Public greenhouses in the Washington area

Thursday, January 28, 2010; VA06

Public greenhouses -- some small jewels, others crystal palaces -- can introduce you to the delights of plants under glass that at best will inspire and at least offer you the pleasures of a greenhouse without the fuss. Here are a few favored by The Post's Adrian Higgins.

National Zoo

The zoo's Amazonia house features a two-story re-creation of an Amazon rain forest under glass, including exotic fish and birds. Open daily 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

3001 Connecticut Ave., NW.

202-633-4800. Free.

U.S. Botanic Garden

As Washington's most lavish plant conservatories, the botanic garden features a central "jungle," with an elevated walk in the canopy, surrounded by a series of smaller greenhouses and halls representing plant habitats. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 100 Maryland Ave., SW. 202-225-8333. Free.

Hillwood Museum

and Gardens

The estate in Northwest Washington contains a decorative greenhouse, open as part of a house tour, which holds 2,500 orchids. Reopens for the season Feb. 2. 4155 Linnean Ave., NW. Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 202-686-5807. Suggested donation: $12, seniors $10, ages 6-18 $5, younger free.

Mount Vernon

George Washington's estate features a rebuilt 18th-century brick greenhouse, a precursor to the glass houses of the 19th century. Open daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m. 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., Alexandria. 703-780-2000. $15, seniors $14, ages 6-11 $7, younger free.

Longwood Gardens

If you need a serious winter greenhouse fix, head to southeastern Pennsylvania for Longwood's conservatories, which cover more than four acres and enclose 20 indoor gardens. They include an estate fruit house typical of working greenhouses in the gilded age. A major seasonal orchid display runs through March 31. Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 1001 Longwood Rd., Kennett Square, Pa. 610-388-1000. $16, seniors $14, ages 5-18 $6, younger free.

Oatlands Plantation

The historic estate near Leesburg contains one of the earliest propagating greenhouses in the United States, dating to 1810. The plantation reopens for the season March 22. Open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 1-5 p.m. 20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane, Leesburg. 703-777-3174. $10, seniors and ages 6-16 $9, younger free.

Brookside Gardens

The two adjoining conservatories currently feature a display that combines tropical plants with fragrant early spring flowers. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton. 301-962-1400, Free.

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