The city of Detroit is known for its beautiful architecture. It is a city that temporarily fell on hard times but is being brought back by the hard work and determination of people who are known for their tenacity and indomitable spirit. The city is filled with hidden gems and history. Amid freezing temperatures and snow, the Anna Whitcomb Conservatory is a warm oasis of beauty and peace. It is fascinating to think about the plants nestled in this safe, warm place through the years while outside so many things were changing.
Belle Isle is an island park situated between the United States and Canada covering 982 acres. The Conservatory opened in 1904. It is the oldest continually-run conservatory in the United States. Originally known simply as the conservatory or horticultural building, it was renamed the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory in 1955. The name change was to honor Ms. Whitcomb for her donated collection of 600 exotic orchids. Many of the orchids had been saved in Britain during World War 2. In later years as the surrounding area declined, Belle Isle got an unsafe reputation and some buildings on the island became vandalized. In 2013 the city of Detroit declared bankruptcy and the state proposed taking over Belle Isle to convert into a state park. In 2014 Belle Isle became Michigan’s 102nd State Park. Along with DNR control came upgrades and repairs to the grounds and buildings as well as patrolling by the state police. Many unique details and amenities have been restored and are well worth the trip to see.
We arrived when the park opened and were some of the first through the gardens that morning. As we walked in these brilliant red leaves were one of the first things we saw.
Lollipop Plant (Pachystachys lutea). Also known as Golden Shrimp Plant.
Madagascar Palm (Pachypodium lamerei) blooming!
The building itself was truly a work of art.
Jungle Flame (Ixora coccinea). Native to India and Sri Lanka.
Nun’s Orchid (Phaius tankervilliae)
Rattlesnake Plant (Calathea lancifolia). The texture on these leaves was beautiful.
The plants had just been watered. Droplets caught the light.
These magenta flowers looked like they came from a Dr. Suess book.
Looking up at the wise, old trees. The ceilings reached as high as 85 feet!
Outside it was a cold, gray day. We plan to go back this summer to see the outdoor gardens.
For more information about the conservatory at Belle Isle:
Belle Isle Website www.belleisleconservatory.org
DNR website www.michigandnr.com
So where did we eat?
Inn Season Cafe– Inn Season is an old favorite we visit every time we are in Metro Detroit. The vegetarian/vegan eatery has been in business since 1981. On this particular day, we enjoyed a portabella mushroom sandwich and 4th Street Burger for lunch. The burger was made with oats, lentils, brown rice millet, cracked wheat cornmeal, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. It was absolutely delicious. We finished the meal with a vegan brownie sundae for dessert.
Greenspace Cafe– For dinner, we tried something new. Greenspace Cafe is a plant-based restaurant in Ferndale that is physician owned. We had Forest Mushroom Gnocchi and Miso Udon. The beverage menu had organic house-made juices, kombucha, Michigan made wines and apothecary style alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails. For dessert non-dairy ice cream with pistachios. We cannot say enough about how good the food was and will definitely be back.