Splendor Under Glass
Open since October 2001, the 32,000-square-foot visitor and education center includes a 5,000-square-foot floral display hall, an education wing containing two classrooms and one of the region's only horticultural libraries. Additionally, the visitor center houses the great hall, community room, café, and gift shop. The vaulted glass roof of the center, standing 65 feet tall, makes it the predominant visible feature from the westbound lanes of Interstate 80 as travelers cross the Missouri River into Nebraska.
The visitor and education center is home to hundreds of garden-hosted festivals and special events, adult horticulture and children's education classes, three seasonal floral shows, corporate events and meetings, weddings and other family celebrations each year.
Helena Street Fountain
In 1982, Helena Street, a garden writer for the Omaha World-Herald, launched the idea for a botanical garden in Omaha. The fountain, situated outside the front doors of the visitor center is a tribute to Street and her efforts. The fountain was designed by Chad Grimm and is inspired by the arts-and-crafts architecture prominent at the garden. The fountain is comprised of a stainless steel frame covered in copper. The copper has been given a patina to hasten the natural oxidation that occurs over time.
Copper Fern Basket
This ornamental basket, located under the gazebo roof at the entrance to the visitor center, was crafted by Illinois artist and blacksmith Lorelei Sims. The fern basket is comprised of individually cut leaves of copper that were heated, contoured and then fastened to the steel basket infrastructure. The basket measures five feet in diameter and weighs 450 pounds.
Wrought Iron Chandeliers
The café features two, eight-sided wrought iron chandeliers also designed and constructed by Lorelei Sims. The flowers represent Nebraska's native flora and include big blue stem, wild indigo and purple coneflower. The botanical elements were created using plasma cutting, welding, forging and fabricating of mild steel. Hand-poured art glass panels complete the composition.
Design and Construction
Christner, Inc., a St. Louis-based architectural firm with extensive experience in botanical garden design, in conjunction with HDR Inc. of Omaha, designed the facilities. Kiewit Construction Co. was the builder for the visitor and education center.