The Minnesota Garden and Circle Garden replaces the open lawn in front of the Visitor Center with a formal landscape reminiscent of the historic park gardens that were next to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in years past. The space was envisioned for ornamental gardens in the 1996 Master Plan reprising some of the earlier horticultural elements of Como Park once prominent when the Conservatory opened in 1915.
This location featured Aphrodite’s Garden, a Peony Garden, an Iris Garden and a pergola which were removed in the 1920’s. By 1974 a large parking area was developed and replaced in 2005 with the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory Visitor Center.
In 2010 Como Park Zoo & Conservatory developed the Como Regional Park Transportation Improvement Plan that focused on mitigating congestion and enhance access. In 2014 phase one was funded through a bonding appropriation with Minnesota State Legislature that included roadway improvements in Como Regional Park including around McMurray Field and Midway Parkway. Phase two, which included the Minnesota Garden and the Circle Garden, began in September 2016 and completed in June 2017.
These gardens feature a variety of Minnesota native & adapted trees, shrubs, grasses and perennial plants cultivated sustainably to benefit insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies.
Incorporated within the gardens is a circular drive that provides safe and convenient loading and unloading for vehicles, vans and buses. A sixteen-foot steel sculpture titled “Little Giants”, area seating, decorative planters and landscaped pathways leisurely direct visitors towards Como’s front doors.
“We knew we needed to make Como Park Zoo & Conservatory a more accessible venue for a variety of different modes of transit, including a more convenient drop off zone,” said Como Campus Manager Michelle Furrer. “With these amenities, gardens, and pathways, along with the Como Shuttle stop’s new location, it is the hope that these improvements will help ease traffic flow for both pedestrians and vehicles.”
Funding for the gardens came from Como Friends and the Legacy Amendment Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund. The Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund receives 19.75 percent of the sales tax revenue resulting from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment to support arts, arts education and arts access, and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.
Visitors are encouraged to share their photos using the hashtag #MyMMC.