My secret garden get-a-way is Allan Gardens Conservatory. One of my very favorite garden retreats right in the middle of Toronto. Walk through the front door and the hustle-bustle of the big city vanishes... poof, you're in a magical world.
And the best part is, whether you're favourite season is spring, fall or Christmas, there's no bland time to visit. Though summer isn't touted as show-time, the displays are just as splashy. Allan Gardens is always right at the top of my list and I set aside at least half a day when I'm in Toronto.
Step inside the Palm House... breath deeply, slowly. The air is distinctly pure and sweet compared to the city air. The difference is clear, isn't it?
The water wheel is in one of the Tropical Houses. This is also where the orchids and bromeliads live. Numerous turtles make their home in the pond and they like to hang out beside the water wheel. Get some photos of them, too.
All of the greenhouses are packed with surprises and it's easy to spend half a day investigating and photographing. I try to get there at opening time in the morning and walk around the entire conservatory once, take in all the new displays, then figure out what I want to photograph. A notebook comes in handy.
You wouldn't believe how much I love this carved stone bench. There's always a beautifully designed planter sitting on top of it. And the light streams in the windows... sometimes a bit too bright for photography, so bring a polarizer to dull it down just a bit.
This is an iPhone 5s image and I didn't have a polarizer for it at the time. You can see that the highlights outside the window are blown out. That works here because it's not a very pretty background with some buildings in the distance.
Who doesn't love orchids? You'll find a blooming good collection here in Allan Gardens, in the same tropical house as the water wheel. Orchids make every flower photographer's heart skip a beat... they're so magnificent. Of course, there's no better light for photographing flowers than in a greenhouse.
If you're looking for patterns and textures to photograph, you'll love the Arid House. There are cacti, lots in flower like the Christmas Cactus. Also agave, aloe and many more camera-worthy plants. I spent a lot of time admiring and photographing the cacti. For some reason, it's always my last stop and I end up running out of time and having to run. Next visit, I really need to either stay longer or resist the orchids.
I made a short video for you... a tour of 3 of the greenhouses. Come
in the front door of the Palm House where you'll see the banana trees
and various other tall palms. The pretty metal bench that you saw near
the top of the page sits in the middle of the Palm House and it's a
wonderful place to relax and escape the stress of the city. And when
... go into the Tropical House on the right. Walk to the end and you'll find the adjoining Arid House... that's where all the cacti and succulents live. Also aloe and agave, both plants make a contribution to the world of naturopathic medicine. The video gives you a glimpse into this greenhouse.
You might hear dogs barking while you're in these greenhouses. That's because one of the attractions of this park is a fenced off-leash dog park right beside the conservatory. Make sure to go out and watch the happy pups playing when you're leaving the gardens.
But, for now, back to the Palm House and into the Cool House on the opposite side.
Walk down the ramp and you'll hear sounds of a small water feature and louder sounds of water coming from the far end. Take either one of the two paths along the sides and you'll end up at a goldfish pond with Leda and her Swan in the middle. Make a wish while you throw in a coin or two. Lots of photo opportunities here.
When you're visiting Leda and the Swan, go through the short hallway on the right and you'll hear the thudding of the water wheel. Another Tropical House with orchids and turtles and all kinds of other flowering goodies. to get a peek at the water wheel, watch the video of the Allan Gardens Christmas Show below.
Fine art prints and note cards... is how I share my photographs.
I've been so lucky to travel for the last 20 plus years, making sure that I got to all sorts of gardens. A love of flowers and gardens is something we can all appreciate in fine art prints or note cards.
Share my images with your friends and family... have a look at my Fine Art Prints and Note Cards.
I'm so lucky to live by the ocean on Vancouver Island, so there's also a page for seaside life with the fishing boats and landscapes, the sea lions, herons and eagles.
If you don't see the card image you want, contact me and tell me what image you'd like.
I was thrilled to discover Allan Gardens when I visited a friend in the winter of 2010. It was perfect because the Christmas Show was in full swing. Allan Gardens doesn't charge an entrance fee and that was a pleasant surprise. It's been the same right to this day and that's such a bonus since I like to drop in several times whenever I'm in Toronto.
The Christmas Show begins the first Sunday of December and runs until the end of December.
Allan Gardens, Toronto, Christmas Show
The spring show starts in February and all the spring bulbs are on display for you until the end of April. Hyacinths, tulips, crocuses... inviting you to take their pictures. And if you visit at Easter, there's a gorgeous showing of pink and blue hydrangeas and the ever-magnificent Easter Lilies.
It's almost certain you'll meet up with some of the gardeners while you're here. They're a wealth of information and always glad to chat. Not just about plant facts... they might come up with some entertaining stories about the conservatory as well.
I've also met many interesting people taking time out in the gardens... a few artists, several photographers and numerous garden devotees. Say "hi", find out where they're from and what brought them to the conservatory that day.
I have a soft spot for Allan Gardens for several reasons.
If you plan on visiting, this Toronto website will give you more information about Allan Gardens Conservatory.