Sunken Garden Gazette 7/10

July 10th, 2018

Green Thumbs…

The oriental lilies on the terrace and garden end keep us busy replanting them with fresh blooming plants every 10-13 days. This week ‘Purple Prince’ lilies were refreshed by Hort Victoria and Intern Zach. Once they leave the Sunken Garden, the lilies can be purchased from the gift shop and believe it or not, they are hardy in our zone 4..

Eucomis, pineapple lily, on the points were also recharged.  Enjoy their amazing aroma reminiscent of coconut.  Don’t they make a lovely contrast to their neighbor impatiens?  Thanks garden designer Renee!

Celosia ‘Asian Garden’ had a thorough deadheading which will hopefully reward us with fresh growth and blossoms.

Behind the Scenes

Poinsettias arrived.  Aren’t they cute?  Their greenhouse adventure has begun and they will make their debut in the Sunken Garden the Monday after Thanksgiving. I’m excited to see this year’s varieties,Valentine and Winter Rose Dark Red, show off their rose shaped bracts (fancy name for their “flowers”).


This past holiday week brought tons of visitors to the Sunken Garden.  I spoke with visitors from North Dakota and Philadelphia who were making the Twin Cities their family vacation destination. Glad the conservatory was on their “must see” list.  Are you old enough to remember when you could enjoy a stroll around the Sunken Garden with an ice cream cone and your beau?  One visitor this past week was.

Plant of the Week 

The hardy water lilies are loving the summer heat and are blooming with abandon.  Their petals are held tightly closed when we first arrive in the early morning to do garden tasks. While we water, fertilize, and deadhead, they slowly open their petals. Before we know it, it’s time to open the doors to the public, but the water lilies never rush and are always ready with gracefully unfurled petals.

Scavenger Hunt for Kids (of all ages)

Can you find in the Sunken Garden:

  • A plant that is growing without soil
  • Leaves soft and fuzzy like a kitten or puppy (Hint: they are silvery colored)
  • Purple colored leaves all (there are 2)
  • Leaves colored both pink and green (there are 4)
  • A flower bigger than your hand (maybe even your head)

Good Luck. Answers in next week’s blog!

– Karri, your happy horticulturist


New In The North Garden – An Imperial Bromeliad!

April 16th, 2017

We have a new plant in the North Garden! It is a BIG bromeliad and it has been set in the ground by the baobab tree near the pool. It has been growing it in the greenhouses since it was purchased in June 2010. It has been repotted a few times and is now about 7-8 years old. It has been showing signs of starting to bloom for the last few months. Since mid-December, the center leaves of the plant have been looking more compact and looking like they were getting more of a red coloring.

This type of bromeliad, Alcanterea imperialis, blooms at about 3- 10 years of age. The inflorescence could be 5’ tall! It should have fragrant white flowers very soon. The Imperial Bromeliad can be found on rocky hills in parts of Brazil.

Like a corpse flower, this plant produces an inflorescence—a group of individual flowers that make a flowering structure. This inflorescence could possibly be about 5’ tall when it is in full bloom and consist of many fragrant white flowers on small branches. The Imperial Bromeliad takes about 3-10 years to bloom.

The Imperial Bromeliad will not be in the North Garden long, it will be removed when the inflorescence is finished opening and the plant starts to look tired.

Growth Updates

2/20 49 1/2″ – The inflorescence was flush with the top of the leaves.

2/24 52 1/2″ – 3” taller! The inflorescence has started to push up past the top of the leaves.

2/27 55″ – 3” taller! The inflorescence has started to push up past the top of the leaves.

3/2 58 1/2″ – Another 3 ½ “ to make the inflorescence 9 inches taller than when the pot was put in the North Garden.

3/6 64 1/4″ – The inflorescence is about 14 ¾ “ tall from the top of the leaves.

3/9 68″  – The Inflorescence is 18 1/2″ tall.

3/13 74 1/4″ – The inflorescence grew 6 1/4″ since Thursday! The inflorescence is starting to send out “branches” where the white flowers will eventually appear!

3/16 78 1/2″ – It’s another growing day in the North Garden! The Imperial Bromeliad grew another 4 1/4″ since Monday making the inflorescence 29″ tall. We are hoping that maybe next week the fragrant white flowers start to emerge!

3/20 84.5″ The Imperial Bromeliad has grown another six inches in just four days! The inflorescence is now 36″.

3/23 87.75″ Grew 3.25″ since Monday. Growth has slowed a little as flowers start to open up. The total inflorescence height is 38.25″

3/27 92 1/2″The inflorescence has grown another 4/34″ for a total of 43″ tall. The buds are starting to show show color.

3/30 95″ The inflorescence is 45 1/2. The upward growth is slowing and the inflorescence is starting to expand. There are numerous yellow buds on the lowest parts of the inflorescence but no open flowers yet.

4/1 We have our first flowers on the Imperial Bromeliad! They are a very light yellow and have a slight fragrance.

4/2-4/3 The first flower is collapsing but now there are 3 more open flowers with many more flowers on the way! The inflorescence grew 1 1/2″. The entire plant is 8’1/2″ tall! And the inflorescence is now 47 3/4″ tall. We’re not expecting much upward growth but we can expect to see a continuous opening of a few flowers each day for a few weeks.

4/6 The upward growth continues but slowly. Only 1.5″ vertical growth since Monday. So the entire plant is 8’2″ tall with the inflorescence at 4′ 1.25″ tall.

