At the end of August on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon, we visited the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio. Our first destination walk through was the Himalayan Mountains section followed by the Tropical Rainforest and Desert; it was hot and we felt as if we were actually in those areas! Many of the Himalayan plants were unique, and we found them most striking. The various palms, cacti and succulents in these sections were fun to see as well. Next, we went outside to a courtyard full of topiary animal sculptures made of flowers, plants, and natural elements: the Garden Safari. The lion and tiger were our favorites. We were interested in seeing the Bonsais and the natural flow of the path lead us to them. Impressively, a Buttonwood Bonsai tree lives there and its approximate age is 373 years! A Fig Bonsai tree also resides there at the approximate age of 45 years. Bonsai trees are also located on the outer edges of the Conservatory fully outside and a Crape Myrtle stood out to us with its flowering beauty.
We cannot leave out commenting on the beautiful artwork interwoven throughout our tour. The Conservatory’s Chihuly Collection is permanent and it is the largest of its kind in a botanical garden. Eighteen glass art installations by Dale Chihuly may be found throughout the inside spaces of the Conservatory. The colorful glass art truly adds pops of color to the spaces and provides a complimentary artistic reflection to the natural elements.
The Conservatory’s Café was a nice surprise, as we took a break to recharge from the heat of the sun. We discovered that almost all of the food is made in-house and their hummus with whole-wheat chips, veggies, and mixed nuts along with a savory scone consisting of corn, chipotle, and cheddar cheese provided the perfect snack for us to share. The gift shop next door was a pleasant experience as well with the two small outdoor courtyard areas full of plants, pots, and some outdoor decor on display. Inside, we found a clearance section where everything was 50% off and we selected a large candle holder made from a birch wood branch with a star carved on either side to take home with us as a memento.
Just outside the Palm House, on the Grand Mallway, the Paul Busse Garden Railway is on display through January 7, 2024. We enjoyed the immersion for a while in this mesmerizing miniature world of Fairytale Land and Wild West Town to animal and wooden building structure themed models, which included “Who Lives Here” and “European Travels” as we wandered through it. There are an impressive 51 botanical models made from all natural plant materials. There are nine model trains, which keep moving along the track overhead and on the track below, if you miss seeing a train go by, you are sure to get to see another soon. We ourselves hope to travel back for a visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in the spring to experience the butterfly exhibit!