Como Park Conservatory

Posted May 27th, 2014 by Alan Stein and filed in

Our Heritage

Como Park Conservatory, St. Paul, MN
12. St. Paul, Minnesota


The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park (as it is now known) opened in November 1915 and hosted St. Paul’s annual chrysanthemum exhibition, the first time the show was held in one location. In 1925, the Holiday Flower Show and Spring Flower Shows started their annual traditional exhibitions and in 1974, the Como Park Conservatory was placed on the National Register of Historic places. In 2002, the family of Marjorie McNeely generously donated a financial gift allowing the conservatory to continue to provide a place where bonsai trees (the largest exhibit in the upper Midwest), ferns (featuring over 100 species), orchids (including award-winning neo-tropical orchids) and other seasonal flowers can grow and be enjoyed by young and old alike. I think this is where my love of tulips began! For those of us who have spent time in Minnesota during the winter, having an indoor nature exhibit like this to go to and get away from the snow and cold for awhile, is akin to taking a quick trip to a warmer climate. But it’s much less expensive and doesn’t require packing a suitcase!

The conservatory’s architect, Frederick Nussbaumer, was born in Baden, Germany where he learned to be a landscape gardener at his father’s greenhouse. After living and working in London as a young man, he came to St. Paul in the late 1870s where he began work as a market gardener for three years. Soon after that, he became a guard at the workhouse but having been noticed by the board of the park commissioners for his horticultural knowledge and expertise, he soon was named Superintendent of Parks, a position he held for thirty years. Not only did Nussbaumer design the conservatory building but he also added floral gardens, gravel walkways, pergolas, fountains and ponds to the park.

Nussbaumer’s conservatory is one of the few remaining Victorian style glass domed gardens in the United States. It was modeled after the Kew Gardens in London. As Nussbaumer wrote in his article, An Ideal Public Park in 1902, “The great mass of people enjoy flowers. They also pay for the parks.” He also thought that there should be no “keep off the grass signs” and that parks should be available to both the “nature-loving enthusiast and frugal workman” and provide both facilities for recreation and “objects of attractiveness.” The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park certainly continues to attain Nussbaumer’s ideals.

The 60,000 square feet conservatory took two years to build. The dome is made of wood and glass and is painted white. Two long buildings flank the dome and the natural light that filters in through the panes of glass is so bright, you may find yourself squinting or putting your sunglasses back on! As mentioned above, walking inside is like going somewhere warm, especially in the winter, and even in the winter, you will find yourself peeling off your jacket within minutes of entering the conservatory! The atmosphere of the building, coupled with the smells of the plants and the earth, will immediately transport you.

The Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is a great place to visit if you ever find yourself in the Twin Cities.

Image Courtesy of Como Park Website

Experience the Seeds of Creativity at the Enid Haupt Conservatory!

Posted December 9th, 2015 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Conservatory Projects, Events
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Have YOU experienced the SEEDS of CREATIVITY?

At the heart of the NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN rests a holiday experience you DON’T want to MISS! Stretched across 250 acres, YOUR FAMILY can take special tours, see musical performances, and participate in family activities; but the MAIN ATTRACTION lives at the ENID HAUPT CONSERVATORY.

light & Sound Finale


The New York Botanical Garden’s 24th Annual HOLIDAY TRAIN SHOW is New York City’s favorite family tradition! With over half a mile of MODEL TRAINS rushing through the miniature streets, see the gardens come to life with over 150 recreated landmarks created from 100% ORGANIC, ORNATE MATERIALS!

NOTICE every DETAIL in the miniature ST. PETER’S CATHEDRAL formed from bark to seed pods and bamboo to eucalyptus leaves, and more! Other great landmarks included are the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Rockefeller


Statue of Liberty  Original Yankee Stadium

st. patricks cathedral  Steam Locomotive


Who are the minds BEHIND these beautiful miniatures?

