CAPTION: Construction continues on one of the most visited buildings in the Garden of Peace, the Conservatory, doubling the floor space and exhibition area to accommodate the world-class collection of cacti and succulents
One of the most visited buildings in the International Peace Garden is the Conservatory, which houses one of the largest private collections of cacti and succulents in the world. Minot resident Don Vitko collected over 5,000 species for over 50 years before donating the entire collection to the Peace Garden in 2010.
The collection includes a number of rare and endangered species from around the world, particularly from North America, South America and Africa. The fact that some of these species are only found in isolated and extremely hard-to-find areas lends itself to teaching the importance of conservation.
“These lessons align with the mission of the Garden, as conservation is a form of promoting peace – valuing and protecting living things and working to create a sustainable environment so they can thrive,” states the Peace website. Garden.
In order for the entire collection to be displayed and well maintained, the exhibition space has been doubled. “We’re almost doubling the square footage and display space so a lot of these plants have a lot more room to grow and mature and fill that space to create a year-round environment,” says the CEO of Peace Garden, Tim Chapman.
Additionally, interpretive elements, art exhibits and seasonal performances will be added to enhance the visitor experience, providing an all-season indoor landscape to make the Conservatory a year-round destination. “So there will be more seating and more walkways,” he added, “and we’re excited to have the ability to move the furniture inside and outside so we can actually organize meals in the cactus collection, for an immersive experience it will be a lot of fun!
Moving both small and massive, delicate and prickly, cacti and succulents to a completely different place in the garden is no easy task.
“As you can imagine, cacti aren’t the fastest plant you can work with because they’re very delicate and spiny,” Chapman explained. “Last year we had an incredible 2 weeks to move the majority of the cacti out of the old structure before it was demolished. They all made their way up the hill to our production greenhouses where they survived Once the building is closed again, we’ll spend another few weeks moving them all very slowly down that hill so we don’t lose any.
On the other half of the lanai, the existing restaurant and patio has been redesigned as a healthy casual farm-to-table restaurant, with direct access to the patio from the restaurant and take-out window. Indoor and outdoor rental spaces have been added to the design to accommodate weddings, events, meetings and programs. Additionally, two outdoor plazas nearby are being renovated to accommodate large events.
The Conservatory is home to the Cacti and Succulent Collection, as well as the Horticulture Library, Peace Garden Café and their Gift Shop, featuring local art and collectables.
Substantial completion of the Conservatory is scheduled for September but will open to the public a little later to allow more time for the monumental task of returning the collection to its newly refurbished home.