle here!
With a massive indoor water feature,
Huge tree ferns,
And Rubi, the largest tree in The Spheres. A docent told us she was transported from California via flatbed truck.
Various species of flora are tucked into her trunk.
Lights wind through her upper branches.
Nature and Structure
Modern architecture usually strikes me as cold and impersonal. Not so with The Spheres. The curved glass structure (2,636 panes of glass!) lends a quiet, airy backdrop to the natural elements inside – while reminding us that we truly are in an urban jungle set in the heart of a major city.
A huge “nest,” one of many creative seating areas for employees, seems to hang in mid-air, reachable only by a springy wooden bridge that mimics a canopy walk.
The Right Atmosphere
As with any good conservatory, the comfort of the plants comes first at The Spheres.
The temperature is carefully controlled. With all the natural light filtering through all of those panes of glass, I was surprised to see additional lighting. There were also strategically placed fans and misters. Often, we were walking through mist.
With any garden tour, I look for inspiration that I can use at home. There was plenty here, even if it was on a grand scale.
Mom had recently started a vertical garden in her sunroom. She is using mostly ferns so, as she often is, she is right on trend with the giant living wall – although visiting here has probably given her a few new fern varieties to look for.
As for me, my plant crush continues to be my live Spanish moss. For the time being, they are still happy on my front porch. But when I bring them indoors for the winter, I might be looking to set up some scaled-back version of this idea.
I could go on and on about what we saw at The Spheres, but instead I will leave you with this little slide show (which is just a tiny fraction of what we saw on our visit) in hopes that you might find some inspiration of your own.
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DIY Vertical Gardens
Vertical gardens are trending, and it’s no wonder since they are a great way to maximize a small garden space or dress up a bland wall or fence. Vertical plant hangers of all sizes are easy to find.
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