WORLD FAMOUS landscape architect PAUL BUSSE and his team are the minds and talent behind these magical miniature plant cities! Paul’s journey began with a LOVE of trains and gardens. PASSIONATE about creating OUTDOOR LIVING SPACES, PAUL’S VISION for the train show was to make it WHIMSICAL and MAGICAL.

“I had no idea [it would become so big]… But that was always my bottom line, a company that builds happiness. We’re really selling lots of smiles.” – Paul Bussee


The Holiday Train Show is known as one of the TOP 5 BEST EVENTS for families to visit in New York City during the holidays! The show is a great way to celebrate the holiday season for both the YOUNG and the YOUNG AT HEART!

Below are other locations this magnificent train show has been displayed!

Chicago Botanic Garden       Morris Arboretum        Eiteljorg Museum       Fernwood Botanic Garden

State Fair of Texas              U.S. Botanic Garden     Krohn Conservatory    Royal Botanic Gardens

Reiman Gardens                  Franklin Park Conservatory

2013 Conservatory Holiday Displays and Events

Posted December 5th, 2013 by Alan Stein and filed in General, Greenhouses, Travels
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With Christmas just around the corner, and Hanukkah already past, I thought I should get on the ball and write a post about some of the special holiday-themed displays and events at public conservatories and greenhouses around the nation.

Kennett Square, Pennsylvania:

I’m updating this post from last week to add another great place to visit. Located 30 miles away from Philadelphia, Longwood Gardens, has a variety of holiday events to avail yourself of. The displays and exhibitions include A Longwood Christmas and the Garden Railway, both on view until January 12, 2014. Along with wonderful views for your eyes, Longwood has a musical holiday series for your ears. The Organ Sing-Alongs and Christmas Performances by local choirs and musicians are also being presented until January 12.

St. Paul, Minnesota:

My second selection is the Como Park Conservatory in my current state of residence. It’s going to be very cold for the next few days (months), and with the many inches of snow we received yesterday, going to the Holiday Flower Show might be just what your cold nose and toes require to warm up! It begins December 7 and goes through January 23, 2014. To get a taste of what the show is like, view the video of the 2010 Como Park Conservatory Holiday Flower Show below.

Baltimore, Maryland:

For those of you on the East coast, the Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens are hosting a Victorian Holiday show from December 7 through December 29. There is a sneak peek scheduled for Friday, December 6 from 6 – 8 pm and Santa will be visiting on December 8 from 1 – 3 pm. He’ll return with Mrs. Claus on Saturday, December 14 from 10 am to noon.

Washington, D.C.:

The United States Botanic Garden started their holiday season on November 28 and continues it through January 5, 2014. Their holiday cheer includes live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning tonight!

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma:

The Myriad Botanical Gardens will have all sorts of activities going on throughout the month of December, from ice skating, to gift wrapping, to brunch with Santa!

San Diego, California:

December Nights at Balboa Park is a free two-day community event that attracts thousands of visitors. Shopping, food and Santa can all be found at this festive event that starts Friday, December 6 and goes through Saturday, December 7.

Chicago, Illinois:

The Garfield Conservatory will be hosting a sing-along event on Saturday, December 7, starting at 1 pm. This Voices of the Season event includes musical performances by the by the Garfield Park Neighborhood Choir, Richard Blakeney, and Jazzlady Robin Watson, as well as tasty holiday treats.

I’m sure there are many more events going on all over and I wish I could include them all. However, time and more importantly, space-constraints, prevent me from doing that! If you know of an event that you would like to share with us, please leave a comment.


