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Celebrate National Public Gardens Day Friday at Springfield Botanical Gardens

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A couple enjoys the tranquility of the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden during a stroll.

Springfield, Mo. — Friends of the Garden and the Springfield Greene County Park Board will be celebrating National Public Gardens Day on Friday, but without you there, it wouldn’t be the same.

National Public Gardens Day was created in 2009 to help raise awareness of the importance of public gardens and the role they play in their communities, according to Katie Keith, Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center Coordinator.

Activities will continue from sunrise to sunset at Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park, 2400 S. Scenic Ave. If you’re up early, you can start your day Friday with “Early Risers,” a group of walkers out for exercise in the Japanese Stroll Garden, a rare early morning visit to Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden, 7-9 a.m.

Bring along your camera. This is a beautiful time of day for photography. Early Risers takes place every Friday through May 25. Admission is $5/ages 12 and up, free for kids and active members of Friends of the Garden. Normal Mizumoto hours are 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. daily. Admission to the stroll garden is $4 per person this year, except for active members of Friends of the Garden, who gain admission as a benefit of membership. Dues for FOG are $35 for one person, or $50 for a family. As well, membership will get you into more than 300 public gardens around the U.S.

A lantern sculpture in the Japanese Stroll Garden is just one of the authentic features that makes the garden truly special.

Opening for the first time this season, you can visit caterpillars and butterflies native to Missouri in the Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House, which opens at Noon. The butterfly house is open daily, May through October, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Admission is free for all ages.The butterfly house is staffed by friendly volunteers who know all about the habits and lifecycles of the insects inside.the

At 6:30 p.m. Friday, music will take over at the the park, as singer Melinda Mullins kicks off the Sounds of Summer Concert Series at the Peace Through People Pavilion. It’s a good idea to bring your own lawnchairs and blankets for this free outdoor concert. Donations are welcome, and will benefit garden projects. This is the first of seven free weekend concerts spanning through June 24. A full schedule for the season is available here.

If you are romantically inclined, the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden will be open from 7:30-9:30 p.m. for a springtime version of
“Romance in the Garden.” Tiki torches and lanterns will light the pathways, and wishing lanterns will be available for purchase to launch at one of the ponds. This event is for ages 17 and older only, and makes a great Mother’s Day or graduation gift. Admission is $10 per person or $15 for a couple. Romance in the Garden repeats the next evening, Saturday, May 12, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Springfield Botanical Gardens is a 113-acre public park like no other. It includes Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park, featuring more than 40 gardens and collections. Among them are the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden, the Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House, the Master Gardeners Demonstration Gardens, dozens of themed gardens, Grey-Campbell Farmstead, the South Creek Greenway and other trails and Lake Drummond. Gardens are maintained by FriendsoftheGarden.org, Master Gardeners of Greene County and Park Board staff as well as other partner organizations. For more information, call the Botanical Center at 891-1515 or visit sgfbot.org for an online tour of each garden, including commentary and background on each garden.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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