Eden under glass

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I am the archetype Scandinavian Minnesotan with dry, paper-white skin which supplies perfect camouflage in a snowbank.

Over decades, my eyes have perfected a squint that cuts the glare of the winter sun as it bounces off said snowbank.

My body is filled with some kinds of very low viscosity fluids to prevent freeze up.

So then, just imagine the pleasing shock to my system when I was admitted on a recent snowy morning to the tropical world Margaret Yeakel -Twum (pronounced choom) inhabits nearly every day of the week at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory next to the Como Zoo in St. Paul.

There she is, above, hard at work early this morning in an image captured by my colleague Jeff Thompson.

The conservatory is an acre-under-glass that’s kept at mostly 75 degrees on the scale created by the German-born scientist Daniel Fahrenheit. Running water everywhere creates blissfully high humidity at levels not experienced by most Minnesotans for a large part of the year.

You can hear more from Margaret about the Conservatory today in a new Minnesota Sounds and Voices report as part of All Things Considered and at mprnews.org.

The conservatory, named after a major benefactor, is a part of the St. Paul Parks system and open every day of the year.

Visitors can gaze up at palms, marvel at the diversity of the bromeliads, and enjoy several special shows during the year which feature an explosion of color from lilies, tulips, roses and lots of other flora.

Margaret says the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, or MMC, is a display facility which means they aren’t attempting to be an “ark” to preserve rare or vanishing plant species. However, she looks forward to a visit she hopes to make to Cornwall in England and the Eden Project where preservation is indeed part of the mission.

Margaret traces her devotion to plants in part to her late mother, an avid gardener, and to an uncle who got her a job when she was seventeen at a local garden store. Forty years later, she along with her colleagues and hundreds of volunteers at the MMC, tend and create a taste of the tropics in Minnesota.

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