Conservatory Musings

Posted April 27th, 2011 by Alan Stein and filed in General, Travels
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When I first began writing for Tanglewood Conservatories, I have to admit, I didn’t know much about the history of conservatories. I knew that I liked the look of them and that it would be nice to have one, but I didn’t know that they were developed long ago, and that they are known by many different names – orangeries, hothouses, cold houses, greenhouses, lanterns, domes, and skylights, to name just a few. As I began to write this post, I was going to write about my experiences over the past few months and how doing research on different conservatories around the world and delving into their individual histories has taught me so much. However, as I started to write, one of my favorite conservatories all of a sudden popped into my mind and the post took a different route than I had intended!

Como Park Conservatory - St. Paul, Minnesota
Image Courtesy of Como Park Website

I have been to many conservatories during my lifetime, but the one in St. Paul, Minnesota at Como Park was probably my first and I have fond memories of it. I lived in Minnesota from the time I was in 4th grade until a few years after I graduated from college, so about 15 years or so. Como Park was probably one of the first places my parents took my sister and me to visit. For one reason, it was close. The other reason, and probably the most important at that time in our lives, was because it was free! Como Park includes a zoo, the conservatory, a lake with a large pavilion (for concerts and other events), and many green spaces. The whole park is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon on a warm spring Minnesota day (other days too, but spring in Minnesota, especially May, was my favorite time of year).

It was these early memories that caused me to write a page on the Como Park Conservatory for the “Our Heritage” section. I hope you will visit the page and perhaps decide that a visit to St. Paul and Como Park is in order. Minnesota has a reputation of being bitterly cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer, but it really is a lovely place to visit and the people, who may have cold noses in the winter time, actually have very warm hearts all year ‘round!

Conservatories Around the World

Posted July 13th, 2016 by Nicole Mihalos and filed in Domes and Cupolas, Dynamic Glass, General, Steel Structures, Travels, Uncategorized
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The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory – St Paul, Minnesota, originally known as the Como Park Conservatory, sits on about half an acre of the almost 400 acre campus of the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota. Designed by German-born architect Frederick Nussbaumer, Nussbaumer modeled this Victorian style glass domed conservatory after Kew Gardens in London. Completed in 1915, it is one of the few glass and wood conservatories left from that era.

The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is some 60,000 square feet, its footprint well over an acre (43,560 sq. ft.) and anchors the gardens. You’ll find, for example, a large collection of Bonsai plants, a continuation of St. Paul’s annual fascination with the chrysanthemum plus the marvelous Palm Dome. Here over 150 varieties of palms are on display along with a color selection of orchids.

For more details about this marvelous conservatory confection, click here. With every visit, this Conservatory is guaranteed to inspire you for your own conservatory. View their website to plan your visit – they always have something extraordinary going on!


Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens – Las Vegas, Nevada – The Vegas Strip seems an unlikely location for a lovely glass conservatory, but the Bellagio Hotel is exactly where you’ll find one. This is a true oasis of calm. Referred to as a “14,000 square foot floral playground…”  it lives up to its billing with changes in the flora every season plus in celebration of the Chinese New Year.

Of course, its soaring 55 ft glass ceiling perfectly sets the stage for a truly over-the-top ever changing display. Not only that, there is no charge to wander through this earthy space.

“Seasonal display” hardly describes what the talented team of horticulturists actually produce. Just for example, the theme of the 2016 summer production was “Under the Sea.” It consisted of some 80,000 blooming plants, including 6,000 tulips weekly. Interspersed were colorful statues of seahorses and with a delightful collection of jelly-fish like installations hanging from the glorious glass ceiling.

If you visit Sin City, make a point to see and experience exactly how a glass conservatory can change a frenetic atmosphere into a peaceful and restorative setting – food for thought as you think about a conservatory of your own. This marvelous spot is more than worth the trip!


Flower Dome + Cloud Forest, Singapore – Two amazing conservatories, both located in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, offer perpetual spring in the Flower Dome and the mystery of a high mountain Cloud Forest.


Flower Dorm was listed by the 2015 Guinness World Records as the world’s largest glass greenhouse, made up of some 3,332 glass panels of 42 different shapes and sizes. With almost 3 acres under glass it comes by its record honestly. It’s volume is equally startling – about as much as 75 Olympic size swimming pools.

