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Lyman Conservatory is Back

After two years of construction, renovations, partial closings and postponements of popular exhibitions, the Lyman Plant House and Conservatory fully reopened with a celebration on Friday, May 9.

The conservatory reopened to the public its 12 newly restored greenhouses with a vast array of plant species on display. Among the new aspects of the facility are expanded classroom and lab spaces, new staff offices, a wheelchair lift and added exhibition space, including the Church Exhibition Gallery just inside the building’s entrance.

Coinciding with the reopening of Lyman Conservatory was the kickoff of “Virginia Woolf: A Botanical Perspective,” an exhibit of gardens and botanical artwork of the family and friends of the influential writer, in the Church Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through September 30.

“We are very excited to show these new spaces,” says Madelaine Zadik, manager of education and outreach at the Botanic Garden. “We have many new spaces open to the public and this is the first time in two years that all of the greenhouses will be open again. We’re also excited to get back to our regular focus on our plant collections rather than on construction.”

The conservatory partially reopened to the public in March with the annual Bulb Show, one of its most popular exhibitions, featuring more than 5,000 forced bulbs, many planted by horticulture students. Another popular event, the annual Chrysanthemum Show, held every November, has been pre-empted for the past two years and will resume this year.

The $5 million renovation of the Lyman Conservatory is the first thorough modernization to the 13 buildings that comprise the facility since their original construction in 1895, said Michael Marcotrigiano, director of the Botanic Garden. The facility’s ability to accommodate visitors and guests had become limited, he said last year amid the renovations. “The major purpose of the [renovation] project was to restore the glass houses, to replace rotting wood, add new glass, new automated venting systems and some humidity controlling systems,” Marcotrigiano explained. “In the process of that project, we realized we never had enough public space. The glass houses were parallel to the storage of an art museum, but you also need a gallery. Glass houses are pretty to walk through, but you can’t extract themes without an exhibition space.”

Lyman Conservatory, 1899

In the years since the architectural firm Lord and Burnham (also the builders of the Palm House in England’s Kew Gardens) completed construction of the original structure, the conservatory has become an essential resource to the college community. It has also become an immensely popular and internationally acclaimed research and exhibiting facility, attracting some 60,000 visitors a year, from elementary school and senior-citizen groups to devotees of the garden’s annual mum and bulb shows.

Botanic Garden

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