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Baltimore Living

Best Escape to the Tropics

The Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Baltimore

3100 Swan Drive, Druid Hill Park, (410) 396-0008,

Just stroll through the Palm House, the glass-covered structure we all equate with the Conservatory, and you're transported to a Victorian world where a love of conquering and collecting built a tropical paradise in miniature. The high glass walls dripping with condensation and the thick humid air are eternally opposed to the churn of the seasons outside. And the collection of palmae, thick and resplendent, is just one of the beautiful rooms you can stroll through. You might be enchanted by the obsessive charms of the Orchid Room, or if you're like us, and just need a dry heat, you head to the Desert House. The massive agave plant and its neighbors along the pebble-lined path always seem to transport us to some roasting highway deep into the high desert of the mind. The conservatory, run by the city's Department of Recreation and Parks and supported by the nonprofit Baltimore Conservatory Association, is home to an acre and a half of flora in 35 flowerbeds. There may be snow on the ground outside, but here the land changes, growing wild and varied, if only for a hour or so.

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