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Botanical Gardens at Springfield's Washington Park

The Rose Garden is just part of the botanical beauty at Washington Park
The Rose Garden is just part of the botanical beauty at Washington Park
Cindy Ladage

Who doesn’t love to wander through a garden? There is something magical about flowers in bloom and taking a stroll. Where better than the rose garden or Conservatory at historical Washington Park?
No matter what the season, beauty can be found because the outdoor section of the Washington Park Botanical Garden is open year round. On their website they tout the gardens as “… one of Central Illinois major horticultural attractions with 20 acres of land featuring more than 1800 species of plants in 10 specific garden areas and the Conservatory.”
Summer can arrive anytime of the year under the Conservatory’s 50-ft diameter glass dome. The Conservatory offers over 150 species of plants with exotic and economically important plants that are arranged by regions to which they are native. It is an educational as well as visually appealing stop. On a sunny day in July, a young woman was taking photographs near the fountain outside of the Conservatory as her young boy dipped his hand in the water. She discovered that the garden is a great place for a family photo op.

With an additional 9,000 square feet of indoor greenhouse area visitors can enjoy seasonal displays year round. Examples include Easter lilies, poinsettias, orchid exhibits and Japanese bonsai displays. These areas can also be rented for weddings and other activities.

The rose garden is one of the largest in down state Illinois with over 5,000 roses. There is also an iris garden, perennial border, Betty Mood Smith Rockery, monocot garden, peony collection, shade garden and Roman Cultural and Learn-to-Grow garden.
Tours are offered for schools, groups and even college classes all for free. Groups of 10 or more people visiting the garden may arrange free guided tours by calling 217-546-4116. The Botanical Garden requests that group tours be arranged at least one week in advance

The garden is easy to traverse with the conservatory and most of the garden's paths wheelchair and stroller accessible. However, note there are steep slopes in some areas including the rose garden.

Washington Park is located on the west side of Springfield. The park is a 150-acre site added to the park district in 1901. One interesting fact is that this is one of the historic parks, developed as termini of the urban trolley line in use at the time.
The Botanical Gardens are just a small part of what is offered at the park. With the rolling terrain, large trees and wooded areas, some deep ravines and two man-made lagoons this is a great place to park the car and get out and walk year-round. There are lanes for pedestrians that loop around the park.

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