Cottage Gardener Blog

Winter Escapes

winter_escapes_waukesha_2Winter escapes can come in many forms, shapes and sizes. When time and money allow, I always enjoy a trip someplace south when the winter in the Midwest is still blowing snow and cold. Life on a warm beach has its advantages, but sometimes the gardener in me has to work in a little day trip to the local botanic garden. These side trips are always an eye opening fascination with tropical plants that we can only dream about or find at the Mitchell Park Domes here in Milwaukee. Many botanic gardens have outdoor display gardens and if you take your time when moving through these spaces, you can occasionally find ideas that can be transferred back to the Midwest. When looking at these display gardens with a critical eye toward design, you might find fresh ideas in plant combinations that combine texture and color with an artistically placed focal point that can draw you in or focus on an enchanting vista. The important thing to remember is to slow down, take some pictures, and try and feel the space.

winter_escapes_waukesha_9Several years ago I had an opportunity to tour the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida. The Gardens have expanded to 13 acres since their opening in 1973 and are located on the bay of Sarasota. The elegant Mansion located on the property houses the Museum and is adjacent to the gift shop and small café. The Selby Botanical Gardens has become a nationally known research and education facility for the Bromeliead, Gesneriad, and Orchid Research Centers. The Conservatory displays many of these epiphytic type plants, or plants that are of a tropical nature that do not root in soil but rely on other plants for support. Orchids and bromeliads are well known groups of epiphytes. The displays in the Conservatory are constantly being rotated with plants that show off their flowering beauty. The pictures shown are only a small representation of the many flowering tropical plants you will see. For more information go to the Gardens web site at This botanic garden is definitely worth the price of admission.

If Sarasota is not in the travel plans in the near future, a trip to the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (The Domes) can bring a little tropical essence to a person in the Midwest on a cold March afternoon. The three ‘Domes’ each have a different theme providing wonderful displays that will transport you to a warmer climate. You can find more information at


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