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Miniature Village Reappears in Niagara

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Spectacular miniature gardens surround the scaled model of Parkwood Estate, just one of the miniature houses included in the Life on Display exhibit at Niagara’s Floral Showhouse. Source: Anne Marie Van Nest, Niagara Parks Commission

For many years, I used to take garden tour groups to the Cullen Gardens and Miniature Village in Whitby, Ontario. It was a display garden that featured, among other attractions, a miniature village based on life in Ontario, each structure built on a 1/12 scale. Think of a local version of Holland’s Madurodam and you’ll get the picture. I always found the miniature village fascinating as a garden as well, with its living plants and trees trimmed down to scale match the houses.

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An old photo of Cullen Gardens and Miniature Village taken in 1984. Source: Gisling, Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, the Gardens closed in 2006 and, as far as I knew, that was the end of the miniature village. I changed my group travel plans and started taking people to other gardens. Life goes on!

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The houses are done perfectly to scale: the detail is remarkable! Source: Anne Marie Van Nest, Niagara Parks Commission

Then, on July 28, 2017, the miniature village, or at least part of it, magically reappeared in Niagara Falls, Ontario, at the Floral Showhouse, the display garden and greenhouse complex only a stone’s throw from Table Rock Centre, the principal site for viewing Niagara Falls.

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The Floral Showhouse itself has always been well worth a visit. Source: www.niagarafrontier.com.jpg

If you’re in Niagara and can pull yourself away from the Falls for a few minutes, you’ll find the Floral Showhouse well worth visiting. The greenhouses are wonderful, with fantastic changing displays throughout the year, spectacular orchids and the granddaddy of all giant plants, the titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) … in multiple copies, at that. The outdoor gardens, with their pond and brilliant blooms, also change through the seasons … and now there is a miniature village too!

Village Saved From Demolition

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Some of the houses are on pedestals and seem to float on a cloud of greenery. Source: Laidbackgardener.blog

It appears the miniature village was not destroyed when Cullen Gardens and Miniature Village closed, but stored away with the idea of reusing the houses one day. They passed through several hands over the years, but were finally taken over by the Niagara Falls Parks Commission in 2012. Some of the houses have been on display now and then since 2012, notably in the indoor Christmas shows, but many were in need of serious restoration (actually, restoration is ongoing) and it was only in 2017 that the first major permanent exhibit—called Life on Display—was finally opened.

The visit is included in the cost of visiting the Floral Showhouse itself.

Life on Display Exhibit

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The Parkwood Estate model viewed from a different angle. Note the living trees in perfect scale with the building. Source: Anne Marie Van Nest, Niagara Parks Commission

The most striking presentation is the scale reproduction of Parkwood Estate, one of Canada’s premier estates open to the public. (The real Parkwood Estate is a National Historic Site and the home of Samuel McLaughlin, a pioneer in the manufacture of motorcars in Canada.) Equally fascinating is “Muskoka Cottages,” a recall of the cottage-lined lakes of the Muskoka region of Ontario. Some houses now stand on pedestals, while a miniature train wanders through the garden. And the Floral Showhouse has added its own special touch: miniature treehouses made of bark and twigs.

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Muskoka Cottages mirrored  in the quiet waters of their miniature lake. Photo: Laibackgardener.blog

It was altogether a lovely surprise to rediscover the beautiful miniature houses I thought were lost forever in such a gorgeous setting. Niagara’s Floral Showhouse has long been worth the visit … and now it has a stunning added attraction!

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Some of the treehouse. Source: Anne Marie Van Nest, Niagara Parks Commission

The Floral Showhouse is open daily all year long from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is $5.00 for adults and $3.75 for children, plus tax. You can simply walk there from the Falls: it’s an easy and picturesque stroll to the Floral Showhouse through the less visited part of beautiful Queen Victoria Park.20171028A

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

6 comments on “Miniature Village Reappears in Niagara

  1. Thank you so much for letting everyone know of the re-emergence to the houses etc. i hope that the remote controlled boats will be a feature on the pond as well. It was always such a treat to visit Cullen Gardens – I guess it will mean a little further trip to the Falls to once more enjoy these beautiful gardens.

  2. Looking for somewhere to go with kids from 1 – 7 yrs old. Any water parks near by that we can visit after seeing the miniature village?

    • There are plenty of things to see nearby for kids. Marineland is one. And there are both indoor and outdoor water parks. You’d have to ask a local tourism bureau for info.

  3. I stumbled upon this post by chance. I had been telling my kids about the wonderful place my Opa used to take me as a child, and how I wish it was still around, so I could show them where my love for all things miniature came from. And I decided to google some pictures to show them, when I found this post and you made my entire year! I’m so glad to hear that a small part of this beautiful place is still around, and you actually gave me a reason to want to go to Niagara Falls, so major pro there. Thank you so much for this post, I really loved it.

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