an urban tropical repose
Flirting with warm, spring-like temperatures this week, it was easy for us Torontonian’s to forget it is actually mid February. However, this weekend mother nature swiftly reminded us of the true identity of the season, ushering in biting cold temperatures with stiff, 80 km/hr wind gusts and chills to match.
If you’re craving warmth in a tropical setting and your budget or schedule won’t allow for travelling south, a trip to the Edwardian era greenhouse at Toronto’s Allan Gardens in downtown Toronto may just help you through the last gasps of winter.
The park was opened in 1860 by the Prince of Wales, after a donation of five acres of land by George William Allan, a one-time Mayor of Toronto and long-time Senator to the Toronto Horticultural Society. The present-day Palm House was built in 1910 to replace the former structure that was destroyed by fire.
The Arid House and Tropical Houses were both built prior to 1912 and moved from Exhibition Park in 1956.
The Gardens were placed on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties in 1973 and designated in 1986 by City Council under the Ontario Heritage Act.
In 2004, the The University of Toronto greenhouses (opened in 1932 at the northwest corner of University Avenue and College Street as the focal point of teaching and research for the Department of Botany) were moved to Allan Gardens. The entire conservatory complex now has over 16,000 square feet of greenhouse area.
The conservatory contains tropical plants from all over the world, from palm trees to cacti. There are also seasonal plantings throughout the year, including the spring show of bulbs from mid-January to the end of March.
So a visit to this tropical, humid, indoor environment now would surely help to remind us that spring is indeed just around the corner. Or at least blooming under a century-old glass canopy.