The Journal Gazette
Friday, July 02, 2021 1:00 am

Conservatory takes visitors to Old West

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

Visitors will be able to take a stroll through an Old West town when Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory opens its latest garden exhibit Saturday.

“Visions of the Old West” includes plants suited to a dry climate, a mine shaft with car, a working sluice to pan for “gems” and even a life-sized topiary horse. With set pieces such as a saloon and graveyard, the exhibit has a ghost town sort of vibe, says deputy director of community outreach Mitch Sheppard.

Though the exhibit in the Showcase Garden includes cacti, it is not meant to mimic a specific place, unlike the conservatory's permanent Desert Garden, which represents the Sonoran Desert.

The show runs through Nov. 14, which is long enough that plants will be swapped out for mums in the fall, Sheppard says. That gives visitors something to come back for later in the year when they can take pictures with the new backdrops.

Staffers will give tours of the “Old West” exhibit at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Signs throughout the garden describe the historical significance of pieces of the display, and three Wild West Sessions are planned with activities, crafts and demonstrations for all ages. Topics are gemstone sluices, July 15-17; westward pastimes, Aug. 19-21; and mining for gold, Sept. 16-18.

The conservatory turns 38 in November, and it has never repeated a theme in its showcase garden, Sheppard says. Even its annual butterfly and holiday displays have different themes each year.

Unique experiences like those offered by the conservatory are a gift no one can take away from a visitor, she says.

“Every single time (we change shows), we take it all the way down to the bare dirt and start completely over,” Sheppard says. “And within five days build an entirely new experience.”

If You Go

What: “Visions of the Old West” garden exhibit

When: Saturday through Nov. 14; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays, noon to 4 p.m. Sundays

Where: Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory

Admission: $5 adults, $3 ages 3 to 17, free for ages 2 and younger; 427-6440 or

Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required