Owensboro, Kentucky, only a 40-mile drive southeast of Evansville, can feel like a world away. Known for its bluegrass music, tangy barbecue, and lively riverfront park, Owensboro also hosts a hidden gem in its Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.
Spread across more than 15 acres less than two miles west of downtown Owensboro, the garden offers a lush arrangement of sculpture and artwork, herbs, flowers, native plants, and trees. Although daylilies are the specialty, the grounds contain spaces devoted to conifers, roses, Japanese plants, meditation, and a koi pond. The botanical garden mixes natural beauty with art in its Path of Hope & Healing, decorated with a dozen colors of glass ribbons signifying the top 12 cancers diagnosed in Kentucky. The path leads to a similarly colored butterfly sculpture, a collaboration between the garden, glass artist Scott Poynter, and metal fabricator Chris Schartung.
“Chris masterminded the engineering. He made the butterfly anatomically correct so we can use it as an educational component,” Executive Director Laurna Strehl says. “We hope people are more intentional about being outside and experience the healing power of nature.”
Guests can amble through the Moonlite Children’s Garden or children’s playhouse; survey the 16-foot-tall “smart flower,” whose 12 solar panel petals generate 2,500 watts of electricity; and attend special sculpture and gardening exhibitions throughout the year. The garden regularly hosts volunteer work sessions on the first Saturday of each month and special events such as the Family Fun Day planned for Sept. 24 from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Scarecrows also make their return this fall and will be installed through Halloween.
The botanical garden’s signature annual event is its Dazzling Daylilies festival each June, offering a plein air paint-out, live music, and daily tours, along with thousands of blooming daylilies.
Since March, the garden has welcomed guests via its new visitor center located in the WeatherBerry. The 1840s Greek Revival home once was owned by Bill and Susie Tyler, who donated the original eight acres that began the garden that was established in 1993. The WeatherBerry served as a bed and breakfast during the 1990s, and after several owners in between, was purchased by the botanical garden in late 2020. It provides guests with a convenient entrance and gift shop directly off Second Street. In turn, the garden’s new Path of Hope & Healing connects the WeatherBerry to the existing botanical gardens.
“The visitor experience in 2022 is completely different and improved,” Strehl says. “Even entering the garden in a new way makes it feel brand new. The garden has never looked better because of all the exciting things that have happened and countless volunteer hours.”
When You Go
March-October: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Monday-Friday, Noon-4 p.m. Sunday
November-February: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Closed on all holidays
Daily single admission is $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and veterans, and $1 for children and students. Cash or Venmo payments are accepted.
2731 W. Second St.,