The Conservatory here was added at the height of the Victorians mania for plants from distant parts of their Empire. Some of our more unique plants come from even more distant locales. I still remember the minor Lords and Ladies here for High Tea in that era looking at the odd plants and keeping their elbows away from some of the more aggressive plants.
Here’s one tale of that space…
We’ve gone and lost the Cheshire Cat again. Silly little bugger will wander into the conservatory. It’s quite a nasty place, you know. Started out very pretty — glass dome, fountains, marble cupids–all the Victorian doodads. But then the second baronet, Sir Malis Grimmantle, started doing his experiments there. Drawing pentagrams on the floor with chalk, animating the artwork (I never liked cupids, but the ones with fangs—they really give me the willies!).
No, you really don’t want to go in there. What? You want me to guide you? It’s really not a good idea. I’ve been a gardener here these past 160 years and nothing but trouble ever came out of that conservatory.
Now hold on! Don’t call the management down on me. I’ll show you ’round, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
You’ll need to carry a few things with you for protection. Let’s see: torch, sharpened stake, sprig of rowan, salt, iron, red thread, 7 garlic cloves, 3 horseshoes and a pair of earplugs for them damn noisy sirens that live in Jenny Greenteeth’s fountain. All right, if you insist, here we go.
Observe the alchemical designs on our hand-forged, wrought iron gates. They depict the marriage of Heaven and Hell and were crafted by the great Samuel Yellin.
Be sure and notice the mosaics we’re walking on. They’re very recent, done by Philadelphia’s Isaiah Zagar. Be careful how you look at them. Stare at them too long and you’ll be hypnotized. You really want to keep your wits about you here what with the carnivorous plants and all.
Do watch where you step. It’s unnerving when the puddles scream back at you. Oh, yes, they all have faces. It got that nice Prof. Tolkien a bit upset…Cattails with heads? Yes, Sir Malis did have some unusual notions about horticulture. I always bring a bit of fish with me when I come here, saves me from getting scratched up.
Mind the harpies, now! They do like to throw that muck about.
We’re on the Rose Walk now, heading toward the Fountain Court. The body on the bench? Professor Plum. Miss Scarlett got life, but as you can see, other forces were at work here. Once you sit in one of those benches, they just won’t let go.
You can just kick the pods out of the way; they’re dormant this time of year.
To your right, just inside our fernery, there is a very unusual statue of The Green Man sent to us by an admirer from Innsmouth, MA. Very odd features, almost fishlike. A family resemblance? Me? Surely you jest.
If you look up at the ceiling right here, you’ll see some remarkable murals. They represent our galaxy as seen from Betelgeuse. The ceiling actually cranks open so that you can compare our sky with theirs.
The vines wrapping themselves around your legs? A special super kudzu developed by Sir Malis. Once it gets a hold of you, there’s no way to detach. It’s less painful if you don’t fight it. The Transformation happens very quickly. Soon you will be one of us. I must say you look very fine with that ivy growing out of your ears and the wild roses in your teeth.
Welcome to the fold!