Traces of spring can be seen in Oklahoma as early as March, with the blossoming of tulips, daffodils and dogwood trees. By May, Oklahoma enters a liminal space, suspended between spring and summer. Temperatures rise. The soil warms. Plant life flourishes.
This transition between seasons is an ideal time to visit Oklahoma’s parks and gardens. Places like the Tulsa Botanic Garden, Muskogee’s Honor Heights Park and OKC’s Myriad Botanical Gardens continue to push the limits of what they can grow – despite tumultuous temperatures.
“People need beauty in their lives,” says Maureen Heffernan, president and CEO of the Myriad Gardens Foundation. “I think that the more time you spend in green spaces, the more you can appreciate what they have to offer.”
Tulsa Botanic Garden
Tucked away in the rolling Osage Hills, the Tulsa Botanic Garden is a serene escape from the busyness of the city. The garden, which is located on a 170-acre lot eight miles northwest of downtown Tulsa, comprises a Children’s Discovery Garden, lush floral terraces, a seven-acre lake and the Cross Timbers Nature Trail.
For the month of May, visitors can expect to see a variety of flora, including roses, canna lilies, catmint, ginger and yuccas. The garden also hosts several programs and special events. On May 4, the garden puts on its final Band and Blooms, with a live musical performance from the Tulsa-based country soul act Pilgrim.
The garden is also gearing up for its annual family friendly fundraiser, Day in the Garden, or “DIG,” which takes place May 13 from 3 to 6 p.m.
“There will be lots of kids activities, food and drink, and games,” says Chuck Lamson, CEO of Tulsa Botanic. “People can experience all that the garden has to offer.”
Earlier that day, the garden holds its Second Saturday Dog Day, giving visitors an opportunity to bring their four-legged friends to the garden.
Summer also ushers in an exciting expansion. In June, the garden will open two new features: the Bumgarner Lotus Pool and the Stanford Family Liberty Garden. These additions will nearly double the size of the estate.
“We are always trying to…benefit members and pique the public’s interest,” says Lamson. “In the 20 short years that we’ve been here, we’ve made a lot of progress. We have things to see that make it worth the trip.”
Honor Heights Park
Named as a tribute to veterans, Honor Heights Park has become one of Muskogee’s most popular outdoor attractions. The park, which is known for its hearty azalea bushes, spans a 132-acre site that includes fishing spots, walking trails, picnic shelters and tennis courts. For the month of May, the park’s garden beds take on a rainbow theme, showcasing flowers and plants of all hues.
Starting Mother’s Day Weekend, May 12, Honor Heights opens its Papillon Butterfly House. For a small admission fee, visitors can enter an open-air captive sanctuary filled with 12 different species of butterflies. Visitors can also check out the park’s arboretum.
“We have over 500 memorial trees,” says Brooke Hall, assistant director of recreation at Muskogee Parks and Recreation. “It’s a great shaded area.”
For those who crave a sense of adventure, Hall recommends hiking to the Rock Waterfall.
“It’s quite the trek up and down the waterfall, but it’s so beautiful,” she says. “It’s one of my favorite things to do.”
Park leadership has also focused on improving accessibility by paving sidewalks throughout all areas of Honor Heights.
“There’s lots of different options [of things to do] in our park, whether you want to jog our trails or take a picnic in the park,” says Hall. “We are an outdoor space for everyone.”
Myriad Botanical Gardens
Nestled in the heart of Oklahoma City’s downtown, Myriad Botanical Gardens is a 15-acre green escape that features ornamental gardens, a dog park, a children’s garden and carousel, art installations and a bevy of other amenities. At the end of last year, the nonprofit opened its newly renovated Crystal Bridge Conservatory, a project that totaled $11 million.
Some of the new features include a gift shop, a cloud portal sculpture, a bromeliad terrace and a two-story cascading waterfall. Renovations also improved accessibility, with wider pathways and an additional elevator.
“It was a gut renovation,” says Heffernan. “And it’s really come together beautifully.”
Inside of the multi-level conservatory, visitors can view over 100 species of exotic plants, including coffee plants, avocado trees and sugarcane.
“People can really start to appreciate how fundamental these plants are to our lives, and throughout the world,” says Heffernan.
The nonprofit also hopes to foster an appreciation for plant life during its OKC Flower and Garden Festival, taking place May 13. Nearly 50 different vendors will come together to sell gardening supplies, succulents, jewelry and handmade crafts. During the event, parents can keep their kids entertained at the Children’s Garden Festival, which offers hands-on activities in the Children’s Garden.
No matter the season, one of the things that makes the Myriad Botanical Garden unique is that its garden grounds are free to the public.
“You can be an office worker who comes over for a walk, or a low-income family that enjoys all the outdoor amenities,” says Heffernan. “We want to provide a beautiful, clean and vibrant space with a variety of programs that will be of interest to anybody, from kids to adults.”