A get­away in the heart of the Farm

Ottawa Magazine - - GREAT SPACE -

Dream­ing of palm trees in par­adise?

Be­lieve it or not, that trop­i­cal get­away is just around the cor­ner — in a re­stored green­house in the heart of the Ex­per­i­men­tal Farm. Orig­i­nally part of a larger green­house com­plex at Ma­jor’s Hill Park, the cen­tury-old con­ser­va­tory was moved to its cur­rent lo­ca­tion on Maple Drive in 1938, its grace­ful canopy and en­trance an el­e­gant gate­way to the ex­otic flora within.

This show­case of all things trop­i­cal, de­signed by famed Amer­i­can green­house man­u­fac­turer Lord & Burn­ham, is a curvi­lin­ear de­light — a com­pact 40-by-40-foot build­ing that evokes a long-ago era when ladies in flow­ing dresses might fold up their para­sols be­fore strolling into the “gar­den lantern” to marvel at the colour­ful plants within.

Over the years, the flour­ish­ing flora took a toll on the green­house, press­ing up against glass and metal weak­ened by years of Ot­tawa weather. In 2010, the con­ser­va­tory closed for five years as Wat­son MacEwen Ter­a­mura Ar­chi­tects un­der­took an award-win­ning restora­tion that re­turned it to its for­mer glory. David Carnegie, a fa­cil­i­ties of­fi­cer with Agri­cul­ture and Agri­Food Canada, re­mem­bers that green­house reg­u­lars would stop by pe­ri­od­i­cally to watch the trans­for­ma­tion, ask when it would be com­pleted, and let the con­ser­va­tors know how much they missed the place.

When it fi­nally did re­open, just af­ter Mother’s Day in 2015, the four curved beds within the green­house’s perime­ter were set back from the edges to keep the flora away from the glass walls. Carnegie ex­plains that many plants were also placed in pots be­neath the soil to en­sure they didn’t grow too rapidly. Still, some happy trees are al­ready threat­en­ing to bust out. A Nor­folk pine planted be­side a bub­bling wa­ter fea­ture has sprouted more than six feet in the past two years, Carnegie says. “It ob­vi­ously really, really likes it here.”

It’s no sur­prise, as the place is tran­quil, tem­per­ate, light­filled, and cozy. There’s just a thin sheet of glass be­tween you and the sub-zero tem­per­a­tures and snowy land­scape out­side, and yet, if you use your imag­i­na­tion, it’s pos­si­ble to sus­pend re­al­ity. Can’t you al­most hear the calls of the trop­i­cal birds and smell the warm, salty breeze? Take your lunch and a book — stay awhile. Open year-round, Mon­day to Fri­day 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sun­day 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free. Ac­cess Maple Drive via Car­ling Av­enue at Irv­ing Place. This page: The beauty of the con­ser­va­tory at the Ex­per­i­men­tal Farm is as much about the build­ing as its con­tents, with a curvy metal-and-glass de­sign that is both so­phis­ti­cated and del­i­cate

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