PHOTO Facebook/washington park botanical garden

The Washington Park Botanical Garden is a tropical respite for skilled hobbyists and curious amateurs alike. What better way to kick off your spring season than by seeing some of the best flowers Springfield has to offer at the Washington Park Botanical Garden's 49th annual Spring Floral Display?

Alexa Bryan Potts, botanical general manager, says in the early days before the exhibit hall was constructed in 1998, the Spring Floral Display took place in a maintenance greenhouse with tarps covering the gravel floor. Potts admits the setup of yesteryear left something to be desired, and she's thankful for today's abundance of usable space for the event. In addition to being a beautiful space, the exhibit hall and dome's primary purpose is to welcome the public and give people a chance to see all the beautiful plants.

"It's allowed us to have the shows there and entertain," Potts says. "That's been helpful." The garden can also be rented for private events.

The garden staff takes the entertaining part of their job very seriously, dreaming up creative themes and executing them to the smallest detail. "Every year we get excited and try to one-up ourselves," Potts says.

Past themes have included Candy Land, Home Alone, Peter Rabbit and fairies (with real little girls dressed as fairies) This year's theme will be The Secret Garden, complete with hidden keys that visitors can find, just like the key Mary Lennox found in Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 classic children's novel. Extra plants will be brought into the garden's entrance, so attendees will have the experience of coming through a leafy path to a Secret Garden wall, through which they will enter the show.

Additional garden wall structures inside – which Potts painted herself – will enhance the atmosphere of mystery and surprise. "It's a lot of fun," Potts says. "We enjoy doing the theme. We already know the winter one in our minds, but we're not releasing it yet."

Filling the Secret Garden will be many Easter and Asiatic lilies, daffodils, hyacinth, peace lilies, cast irons, umbrella and ficus trees, palms, orchids, anthurium, hanging spiders and ferns, and more. This year, Potts says, they're bringing out even more plants than usual, and they will empty at least one of the garden's four greenhouses.

Experienced gardeners and flower lovers will have the opportunity to view many interesting specimens from the garden's collection, but even those without much background knowledge about horticulture will enjoy their time.

"I absolutely love going into the dome on a cold day, and suddenly it's sunny and 80 degrees and warm," Potts says. "It's plant therapy."

You might enjoy the flowers so much you want to take some home with you –and you can do just that. Garden members (for an individual fee of $20 per year or family fee of $35) can take home free Easter lilies at the end of the display on Tuesday, April 11, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. No need to call ahead, but be sure to bring your own container.

In addition to the Spring Floral Display, there are many more ways to get involved at the garden this season. On March 11, the garden is hosting a succulent workshop 9-10:30 a.m., and on April 15, another Saturday morning workshop will focus on air plants. The succulent and air plant workshops require preregistration and a fee that goes to cover the construction of a take-home living plant craft.

Orchid lovers can bring their own plants for a hands-on, open-house-style orchid basics and repotting workshop open to the public April 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the Prairie State Orchid Society.

Potts encourages anyone curious about the garden's events to call her at 217-546-4116 or just drop by.

Elizabeth Watson is a freelance writer and editor in Springfield, a mother and a budding plant enthusiast.

Illinois Times has provided readers with independent journalism for almost 50 years, from news and politics to arts and culture.

Your support will help cover the costs of editorial content published each week. Without local news organizations, we would be less informed about the issues that affect our community..

Click here to show your support for community journalism.

Got something to say?

Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Comments (0)
Add a Comment
  • Sanctuary Tours

    @ First Presbyterian Church

    Thursdays, 1:30-3 p.m. Continues through June 27