Founded in 1858, Allan Gardens is one of the oldest parks in Toronto and a source of garden envy for the likes of condo dwellers like me. Its main attraction is the large conservatory that houses rare tropical plants from around the globe, first developed by the Toronto Horticultural Society when it was offered a five-acre parcel of land by prominent local politician George Allan. In 1864, the City of Toronto purchased the surrounding lands from Mr. Allan, which was then also released to the Horticultural Society on the condition that the grounds remain publicly accessible and free of charge.
After a fire destroyed the old Horticultural Pavilion and parts of a newly renovated conservatory in 1902, city architect Robert McCallum designed a replacement featuring the classically proportioned Palm House, which opened in 1910 and stands on site today.
Currently, the Allan Gardens Conservatory consists of six greenhouses covering 16,000 square feet. Admission remains free, and the conservatory is open from 12 to 4 pm daily on 365 days per year.
Two Tropical Houses feature a variety of orchids, bromeliads, begonia, and gesneriads.
The Cool Temperate House features Camellias, Jasmine, and plants from Australia and the Mediterranean.
The Palm House dome shelters a collection of varied palms, bananas, and tropical vines.
The Tropical Landscape House offers lush exotics such as cycads, gingers, hibiscus, and green jade vine.
The Arid House displays unusual cacti and succulents, including collections of agave, opuntia, haworthia, and aloe.