Mapping The Milky Way in Flowers

Reflected Garden.
The Galaxy Garden is a 100 ft. diameter model of the Milky Way. The scale is 1000 light years per foot, which is about 83 light years per inch. The Galaxy Garden is set on 1/4 acre of lawn, whose gentle swell suggests the observed warp of the actual galactic disk. Click here to learn more about galaxy science.

Portrait of The Milky Way by Jon Lomberg.
Portrait of The Milky Way by Jon Lomberg.
Jon Lomberg's painting, "Portrait of the Milky Way", shows the same view of the galaxy as seen on the map below.

Map of the Spiral Arms.
This map of the galaxy is based on the work of astronomer Leo Blitz of UC Berkeley. Blitz, along with National Air and Space Museum (NASM) astronomer Jeff Goldstein, helped guide Jon Lomberg in mapping the galaxy for the NASM painting, "Portrait of The Milky Way". Dr. Blitz has since updated his maps of spiral structure to reflect the current best radio maps of hydrogen, which show structure far beyond the limits of optical astronomy. Blitz, who discovered the "bar" in the Milky Way's center, guided Jon's translation of his radio maps into a plan for the galaxy garden.

Blitz Data Map of The Galaxy.
Blitz Data Map of The Galaxy.

Gold Dust Croton.
Gold Dust Crotons
Stars, dust, and gas are all symbolized by various flowers. Stars are shown by the patterning on gold dust crotons and bromeliads, whose leaves are spattered with yellow dots, each leaf a starfield.

Hibiscus Flowers.
Hibiscus Flowers
Large Nebulae.
Large Nebulae
(star-forming or emission)
Hibiscus flowers represent giant gas clouds called nebulae. These are where stars are formed. They are among the most gorgeous objects in the sky and their similarity to floral forms was what inspired the original galaxy garden concept.

Vincas Flowers.
Vincas Flowers
Small Nebulae.
Small Nebulae
(planetary or supernova remnant)
The smaller nebulae are represented by periwinkles and vincas flowers.

Red and Black Croton.
Red and Black Crotons
Dust and Gas.
Dust and Gas
Crotons with red and black leaves symbolize dust and gas.

Dracaena Tree and Red Bromeliad.
Dracaena Trees    
    Red Bromeliads
Globular Star Cluster.
Globular Star Clusters
Dracaena trees and red bromeliads represent globular star clusters.

Gold Dust Croton.
Gold Dust Croton.
Hedges of croton and hibiscus plants define the spiral arms. Cinder paths between them represent dark dust and fainter stars outside of the arms. Nestled in the rather minor Orion Arm is the bush containing the leaf that holds our solar system.

Nearby Stars.
A small yellow crystal earring shows the position of our Earth and Sun, though our solar system is actually 1,000 times smaller than the jewel. Nearby bright stars are also shown with different colored jewels.

Eta Carinae Nebula and Spiral Arms.
Looking past the Eta Carinae Nebula along the spiral arms, Orion on the right and Sagittarius on the left. There is a bench where the two arms meet.

Galaxy Garden Tour.
"Philosopher's bench", located at the intersection of the Orion and Sagittarius Arms, is one of several secluded spots for pondering the mysteries of the galaxy.

Dracaena trees represent globular star clusters.
Dracaena trees represent globular star clusters, spherical groups of "only" hundreds of thousands of stars, making them too small to be called galaxies. Most of the clusters have orbits that carry them far above and far below the galactic plane.

Black and red cinder paths.
Black and red cinder paths symbolize the large population of stars and dust between the arms. The red cinder, which can be seen on the inner edges of the arms, represents the large population of cool red stars in the disk. The larger chunks can represent red giants, dying in the wake of the density wave sweeping through, forming stars and nebulae that appear in the arms. The black cinder in the paths represents interstellar dust, plus the cinders of generations of dead dwarfs.

Globular Star Cluster.
We map some well-known clusters like Omega Centauri, M13, and M3, but it will take a few years for some of the trees to grow tall enough to lift the clusters far enough above the disk.

Globular Cluster Map.
This map shows the globular clusters that have been planted so far.