Phipps at the ready for tonight's events

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Usually, Phipps Conservatory is a place of quiet reflection for enjoying flowering plants and giant palms protected by towering glass.

But that wasn't the case yesterday as preparations for today's G-20 summit got into full swing.

Two rows of soldiers holding flags of the G-20 countries practiced their honor guard duties, marching in formation as superiors barked orders.

The newly built welcome center was filled with workmen erecting stages and banners. A member of the Chinese delegation proudly posed for a picture next to his country's flag. Men wearing nice suits and serious looks briskly walked in and out of the building.

Deeper into the conservatory, staff and volunteers pinched off spent flower blooms, removed yellowing leaves and replaced plants that didn't make the grade.

Executive Director Richard Piacentini smiled from atop an overlook outside the entrance as he took photographs of all the action.

One of the reasons Phipps was chosen to host the opening reception and working dinner for the G-20 summit lies in being recognized as one of the greenest gardens in the county, according to Mr. Piacentini.

"We see Phipps as really a fabulous symbol of the transformation that's taken place in Pittsburgh," he said, noting two green buildings, with a third on the way and a thrust for complete sustainability that even includes the cafe's recyclable utensils.

Margie Radebaugh, director of horticulture and education, has been working hard on all the details to make Phipps look its best. There were several major construction projects under way when it was announced the G-20 was coming, so they needed to be kicked into high gear to be completed on time.

She said one of the hardest things from a horticulture point of view was not knowing the details of what's going on where due to tight security. A planter might be put in one place, only to be removed when another part of the plan was released.

"We're all very excited," she said with a smile. "We want everything to look perfect."

Doug Oster can be reached at or 724-772-9177.


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