The depths of winter may be an unusual time to visit a botanical garden, but many public gardens, no more than a three-hour drive from Columbus, are home to greenhouses and conservatories that offer oases verdant even on the coldest days.
Despite the depth of snow or ice outside, these conservatories can provide a refreshing – and warm – bit of tropical darkness or desert landscape.
For garden lovers looking for a short post-holiday jaunt (or for those looking for just a little warmth), they make a great focal point for a day trip or overnight getaway.
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Foellinger-Friemann High School of Botany
Near the vibrant downtown of Fort Wayne, the Foellinger-Friemann High School of Botany (botanicalconservatory.org) through a separate garden area within their large greenhouses.
The indoor gardens cover 24,500 square feet and contain more than 1,000 different types of plants.
A large water feature, with a waterfall and goldfish pond, runs through the Conservatory’s Tropical Garden. Around the stream are 13 types of palms and other tropical species including orchids and bromeliads and breadfruit, banana, coffee, orange and cocoa trees. Hmmm!
The High School’s Desert Garden seeks to replicate the desert environment of the North American Southwest with several different cactus species including the iconic saguaro, as well as prickly pears, creosote bushes, yucca, mesquite and ironwood trees.
The Foellinger-Friemann Exhibition Garden is the site of the Conservatory’s four annual seasonal exhibitions. A dazzling new exhibition entitled “California Dreamin’” will be held on January 18th.
All the leaves are gone and the skies are grey, but inside the exhibition promises to bring the spirit of surf, sand and sun to visiting beachgoers of all ages, with vividly colored waves and tropical plants to love for the sun highlighting the botanical boardwalk of the garden. .
And visitors to Fort Wayne (visitfortwayne.com) will find a thriving food and cocktail scene with many interesting stops including many at The Landing (thelandingfw.com), a recently developed dining and entertainment district located on one of the most historic blocks. the city.
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Cleveland Botanical Garden
The IS Cleveland Botanical Gardenpart of Holden Forests & Gardens (holdenfg.org), the 18,000-square-foot Eleanor Armstrong Smith greenhouse features two demonstration gardens, each with an outstanding collection of exotic plants and animals.
The Madagascar Glasshouse features flora from Madagascar, a large island off the southeast coast of Africa that has some of the world’s most unique flora and fauna – so much so that it is often called the “eighth continent”.
Among the plants on display is one of the largest collections of baobab trees in the United States. The trees have huge trunks and hard-shaded, nutrient-dense fruits, and feature prominently in African folklore and traditional medicines.
Among the exotic flora, interesting creatures disappear including yellow-throated plated lizards and radiated turtles.
A much different environment – but still warm and tropical – is on display in the Costa Rica Glass House, with large trees towering over bushes, orchids and small bromeliads in bloom. The greenhouse also grows avocado, coffee, papaya and chocolate trees which often bear fruit.
Both greenhouses are home to colorful free-flying native birds.
The garden will also host its annual Forever Orchids show from 28 January to 12 March.
The Cleveland Botanical Garden is located in the Cleveland University Circle area (universitycircle.org), and there are many other interesting landmarks, museums and galleries such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland History Center and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
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Krohn High School
Cincinnati Park District Krohn High School (cincinnati-oh.gov/cincyparks/) in Eden Park opened in 1933 and has many Art Deco accents from that era.
The greenhouse’s greenhouse displays include the Fern House, with plants including mosses and tiny moisture-loving aeluses, cycads and bromeliads; and the Orchid House, which has many types of beautiful flowers.
The Krohn Palm House recreates a tropical rainforest, filled with moisture-loving trees and other jungle plants around a stream and 20-foot waterfall; and the Desert House has plants that do well in a clean dry ecosystem including many types of succulents and cacti.
The High School’s Celestial Holiday exhibit runs through Jan. 8, featuring whimsical model trains and miniature recreations of famous Cincinnati landmarks.
Opening on January 23rd is “Ceramics in a Garden,” an exhibition featuring more than 60 ceramic sculptures designed for indoor and outdoor garden display. Many of the sculptures, created by local artists Roy Cartwright, Lisa Merida-Paytes and Robert Pulley, will be available for purchase.
The Cincinnati Art Museum (cincinnatiartmuseum.org) is also located in Eden Park not far from the High School and is another great place for those visiting the area.
Franklin Park High School and Botanic Gardens
Closer to home, garden lovers definitely shouldn’t overlook Columbus Franklin Park High School (fpconservatory.org), one of the most beautiful conservatories in the country.
At the heart of the conservatory is the John F. Wolfe Palm House, a beautiful Victorian greenhouse built in 1895 that houses 43 species of palms from around the world.
Visitors can also explore conservatory gardens recreating biomes such as the American Southwest, the Amazon rainforest and the Himalayan Mountains. The conservatory also houses a large permanent collection of colorful Chihuly glass.
The seasonal Holiday Blooms exhibit at Franklin Park runs through Jan. 8. But even after the holiday season, the High School hosts many special events and educational and fun programs.
Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email him at [email protected]