AAA Editor Notes
Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St., is on a bluff just west of the Missouri River. The 100-acre site is divided into 22 themed gardens.
Before visitors enter the gardens, they are treated to an example of what's to come. Here, even the parking facility is landscaped; ponds and native prairie grasses and trees welcome new arrivals, and colorful perennials and annuals lead to the visitor and education center, which houses a floral display hall with seasonal plant displays, art exhibits and a horticultural resource library.
Many gardens are displayed as collections. Hostas find a home in the tranquil Garden in the Glen area, a shady respite with a stream winding through a grove of black locust trees, ferns, astilbes and bleeding hearts. A formal rose garden features about 2,000 of the colorful shrubs.
Peonies star in their own garden. The collections focus on Chinese and Japanese tree peony varieties as well as some herbaceous peonies, giving the space an Asian ambience. Seven G-scale model trains run through a model railroad garden, which is on a hillside near the rose garden. The trains chug past replicas of local landmarks, all built from natural materials such as twigs, seed pods and gourds.
Architectural pieces salvaged from local buildings as well as brick walls, ornamental iron, a stone arbor and a reflecting pool are highlights of the Victorian garden, where perennials are the plantings of choice. The 17,500-square-foot Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory displays both tropical and temperate gardens including palms, oaks and azaleas.
A 50-minute narrated tram tour of the gardens also includes a stop at Kenefick Park, where two of the world's largest locomotives—the Centennial No. 6900 diesel-electric and the Big Boy No. 4023 steam—can be seen. The park is a tribute to a former Union Pacific Railroad chairman.
Food is available. Time: Allow 1 hour minimum.