If you are looking for a great covered location for your engagement session and surprise proposal in Saint Paul and Minneapolis you should consider the Marjorie McNeely conservatory (better known as the Como Conservatory). Let me showcase below the pros and cons.
- A Stunning GlassHouse
- Several Botanical Gardens in the middle of the Twin Cities
- Palm Dome
- The Sunken Garden
- The North Garden
- The Fern room
- Japanese Garden
- The best covered location for engagement pictures (in some condition)
- How to prepare your engagement session at the Como Conservatory
The Marjorie McNeely conservatory is simply the most beautiful glasshouse (I have seen) in Minnesota. Built by the architect Frederick Nussbaumer, it’s all about windows and natural light. The design of each room is slightly different and they all host different plants. On the center stands the majestic Palm Dom above the tropical botanical garden. The lavish building design reminds us royal oriental palace architecture from Eastern Europe. Finished in 1915, this classy greenhouse is a heritage of Minnesota history.
Open all year, it will delight all kinds of visitors. What’s more, the entrance is accessible to everyone (wheelchair included). Furthermore it’s free for visitors (even if the donation is “appreciated”). Nevertheless a photography permit will be required if you want your engagement photographer to take pictures inside.
The conservatory is part of the St Paul Como Zoo Park. It’s located in the west of St Paul, at 15min from Minneapolis. In other words, it’s one of the famous park of the Twin Cities.
The Marjorie McNeely conservatory is height major galleries. A map is available that will guide you, and help you choose the best one.
You will first enter in the Palm Dome, which is one of the best locations for close portrait photography. It holds tropical plants, such as orchids and bromeliads, and is covered with a path you will enjoy strolling on. You will find a fountain in the middle. All that offers a bunch of photo spots to take great engagement photography. The lush exotic vegetation (lots of palms) isolates you from other visitors, but also prevents any photography taken from far away (if you plan your proposal).
The Sunken garden is designed with apsidal glass walls, in the shape of the arc. It provides stunning natural light, from dawn to dusk! In the center of this gallery stands a long fountain using the rules of perspectives and creating the illusion that the gallery is even longer.
On each side are cultivated flowers like roses, lavenders and many other specimens of plants and ornamental flowers. Beware, the gardener constantly adjusts seasonal plants. Indeed they have many showing up during the year! On the entrance of the Sunken gallery you will find a terrace facing a hotel on the other side. This other hotel is surrounded by conifers (Italian cypress) and has glass windows as a background.
The North Garden has also plants from tropics and exotic species. It’s very dense, and can even create some shade. It could work greatly depending on the natural light.
The Orchid House hosts plenty of orchids. But even if it has nice collections of floral and ornamental orchids, the room is quite small and not so picturesque for engagement photos.
The Fern room is full of lush fern with their tropical shape. Those perennial plants (the first in the natural botanical world) always work well for the pictures!
The bonsais exhibit may not work for you except if you are the size of a hummingbird.
There is also a butterfly garden, with grasses and shrubs, but honestly I have no memories there! It’s probably too small for good pictures.
And finally the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden is located outside and offers a lot of good photo spots.
In summary, you probably understand that the two main advantages of the Marjorie Mcneely conservatory:
- A glass structure (offering good natural light in every season)
- A large plant diversity offering a magnificent landscape as the backdrop of your engagement pictures in Saint Paul.
Now let’s see the cons of this Glasshouse
The major criticism we can do against the Como Conservatory is that it attracts too many visitors! It’s a victim of his own success and therefore you may have some tourist groups in your pictures.
To catch candid and stunning portraits during your engagement session, the best wedding photographers want you to feel at ease and relax. It’s pretty obvious that you need a minimum of space to move.
Indeed, timeless pictures are captured when you are performing some real actions such as walking or making jokes. Consequently, the risk at the Marjorie Conservatory is to have only posed pictures. So we may have to “fight” (in the Minnesotan way) to keep a good spot for few minutes.
That’s why I strongly recommend you to carefully choose the day and the time for your engagement session or proposal! Try to avoid crowding-Sunday afternoons. Instead, try to come early in the morning during a week day. You may have a chance to be surrounded only by the natural world.
Here is a list of few tips to well prepare your engagement session.
- pick a week day
- make sure there is no flower festival, lecture or concert
- make sure it is not a too warm day (or the temperature inside the Green House may be too warm)
- come early (to avoid the tourists)
- take a photo permit at the Zoo entrance
- use the bathroom to change (if needed)
- have fun
The MAP : http://www.comozooconservatory.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Como_Map2.pdf