Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Monkeying Around Inside the Amazon Spheres Part I

Q: What do you call two monkeys that share an Amazon account?

A: Prime mates.

Technically this is another Friday time travel post, but this time I'm not sharing an NPA garden tour, but instead a trip I took into Seattle last September to see inside the Amazon Spheres. I shared some  of these photos on Instagram at the time, but never got around to posting them on the blog.

Who should we invite to join us this time? How about my favorite Amazon, Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman?

In general, the Amazon Spheres are open to the public twice a month, on Saturdays, but only a month in advance, and you have to go to the website and book an appointment. Right now they are booking for Saturday, April 6, and there are only a few slots left late in the afternoon. I arrived a little early, maybe half an hour before my allotted time, and they were flexible about letting me enter. It costs nothing, but it is not a guided tour. There is a lot to see, if memory serves, it took me about 2 hours. I took a lot of photos, and I'm going to break them up into two posts.

At the entrance an employee checks to see if you have permission to go in.

Once inside, you check in and another employee sitting at a desk gives you a little brochure with a map and straps a paper bracelet onto your wrist.

The first thing you see when you enter is a concrete/faux stone cliff dripping with water and planted up with moss and small plants tucked here and there.

This strange plant was intriguing

Looking up through the fronds of a tree fern to the top of the building and a peak at the vertical garden

Immediately to the right of the waterfall are stairs leading up into the belly of the Spheres.

From the top of the stairs looking back down

There are stairs to each level for those who can handle them, but there are also elevators.

Here you can see three of the four levels

Labeled "Forest" on the little map, it's more like a jungle or rainforest, full of exotic plants, densely growing in a raised bed, surrounded and crisscrossed by paths. There's a stream flowing slowly through the center of it, which streams over the edge of the cliff toward the entrance. The large tree in the center is a 49-year old Ficus rubiginosa tree (nicknamed Rubi) that came from California on the back of a semi and was hoisted into the Spheres via crane through a hole in the roof. You can read about that here and watch a video too.

Some plants, not all, are identified with these wooden labels

I saw a plant similar to this one labeled as Selaginella erythropus

Eucharis grandiflora (Amazon lily)

Many of the plants hang over the edges of the concrete wall

If you're a Bromeliad lover there are plenty of huge, perfectly maintained specimens to admire

A look up into the canopy overhead reveals the Bird Nest, a small meeting space that can only be reached from a catwalk

A path that leads into the center of the forest area

Many of the prayer plants had enormous leaves and luscious undersides

Misters hidden high up as well as at ground level occasionally spurted mist into the air, but it wasn't unpleasantly humid

Begonia soli-mutata

Another huge Begonia

I have no clue what this bare orange stick plant was, but it was interesting

Enticing textures in the fabric-like folds of leaves

Anguloa ruckeri (tulip orchid)

The Bromeliad is Vriesea imperialis

I got a kick out of watching this slug

Theophrasta americana

Macleania coccoloboides (epiphytic blueberry)

Another fascinatingly strange twisted bare branch

Another view up at the Bird Nest

Philodendron gloriosum

It's very easy to succumb to a kind of tunnel vision and begin to feel as if you are lost in a jungle somewhere, as you focus on the exotic plants. But then you look up and realize you are indeed inside an enormous, oppressively large structure made of steel, concrete and glass, much of it just over your head.

Theobroma cacao (Cacao tree)

Hey, a plant I recognize without having to read the label -- Begonia luxurians

Those mossy boulders are armchair-size, which gives you some idea how big the prayer plant leaves are

Blechnum brasiliense (dwarf tree fern)

And we are back at the beginning

That was all just on one level! There are three more, as well as the vertical garden, which you can see from vantage points on all four levels.

Here's a sneak peak at the vertical garden, which will feature in next week's post, along with more  Begonias and a variety of pitcher plants.


  1. What an impressive place. Thanks for the virtual tour; I'm looking forward to seeing your next posts.

  2. Thank you! Wonderful photos, I felt like I was back there again.

  3. There is a lot of negativity associated with Amazon, but none exists in the spheres: this place is pure heaven for plants and humans (and slugs). I visited once already, and every post about it takes me back and makes me want to return.

  4. I enjoyed by tour and look forward to the next installment. I SO want to make it to Seattle to see the Spheres in person. Really, a tiny vacation house on my brother-in-law's property on Vashon makes more sense to me every day - I mentioned it my BIL and he seemed supportive. Now all I have to do is convince my husband...

    P.S. I love the new side-bar items.

  5. We haven't tried for an appointment yet, but will, for sure hopefully in the near future. Thanks for the enticing photos.

  6. Wonderful photos Alison ! It must have been so much fun to take them. More plant rich and abundant than many major botanical garden conservatories I've been to--it's great what unlimited funding can do isn't it ?

  7. Jeff's Giant Houseplant Collection is truly awesome, wonderous, but yet the people who slave at Amazon warehouses in terrible conditions paid for this beauty with their dignity.

    It was the best of times (for a few), it was the worst of times (for more and more)...

  8. The strange stems look like flower stems that are finished.

  9. Oh, Alison, I am SO GLAD you are posting these. Who cares what timing it is? I love EVERYTHING about this. Man-made and theatrical, it is what all faux imagination places (e.g. Disney) should be--full of plants. All about plants. All about nature. And built for the people. To bring them back home.

  10. Wow! Very cool! Thanks for sharing.


Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.