Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

While much of the country is still under a blanket of winter, you may be on the search for ways to keep your garden activities going strong. A couple of weeks ago, KG’s Christine Gall shared some ideas for Indoor Garden-Based Activities to Get You Through the Winter, but if your family is like mine, getting outside of the house for even a little bit of time is also a priority. Need to get your garden fix this winter? Check out local botanical gardens and arboreta.

I use to tell my school group tours that botanical gardens and arboreta were like museums for plants, but although they may have started as places to house and display plant collections, they have evolved into so much more. From family-friendly programming, to widespread installations of children’s gardens, botanical gardens and arboreta are claiming their place as community centers designed to provide high quality, many times interactive, nature-based experiences. Providing displays to help people connect to both local and sometimes global ecosystems, gardens and arboreta offer inspiration and engagement for gardeners of all ages.

Our new Executive Director Rachel Stein captured the photos above while on a recent trip to Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to offering the weather-protected conservatory space to explore, there is also fun to be had year round in The Scotts Miracle-Gro Children’s Garden along with a beautiful collection of glass artwork by Dale Chihuly. In my neck of the woods, my kids and I regularly visit the The Cockrell Butterfly Center, a conservatory located at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Although not usually as a reprieve from cold temperatures (we do live in Texas), my kids love the chance to explore the rainforest inspired conservatory and see what life is like in a different area of the world.

Botanical gardens and arboreta are scattered throughout the United States in all shapes and sizes. Some were started on public property while others began as private estates that were later opened to the public. You may find them connected to colleges and universities, zoos, museums or libraries. For example, in our community, our local public library created a small children’s reading garden with a maze that leads to an area for reading which we often would visit after checking out our books. Some offer free admission, others may have a charge. There is wide variation in both size of the space and complexity of programming, offering a wide variety of experiences to find the right fit for your family.

Regardless of your location, if you are looking for a fun day trip, you should be able to find a local botanical garden and or arboretum within driving distance of you. Although not a complete listing of all gardens, the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program website offers a great directory of many opportunities available (and you may want to think about investing in an AHS membership if you travel a lot and might take advantage of their reciprocal admissions benefit).

Keeping kids excited about gardening through winter months can some times be a challenge. But just think how much fun your spring and summer gardens will be when the anticipation of diving into their own gardening space builds all year long!


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