With a “Minnesota Garden” of native plants and new public art, a remodeling effort for Como’s front door is about to be unveiled.

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory welcomes nearly two million visitors every year, and this spring, Como’s “front door” is about to have even more curb appeal.

It’s all part of a major remodeling plan that’s been under construction since last fall, that’s about to be unveiled to visitors in early June. “This is really phase three of a planned transportation and access project that we started a few years ago with the Centennial Garden that opened with the 100-year celebration of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in 2015,” says Como’s campus director Michelle Furrer. “The goal of the project was to take a close look at how our visitors get from point A to point B at Como, and look for ways to improve the experience, while also bringing people with mobility issues a little closer to Como’s front door.”

Here’s a preview of some of the design plans you’re about to see this summer:



1). The Minnesota Garden:
A new garden of Minnesota natives is about to be planted in place of Como’s “front lawn” of green turf,  an on-trend design update that will also keep the grass from being trampled by two million visitors. “Our visitors naturally want to take the shortest route to the front door, which has made it a challenge to keep the grass growing,” says Furrer. The centerpiece of the garden will be a new piece of public art called “Little Giants,” a monumental installation of sculptured silver made to resemble Minnesota wheat grass.

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2). New sidewalks for Como’s Water Garden:
The beautiful Victoria Water Platters have always been a big draw for summer visitors, and now they’ll be even easier to see thanks to new sidewalks that will make the garden more accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. “The gardens are such a great entry point during the summer, and so this gives visitors the chance to walk by and experience the water garden more easily,” says Furrer.

Did You Know?

  • Como Regional Park welcomes nearly 4.8 million visitors every year, making transportation flow a major priority for Como Park Zoo and Conservatory’s campus in recent years.
  • The transportation and access improvements about to be unveiled were provided through public funding, grants from the Minnesota Legacy Amendment fund, and contributions to Como Friends from people like you.
  • Como’s first superintendent Frederick Nussbaumer was inspired by the Royal Gardens at Kew when he created his first public gardens at what was then the Como Park Conservatory and now is the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory.


3). Circle garden and drive:
Streamlining school field trip drop-offs and multi-family meet-ups is one of the goals of a new circular drive that will connect to Estabrook Drive, bringing visitors a little closer to Como’s front door. With a garden at the center, the new turning point will also provide new seating options for visitors who come to Como via shuttle bus and Nice Ride bikes.


4). Better lines for a managed landscape:
 
Like the Centennial Garden that reflects the turn-of-the-century horticulture traditions Como’s first visitors flocked to see, Como’s entire forecourt landscape has been redrawn to resemble a more European floral landscape. “You’ll see the great castles in Europe create visual connections between buildings and gardens, so we’ve done some of the same things, for instance, aligning the sidewalk so it’s in line with the Sunken Garden wing,” Furrer says. The whole effect makes it simpler for visitors to find their way, while inspiring them with more thoughtful landscape design.

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