Winter in Bloom

When you think about January in Minnesota, what comes to mind is not typically colorful flowers and lush greenery. However, thanks to Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and Cowles Conservatory, Minnesotans can still get their springtime fix year-round. For those of you, like me, who are experiencing the post-Christmas, I-can’t-believe-it’s-still-winter blues, one of these spots makes for a perfect outing.

Photo courtesy of Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
On Saturday the Sunken Garden begins its Winter Flower Show (through March 17), showcasing freesia, oriental lilies, paperwhite narcissus, cyclamen, primula, and the rarely seen in Minnesota camellia plant and vlthemia. You’ll find even more plantings in the rest of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, including one of the oldest groups of surviving plants in the Fern Room, ones that directly affect human life in the North Garden, more than 150 tropical palm and cycad species in the Palm Dome, and an assortment of orchid species in the Orchid House or as a part of the Winter Carnival Orchid Show (Jan. 26 & 27) . If you want a taste of the zoo and conservatory, stroll through Tropical Encounters, where you can spot animals, trees, and plants native to Central and South American rainforests.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Here more than 1,000 acres of gardens, model landscapes, and natural areas (woodlands, wetlands, prairies) and 12.5 miles of garden paths and hiking trails are filled with more than 5,000 plant species and varieties. In addition to the 32 displays and specialty gardens, right now you can also see the orchid and bromeliad tree (through Jan. 31), which incorporates 400 live orchids and 200 bromeliad plants nestled in Spanish moss. If you can make it out this weekend, learn about evergreens at the Wintergreen Mysteries event (Sat. & Sun.), or catch the last days of the Irresistible Iris exhibit (through Jan. 14), which showcases local artist Jacque Rosenau’s digital “paintings” inspired by the arboretum’s collection.

Cowles Conservatory
Located at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and created and maintained by the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, the conservatory features both permanent and seasonal displays of native, tropical, and exotic plants. In addition to the orchids, palms, stephanotis vines, creeping fig, and other species you’ll find here, you can also see Frank Gehry’s (the famed architect behind the Weisman Art Museum) 22-foot Standing Glass Fish sculpture.