4/10 After a warm weekend, the Imperial Bromeliad has grown another 2.75″ in height! The total plant height is 8’4.75 and the inflorescence is 4/4″. Flowers are blooming on about 2/3 of the inflorescence. We hope to see flowers open on all parts of the inflorescence!

4/13 The Imperial Bromeliad grew 1.5″ since Monday. The total height is 8 ft. 6.25″ and the height of the inflorescence is 4 ft. 5.5.”

4/16 The inflorescence grew another 1.5″ since Thursday, and we can see a top flower bud starting to form. That usually signals the end of flower production and upright growth. Flowers will be opening for a few more weeks then the plant will close and removed from the room.

Check back for more updates! 


YEP Update – March

April 3rd, 2017

With spring in the air, YEP youth headed west to the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus.  Our visit included three world-renowned facilities; the Monarch Lab, the Bee Lab and the Raptor Center.

We toured both the Monarch Lab and the newly opened Bee Lab with Julia and James, two graduate students and members of FrenataeMonarch Lab is a leading resource for monarch conservation.  Their work includes scientific research, conservation work, and several education outreach programs.  At the Lab, we examined collections while Julia explained her research in native prairie pollinators.

We saw a variety of species of Lepidoptera that Julia had collected both here in Minnesota and during her travels to the south west corner of the United States.    A world-class conservation leader right in our own backyard provides a wonderful learning opportunity.

As we wrapped up our tour of the Monarch Lab, Julia brought us to the new Bee Lab.  Opened in the fall of 2016, the Bee Lab houses innovative research facilities and community outreach programs like the Bee Squad.  Julia introduced us to James, who in turn, introduced us to the wonderful world of bees.

Often, when we think bees, we think honey!  Did you know, most of the 400 species of Minnesota bees are solitary and do not live in social hives that produce honey?  Solitary bees still play an important role as the pollinators we depend on.  Understanding how they function within ecosystems provides information that drives best practices.

A trip to the U of M is not complete without a tour of the Raptor Center.  The Raptor Center provides rehabilitative care to approximately 800 birds of prey each year.  Called upon by wildlife biologists from around the world, the Raptor Center also works to identify emerging environmental issues related to raptor health.  The center is home to several raptors who serve as ambassadors to their species.  Kathy guided our tour of the facility, introducing us to the ambassador species and their fascinating adaptations.

Visiting a variety of conservation organizations is a great way for young people to explore future career paths and learn more about important environmental issues in Minnesota.  So what’s YEP doing to ensure a brighter future for everyone?  If February, the Urban Roots team celebrated their work with the Phalen Freeze Fest.  In March, the Roseville team kicked off their RAHS Recycles program.  The Roseville YEP team is committed to reducing waste by improving participation in their recycling program.  Check out one of several PSA’s the team produced for their March recycling drive!


Marjorie McNeely Conservatory’s Winter Flower Show Now Open

January 26th, 2017

Big thanks to Belinda Jensen and KARE 11 for covering the Winter Flower Show!


YEP Update #2

September 26th, 2016

Fun is Good, right?  Of course!  And good things can be fun, too!  In September, the Youth Engagement Program took a field trip to visit a couple of fun venues that are doing good things.  CHS Field provided a tour highlighting the sustainable practices that help make the home of the St. Paul Saints the greenest ball park in America.  After the tour, we hopped across the street to take in the St. Paul Farmer’s Market.

As you read this month’s blog, you’ll see the appreciation youth have for the wonderful assets this city has to offer.  As we move through this year of programming, the youth will be charged with utilizing their personal assets, team’s assets, and community assets to address various conservation needs.  Stay tuned!

Youth Blog

Recently, we YEPpers took a trip to CHS Field and the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, and it was so fascinating. We got to go behind the scenes at CHS Field and see some of their amazing sustainability features in action. (Thank you to Tom for the great tour!) Afterwards, we headed into the Farmer’s Market across the street to look for fresh vegetables, fruits, and other food items for a group lunch.

The Farmer’s Market was awesome, and I really enjoyed my time there. There were fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and breads, honey, and more. The atmosphere was welcoming, and I was so impressed by how much good, fresh produce was available for reasonable prices.  This was important for our group, since we were each challenged to buy lunch with just $3. We pooled our money and worked together to find different items we wanted for our meal, and ended up having some money left over. We were all able to eat fresh, locally grown food for not a lot of money – something many people, including myself, don’t always realize.

Usually when we think of organic, ‘healthy’, or locally grown food, we might think that it is more expensive and more of a hassle to buy, but often it is easier than we think. If you’re in St. Paul, the Farmer’s Market is a spot that can’t be passed up.

After we’d eaten, we got back on the bus to Como, and during the ride, I saw beautiful street art on buildings, restaurants and stores and people that showed the diversity of the city, and communities coming together. All these things strengthen and enrich the city and the neighborhoods it includes, and will continue to do so for years to come.

This experience was wonderful, and it led me to realize that being energy conscious, or buying local and fresh produce, was not as difficult or unattainable as I might sometimes think. It helped me see the assets of other communities as well as my own. All in all, it was a great day of learning and getting to see some pretty neat things.


Youth identified street art, festivals and murals as community-building assets downtown.


CHS field is known for hitting it out of the park when it comes to fun.  Did you know the sustainability plan is a home run as well?



The youth enjoy the fruits of their labors after the farmer’s market challenge.  With only $3 each, they pooled their resources to provide fruits, veggies, and even desserts to enjoy at a Union Depot picnic.