At 210 Stockbridge Road, you can find a blissful oasis within the Durfee Conservatory, which has offered students a peaceful place to study and a chance to explore numerous scenic detours since 1867. The large Eden contains plants from all over the globe, arranged into five different “houses” within the complex.
The Bonsai-Camellia House contains camellia trees still standing from when the conservatory was first established. They blossom in shades of red, pink and white in time for Valentine’s Day in the winter, leaving dried petals sprinkled across the ground in the spring.
The Epiphyte/Vine House contains orchids, bromeliads and other vining plants. The Collections House houses what is known as the sensitive plant or mismosa pudica, which can fold its leaves when it is touched. The passiflora/passion fruit vine is also located in the Collections House, which is one of Durfee’s most unique plants. The white flower has petals with light greens and vibrant purples and is scheduled to bloom in a few weeks.
The Tropical House dominates the conservatory with a variety of exotic tropical and sub-tropical plants. There is a 4,000-gallon fishpond and a small waterfall with cascading mist that dampens the skin of those that walk across the wooden bridge. Around the pond are various benches and nooks for people to sit and study in the warm sunlight. Nothing but the soothing sounds of nature can be heard in this seclusion.
“It’s so quiet,” junior Sarah York said. “It’s a very nice place to relax and re-center yourself.”
York stumbled across the conservatory after wanting to find an alternative waiting line for University Health Services. Since then, she visits the conservatory three times a month and has the same hideout where she likes to relax. The spot is in between walls of bamboo on a stone bench near a small fire stove. Here, she spends her time in silence, and is able to get her work done with as much peace and relaxation as possible.
Manager Michael Formosi agrees with York in that Durfee serves as much better waiting room. He has his office situated in the Succulents House, the final house of the conservatory.
Formosi said that students come to Durfee because of “the combination of all the factors that Durfee offers – the warmth, the natural sunlight, beautiful natural plants, the humidity – it’s quiet but the natural sounds of the water, the sound of the mist, put people to sleep.”
Formosi explained the hardworking upkeep of the conservatory by adding, “Some flowers are triggered by the short sunlight in winter, and other plants, such as succulents, are triggered by long hours of sunlight. We are set upon a line constantly re-propagating plants, making our collection stable.”
Regardless of what is in bloom, there isn’t a wrong time to visit Durfee. The conservatory is open year-round, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Whether you need a place to escape from the harsh freezing winters, are waiting for UHS like York, or want to see all of the flowers in bloom in the heart of spring, a visit to the Durfee Conservatory is a necessity for all University of Massachusetts students. Stress from classes and the redundancy of daily schedules fade away in the tranquil hideaway. All of these beautiful plants are just waiting to be seen for either two minutes or two hours.
“Definitely come visit,” York said.
Troy Kowalchuck can be reached at [email protected]