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.
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.
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!