“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment,” said Sun Prairie-born artist Georgia O’Keeffe. “I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower.”
O’Keeffe knew, as do we all, that flowers are hard to come by in a Wisconsin winter. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They can be found at area conservatories and greenhouses. And, heck, you can grow them yourself.
Mitchell Park Domes Horticulture Conservatory, 524 S. Layton Blvd., Milwaukee
Known as much for its plant life as it is for its architecture, each of the three Mitchell Park Domes maintain a distinct climate and setting. There’s a floral show dome, a tropical dome, and a desert dome.
Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens, 1354 N. 2nd St., Rockford
It is one of the largest conservatories in Illinois, and just across the Wisconsin border along the banks of the Rock River. It includes an 11,000-sqft plant exhibition area complete with water features, seating areas, and sculptures, all in a tropical plant setting.
Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 3330 Atwood Ave., Madison
Open daily, this year-round tropical paradise houses more than 650 plants representing more than 80 families and more than 475 different species and cultivars. It’s all under a glass pyramid with a temperature that goes no lower than 65 degrees.
UW-Madison Botany Garden and Greenhouse, Birge Hall, 430 Lincoln Dr., Madison
The Botany Greenhouse has been a laboratory of learning and has been an oasis for the public for years. There are eight rooms, divided into 11 distinct climate zones. It features more than 1,000 species comprising distinct aquatic, desert, and tropical communities.
After visiting a conservatory, you may want to plant some flowers of your own. The Madison Public Library is here to help with its seed library. Six participating library branches are offer free 10-seed packets. Some available native plant seeds include black-eyed susans, wild bergamot, and lavender hyssop.