Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Spring

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a botanical gem near the heart of downtown Columbus.  I should know, because I work here!  I am the Experience Designer at the Conservatory and work in the Visitor Experience Department.


Through my work at the Conservatory I get a close-up and personal look at all of our fantastic plants, artwork and seasonal exhibits.  Because of this - there is no way I could possibly write up or review everything the Conservatory has to offer in one post.  Instead, I will write one post per season, plus a general overview of the Conservatory.  The Conservatory is very seasonal, we have annual exhibits every year that are around for a few months at a time, we also have amazing one-time exhibits that are only here for a short while.  To get the full Conservatory experience - you must visit more than once!

Author's Note - I am not getting paid to write this about my workplace - the Conservatory really is a wonderful place to visit in Columbus and I felt this way before I became an employee, the lovely winter orchid show alone is one of the reasons I wanted to work here in the first place! 

Blooms & Butterflies is an annual show that the Conservatory has been putting on for the last twenty years.  It is one of the things that we are best known for!  Kids and adults love to see the butterflies and our daily butterfly releases at 1pm and 3pm are well attended, especially on the weekends!  All of the butterflies are tropical species (this year a lot of them are from Brazil!) that are shipped to the Conservatory in chrysalis form, they emerge in the Emergence Center, a room kept at an optimal temperature and humidity level (meant to mimic the heat and humidity found in their native rainforest habitat).  The Emergence Center has windows so our visitors can watch live butterflies emerge from their chrysalises.  

The butterflies are released into the South Pacific Island biome, which is often called the "butterfly garden" or "butterfly room."  This is where visitors can get up close looks at the butterflies flitting through the room or sipping nectar - a butterfly might even land on a visitor!  During the Blooms & Butterflies show, we lead Blooms & Butterflies tours for students who visit us on school field trips.  During these tours we go over the butterfly life cycle, caterpillar and butterfly food and defense mechanisms.  The tour always ends with a run-down of the rules for visiting the butterflies.  Our biggest rule is that the butterflies cannot leave the butterfly room, since they are non-native tropical species, they must stay in the butterfly room both for their own safety and to prevent them from becoming pest species.  Our second biggest rule is that we do not want students (or other visitors) to touch the butterflies, their wings are fragile and can easily be damaged if people try to pick them up by their wings.

My co-worker and fellow blogger, Chris Kline, is our Interpretation Specialist and butterfly guru at the Conservatory.  He takes care of the butterflies in the Emergence Center, gives most of our butterfly releases and teaches butterfly and butterfly gardening classes.  Check out the Columbus Dispatch's video, The Conservatory's Butterfly Wrangler to learn more about the butterflies and Chris' work.  If you're interested in gardening for butterflies, Chris has written Butterfly Gardening with Native Plants, available on and in the gift shop, Botanica at the Conservatory.

This year, the Summer Flower Show features native Brazilian plants, including 500 bromeliads!  I took a picture of one of the bromeliads for my photo of the day!  A bromeliad that most people are familiar with is the pineapple plant (we have had pineapple plants at the Conservatory before, but I have not seen any in the current Showhouse display). 

Later this summer, we will have Summer Camp and our weekly Farmers' Market.  There is still space in a few of our camps if you have a little one aged 4 up to 11 who likes to explore outside, play fun games and make cool crafts!