I was twelve years old when I first visited the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Italian-Renaissance style mansion (the first mansion I had ever entered) and gardens impressed me then and continue to do so each time I return.
Oil tycoon Waite Phillips (1883-1964) and his wife Genevieve built Villa Philbrook on 25 acres in 1927. In 1938 they donated their Tulsa residence to the Tulsa community to:
create a cultural institution for housing, preserving, and displaying therein works of art, literature, relics and curios, including those representative of the native North American Peoples." --Waite and Genevieve Phillips
The Phillips would be pleased with the hard work that has taken place over generations to establish and enhance that vision.
What are three reasons to visit The Philbrook Museum of Art?
#1. The Art.
#2. The Gardens.
"Sixty-one thousand, three hundred and seventy-two," the pleasant lady with the British accent said.
"Ohhh...!" The children dressed in play clothes and sunscreen crowded closer.
I'd seen the grade school kids earlier in the Butterfly House and the Children's Garden. From the McConnell T-shirts many of them sported, I guessed they were from McConnell Air Force Base here in Wichita.
"How many?" a straggler bringing up the rear asked.
"61,372. It's the biggest Lego sculpture in the exhibit." For emphasis, the pleasant lady with the British accent held up her mobile phone and took a picture.
The Bison and Calf are impressive, especially if you're a child who plays with Legos or an adult who grew up fascinated by them. And there are fourteen more Lego sculptures that anyone can enjoy this summer at Botanica Gardens. Birds, bison, butterflies, flowers, fish and more: Sean Kenney's often bigger-than-life creations are a colorful, if only temporary, addition to Botanica's approximately 18 acres of lush grounds.
The Legos are fun, but the real treats of the gardens are the flowers, water features, and trees.
Hard-working Wichitans started planning for Botanica in 1982, opened the property to the public in 1987, and, over time, added new speciality gardens, exhibits, and events. Today there are more than 30 themed gardens and exhibits, over 4,000 species of plants, and approximately 50 permanent sculptures.
It was a lovely summer morning for a walk in Botanica. Here are a few of my snapshots that I hope you enjoy seeing.
A limestone fountain is the centerpiece of the Shakespeare Garden, a blend of formal and cottage gardens of the Elizabethan era. Some of the perennial herbs and plants are mentioned in Shakespeare's works.
"There's a duck in the front yard," my husband said.
We'd had the rainiest May ever recorded in Kansas, but a duck on the lawn? I went to the window and squinted. It was too early for eyeglasses.
"Over there, Lynne. By the tree."
"It's a mallard," I said. "What's he doing here?"
My husband grinned. "Looking for girls."
Whatever the duck's agenda that morning, the spring rains once again helped our ornamental trees explode with color and our Itoh peonies produce the loveliest blossoms yet. Since we dodged the extreme flooding suffered by parts of Kansas this year, we were especially grateful for the colors in our garden. We enjoyed them so much that I thought you'd like to see a few snapshots from 2018 and 2019.
Big blue skies, bright sunshine, and high temperatures in the low sixties--perfect for tiptoeing through the tulips. My husband and I arrived before the crowds and in time for the first outdoor concert.
Over 40,000 tulip bulbs nestle in the gardens. Today they might all have been in bloom. Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, Kansas, never lets us down.
Lynne Schall is the author of three novels: Women's Company - The Minerva Girls (2016), Cloud County Persuasion (2018), and Cloud County Harvest (November 2022). She and her family live in Kansas, USA.