Inside the climate is kept a balmy 73-77 degrees with humidity of about 80 percent. That precise temperature control is what allows the amazing variety of plants, from succulents to olive groves and everything in between to grow there in its various gardens – there’s even a bistro that features edible plants.

Cloud Forest is perhaps even more spectacular. The mountain inside rises to well over 100 feet and is designed to mimic an altitude of about 6,500 feet high. There is an impressive waterfall which has a viewing deck near the top.

You reach the top via a path known as the Cloud Walk. It’s built out from the mountain in an almost undulating fashion giving you a close-up view in some places, and a bit more distance in others.

The temperature and humidity are controlled to let you experience the mist so often found in a forest that high. You are, of course, surrounded by an amazing number of tropical trees and other plants.

This spectacular conservatory has 2,577 glass panels of 690 shapes! Together, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest are a conservatory experience not to be missed.  They will awe and inspire you.

Spring 2014 Events Calendar

Posted April 21st, 2014 by Alan Stein and filed in Events, General, Greenhouses, Travels
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Rawlings Conservatory, Baltimore MD

April 12 – 27 – Wednesday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Woodland Magic – A Faerie Hideaway – Annual Spring Flower Show

April 26 – Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival, a rain or shine event

Also on April 26 – 11th Annual Eco-Fest in Druid Hill Park

June 4 – September 24 -Wednesdays 3:30 – 7:30 P.M. Druid Hill Farmers’ Market

Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago, IL

Spring Flower Display, Through Sunday, May 11

Spring Seedling Sale, Sunday, May 4, Hours: 10:00 am – 11:00 am Members-Only Pre-Sale
11:00 am General Public Sale (until 4:00 pm or until plants are gone)

Lincoln Park Conservatory, Chicago, IL 

Spring Flower Show, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Every Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturdays)

Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA

Butterfly Forest, April 26 – Sept. 1

Summer Flower Show, May 10 – Oct. 5

Como Park Conservatory, St. Paul, MN

Spring Flower Show, March 22 through April 27

Summer Flower Show, May 3 through October 5

W. W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory at Wright Park, Tacoma, WA

Hilltop Artists Return to Conservatory for Symbiotic Exhibit, student-made glass, April 8 – June 16

Wilder Park Conservatory, Elmhurst, IL

Grand Reopening, Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the newly restored Wilder Park Conservatory & Greenhouse, April 27, 2014 – 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Happy 4th of July

Posted July 2nd, 2014 by Alan Stein and filed in Events
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Happy 4th of July
from Tanglewood Conservatories!

Tanglewood Designs
Wouldn’t it be great to spend some time this long holiday weekend touring conservatories?  Perhaps even uncovering some inspiration for your future conservatory!  Below is a listing of some public conservatories around the U.S.:

*indicates fireworks or special concerts scheduled


Enjoy your visits and Happy Birthday America!
Many thanks to all the military – past, present and future! 


Balboa Botanical Building

Posted May 27th, 2014 by Alan Stein and filed in

Our Heritage

Balboa Park Botanical Building, San Diego, CA
14. San Diego, CA


Interior of Balboa's Botanical Building     Interior of Balboa's Botanical Building

The only known conservatory in the world built with no glass (only wood lath) is located in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Balboa Park’s history dates back to 1868 but it wasn’t until city leaders, planning for the First World’s Fair: The 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, that Balboa Park and many of its modern-day tourist attractions, including the Botanical Building, were built. The Botanical Building is also one of the largest lath structures in the world.

According to author Richard Amero, Alfred D. Robinson, the founder and president of the San Diego Floral Society, suggested the building of the lath house as a featured part of the Exposition, which was planned to open to the public on January 1, 1915. The primary designers of the architectural plans for the Exposition, architects John C. Olmsted and Bertram Goodhue, did not originally have plans for such a unique structure. Olmsted, and Irving Gill, another architect brought on to assist in the planning, liked the idea but it wasn’t until Robinson wrote down a dream that he had one night, that the plans for the Botanical Building really took shape.

