Garden Tour: Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

You know that song “Sisters” from White Christmas? You know… “Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters…” This has become the theme song for my sisters and me. I’m the second of five kids, and four of us are sisters. My brother is smack dab in the middle. And he loves it. Right, Nate?

Anyway, these devoted sisters of mine recently planned a trip to visit our youngest sister who is currently at The Ohio State University. This trip included something for everyone – a football game for the football fans among us (I went. And I enjoyed it. And I also read a book during all of the time outs…), delicious food for the food fans (that would be all of us) and plenty of plants for me. And actually, if I can speak for everyone, I think we all enjoyed our time outside.

One of those plant places we visited was the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. When my sister Megan (the one at OSU) first suggested it as a place we could visit I was really excited about that idea, but wasn’t sure if my other sisters would be on board. Lucky for me, they were!

photo of myself and my sisters in front of the John F Wolfe Palm House at Franklin Park Conservatory

Sisters, sisters, never were there such devoted sisters…

The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is situated within Franklin Park about 2 miles from downtown Columbus, Ohio. It began in 1895 when the City of Columbus built a Victorian-style glass greenhouse, now known as the John F. Wolfe Palm House, and has since grown to the conservatory and gardens of today: the Conservatory (glass greenhouses focusing on 4 distinct biomes), the courtyards, the John F. Wolfe Palm House, the 28 acres of botanical gardens, and the 4-acre community garden campus. The only part of the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens that we didn’t visit was the community garden campus. But, from what the pamphlet says, it sounds like a great place: a living classroom, community garden plots, idea center for home gardening, etc.

Like many botanical gardens, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens have temporary and/or seasonal displays. We were able to enjoy the Topiaries at the Conservatory, the Bonsai Display, and the Harvest Blooms on our visit in mid-October.

The topiaries were found throughout the gardens and conservatory spaces and were something fun to look for as we moved from one part of the garden to another.

Photo of begonia topiary flamingoes

Throughout the garden were various animal topiaries – my favorite were these flamingoes made from begonias.

photo of dolphin topiaries

A view of the dolphin topiaries in the Rainforest Biome koi pond.

photo of cardinal topiary

This cardinal topiary in the Scott’s Miracle Gro Foundation Children’s Garden was my favorite of the topiaries.

photo of butterfly topiaries

These butterfly topiaries were also fun.

The Bonsai Display included hardy evergreen and deciduous trees out on the Bonsai Courtyard, and also tropical tree species displayed inside. I’ve said for a long time now, that I’d like to learn bonsai. If I would have started when I first said it (probably 12 years ago) I could have quite a nice piece by now. I just don’t know if I’m patient enough for it, though.

photo of sisters and gingko bonsai

One of our favorite bonsai plants outside was this gingko (Gingko biloba).

photo of Chinese Banyan bonsai

My favorite of the indoor bonsai was this Chinese Banyan (Ficus microcarpa). It is approximately 26 years old.

The Harvest Blooms were also found throughout the garden: stacks of pumpkins and gourds, ornamental kale, and vibrant mums.

photo of pumpkins and agave at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

A view of the agave in the desert garden from the pumpkin-bedecked courtyard.

photo of gourd house at franklin park conservatory

There were squashes, gourds, and pumpkins everywhere in different displays throughout the gardens.

This kaleidescope plant viewer featuring mums, kale, and grasses was kinda fun.

Photo of grouping of fall mums, ornamental grass, and pumpkins.

Pumpkins and mums, a classic fall decorating combination.

Inside the Conservatory Building are four distinct glasshouses, or biomes. Each showcasing a different environment: the American Southwest/Desert, the Himalayan Mountains, the Tropical Rainforest, and the Pacific Island Water Garden. What a great way to experience the world’s beauty and diversity all in one place!

The first of the conservatory houses we visited was the Himalayan Mountain Biome.

photo of orchids

This little orchid wall reminded me why orchids are so fun; so many colors, so many shapes, and some even smell like chocolate!

