03 November 2011

The Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha NE

The Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha NE started with a rose garden in 1995. Today, beautiful plantings, water features, educational classes, shows, and events bring 200,000 visitors a year to the 100-acre botanical garden.

The Omaha Botanical Center is on the site of woods and rolling terraces on a bluff, giving spectacular views from some locations. The Missouri River is a short distance to the east and is visible from Kenefick Park that houses Union Pacific Railroad’s Big Boy No. 4023 and Centennial No. 6900.
The walk from the railroad cars to the museum itself is through well-tended perennial and annual beds as well as giant containers of flowers and plantings.


Visitors enter Lauritzen through a 32,000 square-foot visitor/education center which by itself is worth a trip. At the center of the building there is a dramatic 65-foot tall vaulted glass roof that is visible from the highway. When we visited a few weeks ago the 5,000 square-foot display hall housed a fall chrysanthemum show and a bonsai show.
Fall Chrysanthemum Show at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha NE

The 4-acre arboretum at Lauritzen Gardens has several plant communities to wander through including: Oak, Savannah, Prairie, Hickory forest, Maple Linden forest, Farmstead, Marsh and Floodplain. The gardens to visit include: Herb, Children’s, Japanese, Shade/Hosta, Victorian, Song of the Lark Meadow, and others.

The Song of the Lark Meadow is filled with native plants. It is a wonder to watch the constant movement of the birds and butterflies moving around its flowers. The meadow is named after a Willa Cather short story and the bronze sculpture in the garden is “Startled” is by Kent Ullberg.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Hitchcock-Kountze Victorian Garden is English. Its design is formal and restful and full of artistic features, a gazing pond and walkways.

There is also a traditional English perennial border nearby. Gardeners have installed 300 plant species that include sun and shade perennials.

Wear comfortable shoes and plan to walk to The Garden in the Glen, on the woodland trail with pools, waterfalls, and a stream.
The six-acre Japanese Garden’s Sunpu Castle Gate and Mt. Fuji replica were planned and constructed by Japanese artisans in 2005. Twenty-four stone lanterns were contributed by Mr. Yoichiro Suzuki and Mr. Tsutomu Asada of Shizuoka Japan.

One of the most popular gardens is the model railroad with seven trains running through scenes of the area and replicas of famous local buildings. It only runs from May through October but there is a tour of the railroad at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJla81Vrk18.

The Model Train Garden is made of twigs, bark, pinecones, gourds, leaves, etc. Omaha landmark buildings made of the same materials include the Livestock Exchange Building, St. Cecelia Cathedral, and the Durham Museum.

The trains, Big Boy, a freight and passenger train and a covered bridge run on miles of track that travel through gardens, over bridges and around natural features. Paul Busse of Applied Imagination landscape designed and built the train garden.
From Thanksgiving and through December Lauritzen Garden puts on its annual Poinsettia Show with almost 6,000 poinsettias and parts of the Model Train Garden.  January will feature plants from Amy Stewart’s “Wicked Plants”. The exhibit will showcase dozens of infamous plants with bad reputations. The entire events calendar is at http://tinyurl.com/3sb9vdx
Next spring, the highlight will be The David and Pamela Gross Family Spring Flowering Walk where thousands of bulbs, trees and shrubs will be in bloom. Dozens of magnolia varieties, crabapples, redbuds, dogwoods and serviceberries keep the flowers coming from March through May.
The Lauritzen Gardens is open 362 days a year. Check the website before visiting www.lauritzengardens.org.
This week I'll post a few more Lauritzen Garden photos from our visit - it is fabulous!

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