Zachary Thor at the Allan Gardens Conservatory in downtown Toronto, Ontario

Allan Gardens Conservatory

Your last work should be your best work. Stepping up to the greenhouse and I already knew everything would turn out wonderfully: Looking through the photographs and I find it difficult to cull any of them away from this blog post.


Making a trip to the Allan Gardens Conservatory has long been on my list of to-dos while in Toronto. The central building to the complex, the Palm House, was opened in 1910 after a fire ravaged the original Horticultural Pavillon. Additional greenhouses now wing the Palm House and today some 16,000 square feet are dedicated to a permanent and seasonal collection of plants and flowers. Improvements to the surrounding park area are underway.

Allan Gardens Conservatory
19 Horticultural Ave
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 2P2


Each greenhouse plays host to a different climate. The central Palm House (shown one above) shelters palms, bananas and tropical vines. It is the first building we walked into and there is an immense feeling of calm, quiet and peace that rolls over you as you stare upward to the glass-paneled roof and the many plants which tower taller than trees. It was my favourite building.


A close second was the Arid House, home to cacti and succulents. The soft and understated colour palette of cacti and succulents is something I find fascinating. Despite their unusual and architectural genius form, these plants are of such mundane colourings—pale cream, camel, desaturated green and the occasional orange—as if to balance their uniqueness.


Speaking of architecture, the buildings themselves are incredible. Worn white pain coats the walls, the glass steamy from the great contrast between winter outside and sweet summer inside, and the stone slabs that make up the floor were wet with condensation. For my final research paper in a history class I wrote of The Crystal Palace of Hyde Park, London, England. Of course I have never seen The Crystal Palace, but walking through the Allan Gardens Conservatory made it feel like I had.


The temperate climate assuaged our need for summer, our heavy winter coats were of no necessity. I wore a navy blue button-up shirt, navy Harrington jacket, and grey skinny joggers all from ASOS.

allan-gardens-conservatory-menswear-outfit-asos-navy-jacket-6My poor, poor shoes. The one kilometre trek from Eaton Centre to the Conservatory was a disastrous mess, but I am sure after a thorough cleaning my shoes will return to their pristine white complexion.

MUJI Atrium
20 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Ontario
M5G 2C2

allan-gardens-conservatory-greenhouse-toronto-11Before the Conservatory I made it a point to drag Daniela to the new MUJI store that opened in downtown Toronto. It was a little overwhelming, seeing so many well-crafted no-nonsense objects in one place. I am afraid there were so many more things I should have purchased, but I am quite happy with my set of notebooks for $4 and an aluminum hexagonal ballpoint pen in black for $7. Another visit is necessary.


Orchids are one of my favourite flowers, second only to peonies. Here they are on display, their delicate frames protected by glass.


Naturally Daniela attended. You can read her perspective at Polka Dots & Pearls.


Each greenhouse lead into another one; at the end of each you would think you were done, but another door would be to your side and a new climate with more fascinating plants and flowers was behind it. It reminded me of reading The Secret Garden as a child.


This tiny bonsai tree caught my eye as I walked past. It stood out against all of the tall trees in its own little terracotta pot, independent and beautiful.


There is no point in life if we choose not to learn. More than a one-trip place, I saw so many people who seemed to have made the Allan Gardens Conservatory a regular stop to their day; an older gentleman was sketching, a young professional wandering (who even asked us if we’d like a photograph together, very charming), and couples sitting on benches staring upwards and chatting quietly. There is no end to the powers of nature, beautiful architecture and a sense of community.

The Allan Gardens Conservatory is owned by the City of Toronto. You can learn more about becoming involved by visiting their community involvement page, but my main message? Get out and do something!

Photographs of me by Daniela, others by me, images (slightly) edited with VSCO Film


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