ALLAN GARDENS CONSERVATORY
A lush green, natural oasis in the heart of the city
A lush green, natural oasis in the heart of the city The "jewel" of Toronto's downtown gardens has to be the Allan Gardens Conservatory. Just steps away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Yonge Street, you can step into a tropical paradise of your choice. As the noise of the city recedes, you can enjoy an almost meditative break surrounded by plants you may never have seen before. Allan Gardens is also a fascinating place for children to see interesting, "fun" plants!
The Conservatory dates back to 1858 when prominent local politician George Allan offered the land to the Toronto Horticultural Society for a garden. It was opened by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.
When the "Great Pavilion" was added 20 years later, it soon became one of "the places" in the city for promenade concerts, gala balls, conventions and flower shows. Even the famous dramatist Oscar Wilde gave a lecture there in May 1882. The pavilion was destroyed by the 1902 fire and replaced with the Palm House.
Over the years, additional structures were added, or moved to the area. For example, the Tropical House was re-located to the Garden from the CNE grounds.
Two things are apparent when you visit here. First, it has a very quiet, almost meditative atmosphere. Visitors through the day find it a wonderful break. It also has a collection of the most rare (and often weird) plants. Where else in the city can you see bananas actually ripening on a banana palm tree?
The most iconic structure on the site is the classically proportioned domed Palm House, opened in 1910. It is a historical, cast-iron and glass domed building built to model similar structures in England at the time.
There are six greenhouses, each temperature controlled for different plant zones. These include 2 Tropical Houses, the Cool Temperate House, the Tropical Landscape House, and the Arid House (home to a large display of unusual cacti and succulents).
Some of the plants are very old and can have a mind of their own. In 2013, a glass ceiling was broken when one such "century plant", (an Agave Americana), shot up suddenly. It had been planted in the conservatory during the Second World War but dormant for 70 years. When it suddenly started to grow, a hole had to be cut in the roof so it could bring forth hundreds of tiny yellow blossoms.
Over the years, the gardens have also taken in many "orphan" plants, that is, exotic trees or plants that have been abandoned by an owner, or can no longer be cared for. One woman, for example, brought in a 3 prickly pear cacti she had grown from seed in South Africa years ago. Others have shown up simply with a note "Please give me a good home."
The park is also home to the city's largest flock of pigeons, and a roving peregrine falcon. Because George Allan was a big supporter of the arts, he erected a statue of Robert Burns in the park that still stands there today.
Various films and TV shows have been shot in the buildings and surrounding park, including episodes of Murdoch Mysteries, Flashpoint, Shadow Hunters, and films such as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
There are various shows and events at Allan Gardens throughout the year, including a spring flower show, hydrangea show, spring plant sale, the November chrysanthemum show, and holiday flower show each December.