Peak spring bloom season is arriving at Midwest public gardens and arboretums. This year you can’t see the blossoms in person, but here’s how gardens are sharing the beauty—sometimes with zoo animals or other creatures!

By Ginger Crichton
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At the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, thousands of tulips, daffodils and other blooms light up the interior of the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory. The Spring Flower Show has been a Twin Cities tradition for more than a century.

This year, though, you’ll have to see these colorful blooms online—unless you happen to be a lucky penguin or a penguin keeper.

Three of the zoo's African black-footed penguins (and their humans) went for a stroll around the empty conservatory recently for some exercise and activity enrichment.

Courtesy of Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

You can tour the flower show from your home, though, via the conservatory’s video, the first in a series of Facebook Live programs that will feature a variety of topics and activities. The videos will be posted to the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory’s website after airing.

The attraction’s nonprofit partner, Como Friends, is showing off spring flowers as well. “Planted and potted months ago by a team of dedicated community volunteers, more than 10,000 tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, muscari and lilies are now bursting with life in Minnesota’s most beautiful room,” says the group. “Como’s rotating flower shows are always a source for inspiration and renewal—even from a distance.”

The story is much the same elsewhere in the Midwest. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens' annual Zoo Blooms celebration features more than 100,000 tulips. Some “guests” already have had a chance to see the blooms—the zoo’s cheetahs, for instance.

The rest of us can see the closed garden in virtual tours—plus the zoo is delivering real flowers to hospital workers and nursing home residents. Six hospitals and five nursing homes so far have received safe-distance deliveries.

Zoo Horticulture Director Stephen Foltz will lead a live tour around the garden for a Home Safari on April 11 at 3 p.m. on Facebook. Home Safaris are also posted on the zoo’s website along with at-home activities.

(Oh, and if you're wondering about those cheetahs in the tulips: The zoo told us, "Regarding animals walking through the zoo, we're able to do that a little more while the zoo is closed.  When we're open, we regularly walk flamingoes, pigs, llamas, goats and other animals around.  They can interact with people and the exercise is good for them.  During the closure, more animals are getting opportunities to walk.  Our red river hog, Sir Francis Bacon, has been making the rounds with his care team and seems to enjoy walking by the African painted dogs and meerkats.  The cheetahs have a running yard and get plenty of exercise; however taking walks through the zoo provides a change of scenery and is good enrichment for them.")

Other Midwest gardens to keep an eye on from home:

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mchigan, hosts Virtual Visits every day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. EST on their Facebook page. You can also glimpse the annual Butterflies are Blooming exhibition on Instagram.

• The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis has been sharing photos of its cherry blossoms and other spring blooms.

Virtual garden tours and drone tours also are posted on YouTube.

• The Chicago Botanic Garden is showing off what’s blooming and encouraging followers to share a #naturemoment from their own backyard.

Online resources include blogs with at-home nature activities like making pressed flower Mandala sun catchers and starting seeds inside.

• Find virtual tours and a live feed of Wichita’s Botanica gardens on the website. The garden also posts a daily at-home challenge on Instagram (such as create a tic-tac-toe game or birdfeeder). Reader are encouraged to complete the activity, post a photo and tag @botanicawichita; a random winner is selected each day to receive a free family membership to the garden.

• At the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, the Jane Magnolia is blooming in the temperate house of the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory.

Want to keep track of what's blooming near where you live? Print out a Spring Bingo from the gardens’ website to play while walking in your neighborhood.

• Wisconsin’s Green Bay Botanical Garden offers flower videos and photos on Facebook and Instagram, as well as information and inspiration on gardening and other nature activities.