This winter, like most winters, I've been feeling a little cooped up and longing for some warmth and flowers. So when hubby asked me what I wanted to do for Valentine's Day, I suggested we go to the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul Minnesota. The conservatory, like the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, is also attached to the zoo. And like the zoo in Chicago, it's also free but they ask for a donation.
I will cover the zoo also, but I'm going to do that in next week's travel post otherwise this post will be way too long.
It was a beautiful, sunny 33 degree day when we visited the conservatory. Now I know my warm weather blogging buds will think "33 degrees! That's freezing! How did you walk outside in that weather?". But trust me, 33 and sunny is a warm winter day for us northerners. The park was packed with hikers, and the zoo and conservatory were so busy it was hard to get a photo without a person in it. Everyone seemed to really be enjoying the warm weather.
The conservatory is made up of three sections: the Sunken Garden (flower shows which change seasonally), the North Garden (tropical plants), and the Fern Room. Connecting the three rooms together is a beautiful dome called "The Palm Dome". In addition, there is also a Bonsai Garden and lots of outdoor gardens as well, but I will have to cover that another time as it was winter when I visited.
First up is my favorite garden (and probably everyone's favorite...who am I kidding?). the Sunken Garden. Oh, stepping inside this garden anytime is so refreshing to the spirit, but it is even more refreshing in the middle of winter. To feel the warmth and see and smell all the flowers that have been absent from our lives for so many months, is a wonderful, rejuvenating experience.
They change the flowers out with the seasons. When we there I saw lots of azaleas, a few miniature daffodils, cyclamen, snap dragons, violets, and amaryllis to name just a few.
One thing that struck me about our visit that day was how everyone was just taking their time and soaking it all in. I could tell how hungry everyone was to experience the sensual pleasures of flowers again. People were either walking very slowly looking at every detail, or they were sitting or standing still for long periods savoring the moment before they had to venture back outside in the cold, barren wasteland. I said to my husband "Flowers make people happy." I've never met anyone that didn't like flowers.
I love the contrast of all the pretty pinks with the purples and whites. There was lots of green filler plants to balance it all out.
The amaryllis was beautiful and they smelled like heaven itself!
I spotted a few early blooming miniature daffodils.
This red amaryllis was truly stunning!
The stone retaining walls really add to the beauty of this room.
Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is almost a two hour drive from my home. Although I had been there before, it's been years since my last visit. I was amazed at all the new buildings they added to both the conservatory and the zoo.
One of the buildings I don't remember is the Fern Room. This is a beautiful room. It's very moist and I had to watch my camera lens as sprays of mist are shot into the air constantly. This room features a pond, waterfall, hanging gardens, and many different species of ferns.
The other part of the conservatory is the North Garden where the tropical plants are held. This area also has a pond with a water feature.
There is color in this green garden as well with lots of blooms on tropical plants and of course everyone's favorite: orchids.
In the palm dome is a gorgeous path leading to a fountain. I felt like I was back in Savannah, Georgia when I saw that fountain!
This is quite a large statue in real life, and yet it looks dwarfed in comparison to the banana leaf plant.
The park website describes this exhibit as such: "Tropical Encounters takes guests on an adventure through a Central and South American rainforest through the eyes of experienced Minnesotan field researchers and hundreds of plants and animals. Guests will encounter freshwater stingrays, river turtles, frogs, toads, fish, free-roaming birds, an anaconda and Chloe the sloth. They will also view rainforest trees and plants including strangler fig, kapok, cecropia, annatto, mahogany, peach palm, balsa, ice cream bean and more. An integral part of the natural ecosystem is the insects that are essential to its survival, including the leaf-cutter ants that will be featured in Tropical Encounters."
I was absolutely giddy with excitement over the exhibit because it combined two of my favorite things in life: plants and animals! And the best part is, some animals like the birds, turtles, and even a sloth, were not in cages! They were freely roaming the building and you could get so close to them!
Now I know most of you don't like snakes, but I thought this one was beautiful! I was surprised he was not poisonous and the staff person could hold him. Usually the colorful snakes are poisonous.
They had lots of beautiful and large fish in this exhibit. This yellow one was one of my favorites.
But perhaps what brought me more joy than anything was seeing all the birds! They were freely flying about the building. They were so pretty and their song was enchanting.
This anaconda was huge! I find it so interesting that anacondas live in the water.
And finally, the biggest surprise of them all, a sloth! Oh my goodness, I would have missed him if there weren't all these people standing below this tree looking up. How exciting to get so close to a sloth. They are such funny creatures. They move like they are in slow motion. God had a sense of humor when He created this creature!
I had such a fun and refreshing time visiting the conservatory and the Tropical Encounters Exhibit, but we weren't done yet, as we still had lots of animals to see at the zoo! Be sure to come back next week to hear about our experience at the Como Park Zoo.
Have A Great Day! Amy
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