This past Thursday I made my way to the Krohn Conservatory for the second time in three days. It was 3:23 p.m. when I arrived, and the late afternoon lighting gave the greenhouse a significantly different feel than that of my 1:30 p.m. visit two days prior. It’s one of many subtleties that make this Cincinnati greenhouse ever-changing and worth regular visits.
I decided to invest in a membership to the Krohn, since I’ve found it’s such a true haven during the winter. It’s not just the cold of winter that gets to me. It’s the sterility of the environment, the fact that there are no lush, natural smells like in other seasons. Winter perhaps has its own smells, or the implication of smells if nothing else. The sharpness of ice, or the rich smell of wet, dead leaves when that ice melts.
There’s also the silence—winter is often so quiet. But this element, and the others I mentioned, are all resolved in the Krohn Conservatory just by its nature. The greenhouse, which was built in 1933, is open year-around and houses over 3,500 species of plants from all over the world. Since two of its main rooms are the Palm House and the Tropical House, the temperatures are always warm inside, the soil and air are moist, and the atmosphere is filled with a scent that I feel is best described as “green.” A 20-foot waterfall in the Palm House creates a constant, ambient rush of sound.
Krohn Conservatory is one of many prized gems in Cincinnati, the home of Possets Perfume. It started as a much smaller greenhouse in 1894, then called the Eden Park Greenhouse. To get to the Krohn Conservatory, one has to drive up a winding hill through Eden Park, past some remarkable views of the Ohio River, classic to Cincinnati style. When you approach the glass Art Deco building that is the Krohn, you immediately lay eyes on big, flat, green leaves that are pushing themselves against the windows, trying to get closer to the sun.
When you walk in, the overwhelming but welcome smell of earth greets you at the door. It smells warm and alive and had me eager to get a closer smell of the components that make up this powerful scent. But as I walked the path around both the Palm House and the Tropical House, close sniffs and examination of most of these plants revealed nothing to me. Of course, I am only an amateur seeking to learn. Perhaps a more trained nose could find the subtleties that blend to make the natural, earthy perfume that fills the air. As for me, I hardly found any distinguishable scents, save for a few light and sweet blossoms of hibiscus or powderpuff.
I stuck my nose here and there. Despite my cluelessness, I was still determined to experience the Krohn Conservatory with all of the senses. I leaned into a corner of the soil where retired pink powderpuff blossoms have fallen next to begonias that creep around ferns. The soil smelled like wet earth, reminded me of playing outside after a rainstorm. I wondered how the scent would translate as a perfume on the body before wandering into the next room where citrus trees and bright hyacinths filled the air with vivid smells—smells that I could pick out.
I expect that as the seasons change and the cycles move forward, the smells inside of the Krohn will evolve and change, like the lighting does over just a period of hours. I’m looking forward to revisiting regularly with my (very affordable) annual membership. It’s a glorious little haven in the winter, and while I spend my down time reading there I will also be keeping an open eye and nose for the changes that occur to the thousands of plants within.