Allan Gardens Easter Show 2013

The cactus house at Allan Gardens Conservatory

The Easter Show is on now at Allan Gardens. As the winds pick up for one last wintery blast, head over there to remind yourself there really is such a season as Spring.

But I’m going to walk you backwards through the greenhouses, starting at the end with one of my favourite bits, the cactus house. It gets better every year. And in a few weeks, you’ll be able to see the treelike bloom of the variegated century plant (Agave americana). The tip of the bud already nearly touches the glass (see the shot below). As it pushes up, they’ll have to remove the glass panes and tent over it till the weather warms to give it room to develop. Then stay tuned. It will be pretty impressive.

Now, on with the tour of the Easter Show, one of the conservatory’s three special shows a year.

Agave americana‘s developing flower stalk looks like asparagus now. But once it gets going, it’ll look more like a tree.
Next door, in the tropical house, is the surreally blue jade vine, an easier name to remember than Strongylodon macrobotrys
The tropical house always has unexpected treats, like a South Sea Island Snow Bush (Breynia disticha) tucked into a corner
Under the huge screw pine, bananas, magnolia and palms in the central palm house is a seat for contemplation.
It was pure serendipity to find this lady artfully perched on it as I passed through.
Her jacket perfectly matched the easter-egg bright beds of Hydrangea just across the aisle.
I love the garish over-the-topness of the spring show in the cool greenhouse. Much-needed seasonal shock therapy.
Now is when the bulbs and flowers are at their best. Go early, before the crowds arrive. It’s free!
Be sure to bring your nose to bulb level for spring aromatherapy, too.
Then enter the steamy orchid house, which constantly plays the slap, slap, slap of the water wheel – same sound it made when we visited as kids. Among the bright foliage here, I liked these globes of blooming Tillandsia ionantha.

Allan Gardens was named for George William Allan, Toronto’s 11th mayor and president of the Toronto Horticultural Society, who donated the land on which to build a botanical garden for the city. The greenhouses that exist today are only a vestige of what originally stood here – have a look at this excellent page from the Toronto Public Library archives. The greenhouse that houses the children’s programs is a relatively recent addition, moved here from the University of Toronto.

Not only was Allan a plant guy, according to his Wikipedia write-up: “Allan’s interests included education, science, culture and art.” Imagine! Now I’d vote for a mayor like that.


  1. Hi Helen,

    I love this place, the sights and smells are wonderful. But you're right about the crowds, I wish we kept this secret to ourselves!

    1. Yeah, I know. I especially like to keep secret the handful of parking spots behind the conservatory on Horticultural Avenue. Ssssssssh.

  2. The spring seems to have forgotten about us a bit this year, but I think we can get through this bad weather, by coming over for a stroll through your gardens… I would especially like to put that "contemplation chair" to the test.

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