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Peace Garden Conservatory

Prairie winters can seem interminable, particularly to gardeners who long for spring to arrive so that outdoor gardening can commence once more. Some folks have become snowbirds and do experience balmy outdoor weather during the winter months — many able to stroll through desert landscapes designed in the popular “southwest” style. Even if you do not wish to travel south, or are unable to do so, you can still do the same thing — take a leisurely walk through a desert environment and admire hundreds of unique desert plants. You can achieve this goal without having to travel great distances; just to the Canada-U.S. border south of Brandon, Manitoba, making it a perfect small trip.

There, at the International Peace Garden, you will discover the wonderful world of their new conservatory, which also has a small restaurant that is open all winter.

Everyone — gardeners particularly — will enjoy viewing interesting and unique plants as the new building houses North America’s largest collection of cacti and succulents, and boasts the world’s largest collection of a particular kind of succulent, the echeveria.

The Peace Garden just recently acquired this phenomenal collection of over 5,000 cacti and succulents from Minot, North Dakota resident, Don Vitko.

The collection was to be moved gradually as construction of the conservatory progressed stage by stage, but Mother Nature had other plans and the entire collection, in danger of being destroyed by 2011 flooding in Minot, was hurriedly transported. Three-quarters of the 5,000 plants were housed temporarily in the annual greenhouses. When the first phase of the new conservatory was complete, over 1,000 of the potted cacti and succulents were put on display. Construction of the remaining stages is underway with the goal of the rest of the collection being moved in this year.

The collection ranges from cacti native to North America to an African collection and even some very rare specimens such as one of only three pilocereus keyensis in existence in North America; originating in Florida, it is extinct in the wild.

A world-famous collection of Pilocereus cacti, which are pillar cacti with long hair-like material growing out of their trunks, is also is housed here. Of the 56 known kinds in the world, the Don Vitko collection has 53 of them. Many of the cacti and succulents will start blooming in March, adding even more interest. The plants are all potted and are displayed to maximize the enjoyment of visitors. Wide brick walkways make strolling through the display easy, even for those with mobility issues. Hours are 10 to 5 p.m. during the winter months.

A trip to this wonderful destination will surely motivate you to make another visit when the entire collection is on display later in the year.

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