A Bit of Tropics in the Tundra

While celebrating Thanksgiving this year in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, I had the chance to visit the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul. I have been there many times, perhaps more than 100, over my lifetime, since I grew up just a few blocks from this beautiful place. I wanted to see the annual Holiday Flower Show, but it was not quite ready yet. Since I was there at Thanksgiving, the Autumn show was in its last week, so instead I saw many chrysanthemums, along with swiss chard, which I thought was an extremely odd accent. I guess “everyone” is into vegetable gardens this year.

Each year since 1925 the main room, called “The Sunken Garden”, of the conservatory is filled with poinsettias, azaleas, and other festive plants during the Holiday season . Thousands of people come to visit, and to step into a tropical oasis while the snow flies outside. The statue at the end of the gazing pond is always surrounded by koi, and this time was no exception.

Como Park includes the Como Zoo, the Como Park Conservatory (renamed Marjorie McNeely Conservatory), and the surrounding 300 acres of parkland. The Conservatory originally opened in 1915, and has had several facelifts during its lifetime. It houses thousands of plants, many of them decades, if not centuries old. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is open 365 days of the year.

The Como Park Conservatory holds 7 indoor and 3 outdoor gardens, including the Palm Dome, which is 64 feet tall and holds more than 150 species of tropical palms and cycads. Orchids and Bromeliads fill in the nooks and crannies.

The North Garden is my favorite, which holds plants from all over the world, a pond and the gateway to the outdoor Japanese Garden. The plants in the North Garden are mainly those that supply food, spices and medicines for us!

The newest garden in the Conservatory was finished just a few years ago, and is called the "Tropical Encounters".  It houses both plants and animals, and has lots of child friendly learning centers.  The sloth in the pictures below hangs out for everyone to see.

I have been so fortunate to grow up with this beautiful, amazing, and best of all free collection of plants practically right outside my back door. In fact, I lived so close to the zoo that some times the peacocks would fly out of their fenced area, and visit the neighborhood at night. Talk about frightening sounds, the peacock’s “screech” will wake anyone up! Living so close to the park for so many years helped me to develop the love of nature I have today.

If you are ever in St. Paul, MN take the time to visit the Como Park Conservatory and the Zoo. You won’t be disappointed!

Como Park and Conservatory Information:
1225 Estabrook Drive
Saint Paul, MN 55103
24-hour Information: 651-487-8200
Opening times - All year. Daily. Open 10am to 6pm, April thru September,  10am to 4pm October to March.
Admission - Free
Website - Como Park Zoo and Conservatory


  1. Wow..what a treat..thankyou for sharing such gorgeous pictures..such a beautiful place!

  2. Oh, I loved this!! The very first home we ever owned was within walking distance of the Como Conservatory in a cute little St. Paul neighborhood called St. Anthony Park. (No to be confused with St. Anthony, the Minneapolis neighborhood. Boo Mpls! We love St. Paul! ha-ha.) Thanks for sharing. And, thanks for the comment on my blog. Stay warm!

  3. Hi Kate, I know that neighborhood well! I walked to the St. Paul Campus of the U of Minnesota daily to take the inter-campus bus. Some of my best friends used to live around there. I am with you when it comes to St. Paul versus Minneapolis. It is such a small, small world! Kathy

  4. What a spectacular conservatory! and to be so close by... how lucky. Great to have animals inside one as well. I could easily sit for hours in the room with the fountain. Lovely sculpture. I love the banana tree! A joy! Best Wishes for the New Year! Carol

  5. Beautiful! I love visiting conservatories in winter...like an afternoon in the tropics. I've never seen a sloth though..quite cute!
    Happy New Year!

  6. This looks like a place I would enjoy visiting, and that is neat how it nurtured your love of nature.
    Your last name is very appropriate for a gardener, as is my first name, Terra, which is Earth in Latin.

  7. The Como Park Conservatory is very beautiful - you are indeed fortunate to live close to such a special place. I have never seen a sloth before. I imagined they looked a lot like our possums, but they have long fur and are really cute!

  8. Amazing! What a beautiful place! They need it in Minnesota! I enjoyed all the pictures. They remind me of Hawaii. Picture #9 from the top is breathtaking! I want to be in such place right now! It's wet and green here. I am not complaining, although. Kathy, I want to thank you for your warm comments on my posts and to wish you a wonderful and peaceful New Year!


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