Skip to site content
The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Spring Gardens: Here comes the sun

Photo by Robin Carlson, courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden

After the big chill of winter, bank members just may need some inspiration. Thankfully, at botanical gardens throughout the country, the main attractions are not only the vibrant bursts of color and the sweet aromas of blooms and moist dirt, but lots of such inspiration.

The ice will have thawed in destinations like Ames, Iowa, where bank members shed their winter coats just as thousands of bulbs and annuals are emerging from the ground. Like many botanical destinations, Ames offers a spring treat for those wanting to spread their wings. A celebration of just about any ornament you have ever seen in yard decor is on display, including hundreds of pink flamingos.

Chicago Botanic Garden

The 385-acre Chicago Botanic Garden features 24 display gardens and three native habitats situated on nine islands surrounded by lakes.

“In May, the azaleas in the Malott Japanese Garden are spectacular. On Evening Island, two bridges form a 
circular lake mimicking the Great Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., and this is home to hundreds of 
flowering crabapple trees,” said Julie McCaffrey, spokesperson for the garden.

A wooded area offers spring ephemerals, plants that bloom for a short period, and groups will witness what looks like large blankets of trillium.

McCaffrey suggested taking the narrated open-air tram tour for starters.

Groups may want to plan their visit during the Antiques and Garden Fair April 16-18, where 100 exhibitors from the United States and Europe participate. May 14-16, A Bloomin’ Sale offers a farmers market, plant sale, music and demonstrations about spring gardening.

“Our Garden Cafe is the place for groups to book a special room or get boxed lunches,” she said.
(847) 835-5440

Phipps Conservatory and 
Botanical Gardens

Opened in 1893, Phipps Conservatory’s steel-and-glass Victorian glasshouse has found recent fame as the venue for world leaders at the G-20 Summit welcome dinner.
“At this 2009 event where President Obama talked with others about the economic issues around the world, we were thrilled to show off our conservatory,” said Samantha Morris, public relations spokesperson.

Courtesy Phipps Conservatory and Botanic Gardens

Phipps couples 17 botanical experiences with ever-changing artistic exhibits in more than 55,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. Spring brings the blooms of bulbs and early annuals and bank groups will also enjoy the exhibit Tropical Forest: Headwaters of the Amazon, where they will be transported to the birthplace of the Amazon River inside the Tropical Forest Conservatory.

“Visitors will experience the exotic plants and cultures from this diverse region. Throughout our conservatory, visitors find that each room has flowers from different areas of the world. One room may be orchids, the next may be ferns,” said Morris.

Producing all its own energy from renewable resources onsite, Phipps has become a leader for advanced green-building practices, sustainable gardening and environmental awareness. Groups can enjoy an aptly titled Green Tour or take advantage of four other themed tours.

Phipps is located amidst one of Pittsburgh’s largest green spaces, which entices groups to walk to nearby attractions such as the Carnegie Museums and the Cathedral of Learning.
(412) 622-6914

Missouri Botanic Garden
St. Louis

Early in the spring, the crocus are the first to peep out in the 79 acres of the Missouri Botanic Gadens, but 100,000 more bulbs, including tulips, hyacinths and iris, will soon follow.
“The cherry blossoms in our Japanese garden appear to be foothills covered in snow,” said Gene Peimann, tourism manager.

That 14-acre Japanese garden is one of the largest in North America where rhododendrons and azaleas are also part of the scenery. “It’s not to be missed. With a four-acre lake and many structures to admire, you can feel your blood pressure drop as you walk through it,” said Peimann.

        Courtesy Missouri Botanic Gardens

The Chinese Garden, a gift from China, and the Turkish Pleasure Garden that explodes with tulips in the spring, are examples of the research that employees take part in throughout the world.

“Sustainability is our goal,” said Peimann.

Peimann suggested that groups take a tram tour in this large facility that also includes a memorial garden dedicated to Missourian Dr. George Washington Carver and a renowned collection of sculptures.

Tower Grove House, the home of the garden’s founder, Henry Shaw, is a restored Victorian residence where bank groups can learn about the roots of the garden. Groups can also enjoy a spring picnic in the adjacent Tower Grove Park, a gift from Shaw that offers Victorian-style pavilions and more than 8,000 trees and shrubs. 
(800) 332-1286

Reiman Gardens
Ames, Iowa

Reiman Gardens, one of the largest public gardens in Iowa, makes a striking entrance to Iowa State University.

“In the spring, we have a fantastic bulb display, our 40,000 annuals are beginning to bloom, and the roses are in full bloom in early June. If you’re into roses, don’t miss our rose festival on June 19,” said gardens director Teresa McLaughlin.

