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  • Writer's pictureOrchid Muse

Orchids at Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota

I live four hours north of Minneapolis, so when the weather continued to be cold and snowy into late April this year, the family and I headed south for a weekend getaway. We spent a lovely, sunny, 60-degree day at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory while points north were hit with yet another blizzard. Bonus: the Como Conservatory has orchids galore!

Anguloa ruckeri, I long for you!

I've been to Como Park a few times, including its annual Winter Carnival Orchid Show in January. This year, I had mixed feelings about the event. While all orchid shows are dreamy, packing almost 6,000 people into the Conservatory, along with dozens of extra tables and displays, made my crowd anxiety spike. What seemed even sillier was that hundreds of people toted their $5k cameras with macro lenses, stopping at every. single. flower. to take umpteen pictures, yet it was clear most people had no idea what they were looking at. There were lines 40 people deep to see each small display, yet the crowd allowed people to stop only long enough to snap a picture. Then we all began queueing up for another line. My impulses towards crowd control and efficient time management were on overdrive for the less than two hours I spent there. In the service of making time spent in Como vastly more pleasurable, in the future, I hope the Orchid Society of Minnesota will sell time-stamped tickets, or allowing only local orchid society members in for one full day. Anything to lessen the claustrophobia! I'm sure most other people don't have these issues with crowds, but man, that joint was crazy to the point of unbearable this year.

You wanna talk about taking up space? This gorgeous Maxillaria tenuifolia specimen will show you how to fill a room! It's the biggest and most beautiful I've ever seen!

So, when I returned on a Friday morning in April, with an appropriate number of people strolling about enjoying the flowers, I'm happy to report that I fell in love with Como all over again. They had encyclias, dendrobiums, and the most lovingly tended Maxillaria tenuifolia I've ever laid eyes on.

Hello, Mr. Gorgeous Paph. I will now proceed to make googly eyes at you.

Encyclia, you little purple devil, you.

You come in chocolate brown as well? Yum.

They also have an attached orchid room--tantalizing to the outside viewer, but sadly, it's for staff persons only. And so much of Como's collection was in bloom behind that glass door! (My enterprising husband, bound and determined to make his wife happy at the end of a long winter, tried the door. No luck: it was locked good and tight.)

Please let me in! Pretty please! I won't touch. Only look. Promise.

In all, it was a gorgeous day at Como Conservatory and Zoo. It was the perfect family day to kick us out of our winter doldrums for a while. Now, if I had only recorded the names of all the orchids I came to love that day--I'm especially flummoxed by the one below. Extra points and undying love to anyone that can identify it!

Who are you, you happy yellow beauty?

Como Park is a gem for locals as well as visitors. Come for the orchids, stay for the well-tended beauty. Make a point to drop in next time you hit MSP!


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