Myriad Botanical Gardens

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Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory at the Myriad Botanical Gardens.

The Myriad Botanical Gardens is a 17-acre (69,000 m2) botanical garden and interactive urban park located in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on the southwest corner of Reno and Robinson. The Gardens is home to multiple tiers of densely landscaped areas that surround a sunken lake. Its primary feature is the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory - a 224-foot (68 m) living plant museum featuring towering palm trees, tropical plants and flowers, waterfalls, and exotic animals.


The first talk of cultivating a garden in downtown Oklahoma City began in 1964 when City leaders commissioned renowned architect I.M. Pei to create a revitalization plan for downtown Oklahoma City. The effort was led by Oklahoma City oil pioneer Dean A McGee (1904-1989), Founder and CEO of Kerr-McGee Oil Corporation.

The resulting initiative, known as the “Pei Plan,” included setting aside parkland for the development of a cultural, recreational and commercial complex in downtown Oklahoma City. Pei’s original idea was to create a space similar to the Tivoli Gardens of Copenhagen, Denmark.

McGee took up the project of pursuing the Gardens, and continued working on their completion up until his death in 1989.

Significant Dates:

May 5, 1970. The name Myriad Botanical Gardens was officially adopted. The name came from “the Myriad,” the new 13,000-seat arena and convention center across the street from the parkland.

August 11, 1970. The Oklahoma City Council established a 19-member task force to oversee the project's planning and implementation.

1971. New York architects Conklin + Rossant were chosen to design the new project after a nationwide competition.

1975. The City of Oklahoma City purchased the site for the Myriad Botanical Gardens for $900,000.

September 16, 1975. A public trust called the Myriad Gardens Authority was created and charged with developing the 17-acre (69,000 m2) property. McGee was the trust’s first Chairman.

November 17, 1977. With plans in hand, City leaders and Trust members officially broke ground to begin construction of the Gardens. Construction of the Gardens’ infrastructure, including the base of the conservatory, water stage and other core facilities continued over the next four years as funding became available.

1981. The Myriad Gardens Foundation was formed to raise private funds for the construction of the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory. They raised a total of $5.1 million (equivalent to $21.9 million in 2008).

1983-1985. The Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory was constructed. The framework that makes up the Conservatory’s unique cylindrical shape was built using 17 tri-cord trusses. The framework was then filled in with over 3,000 individual clear acrylic panels that assist in controlling the tropical atmosphere inside the building. After the building was completed, it took almost another two years to plan, select and install the plant materials.

1987. The Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department took over operation and maintenance of the Gardens. The Myriad Gardens Authority and Myriad Gardens Foundation both still play integral roles in establishing policy and raising private funding for the Gardens’ continued growth.

March 25, 1988. The Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory opens its doors to the public. Among those in attendance were then-Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick, Mike Bush, the Gardens’ first Executive Director, and Mr. McGee, who at the age of 84, finally saw his vision for the Gardens realized. Opening weekend saw over 12,000 visitors to the Gardens and Crystal Bridge.

May, 2010 - January, 2011. The Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory will undergo a $10.5 million renovation project beginning in May, 2010, during which all of the acrylic panels will be removed and replaced with new panels. In addition, the steel truss structure of the Crystal Bridge will be sandblasted and re-painted. Funding for the project was included in Oklahoma City's 2007 General Obligation Bond.


The Myriad Botanical Gardens provides multiple education opportunities for youth and adults throughout each calendar year. Special rates may apply for group education opportunities.

The Rainforest Ecology Activity Program (REAP) is geared towards second and fourth graders. It concentrates on specific themes in biology, ecology while employing a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to understanding.

Roaming the Rainforest summer education program provides a basic level of understanding of ecology, with specific focus on Rainforest education and conservation. It is held each Tuesday and Wednesday in June and July. Daycare, church and homeschool groups welcome.

Junior Master Gardener is an intensive one-week summer day program for children 7 to 12 years old. Instruction focuses on biology, horticulture and conservation. Multiple hands-on activities included.

The annual Oklahoma Gardening School is one of the Gardens' signature events. Held typically the first Saturday in March, the Oklahoma Gardening School is an all-day seminar featuring acclaimed garden experts from Oklahoma and the South / Southwest regions of the US. Topics change annually and may range from best trees and shrubs for Oklahoma gardens, to sustainable vegetable gardening, gardening for floral arrangements, and more. Check website for speaker list.

Art in the Gardens[edit]

The Myriad Botanical Gardens is home to several pieces of art.

"Gateway" by Hans Van de Bovenkamp. The 14-foot-tall abstract sculpture stands on a raised berm at the northeast corner of the Gardens.

"Childhood is Everlasting" by Robin Orbach. Local sculptor Robin Orbach donated this abstract sculpture to the citizens of Oklahoma City on April 20, 1992. It is located in the southwest quadrant of the grounds.

"Philodendron Dome" is located on the northwest side of the lake and consists of a dome-shaped framework on an 8' x 9' base made of iron and bronze. Iron vines support the "dome" of this bronze plant's leaves, where visitors can enter for a view from underneath.

"Flying Fish" by Kenny McCage. Mc. McCage, a native Oklahoman and Navy submarine welder, created this kinetic sculpture which is located in the Gardens' east lake.

"Land of the Brave and the Free" is a kinetic wind sculpture composed of bright colors and archetypal shapes. It located on the west side of the Gardens. It was donated in 2002 to the Festival of the Arts by California artist Susan Pascal Beran.

"Spirit Poles" Located adjacent to the north Fountain plaza, the two spirit poles were gifts to the City of Oklahoma City from the City of Tulsa in commemoration of Oklahoma's centennial of statehood in 2007.

Annual events[edit]

  • Oklahoma Gardening School: All-day gardening seminar featuring various speakers educating the public on a variety of Oklahoma-related gardening topics. Suitable for gardeners of all abilities. Registration and fee required.
  • Crystal Bridge Bug Out: The community is invited to join staff at the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory as they release tens of thousands of ladybugs into the Crystal Bridge. The popular family event teaches children about the environment. Part of the Integrated Pest Management Program. Admission fee required.
  • Orchids in October: The Myriad Gardens Foundation hosts this three-day event celebrating orchids. An orchid sale and luncheon honoring the Foundation's Crystal Award recipient are part of the festivities. Orchids in the Crystal Bridge are at their peak during this time. The event serves as a fundraiser for the Myriad Gardens Foundation.
  • Creepy Conservatory: The Gardens hosts an annual family fright fest complete with creepy, crawling creatures and a Trick or Treat trail. Costumes are welcome. Regular admission rates apply.
  • Downtown in December: The Gardens light up beginning in late November to take part in Downtown OKC, Inc's "Downtown in December" event. Thousands of twinkling lights await visitors throughout the 17-acre (69,000 m2) outdoor gardens, and inside the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory. Look for free admission rates on Sundays from 6-9 p.m. through December. Due to the ice storm of 2007, the Gardens lost almost 80% of its holiday light inventory. The lights were replaced with energy-saving LED lights thanks to a donation from OG&E.


  • OKC [1]
  • Encyclopedia [2]
  • “Myriad Botanical Garden- the centerpiece of the city.” The Journal Record. Max Nichols. October 12, 2000.
  • “OKC Events.” The Journal Record. Joan Gilmore. October 6, 2008.
  • KOCO News 5 [3]
  • “In the tropics of Oklahoma.” Southern Living. Thomas Lee. February 1993. V.28.
  • "These Walls: The Crystal Bridge." The Journal Record. Kelley Chambers. April 27, 2009.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°27′55″N 97°31′04″W / 35.4652°N 97.5179°W / 35.4652; -97.5179