I’m not a dreamer. At least not one who easily remembers his dreams. But this morning was a different story, when I woke up with a vibrant memory of a dream that I’d rather forget. In my dream, I went to visit the University of Illinois Plant Science Conservatory — a place that has always been a haven for me, especially during the cold Midwest winters on campus. The conservatory in my dream was no longer there. In its place was a maze of construction tape and barricades, no plants anywhere to be seen. When I woke, I truly felt as if I had lost the closest of friends.
All morning as I sat at my desk, the thought of this dream simmered in my brain. It had been a while since I’d visited the conservatory, and the last time the door had been unexpectedly locked. So I decided to check on my old friend over my lunch hour today. When I arrived, I heard the voices of what appeared to be a professor and her students talking about one of the plants on the far side of the conservatory.
I immediately noticed that the banana (Musa sp.) on the southern edge of the conservatory was weighed down by a heavy flower and fruit cluster, the tip of which hung just a few feet off the path.
The fronds of a Lazy Tree Fern (Cyathia cooperii) greeted me as I slowly walked the path around the cluster of epiphytes growing from the limbs of a host tree.
The most beautiful specimen in the conservatory was Hibiscus ‘Rosalina’ whose tangerine and yellow blooms were freshly showered by the conservatory misting equipment.
After spending about 15 minutes in my horticultural haven, I had shed the feeling of loss I’d woken up with, but still didn’t feel at ease. As I walked to the door to leave, I noticed a small sign attached to the wall by the greenhouse manager.
I don’t remember having seen this sign before, and it’s possible my dream had me on alert for bad news about the conservatory. All areas of the university are having major budget issues, so it’s not surprising that the conservatory would be under funding pressure as well. It’s often resources like this that take the hardest hit in tough economic times. As I placed a small donation in the collection box, I saw another sign asking visitors to sign the guestbook, so that the greenhouse staff would know how many people visit the conservatory.
Before signing my name to the guestbook, I slowly read through all of comments left by other visitors. Some comments were generic, others obviously heartfelt. But it was evident that I wasn’t the only one has found solace and comfort within the glass walls of the conservatory.
I’m glad I checked on my old friend to make sure my dream was just a dream.