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Greenhouse Therapy Beats Winter Blues

Allen Gardens Conservatory during the Christmas season. Source: torontobotanicalgarden.ca

When snow starts to pile up and you can’t step outside without wrapping yourself in three layers of clothing, what’s a northern gardener to do? Head south, you say? But that requires a lot of cash and free time. I have a better, cheaper solution: why not visit the nearest greenhouse?

I first started doing this when I was a student at the University of Toronto. It’s within walking distance of Allan Gardens Conservatory, Toronto’s grand Victorian greenhouse, but I’d only ever been there as a child. Then one day particularly blustery winter day, when I just had to take my mind off my studies and get outdoors, but couldn’t bear the thought of trudging endlessly through Toronto’s gray slush, an image suddenly popped into my head. That beautiful palm house, with its giant tropical plants: I wonder if it’s open in the winter?

Of course it was (it’s open 7 days a week all year and admission is free, which certainly met my student budget!) and in a few minutes, I was standing in a tropical paradise. You could see ice crystals on the curving glass panels and the park outside was white with snow, but so what? Inside it was warm and humid and smelled just like a forest after a rain. I wandered about, soaking up the heat and atmosphere, admiring the gorgeous blooms on the cactus and orchids. I really felt like I had physically absorbed part of it, as if some of that exotic beauty was now part of me. Then I went back to my studies, totally reinvigorated.

For as long as I remained in Toronto, that was my winter energizer.

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One of the many greenhouses at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Source: m.espacepourlavie.ca

Where I live now, in Quebec City, there is no public greenhouse nearby. There is, of course, the extraordinary greenhouse complex at the Montreal Botanical Gardens—by far the largest in North America!—but that’s a 5 hour drive there and back. I do manage to get there once or twice a winter, but most of the time, I steal that much-needed tropical ambiance … from a local garden center.

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I now do my greenhouse therapy at a local garden center. Source: http://www.floraliesjouvence.ca

The larger ones near here have fairly vast greenhouses where I can get just the shot of tropical warmth and humidity I need to carry me through the endless months of snow. A trip a month or so and I’m really feeling good. Plus I usually need something from the garden center anyway: potting soil, seeds, etc. So it’s good for me and it’s good for their business.

So, bye-bye winter time blues, hello greenery, warmth and exotic scents. You too can charge up your winter batteries with a glorious tropical ambiance: just visit a greenhouse today!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. 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 is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden 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 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

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