I come to the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens to find flowers, when I visit Las Vegas, Nevada. Every year, I look forward to their new indoor gardens.
The only predictable aspects of the gardens are the imaginative colossal designs and bold colors, and that a visit will get me away from smoky crowds and glaring noise characteristic of The Strip. The summer gardens in May, shocked me with the massive open-faced poppy flowers, draped United States flags, kites waving tails and big birds suspended in flight, which all dotted the glass sky.
The walkways intersecting the rectangular beds in the conservatory are lined with the same shiny marble that led me from the hotel’s elevator. The marble also edges the gardens with raised curbs, which protects the living plants from wandering feet.
I prefer to enter the conservatory between the white columns adjacent to the hotel’s lobby. The floor to ceiling view of the gardens allows me to see it all at one time.
Summer Botanical Flower Gardens
A greenhouse is set in one of the flower beds. I walked around the greenhouse in hopes of finding an open entrance. Instead, I end up craning my neck to look through the glass panes while trying to snap pictures of the fluttering songbirds – some colorful Gouldian Finch and Rosey Bourke Parakeets – toing and froing about platters of birdseed and little woven nesting baskets.
The birdhouse is sandwiched by long wide swaths of Hiryu azalea (Rhododendron obtusum ‘Red’) and miniature red roses. Patches of light blue mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’) contrast with the hot colors. Finally I find the door, but it is closed off by bunches of sunflowers.
Summery yellow faces echo all around the garden exhibit. One planting bed contains a 14-foot tall sunflower, what looks like a comical garden monster, rising from the center of a water fountain. Two large metal feeding-troughs nearby are tightly packed with more sunflower plants. I exchange apologizes with a gentleman I bumped into who is standing in a long line with his family. He clutches his camera, waiting his turn to take photos in front of the giant sunflower.
I gained a new perspective by standing in the back. A wide wandering “river” emerges from an unexpected circle of pink and blue hydrangeas. The Button & Bows bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Monrey’) encircle a Queensland bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris.) A stream of green paddle plants (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora) pop out from under the tree’s canopy and are edged by New Guinea impatiens on one side and a repeat of miniature roses on the other.
Kitty-corner from the North Garden, the river bed is replicated; here a row boat is floating on the wet kind of water. The splashing waterfall is refreshing to the ears and loud enough to be heard above the crowds of echoing voices.
This flower garden is a high maintenance beauty. Most of the plants are watered by horticultural workers each with a manual watering-wand attached to a hose. Approximately every two weeks the potted flowers, numbering more than 10,000, are switched out and the old plants recycled into a compost pile.
Rotating Plant Displays by Seasons in the Bellagio’s Conservatory
The 140 horticulturists at the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens change their landscape five times a year, for each season and to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The 13,573 square feet conservatory is the backdrop for a dramatic presentation with a layout meant to encourage a stroll around the garden, an appeal to families from the very youngest to the most senior.
Giant ladybugs were covered with red carnations and surrounded by the spring flowering pink hyacinths before the equally large snails covered in ribbons of rose buds replaced them this summer. In 2012, the winter display housed a chocolate village and welcomed a revisit from the polar bear family which I saw in 2010, that had giant toy soldiers standing guard. The bears have been covered in thousands of white carnations no matter what theater they played in.
The Bellagio’s lobby is steps away from the bright open space of their indoor garden. The rectangular glass ceiling crisscrossed with massive beams lets in a wealth of light into an otherwise dark hotel and casino environment. The flowers I find here always cool my day, even while visiting in the desert heat. A visit to a botanical garden makes a good reminder to stay gardening.