In 1994, the Conservatory debuted Blooms & Butterflies, becoming the first conservatory in the nation to showcase a seasonal butterfly exhibition. More than twenty-five years later, this annual exhibition continues to attract thousands of visitors and school groups each year.
In 2003, the Conservatory presented Chihuly at the Conservatory, a popular exhibition that brought a record number of visitors to view it. The Friends of the Conservatory, a private, nonprofit group, purchased most of the pieces in the exhibition to become a permanent collection. The Collection was featured again during the 2019 exhibition Chihuly: Celebrating Nature and Chihuly Nights. Chihuly Nights continue as evening Special Engagements to this day.
Several exhibitions that merge nature and art have followed. Chapungu: Stories in Stone was a collection of beautiful and compelling stone sculptures by self-taught artists from Zimbabwe, Branching Out featured the work of Patrick Daugherty, and Paul Busse’s imaginative garden railroads delighted all in Enchanted Express. Contemporary artists including Dennis Oppenheim, Laura Stein, and Andy Goldsworthy came together in the exhibition Bending Nature.
Glass artist Debra Moore’s orchids were displayed in 2011, and Aurora Robson’s sculptures debuted at the Conservatory in 2012. In the fall of 2013, the Conservatory hosted an exhibition by internationally recognized British artist Bruce Munro. Light at Franklin Park Conservatory featured 10 large-scale light installations and gallery works, and created an enchanting evening experience for Conservatory visitors. To this day, the installation Light Raiment II by the world-renowned artist James Turrell delights viewers in the evenings. The Conservatory regularly features the work of local artists, Resilience in Nature: We Are the Roses that Grew from the Concrete and Diálogos being two examples.
Other annual exhibitions include Orchids, Paul Busse Garden Railway, Topiary Takeover, Harvest Blooms and Holiday Blooms. Special Engagements on select evenings include Pumpkins Aglow and Conservatory Aglow.