Winter? What Winter?

Winter? What Winter?

When snow starts to pile up and you can’t step outside without wrapping yourself in three layers of clothing, what’s a Canadian garden lover 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 public greenhouse?

I first started doing this when I was a student at the University of Toronto. It’s within walking distance of Allan Gardens, Toronto’s grand Victorian greenhouse, but I’d only ever been there as a child. Then one 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 grey 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.

Now I live closer to Montreal and the vast greenhouse complex of the Montreal Botanical Garden. When I say vast, I mean it! Greenhouse after greenhouse awaits you: the orchid house, the begonia and gesneriad greenhouse, the bonsai house, the fern house and so much more. It literally takes hours to go through the whole complex and – I swear! – you will totally forget it is winter outside while you visit. Of course, it’s a 5 hour drive there and back from my place… yet I manage to get there at least twice each winter, when I simply can’t bear the short days and endless white any more.

What about you? No matter where you live in Canada, there is bound to be a beautiful greenhouse awaiting you, even in the darkest days of winter. Assiniboine Park Conservatory in Winnipeg, Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton, Centennial Botanical Conservatory in Thunder Bay, and so many more. If there is no public greenhouse nearby, try a garden centre. The larger ones remain open year round and have a vast greenhouse where you can get just the shot of tropical warmth and humidity you need to carry you through the endless months of snow.

So, bye-bye winter time blues, hello greenery, warmth and exotic scents. Charge up your winter batteries with glorious tropical sunshine today in one of Canada’s great greenhouses!

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