Groups find solace in exploring 14 outdoor acres and two indoor conservatories, including one with exotic butterflies from around the world.

              Courtesy Reiman Gardens

“Every year, our garden has a new theme, and in 2010 it will be Celebration of Garden Ornaments. Ours will be a world filled with gazing balls, topiary, whirligigs, fairies, wheelbarrows and gnomes. Much will be done with a humorous twist,” said McLaughlin.

Ten special exhibitions highlighting garden ornaments will begin in the spring and extend throughout the year. Rooted Traditions will remind visitors of grandma’s farm with rusty gates and heirloom plants; the Winds of Change takes advantage of this windy destination with pinwheels and sails; Bottle Trees, a Southern garden ornament tradition where bottles dangle from tree branches; and Go Big or Go Gnome features the world’s largest gnome.

In fact, there will be gnomes in nearly every vista, with 15 gnomes of all sizes, designed and constructed by Iowa artists, on display throughout the gardens.
(515) 294-2710

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
San Marino, California

Once a working ranch with citrus groves and nut and fruit orchards, the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens contains 120 landscaped acres that are home to 14,000 different varieties of plants. Over the park-like landscape, groups can tour more than a dozen themed areas including the Japanese, Shakespeare, Jungle and Palm Chinese gardens.

“I’ll point out two of our thematic gardens in particular that visitors won’t want to miss. In the early months, the Chinese Garden comes alive with flowering plum, cherry and apricot. In April and May, the Rose Garden bursts forth in all its glory, a riot of color, from pale pink to burnt orange to dark chocolate,” said Susan Turner-Lowe, vice president for communications.

Groups can also enjoy the venue’s extensive collection of books and art or request a tour that includes the entire estate.
(626) 405-2100

Callaway Gardens
Pine Mountain, Georgia

     Courtesy Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens, a 13,000-acre woodland and display garden,  includes a resort, four restaurants, golf and the newest addition, the 13,000-square-foot luxury spa, Spa Prunifolia.
One of the spectacular spring attractions is the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl, the world’s largest azalea garden, according to Rachel Crumbley, public relations manager.

“Thousands of hybrid and native azaleas thrive over 40 acres,” she said. “Add a bazillion dogwood blooms and the fresh green of spring, this place is a kaleidoscope of color — incredible views everywhere.”

Visitors get to see their favorite blooms before they come to market since the gardens is a test site for seeds and blooms. Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden is a model garden that produces more than 700 varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs.

This year offers a variety of spring events, including a plant fair and sale and an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert.
(800) 543-7121

Rockome Gardens
Arcola, Illinois

In the Amish country of central Illinois, springtime brings the annual opening of Rockome Gardens, an attraction that combines horticulture, crafts, food and Amish traditions.

Rockome was established in the early 20th century when a local couple purchased a 208-acre farm with the dream of creating the county’s largest flower garden. During the Depression of the 1930s, the farm owner kept his workers employed by having them build rock fences throughout the property, which would go on to become one of the most attractive characteristics of Rockome Gardens.

Today, the rock walls serve as boundaries to a number of themed gardens and other attractions at the property. Guests with a green thumb will enjoy the formal garden, sunken garden, Spanish garden and fern garden. In buildings interspersed throughout, visitors can see craftsmen working on traditional items such as brooms and pottery or watch a blacksmith work with historic techniques.

The newest attraction, Rockome Gardens Foods, is opening this spring. This 7,500-square-foot building will feature a cheese factory with live daily demonstrations as well as a working gristmill. The food store will also include a bakery and candy shop.

Fredrick Meijer Gardens and 
Sculpture Park
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Every March and April, the 132-acre Fredrick Meijer Gardens hosts the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibit in the nation. “We import butterflies from tropical countries around the world, and this exhibit is located in our five-story, tropical conservatory,” said Amy Sawade, public relations specialist for the gardens.

Sawade suggested a stroll along the Garden Trails and Conservatory 
Collection, which focuses primarily on nature and animal studies that complement the local horticultural setting.

The animals are always on hand, thanks to Meijer’s collection of 200 sculptures from world-renowned artists, including the largest equine sculpture in the world.

“The American Horse is a tribute to Leonardo da Vinci’s horse,” said Sawade.

Sawade said their English perennial garden also is a major draw, especially in the spring. “There are bursts of colors everywhere,” she said.

Themed gardens such as Michigan’s Farm Garden, with a replica of a 1930s farm garden and home to a 100-year-old barn, are all in bloom in the spring. Beginning April 30 and lasting through September, the work of glass artist Dale Chihuly will have a vibrant presence throughout the attraction.
(888) 957-1580