Fibonacci in action with these cactus in the desert biome.

photo of fiddle leaf fig in the John F. Wolfe Palm House

The darling of the gardening social media world – check out that fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata)!

photo of mangrove fan palm leaves

I loved all the different shapes and textures of leaves in the palm house. This was one of my favorites – Mangrove Fan Palm (Licuala spinosa).

photo of me explaining something botanical in front of a cycad

I don’t remember what I was explaining, but I’m sure it was something botanical. And nerdy.

Throughout the Franklin Park Conservatory houses different Chihuly art pieces were on display. The one in the Rainforest Biome echoed the colors of the croton leaves quite nicely.

photo of crinum lily flowers

Crinum lily flowers in the Pacific Island and Water Garden biome.

photo of Pacific Island Biome at Franklin Park Conservatory

A sampling of the many plants in the Pacific Island and Water Garden biome at the Franklin Park Conservatory.

photo of monstera leaf

Another insta-gardener favorite: Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa).

Though we loved the Conservatory and enjoyed the views of the John F. Wolfe Palm House from the Grand Mallway gardens, by far our favorite place to explore was the Scott’s Miracle Gro Foundation Children’s Garden. If you have kids, or are just a kid at heart, this children’s garden was one of the– if not the – best I’ve seen. Full of active and interactive experiences from smelling and touching the herbs in the sensory garden, to climbing on the giant hammock at The Canopy Walk, to building a fairy house in My Ohio Woods, or hearing a story at the Learning Pavilion, it was definitely an engaging place to explore and play.

photo of entrance to children's garden

As you can see, I loved this entrance to the Scott’s Miracle Gro Foundation Children’s Garden.

A closer look at part of the entrance way to the Children’s Garden.

photo of willow tunnel

I’ve been inspired by this willow tunnel in the Scott’s Miracle Gro Foundation Children’s Garden. I just need to figure out where in my garden I can build something similar.

There were so many tactile features in the children’s garden area. I may not have been the intended audience, but I definitely enjoyed it.

I obviously wasn’t the only adult enjoying the hands-on activities. My sisters practiced their weaving skills at the Learning Pavilion.

photo of carnivorous plants in a container garden

Carnivorous containers! I loved this grouping of carnivorous plants displayed at the Learning Pavilion section of the Scott’s Miracle Gro Foundation Children’s Garden.

photo of cockscomb sign and explanation

I loved the little signs like this that were tucked into the plantings throughout the children’s garden.

The wetland exploration garden within the Scott’s Miracle Gro Foundation Children’s Garden at the Franklin Park Conservatory.

A look into My Ohio Woods at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

photo of the reading garden at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden

Who was it that said “If you have a garden and a library you have everything?” Well here, you can have them both in the same place.

photo of fairy house construction materials at Franklin Park Conservatory

I’ve never really understood the “fairy garden” trend, but I liked this area in the children’s garden where you could build “fairy houses”; with quite an array of natural building materials.

My fairy house construction.

photo of Scott's Miracle Grow Foundation Children Garden

A look across the Scott’s Miracle Grow Foundation Children’s Garden at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden.


photo of a rock caterpillar at Franklin Park Conservatory

I quite liked this rock caterpillar. I wonder if I could make one with all of my extra rocks…

photo of a rainbow flower garden

A rainbow flower garden that caught my eye.

When I was perusing the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens website, I came across their vision statement:

A world that celebrates nature as essential to the human experience.

I think they are living up to their part in creating that world.


  1. When I visited the San Antonio Botanical Garden the children’s area was my favorite part! This looks like it has some similar things to that one.

    • I forgot that you went to the Botanical Garden when you were in San Antonio! How fun. It made me really wish I had the means to start my own botanical children’s garden here. 🙂

  2. So glad I could be there in real life with you to tour this fun place!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.