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Como Park Conservatory celebrates 100-year anniversary this weekend

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One of the most colorful and calming spots in the Twin Cities metro area is celebrating a big birthday.

The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul has been marking its 100th anniversary this weekend with a series of activities including live music, poetry, activities and a vow renewal ceremony for couples.

It was exactly 100 years ago – on Nov. 7, 1915 – that the doors of the conservatory opened to the public in St. Paul's Como Park.

Then, as now, there was no charge for patrons to wander inside the Victorian-inspired glass structure and enjoy beautiful displays of plants and flowers from many different regions of the world.

The conservatory manages six indoor gardens and three outdoor gardens, and tends to some 50,000 plants each year, officials say.

The conservatory has always been a popular spot for weddings, and as part of the centennial celebration, couples were invited to a special vow renewal ceremony Saturday morning. A retired judge presided over the ceremony where dozens of couples renewed their vows.

The conservatory also debuted the second half of its fall flower show Saturday afternoon in the Sunken Garden.

On Sunday morning, the conservatory will open two hours earlier – at 8 a.m. – for photographers who want to come in and take pictures of the gardens.

A poetry reading is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, and anniversary cake will be served all weekend.

The 100th anniversary party actually got started earlier this year, when officials unveiled a new Centennial Garden in June. It's described as a "stylized nod to the traditional European landscape gardens that drew visitors to Como at the turn of the century."

A timeline

Here are a few of the more important developments in the history of the conservatory:

Nov. 7, 1915 -The Como Park Conservatory opens to the public. In later years it became the home of St. Paul's Holiday Flower Show and Spring Flower Show.

Nov. 17, 1974 - Como Park Conservatory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1978 - the City of Nagasaki Japan (St. Paul’s sister city) presented a garden design as a gift to the city of St. Paul. The Ordway family donated funds to create the Como Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden.

1987-1992 - Major renovations occurred, including replacement of all the glass, upgrading of the heat system, lighting and structural elements. All new growing ranges were built.

1991 -the Japanese Garden was completely renovated and rededicated.

August 1998 - the first Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival took place in the Japanese Garden.

2002 - the conservatory was renamed after Marjorie McNeely after her family donated $7 million in her memory to the conservatory.

2005 -the Fern Room and Orchid House were added.

2011 - the Edible Garden was established. The fruits and vegetables produced in the garden are given to the zoo animals or shared with community centers.

April 2013 -the $2.5 million Ordway Gardens addition opens.

June 2015 - Centennial Garden opens to kick off the conservatory's centennial celebration.

Nov. 7-8, 2015 -Centennial weekend events.

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