Field Trip to the Fuqua Conservatory

When I caught my first view of the Atlanta Botanical Garden's greenhouses, I could see a steady stream of children heading in the same direction. It didn't take long for me to picture myself pressed up against the wall by a mob of kids while trying to photograph orchids, so I realized I had to act fast. I tried to play it cool at first, just walking a little faster than the impending herd, but that was getting me nowhere so I gunned it, walking at a speed more akin to running, my legs like scissors cutting past the perplexed kids. They must have thought I was crazy.

Of course they were upon me before I knew it, and there was no escaping. The children poured through the glass doors and into the rain forest, a river of bobbing heads as fluid as liquid, brimming with energetic smiles and amazement. In fact, they were so amazed as to be speechless (to my relief), and suddenly the "yo' mama" jokes were forgotten and a certain reverence took hold over the awe-struck children.

I could identify with them. After all, it was my childhood field trips to the conservatories at the San Diego Zoo that awakened me to nature's power, giving me the sense of wonder that I hold dear to this very day. Sometimes nature sneaks it's way into your heart insidiously with the humility of a slug munching on leaves, and at other times, it just slaps you in the face.

That said, some of those kids were getting slapped in the face by mother nature. Well, actually one kid really did get slapped for whining, but that's another story.

Confession time. I'm terrified of kids. Maybe it's because they can just look you in the eye and tell you what's on their mind with no restraint or inhibitions, with an honesty and fearlessness that I envy. They can say things so bluntly, simplifying the thorniest dilemmas and situations with a clarity startles me. Or maybe it's because I know that I'll have a child of my own someday. Once I get to know a kid and we get to talking, my anxiety fades and I relax.

After seeing the whole class overcome by the beauty of nature, I felt tears well up as I recalled my own rainforest field trip. It was then that I could relax around the kids and take some photos. As I crouched down to get some shots of orchids and palm trees, the kids made it a point to stop and smile or wave to the camera.

I remembered the neon green camera that I carried in a neon pink fannypack along with my toy lizards and treefrogs. I remembered taking blurry photos at the San Diego Zoo and getting left behind by the class while got lost in landscapes of green. Matching the unnatural fluorescence of my bright camera, tree frogs sat perched in the cups of bromeliads and trilled their little voices like a thumb over a pocket comb. I had a pocket comb in the fanny pack too, by the way, so this wasn't mere speculation! Every time I left the San Diego Zoo, I became even more obsessed with nature than before.

"This place smells like pee pee!" was heard across the conservatory, muffled by the hanging aerial roots of a cissus vine. Kids can really say the darndest things.

The aerial roots of a Cissus sicyoides vine hang from the rafters
Mist creates a great environment for the rainforest plants, as well as an air of mystery!
The teacher explains how plants work.
You just have to love that cissus sicyoides vine.


  1. Where's the "Like" button for those of us not on fb?

  2. Steve: Lovely post! Yes, that also stirred some of my childhood memory :) Now I think back, I think those memory is the reason that I suddenly become so passionate to the gardening after so many years.

    Oh, I believe someday you will be a great father, and I am sure you will instill your gardening/nature passion into him/her too!

  3. Very nice post! For someone "terrified" of kids, you have a lot of pictures of them and they don't seem "terrified" of you.

    The vine is amazing!

  4. Great post, and wonderful pictures of kids enjoying another world that's different than the normal one they live in. Maybe the gardening bug bit some of them while they were there. I know it would have been a wonderful experience and I thank you for sharing it here as well as your feelings about being scared of kids. Kids are actually easier to get along with than most adults. IMHO.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  5. Helen:

    You already hit the like button with your nice comment! :)

    Michael Nolan:

    If I had a little gardening buddy, he/she would LOVE nature! It's a requirement.

    I love the xerographica post on your blog! I never stopped to think about the latin translation of the name! As far as the kids went, they just kept walking in front of the camera, so I figured I might as well shoot!

    Kids can be easy to get along with once you get to know them, but they do tend to put boogers on your pants and make fun of your receding hairline... sniffle.

  6. Wow! Those roots are everywhere! I'll have to check out this place next time I am in the area.

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. It is so nice to see kids exploring an dd learning about our natural environment.

  8. Wonderful pix! The kids are as enchanting as (and enchanted by) the plants. What fun!

    -- Penny

  9. Great post Steve. Those roots are amazing!

  10. Thank God I have no hairline for them to make fun off. :-D
    A niece once made a rhyme for me. "Tito (Uncle) Bom, he has no hair, but I don't care".

  11. What a beautiful place! I love the vines coming down. I wish there was a place like this in Sacramento. The kids (including you) all looked like they were having a great time!


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