Spring Comes to Como

The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory’s Spring Flower Show opens on March 19, featuring a sunny array of yellow and orange tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, pansies, violas and crocuses designed to provide some color therapy to Minnesotans weary of winter.

“This is definitely the most labor-intensive flower show that we do, but it’s also our most popular,” says Horticulture Supervisor Paul Knuth. “After a long Minnesota winter, people are really longing for some color and we do our best to give them what they’ve been missing.”

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1). Only a few weeks after the Spring Show closes each year, horticulturists start the planning process for the next year, poring over seed and bulb catalogs and looking for new trends and old favorites that will make each show feel fresh. This year’s showcase of hyacinths, Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies, calla, bearded iris, tulips, daffodils, ranunculus, snapdragons, hydrangeas and crocuses will give the show “a unique aesthetic,” says Knuth.

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2). Since the Sunken Garden is symmetrical, horticulturists design just one side and then mirror the plantings on the other.

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3). More than 10,000 bulbs arrive from Holland in late October, and Conservatory volunteers get right to work in the potting garage planting each one. By managing the temperature and the light exposure in the growing range, horticulturists can make sure bulbs will begin to sprout by February.

Did You Know?

  • Rotating flower shows have been a Como tradition in the Sunken Garden since 1925.
  • Every bulb and bloom you see in the Sunken Garden got its start in the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory’s behind-the-scenes growing range several months before.
  • High costs have forced many botanical gardens around the country to give up staging major flower shows, but your support for Como Friends helps to pay for the new bulbs, plants and fine horticulturists who keep it all in bloom.

4). “The Most Beautiful Room in Minnesota” turns into a major mess on tear-down day, when volunteers and staff pull the plants from the previous show. Potting soil is recycled, some plants are saved, and the remaining waste materials are sorted and composted by the Ramsey County backyard recycling program.

5). Tulips like these stay at their peak for about 12 days and need to be replaced several times during the course of the Spring Flower Show. Extras are always planted to account for the occasional trampling from crowds.

6). “Unlike your garden at home which will grow over the course of the season, the idea of the Sunken Garden is that it is always ‘finished’ and at its peak,” says Knuth. The Spring Flower Show, always free to the public, runs through April 24, 2016.

See the Sunken Garden transform in this time-lapse video documenting a show change back in 2014.

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