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Manito Provides A Refuge From The Cold

Brian Perry Brian Perry sat on a park bench Sunday afternoon and sketched daffodils in a paper tablet.

He wanted to draw orchids, but two other people were chatting on the park bench facing those flowers.

They weren’t shivering, and they weren’t wearing special underwear. They were inside a greenhouse, where it was relatively warm and humid.

Sunday afternoon, Washington State University Master Gardeners led about 75 people through the oasis of Gaiser Conservatory at Manito Park.

As wind whistled outside the greenhouses and conservatory, visitors stopped inside and smelled the flowers, including a lime-scented geranium. They also saw budding tulips, a 25-year-old jade tree and an octogenarian cactus.

The temperatures inside the various greenhouses ranged from 55 to a balmy 68 degrees.

“I just come in here to sort of revitalize myself, especially when it’s cold outside,” Perry said. “It’s a nice contrast to come out of the cold.”

The Van Hersetts, who wondered if the conservatory had any lipstick plants, had moved from Texas to Spokane in April.

Phyllis Van Hersett said the couple enjoyed summer here and is learning about winter.

“We like the warm weather rather than the cold weather we’ve been having recently,” she said.

A winter weather advisory was in effect Sunday because of wind and cold temperatures. Icicles and frost formed on the outside of greenhouse windows.

Tour guide Melanie Ramsey said sharp weather changes aren’t good for the plants, even inside the greehouses.

Frost can damage some species, such as the spider plant that hung next to a greenhouse wall.

“We’ve had problems in the past,” she said. “If the temperature really drops, it’s a test of our automatic heating systems.”

Sometimes, those systems have failed. Then it’s up to workers to come in and baby-sit the plants with kerosene heaters.

“It’s like being with a sick child,” Ramsey said.