Historical Camphor Trees at Como

August 17th, 2016

In 2005, the Nagasaki-Saint Paul Sister City Committee presented Camphor Tree seeds to the City of Saint Paul in honor of the 50-year relationship between the two cities. The seeds came from Camphor/Kusu (Cinnamon camphora) trees located one-half mile from ground zero of the atomic blast in Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. The trees were stripped of bark, burned, and defoliated, but then recovered quickly and provided inspiration to the residents of Nagasaki who were trying to rebuild their lives.

Photo Aug 17, 11 47 19 AM


Como’s Orchids Scheduled for a Plant Check-Up

January 25th, 2016

Como Friends invests in best practice care to preserve the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory’s collection of orchids

Animals aren’t the only living things at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory that require occasional health care. Just like the polar bears and the penguins, the plants at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory undergo regular check-ups and get plenty of follow-up care, thanks to your contributions to Como Friends.

This year, in fact, more than 1,600 of Como’s orchids will be tested for Odontoglossum ringspot virus and Cymbidium mosiac virus–two common viruses that can devastate cultivated orchids. Working with the plant pathology department at the University of Minnesota, Como horticulturists detected the virus in several plants two years ago, and have been working to eradicate further infection by culling plants that test positive for the virus, and adopting strict sanitation protocols when repotting and tending the orchids.

“While some plants become symptomatic and lose their vigor, some very old orchids that are still blooming have also tested positive for the virus,” says horticultural curator Tina Dombrowski. “We’re being diligent about testing each plant for infection because every orchid we propagate could be perpetuating the virus, and we want to keep our collection healthy. We’re fortunate to have the support of Como Friends which is investing in the test kits we need to preserve a robust and beautiful collection of orchids.”

Every year, Como Friends’ board of directors approves more than $325,000 in grants for projects like this, providing the resources Como Zoo and the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory need to invest in high priority improvements and emergent needs. “It’s just one of the ways Como Friends invests private support into efforts that benefit the collections the public enjoys at Como,” says Como Friends president Jackie Sticha. “Como’s orchids provide so much color and inspiration during the long winters, it’s worth it to invest in their long-term health.”




Escape the Cold in the Conservatory!

January 13th, 2016

Dale K. and Fox 9 stopped by to check out the new Winter Flower Show!



The Art of Bonsai at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory

January 4th, 2016

Volunteers Ken Ellis and Mike Porcaro have been attending to the Bonsai collection for decades. Hear their story in the video below courtesy of our friends at WCCO.



The Ordway Gardens To Be Featured in Skills Workshop and Garden Tour

July 30th, 2015

Five Japanese gardens in the Minnesota area will take center stage as the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) goes to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” on August 7 to 8 for its first regional event of the year. “It’s All in the Details” is a two-day skills development workshop and garden education tour featuring the following gardens: Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, St. Paul MN; Jo-Ryo-En (Garden of Quiet Listening) at Carleton College, Northfield, MN; Normandale Japanese Garden at Normandale Community College, Bloomington, MN; Seisui Tei (Garden of Pure Water) at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, MN, and a private residential garden in St. Paul, MN attached to a Modernist house designed by American architect Ralph Rapson in the 1960s.


“Attention to detail is perhaps the most important thing in elevating gardens in America to the lofty level of those in Japan,” says NAJGA President Dr. Kendall Brown. “We are pleased to provide an experience that meaningfully connects Minnesota’s most compelling Japanese gardens to each other and to the large audience of Japanese garden lovers across North America.” Skills Development Workshop On August 7, the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden will host a workshop focused on teaching basic skills required of a Japanese gardener in constructing and maintaining a garden. It will also teach participants how to establish specific goals that enhance the presentation of a Japanese garden. Sessions include shearing of karikomi (massed or wave planting), deciduous tree pruning, pine maintenance, layout and installation of tobi-ishi (stepping stones) and nobedan (stone paving), and working with bamboo to create the basic nanako fence that keeps guests on the path, and the yotsume gaki fence used in tea ceremony gardens.


Participants will also be introduced to design theory, construction and maintenance of the Japanese tea garden and teahouse. After the workshop, participants will also have a rare opportunity to visit the private garden attached to the Ralph Rapson-designed house in St. Paul, MN. The house and garden provide a good example of the sukiya living concept where Japanese garden principles are applied in a residential setting and rooms are integrated with the garden. The workshop will be led by Japanese garden expert John Powell, the first Westerner selected to train with the garden staff of the prestigious Adachi Museum of Art, widely acknowledged as having one of the world’s best Japanese gardens. Other garden experts from the region and across North America will assist. Garden Education Tour: Japanese Gardens in the North Star State On August 8, a bus tour will visit the Jo-Ryo-en (Garden of Quiet Listening) at Carleton College, Normandale Japanese Garden, and the Seisui Tei (Garden of Pure Water) at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.


Four distinct styles of Japanese gardens—hill and pond, dry landscape, stroll garden, and pleasure boating garden—will be examined in three Minnesota gardens adapted to the local climate through plant choice and design. Care of Japanese gardens will be covered. Guests will also be introduced to issues of garden care, and how gardens “care” for people when utilized for therapy and meditation. This two-day event is also open to the general public.  For more details and to register, visit the event website HERE.  Or contact NAJGA at [email protected], tel: (503) 222 1194.