One of the oldest parks in Canada, Allan Gardens, was founded in the city of Toronto in 1858. The park was officially inaugurated in 1860, two years after politician George William Allan donated the land. The park contains six greenhouses, out of which the center one is the 1910 Palm House.
Allan Gardens covers an area of 16,000 square feet and is open to the public for the entire year. It consists of tropical plants from all around the world, ranging from cacti to palm trees. Throughout the year, there are seasonal plantings too.
Directions to Reach the Allan Gardens
A. Once you reach the TTC Subway, take the #75 Sherbourne bus to Sherbourne at Gerrard Street East from the Bloor-Danforth Line.
B. At the starting of the north-west corner of the intersection, you will see a path that leads to the gardens.
C. Now take the #506 Main Street Station streetcar east, which leads to Carleton Street in Jarvis Street from Queens Park or the College Station on Yonge-University-Spadina-Line.
D. The gardens are located to the south of Jarvis. If you do not prefer to take the streetcar, you can skip it and instead walk to the Garden in 8 minutes from College Station.
As far as public transport is concerned, the following lines have transit routes that have stops near Allan Gardens.
Train- RH, BR, UP
Bus- 75, 97, 505
Subway- 1, 2
History of Allan Gardens
The Pavilion Hall was built in the year 1902. It housed a conservatory made of glass and was also used for social events and concerts. In May 1882, Oscar Wilde delivered a lecture here.
During that time, the Ottawa Journal reported, “For several minutes, the cracking of the flames was relieved by the curious tinkling sounds of thousands of falling panes fracturing from the ceiling.”
The heat damaged the precious and the most treasured shrubs and trees of the structure. The structure was itself reduced to a mere heap of ruins. Opened in 1910, the Palm House dome was designed by Robert McCallum, who was a city architect. There were many other architects and companies involved, too, including Lord and Burnham Company, Mathers and Haldenby, and Nexus architects.
In the additional time, greenhouses have been tacked on the side, and the entire structure now covers an area of 16000 square feet.
Allan Gardens has been an area of political activism also. In 1893, the National Council of Women of Canada was founded on this site. Many protests against nuclear weapons and poverty and a rally to protest the G20 summit took place on the site.
Building Design of Allan Gardens
The structure and design of the building involve the use of symmetry, repetition, and contrast. It includes translucent glazing that is used throughout and framing, trusses that constitute steel supports. When the building is viewed on the ground plane, facing towards the main entrance of the palm house, symmetry is evident.
The two main entrances are located on the north and south of the main building. Their ornamentation is alike and is above the entry doors. Symmetry can be seen when the conservatory is viewed from above. The geometrical shapes are similar to those of the greenhouses and the diagonal paths on the place on Sherbourne Street.
When one observes the materials used in the exterior and interior of the buildings, the contrast can be seen clearly. On the main building of the Palm House, light-colored wood and stone tile cladding are used. Contrasting can also be viewed at the Tropical greenhouse, where the same wall was built with stucco on one side and tree logs on the other.
Best Time to Visit Allan Gardens
Whether it be any time of the year, you will undoubtedly enjoy the gardens. However, the visitors love spending time at the park during the flower show days. Also, do not forget to visit Allan Gardens during winter to witness the beauty of colorful plants.
6 Unique Attractions In and Near Allan Gardens
1. The Six Greenhouses
The six greenhouses at Allan Gardens comprise of Banana and Pine, Palm house Cycads and different tropical plants, Tropical Landscape House, Cool Temperate House, and the two tropical houses that are home to begonias, orchids, and bromeliads.
Palm House is a glass-domed structure, and historical and the Tropical Landscape House includes oft-photographed Jade wine. A small pond, Citrus trees, and other plants in a calm environment constitute the Cool Temperate House. The Arid house displays a wide variety of cacti and succulents.
A. Palm House
It is an entryway to the remaining greenhouses and an introduction to the conservatory. Palm House is the place where you will get to see a varying and vibrant collection of banana trees, palms, and tropical vines surrounded by colorful seasonal plants. There are benches available, lining the walls that you may use to rest or relax and admire the palms before checking out the other greenhouses.
B. Arid House
The Arid House houses many unique succulents and cacti like agave, aloe, opuntia, which is also known as prickly pear and haworthia. It takes people to a different climate.
C. Tropical Landscape Houses
These greenhouses feature some exotic species that would otherwise be seen in much warmer climates. These include hibiscus, various gingers and green jade vine.
D. Two Tropical Houses
The Allan Gardens conservatory houses two Tropical Houses where you will get to view an array of gesneriads, orchids, and begonias. All of these combine for tropical taste, and people love capturing the beauty here.
E. Cool Temperate House
The Cool Temperate House is worth a visit for the jasmine and colorful camellias. There are also several varying plants from Australia and the Mediterranean. There are also seasonal plantings in this greenhouse throughout the year, which you will get to see, depending on the time you visit.
2. Seasonal Shows
You should stop by and enjoy the seasonal shows during Easter, Fall, Christmas, and Spring. The performances are usually free and run during regular business hours (10 am-5 am) with extended hours. During the seasonal shows, the entire conservatory is filled and decorated with thousands of flowering plants and unique seasonal masterpieces that are entirely made up of the plant material. It takes inspiration from the holiday season.
The Winter Flower Show is a treat to the eyes, and so is the Christmas Flower Show. Also, the visitors are treated to wagon and horse rides, hot apple cider, carolers, and a visit from Santa. The show runs till December end, and the conservatory is opened even late on the weekends. It can be viewed by candlelight, depending on the day of the year.
The transition from winter to spring in February showcases a wide range of spring flowers like crocus, hyacinths, pushkinias, and colorful crops like primula, cineraria.
3. Horticulture Programs
The horticulture programs are held in the children’s conservatory of Allan Gardens. Children enthusiastically participate in the horticulture programs and add to the joy.
4. Play Area
A small play area consisting of swings for children and two fenced-in off-leash regions is available on the Allan Garden grounds. Apart from that, children also love spotting little turtles in the water wheel pond as well as orange-colored fish in the pond. There are also a variety of doves and squirrels around.
5. Places Similar to Allan Gardens conservatory
There are venues as popular as the Allan Gardens conservatory, such as Cloud Gardens Conservatory and Centennial Park Conservatory. Situated in Centennial Park, the greenhouse of the same name was first designed and then constructed in 1969. The leading park houses over 200 varieties of tropical plants that bloom for the entire year.
The Cloud Gardens conservatory was made to mimic the steamy conditions of a tropical forest, including the waterfall. It is located downtown in the district. In this conservatory, you will find palms, tree ferns, and other tropical plants. It also has a colorful plant collection.
It features a monument that is dedicated to Toronto’s construction workers. The walkway that starts from the entrance at the low level and leads to the upper-level entrance is something that should not be missed out.
To know more about Cloud Gardens and Centennial Park Conservatory, Click here.
6. Additional Information
As the conservatory is located within the park, you can spend some of your time relaxing outdoors when the weather gets warm. The central property part and the garden were donated to the Toronto Horticulture Society by George William Allan in 1857. The Allan Gardens Park also has a drinking fountain, botanical garden, and a playground apart from the sandy play area meant for the kids.
There are public washrooms and parking available in the area. Although dogs need to be leashed in most of the area of the park, there is an off-leash dog area as well.
Another such park, equally popular and captivating, is the Algonquin Park. You must know 10 Interesting Reasons to Visit Algonquin Park.
Allan Gardens is a beautiful place to visit for all age groups, especially nature lovers. What aspect of the Allan Gardens did you like the most- the greenhouses, seasonal shows, or the play area? Please share your favorite part with us in the comments below.