"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.
What this photo can't tell you is the refreshing sound of water cascading over the stone wall on a warm summer morning.
My visit in 1997 was just as enjoyable, but not as shady.
In the hot summer months, lily pads provide shade for underwater life. Topside, they create a comfortable spot for frogs to relax, safe from underwater predators like snakes. Dragonflies, damselflies, and beetles are some of the other creatures that favor the topside. Look under a lily pad, and you might find small creatures such as snails making their home.
White, pink, yellow, red...the flowers of water lilies add vibrant color to the pond. I understand that some tropical species of water lilies produce purple and blue blossoms.
Water lilies and water lotus are sometimes confused. One way to tell them apart is by their leaves: water lily leaves float on the water's surface; water lotus leaves rise above the water level. The blossoms are also different: water lily blossoms float on the water's surface; water lotus blossoms rise above the water.
Kaifeng, HeNan, China, is one of Wichita's four sister cities. The Chinese Garden in Botanica opened in spring 2015 to celebrate that friendship. Botanica's long-term plan is to have a garden representative of each of Wichita's sister cities.
The Hummingbird and Trumpet Flower by sculptor Sean Kenney is my favorite in his Nature Connects exhibit. Why? The energy of such a small creature fascinates me.
By the time I finished my stroll, the pleasant lady with the British accent and her group of children were seated in the shady Terrace Garden, munching happily on their brown bag lunches. The afternoon would prove to be Kansas-hot, but the morning had been just right. I should have brought a good novel and lingered even longer.
Where is Botanica and when is it open? The gardens are near downtown Wichita, Kansas, and the Arkansas River at 701 Amidon Street in an area known as the Museum District or Museums on the River. Botanica is open year-round and closed on most major holidays. Visit botanica.org for more information.
1. All photos by Lynne Schall, copyright 2019.
2. Botanica Wichita, botanica.org (accessed August 11, 2019)
3. "What's the difference between water lilies and water lotus?" Jami Heinbuch, Mother Nature Network (MNN), Earth Matters, Wilderness & Resources, mnn.com January 26, 2011 (accessed August 11, 2019)
Lynne Schall is the author of three novels: Women's Company - The Minerva Girls (2016), Cloud County Persuasion (2018), and Cloud County Harvest (fall 2022). She and her family live in Kansas, USA.