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Where to Grow

A couple cultivates ideas for their garden at Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens

By Theresa Farrage

Spring blooms burst from the soil, covering the world with dazzling splashes of color. As the weather warms, summer flowers bring bright, saturated shades to the landscape that’s perfectly complemented by long, sunshine-filled days. Fall leads to a richer palette of deep reds, oranges and golds, while winter ushers in the quiet beauty of chilly days, sometimes with the added magic of a sprinkle of snow. All seasons look different at Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens, but all are gorgeous.

Any time is a perfect time to visit this peaceful oasis and enjoy its beauty, and there’s always something new to see since the garden is constantly changing with the seasons. My boyfriend, Charlie, and I recently visited to get inspiration for my garden, knowing that we were sure to discover something just right.

The metal and glass Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory in Omaha, Nebraska is surrounded by lush green and red plants
The Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory is designed as if it were an extension of the land.
Visitors to at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska walk past a bed of red and yellow tulips
Spring blooms at the Lauritzen Gardens form a sea of color.
An elderly couple looks at a plant bed with tulips in the foreground at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska
Beautiful gardens inspire visitors.
A couple looks at tall palm trees in the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory in Omaha, Nebraska
Lush bamboo trees lend dramatic beauty to the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory in Omaha, Nebraska.

Grab the binoculars and put on your walking shoes

We began at the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory. What a delight to see tropical foliage, palm trees and experience the dewy feeling of humidity expanding my hair (no sarcasm). As we meandered through palm branches, lush floral exhibits and dramatic water structures, we felt like Tarzan and Jane coursing through the dense jungles. We joked about climbing the banana tree and swinging on a vine, but then we read a sign that discourages that behavior—duly noted!

Later, we stumbled upon the Festival Garden. A fellow patron told us that many garden festivals and outdoor concerts occur on the perfectly manicured lawn that’s nestled against a tiered limestone wall. This wide open, yet intimate park is brimming with majestic amur maple trees, white floral bursts of Japanese anemone, magenta splashes of poppy mallow, and wisps of redbud northern sea oats. She encouraged us to check the calendar to find out when the next concert was and then she let us in on a tip: “You can even bring your own beverages.”

Charlie and I paused for a serene moment at the geese fountains, which used to reside in a private Omaha garden. Each goose contained seven pieces that were cast of lead and welded together to create the perfect artful backdrop. Charlie and I tossed a penny into the fountain so we could wish for our garden to look as beautiful as the ones we’d explored.

“Charlie and I tossed a penny into the fountain so we could wish for our garden to look as beautiful as the ones we’d explored.”
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Next, the Hitchcock-Kountze Victorian Garden boasted a classic combination of English and Victorian gardens that played out like a meticulous colorful symphony. In typical Victorian fashion, red-bricked walls with limestone caps surrounded the geometric plant configurations. Charlie and I found more formal plantings at the center of the garden, with an informal perimeter bursting with vines; bright yellow, purple and red perennial florals; green shrubs of varying heights; and a few garden treasures such as a towering urn.

As I glanced over at Charlie from across the reflection pool, I noticed he was studying intricate pieces of the garden’s designs, including the ornamental iron, a dominant feature in Victorian gardens. I called out in my most perfect British accent that I’d like a spot of tea in this garden. In retrospect, we gained the most inspiration for our lawn here, since we decided on a lush expanse of grass with a water feature surrounded by flowers.

Spring has sprung

Soon after the Hitchcock-Kountze Victorian Garden, we stumbled upon beds of gorgeous tulips. As I watched the flowers wave in the breeze, I was instantly transported to my grandfather’s yard, which had tulips in a multitude of colors from yellows to reds to blush pinks to deep magentas. Bingo! We would incorporate tulips to add a beautiful pop of color.

Then, we trekked to the Japanese Garden. As we casually took our time strolling over stone bridges, we came upon the pathway that would transport us from Omaha to Japan. Charlie and I walked through the Kabuki gate, the Sunpu Castle gate, and finally through a red torri gate, which stood at the base of the Mt. Fugi replica. An open meadow greeted us with what appeared to be a stairway to the heavens. It was the perfect place to pause and reflect, and in that moment it became clear to me that although Charlie and I came to Lauritzen for ideas and inspiration, we left with a sense of tranquility.

A couple stands by tropical plants and water feature in the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory in Omaha, Nebraska
A moment of serenity in the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory.
A close-up photograph of pink, white and yellow tulips at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska
Spring has arrived when tulips bloom with a splash of color.
A mom takes pictures of her toddler in the background with pink, white and yellow tulips in the foreground at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska
Tulip beds will inspire your own backyard blooms.
Visitors walk on a path by palm trees in the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory in Omaha, Nebraska
Explore the tropics without leaving Omaha at Lauritzen Gardens.

We then headed for the Founders’ Garden, the first garden established at the Lauritzen Gardens. The Founders’ Garden is dominated by hundreds of hosta plants from nearly 50 varieties, a quaint wooden garden gazebo, and a wrought iron gate that once served as the entrance gate to an Omaha landmark and a childhood favorite, Peony Park. As Charlie and I discussed our ideas for our garden masterpiece, we reflected on what we learned while visiting the Conservation Discovery Garden. While meandering through the garden’s diverse plant communities and water conservation features, we opted to include a few native plants into our own Nebraska garden. 

“An open meadow greeted us with what appeared to be a stairway to the heavens. It was the perfect place to pause and reflect.”
story art

Planting the seeds for cherished memories

We made one more stop at the Garden of Memories, a fitting destination to end the day. As Charlie and I walked along the flowering path, we were greeted with pops of reds, purples and deep pinks that guided us through three distinct sections representing the stages of life. As we looked into the half circle reflecting pool, the largest formal water feature on the property, we snapped one last photo for the memory book. We also bought a few postcards and prints in the gift shop before heading home to begin planting our garden—a labor of love that would grow, like us, in the year ahead.

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