I think it can be difficult to compare one conservatory to another, especially when I have such limited experience with them. I do also love Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh and really enjoyed my visit to the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle. The Cincinnati Conservatory in the park on Mount Adams in Cincinnati is also lovely, if small. I'm sure there are many others of extraordinary design awaiting my discovery, but this one is MINE. And I love it because it delivers what a good conservatory should: An experience that requires one to look carefully and then the opportunity to imagine worlds tropical, arid, primordial, and in so many ways altogether unlike the one I inhabit on a daily basis.
One of my favorite aspects of the U.S. Botanical Gardens and Conservatory is found the Garden Court when you first enter. Lining the exterior wall on either side of the entrance to the Garden Court are six magnificent murals honoring six of the great domesticated plants of the world. They are an eclectic bunch that, moving from right to left in the grand hall, include:
CACAO (Chocolate), Thoebroma cacao, earliest known consumption by humans was circa 1900 BCE in the Yucatan peninsula of southern Mexico and Guatemala.
COTTON, Gossypium var., simultaneously used circa 5500 BCE in both present day Mexico and Iraq to create clothe.
TEA, Camellia sinensis, legend attributes its discover to Shennong in 2737 BCE in China.MAIZE (Corn), Zea mays var., first domesticated in Mexico circa 8000 BCE.
RICE, Oryza var., first domesticated circa 11500 BCE in the Pearl River region of China.CITRUS Fruits, Citrus var., Origins have most recently been traced to Australia, New Caledonia and New Guinea, date remains ambiguous.