CAPTION: Construction continues on one of the most-visited buildings in the Peace Garden, the Conservatory, doubling floor space and display area to accommodate the world-class collection of cacti and succulents
One of the most visited buildings at the International Peace Garden is the Conservatory, the home to one of the largest private collections of cacti and succulents in the world. Minot resident, Don Vitko collected over 5,000 species over more than 50 years before he donated the entire collection to the Peace Garden in 2010.
The collection includes a number of rare and endangered species from all over the world, specifically North America, South America and Africa. The fact that some of these species are found only in isolated areas and extremely difficult to find lends itself to the teaching about 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 Garden website.
In order for the entire collection to be displayed and be properly cared for, the exhibit space has been doubled. “We’re nearly doubling the square footage and the display space so that a lot of these plants have a lot more room to grow and mature and fill out that space to create an all-year-round environment,” explains Peace Garden CEO, Tim Chapman.
Also, interpretive features, art exhibits and seasonal shows will be added to enhance the visitor experience, providing an all-season interior landscape to make the Conservatory a year-round destination. “So, there’s going to be more seating space and more walkways,” he added, “and we’re excited to have the option to move furniture in and out so that we can actually host meals within the cacti collection, for an immersive experience that will be a lot of fun!”
Moving both small and massive, delicate and thorny, cacti and succulents to a completely different location within the Garden is no easy task.
“As you can imagine, cacti are not the quickest plant you can work with as they’re very delicate and spiny,” shared Chapman. “Last year we had an incredible 2 weeks of moving the majority of the cacti out of the old structure before it was torn down. They all went up the hill to our production greenhouses where they made it through the winter. Once the building is enclosed again, we’ll be spending another couple of weeks moving them all back down that hill very slowly so we don’t lose any.”
On the other half of the Conservatory, the existing restaurant and patio have been re-imagined as a healthy farm-to-table casual dining, with direct access to the patio from the restaurant and take-out window. Both indoor and outdoor rental spaces have been added to the design to accommodate weddings, events, meetings and programs. Also, two nearby outdoor plazas are being renovated to accommodate large events.
The Conservatory is home to the cacti and succulent collection, as well as the horticulture library, the Peace Garden café and their gift shop, featuring local art and collectibles.
Substantial completion of the Conservatory is expected in September but will be open to the public sometime later to allow more time for the monumental task of returning the collection to its newly renovated home.