The Three Public Greenhouses of Toronto

Allan Gardens is the jewel in the crown of the Toronto Parks Department.

Allen Gardens Conservatory, December 2008

There are multiple greenhouses with different climates, an exciting selection of diverse and interesting plant material, and seasonal displays of flowering plants.

Allen Gardens Conservatory

If you can only visit one public greenhouse, this is it.

See Allen Gardens, December 15,2010.

Centennial Park Conservatory is a delightful find! This enchanting public conservatory, designed in a 1950’s modernist style, is situated within Centennial Park in central Etobicoke near the border of Toronto and Mississauga.

Centennial Park Conservatory, December 2008

It has 3 sections for tropicals, cactus, and seasonal displays. It also features caged parrots, a pond with ornamental fish, and a tropical misting machine.

Centennial Park Conservatory

If you live in Toronto, and have never been, go! It is well worth the trip and fun for the whole family.

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The Cloud Forest Conservatory is a disappointment. I have never experienced a more poorly designed public greenhouse. I'm very surprised because it was designed by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, the same firm that did the successful Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory.

The Cloud Forest Conservatory

The exterior and adjoining park are gorgeous, but the inside is a series of catwalks that take you from the entrance to the exit as quickly as possible.

The Cloud Forest Conservatory

This isn’t a problem because there isn’t anything interesting to see. The plant material is the type that is found in most shopping malls. Stripped of its epiphytes, the green wall stands as a monument to the lack of foresight in the design of this installation.

The “Green” wall in the Cloud Forest Conservatory

I guess they forgot that someone would have to maintain it. Of course, this can be corrected if they double the maintenance staff, whose current duties include discouraging drug addicts from hiding underneath the catwalks.

Increase the traffic and this won’t be a problem. How do you do that? Either redesign the interior, changing it to a more welcoming environment, or put some really spectacular plants in it that the public would be thrilled to see, such as the Titan Arum or the Amazonian Waterlily. Until then, have a look to see it as an example of what not to do.

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photo by Kevin Bowers

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