The Mut­tart Con­ser­va­tory: a botan­i­cal par­adise

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - News - By Kat Kent

The Mut­tart Con­ser­va­tory houses one of the largest botan­i­cal col­lec­tions in Canada with over 22,000 square feet of in­door gar­dens. Built in 1976 us­ing a $1 mil­lion do­na­tion from the Gla­dys and Mer­rill Mut­tart foun­da­tion, the Mut­tart Con­ser­va­tory cel­e­brated its 40th an­niver­sary this Septem­ber with a ded­i­cated show­case of plants and or­chids in its fea­ture pyra­mid. The prov­ince of Al­berta and the city of Ed­mon­ton pro­vided the re­main­ing half of the con­struc­tion fund­ing, and the Mut­tart is now run by the Ed­mon­ton parks and recreation depart­ment, of­fer­ing a tran­quil space for res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to con­nect with na­ture and art through all sea­sons.

The Mut­tart is at the fore­front of com­mu­nity en­gage­ment with over 100,000 vis­i­tors per year com­ing to en­joy the colour, warmth and beauty of the plants. Kids camps run through the sum­mer and both kids and adults can en­gage in classes in art, hor­ti­cul­ture and our re­la­tion­ship with the nat­u­ral world. These ex­plo­rations of global cli­mates and plants’ adap­ta­tions to them are aug­mented by the daily tours pro­vided by knowl­edge­able in­ter­preters. This shar­ing of knowl­edge and the love of plants cre­ates a strong bond be­tween the Mut­tart and its vis­i­tors and vol­un­teers.

The Mut­tart’s con­tri­bu­tion to Al­ber­tan hor­ti­cul­ture ex­tends be­yond its pub­lic pro­grams to en­com­pass on­go­ing plant re­search, in­clud­ing serv­ing as a test site for the Al­berta peren­nial tri­als and the an­nual demon­stra­tion beds, which are used to test how peren­ni­als and an­nu­als per­form in our Al­berta cli­mate. Per­haps more im­por­tantly, the sheer num­ber and di­ver­sity of species in the botan­i­cal col­lec­tion puts the Mut­tart Con­ser­va­tory at the fore­front of plant science in west­ern Canada. Staff search the globe for rare and un­usual spec­i­mens – in­clud­ing the corpse flower (amor­phophal­lus ti­tanum) which was the first of its kind to bloom in west­ern Canada in 2013 (the plant was nick­named Putrella after its hor­ren­dous odour).

The four glass pyra­mids that com­prise the Mut­tart Con­ser­va­tory cre­ate an iconic land­mark within Ed­mon­ton’s River Val­ley park, and are known as ar­chi­tect Peter Hem­ing­way’s sig­na­ture work. Three of the pyra­mids con­tain dis­tinct biomes: tem­per­ate, trop­i­cal, and arid. The

Staff search the globe for un­usual spec­i­mens and have amassed a di­verse col­lec­tion of botan­i­cal species at the Mut­tart.

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