Public Garden: The Domes in Milwaukee

It’s officially the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, but “The Domes,” as it is commonly known, seems more accurate. There is nothing pretentious about this place.

The Domes of Milwaukee
The Domes are seven stories high and filled with tropical and desert plants.

If you judge a public garden by the number of visitors, this one seems off the charts. On a Saturday in March, it was packed, and what impressed me most was the variety of people. Plant folks mixed with horticultural civilians who seemed to just want to get out on a winter’s day. All appeared appreciative.

The succulents are endlessly interesting.

The three domes, each the size of half a football field and seven stories high, seem like something out of a science fiction or space movie and the architecture has a very mid-century feel. Construction began in 1959.

You can get your houseplant inspiration at the Domes.

One dome is dedicated to tropicals, one a desert scape and the third is a revolving plant show. A model railroad running through a tiny town is what I saw in the show dome and the day I visited a special steampunk festival took place with costumed souls wandering the dome. Corsets among the cacti.

A model railroad wound through the exhibit dome.

I found The Domes to be about an hour and a half outing. It’s more interesting than zen, but it could have been the crowds. The collections are extensive and well labeled, but the star of the show is the structure. Yes, the plants play a very solid supporting roles, but more often than not, I found myself looking up to view the vista of the conoidal glass conservatory.

And remember…it’s warm.

Little vistas pepper the place.

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