Planting Fields to hold gardens fest on Jan. 15

Planting Fields to hold gardens fest on Jan. 15

The Planting Fields Foundation will hold the Paradise Garden Festival at Planting Fields on Sunday, Jan. 15 in the Winter Garden, known as the Main Green House, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with events for children and families.

Admission is free.

The large Winter Garden, originally known as the Hibiscus House, with tropical trees and plants, was built in 1929.

It is one of the last surviving examples of a private winter garden in the northeast, typical of the sort that had first been constructed by the British in the 1830s.

Private winter gardens were built for the pleasure of wealthy owners to entertain their family and friends.

This greenhouse, a feature of the 409-acre park, is now owned by the State of New York and is open to visitors 364 days a year.

The Main Greenhouse was erected by the prominent firm, Lord and Burnham, and was designed by the Olmsted Brothers.

The idea of setting up a Garden of Eden, an earthly paradise that mocks the winter scene outside, is an age old dream which became possible in 19th-century England with the invention of iron and glass buildings heated by coal stoves.

For the very wealthy the fashion spread throughout Europe and the U.S.

For such a greenhouse, the construction, purchase of plants, upkeep and heating are very expensive.

A winter garden, like a big house with an art collection, became one of the recognized signs of high social standing.

At Planting Fields the main greenhouse was commissioned by W. R. Coe, who was born in England and came to the U.S. as a teenager.

He made his fortune in marine insurance. His wife, Mai Rogers Coe, was the daughter of Henry Huttleston Rogers, one of the founders of Standard Oil.

Growing under the palm trees are two a small cocoa trees, from the beans of which chocolate is made.

It is difficult to pollinate cocoa flowers in a green house, but in the last year they have been successfully pollinated and there are now cocoa beans at Planting Fields.

There are ferns, begonias, orchids and cactuses to be seen.

The exotic vanilla vine is another plant which is very difficult to pollinate under glass but is successfully pollinated here in the main greenhouse.

Small animals to be seen here are the small eastern gray tree frog, which changes color to adapt to gray or green backgrounds, and Italian wall lizards.

The two-story Hibiscus House was one of the last great private winter gardens to be built before the financial crash of 1929.

In 1949, Coe sold Planting Fields for $1 to the State of New York, and it is now a state park, partly supported by Planting Fields Foundation

Tropical vegetation, banana trees, palms, guava, cocoa and orange trees, orchids, begonias and dozens of other “indoor” plants will be on view.

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