I am a North Carolina gal now calling Wyoming home sweet home. I have embraced all things snowy, cold and windy without too much complaint. Of all the things I miss the most about the East Coast, #1 has to be the year-round greenery of grass and trees and the variety of common garden flowers found in most yards and commercial properties.
Today being a wonderfully quiet and free day, I decided to take myself to the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens here in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In the last several cities I’ve called home, I’ve always gravitated towards the local gardens available to the public. It was just what the doctor ordered for a typical day of freezing temperatures and whipping winds – a long morning walk in the sunny mist of a tropical oasis. One can’t enter the conservatory on the grounds of the gardens without seeing this beautiful, very big boot on display as you walk in.
It’s very much all that is Wyoming to see boots sitting outside public properties crafted by artists. In brighter light and contrast, the coloration appears like a large sculpture of stained glass.
The first thing you see in entering the inner conservatory structure inside is a lovely fairy garden display. Simple, yet whimsically detailed, it’s easy to find yourself slowing down to look into every corner and over each pebble and leaf at the many intentional little corners and crevices where any fairies might venture from.
As you stroll further, the sound of trickling water soothes the soul and you are met with the most popular spot on the main floor: A larger corner of waterfall fountains that feed a small koi pond and stream. The whole area feels secluded being surrounded by thick and lush green plants and small trees. Most visitors saunter slowly throughout the three floors of the entire conservatory, but all (including yours truly) stop at this relaxing space to take in the visual feast for the senses.
Next, your feet and the pathway will take you to an open door that leads into a side room called a Theme Garden. Among other plants and growth, this tree trunk caught my eye. On further examination, it has been carefully planted with lightly affixed succulents. It’s so natural looking you almost have to do a double-take to realize the greenery is not moss or lichens. Someone spent considerable time on this, undoubtedly. Would love to try this in our yard someday.
On taking the stairs (there is also an elevator) to the second floor, it was a pleasant sensation to walk into the misters being turned on briefly. Actually, these aren’t even “misters” per se. The spray and moisture are much finer than it looks. I stood directly under the falling moisture and I could hardly feel it. In a region that is as dry as Wyoming, it was a welcome experience. These misters are positioned all around the conservatory and high above across the angles of the ceiling. In fact, they help keep the place cool as well as moist. It’s not hot at all here. I toured the entire facility with a t-shirt, a fleece long-sleeved work shirt and an outdoor light jacket complete with a large SLR camera cross-body bag and I never felt hot.
A really great (and surprising) feature of the conservatory is that on the second and third levels, visitors find small cafe tables and chairs positioned quietly around the balconies. I imagine this would be a great place to come to with a book or your laptop to sit in the sun and light and breathe in the clean air and list to the water feature below on a lunch hour or a weekend day. It also allows you to sit and simply look and take in the entire space; a nice change of pace from continual walking. When was the last time you were able to stop and sit in quiet in a place you enjoyed?
Also on the second floor is an aviary gifted by philanthropists housing a variety of very tiny birds. It’s a popular pause-place (especially for little ones, thus the signage) and enables you to faintly hear these sweet birds singing and chirping as you travel the upper floors. The care that was taken to construct this habitat is obvious and even the branches dip and sway like real tree branches.
Despite it being late January, and everything outdoors being asleep and dried out for the winter, indoors new growth continues and can be seen everywhere. Nearly every plant or tree has some budding or new shoots of various types happening year round here.
On reaching the third stairway entry (elevators reach this floor as well), the entryway before you re-enter the conservatory is lined with succulents and cacti. It’s fascinating to see more common household varieties as well as several I’ve never seen before. Likely these are better suited to the more dry, outer hallway, but sunshine and warm is abundant here as well.
This area was also a calm and welcoming spot to sit and rest while taking in the third floor of the conservatory. The flooring of the balconies is grate-patterned (so heels are not advisable). The sunshine and comfortable quiet enticed me to sit for a while, enjoying the respite it provided both from the cold outdoors and from the noise (both literal and analogous to daily distraction). It certainly could be appreciated that this small space was surrounded by shelves of orchids and hibiscus which added an exotic aesthetic.
Last stop on the third floor was a look at the bonsai on display. I noticed on the outside observation deck just outside this level, there is a seasonal “bonsai hut” but this seems to be the winter location for bonsai specimens being cultivated at any given time.
As the walking adventure of the indoor conservatory ended, I elected to step outside briefly into the wind and cold to see what the outside observation deck offered.
I can imagine in the warmer months, this is a very popular place to gather with friends and enjoy the sunny Wyoming spring, summer and fall months. What a great spot to bring a lunch and grab some Vitamin D! (See the bonsai hut in the background).
If you stand at the rail of the observation deck, you can overlook Sloans Lake which at present is frozen over quite well. We commonly see ice-fishing huts and set-ups on the lake when we pass by in the winter. In the far distance, you can just make out the local National Guard Airport.
This wonderful public garden and conservatory is a true oasis in the cold winter months. I’m so glad I took the time to visit. It’s free to visitors but there is a donation box at the entrance that should receive a few dollars on your visit, as it obviously takes a lot of effort and passionate volunteerism to keep a high-quality organization like this running. And that friends, is money well spent.