Superior Public Museums aims to help gardeners through the seasonal doldrums with a series of virtual garden talks that span the globe.

Participants can learn about orchids and other tropical plants from Columbia, tour the New York Botanical Gardens, catch a glimpse of the unique flora and fauna of Tasmania and visit a plant breeder’s garden in California, all from the comfort of their home.

This is the fourth year that Robert-Jan Quene, administrator for Superior Public Museums, has put the annual series together. With the switch to a Zoom format, however, he was able to flex his agricultural connections to open the world to homebound participants.

“Normally we find speakers that are more local, and we have the presentations right here at Fairlawn, but as this year we are doing it all virtual, I was able to grasp from a larger pool of my horticulture friends,” Quene said.

Quene will lead a practical session on how to diagnose and treat plant issues March 11. Many of the presentations, however, promise a break from the ordinary.

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While arranging the presentations, he found a historical connection between Fairlawn Mansion and the New York Botanical Gardens.

“Apparently the conservatory that Martin Pattison bought while he went on a trip to the Chicago World Fair and had built here at Fairlawn is from the same maker as the conservatory at the New York Botanical Gardens (Lord & Burnham Company),” Quene said.

A conservatory can be seen outside Fairlawn Mansion, at left. The conservatory was purchased by Martin Pattison at the Chicago World's Fair and has a connection to the conservatory at the New York Botanical Gardens. (Photo courtesy of Superior Public Museums)
A conservatory can be seen outside Fairlawn Mansion, at left. The conservatory was purchased by Martin Pattison at the Chicago World's Fair and has a connection to the conservatory at the New York Botanical Gardens. (Photo courtesy of Superior Public Museums)

The conservatory was demolished some time in the 1930s when the mansion was serving as a children’s home, he said.

Past garden talk presentations have taken place at Fairlawn Mansion, with an attendance cap of 60. The move to a virtual format throws the doors open to an unlimited number of participants from anywhere.

There is a cost to tune in to the virtual presentations — $10 per session or all six for $50. Funds raised will be earmarked for the gardens at Fairlawn, which are maintained by the Lake Superior Master Gardeners. The money will be used to purchase plants, including shrubs to replace greenery that was lost over a past winter, and to redo the front garden.

“I believe we are getting the Pattison School sign to be put in the garden, which is significant, as this home used to belong to Martin Pattison,” Quene said.

The first presentation kicks off Sunday, Jan. 31, and the final session takes place April 10, about the time local gardeners can begin to flex their green thumbs again. Visit the Superior Public Museums website for more information or to register for presentations.

Dates include:

  • Jan. 31: Orchids and other spectacular tropical plants from Colombia
  • Feb. 11: The diverse Dahlia
  • Feb. 27: A tour of the New York Botanical Gardens
  • March 11: What is wrong with my plant and what can I do to fix it?
  • March 27: A wander through the history and unique flora and fauna of wild Tasmania
  • April 10: A plant breeders garden in sunny California