Allan Gardens Conservatory

Contributed by Ed Drass in communications at Gallery Arcturus, A not-for-profit art museum on Gerrard Street East. You can reach Ed @  – This series is supposed to offer “Gentle” Treasure Hunts. Alas, our next stop may be a shock. If you head westward to the re-opened Allan Gardens Conservatory, prepare for surprises. First of all, the entrance moved. When I visited in early August it was behind the greenhouse complex, facing Jarvis Street.


Next, expect a Covid-induced rerouting and do not plan on sitting down while there; the benches may be off-limits. You’ll probably have to follow a one-way path – starting with the cacti of the Arid House and into the friendly jungle of the Tropical House. 


Then, dear readers and plant lovers, prepare yourself for the Palm House; when I saw the condition of that lovely domed room, the hit was almost physical. Its contents had been practically clear-cut — leaving a near-desert. All the palms and almost everything else were gone.


The historic structure has glass and wood from a long-ago era – and it seems this “heritage” building material is in danger of falling on our heads. The one benefit to visiting the dome now, before it is closed off and total reconstruction begins, is to admire its lovely lines in a rare, unobscured state.


Toronto’s  supervisor of  conservatories reassures me everything that could be moved from the Palm House has been, and plant cuttings were taken from most of what could not be transported.


Also missing from the Conservatory’s centrepiece space … was a clear indication to shocked visitors that our beloved plants have gone to other city greenhouses, and the news that the horticultural complex may be changing a great deal in coming years. Newsflash: By print date the city did place some placards. For the interim, the other four greenhouses should remain the same — including the resident fish and turtles of the Temperate House and Orchid House respectively. So go say hi to them.


New washrooms are under construction and until they open plan to rely on porta-potties. You’ll find them out near the Dr. Seuss-esque smoke trees by the parking lot, at the conservatory’s temporary entrance.


A balm for all this dislocation is hope for an enlarged exhibit space — and depending on funding — more botanical diversions. If your explorations reveal any details from the city’s park department, or from the Friends of Allan Gardens volunteer group, please share them with me.

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