Our geodesic-domed conservatory has been an iconic destination since it first opened on a frigid day in December, 1979. It’s a destination for immersion, an irresistible temptation to move by one step from tundra-like weather in the winter to the balmy atmosphere of the tropics. Even on hot summer days, our recently installed misting system lowers temperatures to a comfortable atmosphere.
The conservatory stands 80 feet tall at its highest point and measures 150 feet wide. It is comprised of 665 molded Plexiglas® panels set within an anodized aluminum skeleton. It is likely that the early advocates for a public garden in Des Moines were introduced to geodesic domes by visiting the Climatron, built at Missouri Botanical Garden in 1960, the pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City and the American Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal, now known as the Montreal Biosphere. While the earliest known geodesic structure was built in Germany and opened to the public in 1926, the idea is most often associated with an American visionary, R. Buckminster Fuller.
Groundbreaking for the conservatory was on October 27, 1977, and two years later it was ready to receive a truckload of plants brought as a gift from Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Longwood’s Director at the time, Everett Miller, personally supervised the placement and planting. Pierre DuPont purchased the Longwood property in 1906 and until the 1930s laid the groundwork for what is today one of the world’s most extraordinary public gardens. It seems almost inevitable that the DuPont Company would make the lead gift of $3 million to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden’s “A New Beginning” capital campaign.
After the break, you will find detailed descriptions and seasonal highlights of the various indoor experiences our garden offers.