As days shorten and winter chill sets in, glass houses lure with tropical warmth and exuberant bloom. Seattle conservatories offer the chance to leave winter behind and come in...

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As days shorten and winter chill sets in, glass houses lure with tropical warmth and exuberant bloom. Seattle conservatories offer the chance to leave winter behind and come in out of the cold, at least for the afternoon:

• Winter-weary gardeners can get their plant fix by visiting the Volunteer Park Conservatory, a historically significant Victorian glass house where most of the rooms are kept between 72 and 80 degrees to pamper the exotic bromeliads, palms, ferns and orchids. Let the dry desert heat sink into your bones while marveling at the array of prickly cacti, stroll beneath giant tree ferns or take in the bromeliads for an other-worldly experience.

The conservatory’s Seasonal House is decked out in Christmas trees and poinsettias for the rest of the month; the holiday décor will provide the setting for harp music from 1-2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18. The Volunteer Park Conservatory is at 1400 E. Galer, in Volunteer Park, and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Admission is free. For directions and information on special events, call 206-684-4743.

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• For a more steamy experience, complete with frogs, snakes and parrots, drop into the Tropical Rain Forest at the Woodland Park Zoo. Vines, trees and other jungle-type plants compete with the animals for attention in this award-winning exhibit, one of the zoo’s most popular attractions.

Winter hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Admission is $7-$10. For directions, call 206-684-4800 or check www.zoo.org.

• Or be transported to midsummer by the beat of butterfly wings as you pass through the specially designed double doors of the Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House. Here the nectar-bearing flowers are in full bloom, and butterflies fly freely about, luxuriating as much as the visitors do in the fragrance and warmth.

The Pacific Science Center is located at the Seattle Center, hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the regular exhibits is $7-$10. For more information, call 206-443-2001, or visit www.pacsci.org.

Valerie Easton also answers questions in Wednesday’s Plant Talk on the back of Northwest Life. Write to her at P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 or e-mail planttalk@seattletimes.com with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.