Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Secret Garden: Toronto's Allan Gardens

view inside Allen gardens
In the late 1800's a small parcel of land in Toronto's downtown was gifted to the Toronto Horticultural Society by local politician George Allan.  When the city later purchased the surrounding land, it leased them to the Horticultural society as well, on the condition that it become publicly accessible and free of charge. A grand pavilion was installed and was a popular place for parties, galas and balls until the society had to sell it back to the city in 1888 to pay off some debts.

Over the years the city has thankfully continued to invest and grow the area with the same original intent of green space publicly accessible at no charge, and it's current iteration takes up over 16,000 sq feet of land at the intersection of Carlton st and Sherbourne.  While much of the original building was gutted by a fire in the early 1900's, the land is graced with several classic style greenhouses, including the Palm house built in 1910, and a greenhouse moved from another site that belonged to the Botany Department of University of Toronto, which was built in 1932.

banana tree

This is one of my favourite secret gardens in the city. Especially at this time of year, when it is cold and dreary outside.  Step into the doors of Allan Gardens and it is warm and green and full of life. You enter first into the Palm house, which is exactly as it sounds- filled with large tropical plants.  Including a banana tree, as you can see above.

waterfall at allan gardens

There are several greenhouses that shoot off from the main Palm house. You wander down pathways that meander through what feels like a private world.  Waterfalls trickle softly, birds flit about, there is a pond with turtles sunning themselves and you can smell the rich earthy smell that comes with green growing things.

hellabores

goldfish pond

garden pathway at Allan gardens

Even in the dead of winter there is beauty blooming in here.

bouganvillea

orange bouganvillea

The best part about Allan gardens though, is when you move from this incredibly lush moist greenhouse into the smaller desert greenhouse, where they house an incredible array of cacti and succulents that is dizzying to behold.

cacti at Allan gardens

cacti
barrel cacti

jade tree
I've been visiting Allan gardens for over 20 years and still find something new to see each time.  If like me you get that deep seated need to be around plants and life and colour in the dead of a dreary Toronto winter, make some time for a quiet stroll around the secret garden that is Allan Gardens. It is very good for the soul.

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