For the nature lover travelling to Overland Park or the surrounding area, it’s easy to stop and smell the roses when modern day gardens mean more than just a walk in the park. Besides having gorgeous horticultural displays, many of these attractions have educational centers, gift shops, cafes, art exhibits and ideas for your own garden at home.
In Wichita (KS), Botanica offers a nine-acre botanical paradise, featuring more than 3,600 species of plants. The choices are plentiful and include 25-themed display gardens such as the Butterfly Garden, Woodland Bird Garden, Shakespearean Garden, Sensory Garden and the Wildflower Meadow. Combine that with sculpture and multiple flowing fountains to create a visually stunning atmosphere. Seasonal exhibits add to the excitement with Kansas' largest tulip display, a Butterfly House, a Chrysanthemum display and an annual holiday event that sets the gardens aglow. With ever-changing scenery, educational classes for young and old and special events, Botanica has a lot to offer.
Enjoy the four seasons at the gorgeous 300-acre Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens in Overland Park (KS), which offers unique and unexpected pleasures regardless of the time of year. In spring, wildflowers drape the hillsides in glorious displays of color. In summer, its recesses offer welcome respite from the heat. Fall takes on a glory all its own when sumac and persimmon glow with fiery hues, and a winter stroll reveals a wonderland of texture and contrast well worth bundling up to experience. Nearly five miles of wood chip hiking trails wind their way through the Arboretum and over 200 species of birds and 75 species of trees can be found meandering from the parking area throughout the gardens. Annual events include the spring plant sale, Arts for Kids, the Holiday Luminary Walk and the Arboretum Sculpture Exhibition.
Continue your journey to Kingsville (MO), 30 miles east of metro Kansas City, to Powell Gardens. Encompassing more than 900 acres, Powell Gardens offers windswept meadows and lush, rolling hills in an effort to inspire people to appreciate, beautify and conserve our natural environment. In 2009, Powell Gardens opened the Heartland Harvest Garden – the nation's largest edible landscape. Set on 12 acres, the Heartland Harvest Garden illustrates in spectacular style the journey of food from seed to plate. Powell Gardens has much more to entertain you with than beauty. There’s also an extensive calendar of events offering classes, art exhibits and seasonal events plus the mouth-watering Café Thyme. With four major gardens, a wildflower meadow, interesting architecture, display conservatory, and chapel, Powell Gardens offers something for everyone.
The Kansas City area boasts numerous smaller gardens, as well. Be sure to stop at some of these exquisite places before leaving town.
Unity Village, in Lee’s Summit (MO), is a 1,400-acre, non-denominational spiritual retreat that contains fountains, meditation gardens, a natural preserve and prairie, woodlands, ponds, walking paths and a chapel bell tower that chimes hourly and plays recitals several times daily. The Unity Rose Garden includes more than 800 award-winning rose bushes of over 40 varieties.
After admiring the beautiful and bountiful grounds of Unity Village head straight to the heart of downtown Kansas City. Kauffman Legacy Park features a two-acre garden with 7,000 plants comprised of more than 300 varieties that include vintage and modern perennials, annuals, shrubs, bulbs and trees. The Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden is just a ten-minute walk from the Country Club Plaza. Kauffman Legacy Park also houses the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center, which is surrounded by 10-acres of gardens, wetlands, walkways and wildlife. The Discovery Center aims to encourage an appreciation for and awareness of nature among urban children and adults.
The next stop is just blocks from Kauffman Legacy Park. The hundreds of weddings performed here annually are testament to the enduring beauty of Loose Park. Encompassed in the park’s 72 acres are the Stanley R. McLane Arboretum and the Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden. The Arboretum is home to more than 1,400 trees and the 1.5-acre Rose Garden, established in 1932 with 120 plants, now contains about 4,000 roses of nearly 150 varieties.
Just a few blocks north from Loose Park is the Linda Hall Library’s urban arboretum which covers 14-acres surrounding the library and contains 450 trees. The arboretum began in the early 1900s and has a guide available identifying each tree for the curious visitor. This location contains beds of viburnum, one of the largest collections of tree peonies in the Midwest and other Missouri native woodland plants.
One of the most popular parks in Johnson County (KS) is Antioch Park in Merriam. The 44-acre park includes two fishing lakes, walking paths, a Vietnam War Memorial and the Dodge Town Play Area. The Antioch Park Helen Cuddy Memorial Rose Garden features 625 rose bushes, a cascading fountain, an Iris garden and many more colorful flowers.
The final destination will be worth the drive north of Kansas City. The Lauritzen Gardens, open year-round, sits on 100 acres near downtown Omaha (NE). Visitors are welcomed by colorful displays of perennials, annuals and a hillside of wildflowers that lead to the 450-pound Copper Fern basket situated at the entrance to the visitor and education center. The visitor center houses a floral display hall, gift shop, rotating art shows, a horticulture and resource library and a café. Lauritzen Gardens has many sites for visitors to enjoy such as the Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary; the Rose and Peony Gardens; the Herb Garden; the Victorian Garden and the Children’s Garden. The Festival Garden offers outdoor festivals throughout the year and the Model Railroad Garden displays model trains that continually travel through miniature communities, landscapes and countrysides. From May to October, one-hour narrated tram tours of the garden's 100 acres are available. Check out the events calendar in order to take advantage of special events such as art exhibitions, antique shows, special themed dinners, wine tastings, unique children’s activities, Railroad Days, European Car Expo, holiday events and more. Additionally, Keneflick Park at Lauritzen Gardens includes two of the largest locomotives ever to power the Union Pacific Railroad. While there is a modest fee for the Gardens, Kenefick admission is free.
Experiencing nature in and around Overland Park is as easy as a walk in the park when there are so many unique and attractive destinations as the ones featured above.