STORY AND PHOTOS BY RYAN TRARES
Lifeless limbs reach toward the sky, waving in the steady wind. Brown grass crunches underfoot. Empty garden beds offer nothing but plots of frozen dirt. Winter’s cold has stripped the Indiana landscape of its color and vibrancy. If the freezing temperatures have you yearning for warmth, a temporary fix is available in the balmy tropical climate of local conservatories. Throughout the Indianapolis area, radiant blooms and towering trees provide a hint of color in an otherwise drab time of year. So come in out of the cold. Before you know it, spring will be here.
“Orchids: Cultivating Beauty”
Where: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 N. Michigan Ave.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through March 5
Admission: $18 for adults, $12 youth ages 6 to 17, kids 5 and under free
What: The Indianapolis Museum of Art is known for its installations of big, bold, colorful pieces. But for the second year in a row, curators are letting nature showcase its own works of art.
“Orchids: Cultivating Beauty” is an exhibition of the wide variety of orchids growing in the museum’s Elder Greenhouse. More than 500 types of the flower will be displayed, from the tiny corsage orchid to the delicate slipper orchid.
Purples, pink, blue, white and all different shades will radiate throughout the living exhibition.
Additional orchid-related showcases will be on display in the nearby Lilly House, as well as in the museum’s galleries.
The exhibition pairs with a more traditional show, “Lilly Collection of Orchids in Watercolors,” which features a selection of 30 orchid watercolors collected by Josiah K. Lilly, son of the founder of Eli Lilly.
And for a multi-sensory experience, the IMA Cafe has created orchid-inspired menu items during the exhibition. Savor a candied ginger crème brûlée with a coconut whipped cream and orchid blossom topping, or a lavender agave glazed chicken romaine salad drizzled with a vanilla brown butter dressing.
Other special events, such as mounting and repotting workshops, will be featured throughout February.
Garfield Park Conservatory
Where: 2345 Pagoda Drive, Indianapolis
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $2 per person, kids 2 and under free.
What: A somewhat hidden jewel on the city’s southside, the Garfield Park Conservatory features hundreds of plants originally grown in tropical regions throughout the world. With more than 10,000 square feet of space, it’s the closest thing to a jungle that people can find in central Indiana.
That effect is obvious from the first step through the conservatory’s doors. Massive green giant elephant ears provide a canopy of shade over visitors. Bananas grow in bunches on overhanging trees.
Bohdi trees poke towards the greenhouse ceiling. A waterfall bubbles in the distance.
Garfield Park has had a conservatory since 1916, when a palm house, two show houses and two plant houses were constructed on the property.
That original facility has been replaced by the more modern building, and a permanent rain forest theme was introduced in 1997.
Since that time, the conservatory has drawn thousands of visitors each year. To compliment its collection of exotic plants, staff members have planned special events and programs.
Kids can attend Saturday storytime to learn more about tropical animals and plants. Meditation underneath the palm fronds creates a uniquely relaxing atmosphere.
A special Valentine’s Day program, Sweets for Your Sweetie, features tropical delights such as chocolate and coffee, in a candlelit atmosphere.
Where: Indianapolis Zoo, 1200 W. Washington St.
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday through mid-March
Admission: Included in zoo admission; adult tickets range from $8.20 to $10.20, depending on day; children 2 to 12 $6.20 to $7.70
Tropical warmth blasts you in the face as soon as you walk through the doors of the Hilbert Conservatory.
Hot-weather plants such as bougainvillea, amaryllis and and the thunbergia vine, with its sky blue flowers, flutter in the jungle-like atmosphere. Rows of palm trees create a canopy near the greenhouse’s 65-feet-tall ceiling panes.
With water bubbling from a fountain at the center of the 5,000-square-foot space, it would be easy to imagine yourself in paradise.
The Hilbert Conservatory is the year-round feature of White River Gardens, itself a branch of the Indianapolis Zoo. The gardens were created in 1997, the first major project of zoo officials after opening in its current location.
Visitors can walk through the conservatory any time of the year to enjoy a collection of rare and exotic species. But one of the best times to take it in starts in mid-March, when the space is overtaken by butterflies.
The Butterfly Kaleidoscope exhibit features more than 13,000 butterflies, all flying freely within the conservatory. The more than 40 different species are let loose to flit among the flowers and trees.
People can interact with familiar types such as the monarch and buckeye butterflies, as well as more exotic types such as the Costa Rica tiger.