He said, “We were in the largest lath house ever projected as a pleasure resort. Where the band played and we sat was a great central dome, 500 feet in diameter, arched over by a domed roof rising fifty feet in the air. Up its supporting columns ran choice vines, jasmines of such sweet savor, begonias and tecomas of gaudy hue and the curious Dutchman’s pipe. Palms from many lands and of many forms lined the borders and were in beds here and there while begonias and other foliage plants nestled at their feet. In the air hung orchids with their strangely beautiful blossoms.

From this central court ran out six great arms or aisles and in each were gathered and growing in graceful harmony a great family of plants. There were thousands and thousands of varieties and each was plainly labeled. The lighting had been carefully planned so as not to strike the eye offensively and the whole effect was absolutely entrancing.”

Goodhue and Director-General of the Exposition, D.C. Collier and Director of Works, Frank P. Allen are all credited, along with Thomas P. Hunter, a structural engineer, with having had a hand in the shape the Botanical Building was built in, this was a departure from the original plans for the building, which had first been conceived as a Spanish- Renaissance palace.

Excavations for the Botanical Building began in August 1913; the steel arrived in November. In July 1914, it was reported by the San Diego Sun newspaper that the Botanical Building was complete. “The largest lath house in the world” measured an impressive 250 feet long, 75 feet wide and 60 feet tall. The entrance was formed by five arches. Two of which, on the left and the right, were crowned by octagonal shaped Persian-style domes. The three intervening arches were originally enclosed by glass panes that separated in to horizontal and vertical sash panels. Redwood dowels later replaced the glass panes during a 1957-59 renovation.

The top middle section of the Botanical Building is separated from the side wing barrel vaults by a large arch that surrounds straight vertical laths. This arch is topped by a dome, which is crowned by a graceful open cupola. The vaults and dome are held together by steel trusses that support 70,000 feet of curved redwood lath that follows the shape of the building.

Paul Thiene, the Superintendent of Landscaping, began preparing the plants to be transplanted to the Botanical Building as early as 1912. Most of the plants: palms, bamboos, Aralia chabrierii and Aralia elegantissima, and banana trees, were not potted by grew from subsoil. Birdcages were hidden among the larger plants and trees and contained canaries, linnets, and thrushes. The plants were watered by hand and by overhead pipes containing spray nozzles.

In 1915, as editor of the California Garden publication, Alfred Robinson wrote, “Let us be thankful for our Horticultural [Botanical] Building. With that title it could hardly be a true lath house, but let us think of ten acres under a lathed-in pergola, partly on the flat, partly going in steps down into a canyon, lighted cunningly as with fireflies, and let us think hard enough to bring the reality before some other place seizes the idea and reaps the reward of originality.” This leads us to conclude that Robinson was not truly happy with how the building turned out. And, as Richard Amero also points out, “Anyone who has visited the many conservatories in the United States, like the Conservatory in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, the Conservatory in Garfield Park, Chicago, the Conservatory in Como Park, Saint Paul, and the Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, must experience a letdown when they are inside the Botanical Building. Gardeners are conscientious and knowledgeable about plants, but they are constrained by the size of the building, by the many potted plants that have to be taken out as blooms fade, and by the unruly nature of plants that periodically burst through the roof.

Mildew, termites and rust are perpetual problems. Pigeons are a nuisance as are — though the gardeners might not like to say so — people who are continually taking away plants by the roots and as cuttings.” [Apparently and sadly, visitors are known to steal plants from the pots they grow in.]

