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another view of the conservatory
Photo Credit: guyonthego

Lauritzen Gardens

100 Bancroft Street Omaha, NE 68108
Open 9am-5pm for regular hours and until 8pm on Mon. and Tue. mid-May through mid-Sep.
402-346-4002 3 hours
July 2015 Summer, Spring
$10-29 Omaha Nebraska
Website Nature Gardens
First review
Lauritzen Gardens is a 100 acre botanical garden located on the east side of Omaha and overlooking the Missouri River and Interstate 80. Much of the garden is an open grassy area, but there are also a number of distinctive smaller theme gardens such as a rose garden, herb garden, children’s garden, a Japanese garden and a Victorian garden. Additional attractions include a model train display, an arboretum/bird sanctuary and a conservatory. The visitor center also has a small gift shop and a café. A tram is available to get around the grounds for an extra fee, but paved walking trails are available as well. A variety of classes, workshops, and concerts are held here, and a schedule of events is listed on the garden’s website.

Plans for the garden were developed in the 1980s, but construction did not commence until 1995 on a hilly riverside area. The rose garden was the first section built. Additional sections were built over time. The garden started out around 60 acres. A 30 acre parcel was purchased and added to the main garden in 1998. The current visitor center opened in 2001. In 2014 the 17,500 square foot conservatory and greenhouse opened.

Although the conservatory was moderately appealing with a variety of plants, multiple terraces, and water features, plant signage was quite limited. This continued to be the case in most of the garden. In the interest of saving time, the tram was skipped to just walk around the place. The property was small enough to make walking feasible, though the day was quite hot in July. In addition to inadequate signage, plants and flower diversity in most of the gardens also was subpar. Even the Japanese garden, was fairly unimpressive. Typically Japanese gardens are interesting and full of cool features like rock gardens, coy fish and tea houses, but this one was bereft of those elements. After walking to the end of the garden property and still seeing very little of interest, an early exit was contemplated. In the interests of this review though, perseverance was called for. The final garden sections were better. For example, the rose garden was at least colorful and varied. Also, the model trail was reasonably interesting. One of the better sections, maybe the best, was a 4 acre arboretum and bird sanctuary. This area has more diverse habitat examples, including a marsh, woods and open fields. There was information about the habitats and creating backyard habitats as well. Excessive sprinklers led to a few unplanned douses, but not a bad thing on a hot day. Up to the arboretum section, the visit was a distinct dud, but since the arboretum was interesting it elevated the overall experience to about average.

As gardens go, Lauritzen was OK, but hardly a must visit. It probably works better as a recreational setting for a quiet walk than a traditional garden attraction. One item worth noting was a series of animal sculptures by the artist Dan Ostermiller. Although the sculptures were a temporary exhibit, they were well designed, finely sculpted, and cleverly arranged. In case you are interested in train engines, next door to the garden is a small park with a couple of historic Union Pacific rail engines.
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