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With No Visitors, Cincinnati Zoo Finds New Purpose For Blooms

Spring is peak bloom season for the hundreds of thousands of flowers at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, but visitors are unable to enjoy them because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The blossoms, however, aren't going unenjoyed.

Zoo employees cut tulips and hyacinths this week, placed them in glass vases and delivered the bouquets to health workers at Cincinnati Children's.

"My shop smelled so good," Lyn Lutz with the zoo's horticulture team said while dropping off the flowers.

Each arrangement includes a note reading, "Thanks for all you do, from your friends at the Cincinnati Zoo."

About 30 bouquets were delivered to Children's Wednesday morning and another 120 went to nursing homes. More deliveries are planned to other hospital workers and nursing home residents.

"Our horticulture director's wife works at St. Elizabeth's in Fort Thomas," the zoo's Michelle Curley tells WVXU. "He sent two buckets of tulips in with her, and she said the nurses were thrilled and could smell them through their masks."

The flowers would normally be allowed to go through their normal blooming cycle and wouldn't be cut.

Credit Courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
The first batch of zoo blooms were delivered to Cincinnati Children's Wednesday.

Virtual Garden Tours

Since visitors can't experience the sights and smells in person, the zoo is adding virtual garden tours to its online line-up.

"It's so beautiful at the zoo in April," says Thane Maynard, zoo director. "Too beautiful not to be shared with the thousands of people who would usually be here to see and smell tulips up close."

The zoo's horticulture director will host a live online tour of the grounds during the April 11 Home Safari at 3 p.m. (The zoo is hosting "home safaris," daily online educational sessions, teaching about a different animal each day.)

Maynard says the zoo aims to reschedule many events, including the annual Tunes & Blooms concert series, "but flowers bloom when they bloom. The only way to enjoy those blooms this year will be on a screen."

You can get a sneak peak at the early blooms in this video from the Cincinnati Zoo.

Click the image at the top of this page for more pictures.

This story was originally published April 1. 


Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.