However, even though it has its limitations, San Diegans continue to want to keep the Botanical Building. It was renovated in 2002 at the cost of ten times its 1915 cost and eight times its 1957-59 cost! The San Diego Botanical Building continues to be a huge “must-see” destination for visitors to San Diego. There are 2,100 permanent plants on display. Included in the display is a fun, just-for-kids, area that features a “Carnivorous Plant Bog”, with Pitcher Plants and Venus Fly Traps. There are also “Touch and Smell Gardens” that have unusual varieties of plants that feature special aromas such as chocolate and lemon mint.

Photos Courtesy of A. Jerabek

July Calendar of Events for Public Conservatories

Posted July 1st, 2013 by Alan Stein and filed in General
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The 4th of July is right around the corner. With beautiful weather everywhere in the US, why not take some time to visit one of America’s historical conservatories.

Here are a few of the events happening in July at some of the largest conservatories in the United States.


Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Chipotle Edible Garden Demonstration
Edible Garden Tent
Daily in July, 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Daily

Gardener Talk
Marjorie McNeely Conservatory
Daily, 1:00 PM

New York

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
Wild Medicine:
Healing Plants Around the World, Featuring the Italian Renaissance Garden
5/18/2013 – 9/8/2013

Four Seasons
5/18/2013 – 10/27/2013

Plants and Fungi: Ten Current Research Stories
Ongoing Exhibit

Hands-On Gardening Activities for Families:
Sweet and Stinky
6/11/2013 – 7/19/2013, 1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Mario Batali’s Kitchen Gardens
4/6/2013 – 10/11/2013, 1:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Naturally Curious
5/18/2013 – 9/8/2013, Weekdays, 1:30 – 5:30 p.m. / Weekends, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Commedia Dell’ Arte for Children
7/4/2013 – 7/7/2013, 8/31/2013, 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Hands-On Gardening Activities for Families:
Pickle Me!
7/20/2013 – 8/16/2013, 1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Members Only: Summer Tour of the High Line
Enjoy an in-depth look at the High Line.
7/17/2013, 10:00 a.m.

Members Only: Historic Stone Mill Luncheon
Lunch held at the Lillian and Amy Goldman Stone Mill
7/26/2013, 11:00 a.m.


Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanic Gardens
Metropolitan Columbus Daylily Society Show
Saturday, July 7

Live Fire Sunday
Sunday, July 7, 1–4pm

Family Fun
Saturday, July 13, 11am–2pm

Garden Maintenance Class
Saturday, July 13, 10:30am–12pm

Kimchee and the Art of the Perfect Pickle Class
Wednesday, July 17, 6–8pm

Hot Glass Studio Nights: Candy Bowl Class
Thursday, July 18, 6–9pm

Hands-on Composting Class
Saturday, July 20, 10:30am–12pm

Columbus Bonsai Society Show
Saturday, July 20 & Sunday, July 21

Raw Desserts Class
Sunday, July 21, 3:30–5:30pm

Bugs, Bats & Butterflies in the Garden Class (Ages 4–6)
July 22–26, 9am–12pm
July 22–26, 1pm–4pm

Junior Naturalists Class (Ages 8-11)
July 22–26, 9am–4pm

Family Fun
Saturday, July 27, 11am–2pm


Phipps Conservatory

Phipps Conservatory

Summer Short Course with David Culp
Thursday, July 11, 2013 , 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Hummingbirds in the Garden
July 13, 1:30 PM

Garden Variety:
A Farm-to-Phipps Dinner
Sunday, July 21, 2013, 6:30 – 9 p.m.

All-American Rose Society Winners
July 21, 1:30 PM

Indian Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants
July 28, 1:30 PM

Tropical Forest India
Now Open

Summer Flower Show:
Glass in the Gardens
April 27 – Oct. 6, 2013

Butterfly Forest
April 20 – Sept. 2, 2013

Farmers at Phipps
Wednesdays, June – October 2013, 2:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Party in the Tropics
Select Fridays in 2013, 7 – 11 p.m.
Ages 21+