Saturday, April 25, 2015

Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens in Rockford, IL

A few weeks ago while on our roadtrip, we had some time to kill before Pig Mind’s Brewery opened, so we looked up what was available in Rockford, IL. I found out about them at the hotel lobby brochure. We were interested. I really enjoy conservatories. They are the closest I can get to the tropics without getting a plane ticket. I love how they smell fresh and clean; the humid, heavy air is also a treat.

The Nicholas conservatory is 11,000 square feet of indoor tropical flora & sculpture. They also have a landscaped lagoon with fountains and patio outside. We were a bit early in the year, so everything was still brown. We spent our time inside.

Upon arrival, we were excited to see they had a butterfly exhibit running. The butterflies will be there from March 28 to May 17, 2015. The Nicholas entrance fee is $6 which is triple what we pay at the Como Conservatory in Minnesota which is at least triple the size of the one in Rockford.

Upon entering, a strong floral scent flooded our noses. Everything was green and really lush. I liked the sound of running water from the water features. Just inside was a large wall of orchids. They were very colorful and they were for sale. Laura posed for a photo in front of the orchid wall.

Here are a couple of my favorites.

I like the Nicholas conservatory has a height dimension to it. There were some stairs to climb to a small overlook area. I enjoyed the view of the plants from above.

The small landing also led outside to the green roof. I was happy to see the green roof. It looked like it was covered with sedums. Green roofs are a great way to control rain water runoff and reduce the buildings carbon footprint.

I was also happy to see a small beehive in the corner of the roof. I hope their bees overwintered better than mine.

This Indian Clock Vine aka Thunbergia mysorensis from India was a vine a couple dozen feet long. We were both really impressed with the flowers.

I don’t remember what this flower is, but I liked looking at it. It smelled nice as well.

Above: Dwarf Sugar Palm aka Arenga engleri from Taiwan

A view of the far end back towards the entrance. I liked their water feature. It was enjoyable to listen to as well as watching the fish inside.

I llke this Lobster Claw aka Heliconia orthotricha from Central and South America. Bright and vibrant.

Some tiny flowers whose name I have also forgotten now.

Cocao tree!

After spending some time meandering through the conservatory, it was time to check out the butterfly house. There was a short line to get inside. They are trying to limit the number of people, so the butterflies don’t get damaged. The staff person told us they frequently get stepped on!

These are some of my favorites.

I liked watching this guy feed on the rotten bananas.

They liked to congregate in the corners. The exhibit is completely enclosed in a metal cage. We were told it was a requirement of the USDA to prevent the spread of disease and they had some scary fines if a butterfly escapes.

There was a handy poster in the corner to help identify the butterflies on display. I didn’t notice it until we were almost done.

Laura posing with a butterfly

After the butterfly house we visited the chrysalis room to see if we could spot some butterflies emerging from their cocoons. It was stunning to see all the different shapes and sizes. I am also amazed that a caterpillar creates a cocoon and after a few weeks emerges as something so different.

We were lucky to see one that had just finished crawling out.

We enjoyed our time at the conservatory. Later in the year the outside area will look really beautiful. If you are in the area and like plants as much as I do, spend some time to check out the Nicholas Conservatory.

Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens
1354 N 2nd St, Rockford, IL 61107


Check out Laura’s review of the gardens here: Road Trip: Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens

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