Stop & smell the flowers: Phipps indulges the senses

Emily Fritz | A&E Editor | Accessory pieces such as statues, fountains, chime canopies and art installations help bring the exhibits to life.

Emily Fritz | A&E Editor

April 20, 2023

Aromatic florals, singing songbirds, touch-sensitive greenery, springtime snacks and a vibrant array of colors.

From March 18 through April 16, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Schenley Park put on an inviting display for their annual “Spring Flower Show: Five Senses of Splendor.”

This year’s theme touched upon the five senses, featuring “a giant perfume bottle, harmonious chime canopies, a cascading fountain and more, all surrounded by blooms in a rainbow of shades,” according to their press release.

The conservatory in Oakland, which is situated on 15 acres, hosts 14 climate- and moisture-controlled rooms and 23 gardens in total.

In the Welcome Center Ikebana displays highlighted the Japanese art of floral arrangement. Dubbed the “Ikebana International Exhibit,” the pieces were provided courtesy of the Ikebana International Pittsburgh Chapter.

Moving through the conservatory, visitors found themselves immersed in a sunken garden, a desert display, a tropical forest and of course, vivid blooms.

To appeal to more senses, some areas were equipped with chimes and a gentle airflow alongside an interactive xylophone, while others were decorated with interactive water displays and fountains.

Other areas feature fragrant beds of rosemary, sage, lavender and lemon fizz. Some plants, such as the sensitive plant, reacted to touch, closing its leaves after being handled.

Café Phipps also offered special, limited-edition spring-inspired dishes and beverages, pushing the limits of the sensory experience even further.

Interactive, family-friendly areas allowed guests to manipulate water features and garden statues or investigate other popular plants, such as the produce one would find in the grocery store or the pungent plants in the Tropical Fruit and Spice Room.

Familiar flowers included lilies, amaryllis, petunias, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, while less commonly known plants such as an octopus cactus, an American century plant, dormant African tree grapes and a Swiss cheese plant gave guests a botanical curiousity that wouldn’t normally be organic to the Pittsburgh region.

“Tropical Forest Hawai‘i: Aloha ‘Āina” was also open for patrons looking to learn more about “the rich history, nature and culture of the Hawaiian archipelago,” according to their website.

“Aloha ‘Āina,” meaning “love of land,” exemplifies the harmonious living of Indigenous Hawaiians.

The Tropical Forest Conservatory offers rich educational opportunities about watershed and biocultural resource management, in addition to hosting a small aquatic area full of fish.

Phipps hosts a number of sustainability classes and programs alongside special events.

In the coming months, the conservatory will be hosting their summer flower show, “Flowers Meet Fashion: Inspired by Billy Porter,” from May 6 through June 25.

Advance tickets will go on sale beginning at noon on Friday.

To learn more about upcoming events, commissioned exhibits, sustainability classes or how the conservatory contributes to a greener world, visit their website at