Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Taste of a Summer Garden in March

There is a lovely park not far from our son’s condo that contains a large group of greenhouses and a large domed conservatory. The last time we visited it was closed due to the pandemic, but on a walk the other day, I found a sign noting “Alan Gardens Conservatory Entrance” way around the back of the greenhouses. We decided to go and check it out the next good day. 

Allan Garden Conservatory

And after two days of miserable cold weather, we were ready for a tour or a conservatory full of tropical plants and flowers. 

Apparently there is work being done on the facility, so the normal entrances are not being used; thus the obscure back entrance through the storage and work areas. The advantage to this is that the hard to find and access entrance may have discouraged people from visiting, so the people we shared the conservatory with were few and well spaced, so it was a comfortable environment. 

Maskie is the new 'selfie'

Looking up the history of the Allan Gardens Conservatory informed me that the park itself dates back to 1858, when a local politician Mr. Allan donated land to the Horticultural Society for a garden. The city purchased surrounding lands from Mr. Allan in 1864 on the condition that the gardens be open to the public and free of charge. The first pavilion was built in 1879, and the city added an updated conservatory in 1894, but this structure burnt down in 1902. In 1910, the domed ‘Palm House’ was built and still stands today with the addition of additional greenhouses and other structures, creating the beautiful 17 acre facility that we got to experience. 

More Cacti than I thought possible

Walking in the back door into a glass greenhouse on a chilly March afternoon was indeed a pleasant experience; it was warm and the smell of flowers drifted through the buildings. The first part we entered was a room full of cactus and other succulents. It was an amazing collection of cacti, many that I have never seen. As we continued through room after room full of plants and flowers we finally arrived at the “Palm House” with the high glass dome; truly spectacular with the March sun shining through the glass heating the humid greenhouse full of brilliant blooms. It was a good thing there were not many people visiting with us because the pathways winding through the greenhouses are narrow and the beautiful plants surrounding you crowd the pathways; not a lot of room to pass others. It was amazing how many plants were growing in here.

They crowd the pathways, hang from the ceilings and metal supports and fill every available area, with absolutely no wasted space. Everywhere you looked was another beautiful flower or exotic plant. We continued through room after room of plants and flowers and even a pond of goldfish with a fountain and statue and another full of turtles. Until we finally exited back out to the chilly March day. 

This was a wonderful way to spend an hour or so on a March afternoon, and there was so much to see and experience that we plan to go back again soon, because I know there were things we missed. It is actually hard to describe the beauty of the place, so I will leave the photos to help me in this goal. 

Lots of turtles doing "turtle stuff"

Statue in the gold fish pond

Interesting 'rolly-polly' cacti

Such an interesting colour

The 'Palm House', but where are the palm trees?

Tuesday, March 29, 2022


Down in the Don Valley Park not so far from the condo there is an old brick factory ( old brick factory ) that has been converted into an artist colony and a summertime farm market, but years ago they obviously produced bricks to be used in house construction. Based on the number of brick houses in the area, I can assume a lot of these bricks were used to build many of the beautiful old homes in the neighbourhood you have seen in some of my posts. After a few freezing days (Coldest day of the winter in fact!), the temperatures went up above freezing today so we went out for another walk in a different area of the neighbourhood. 

If you look out the windows at the back of the condo you get a great view of the skyscrapers in downtown Toronto, but the view out the front windows do not really have the same high building, so I decided to head into that section of the city and see what was there.

What I found was many more of the beautiful old houses, and most of them were made of bricks. I’m sure you would have liked to see more photos of the houses, but instead I decided to focus on some of the interesting designs built into the brickworks on these houses. It was like the contractors who originally built the houses were competing with each other to come up with interesting designs to make their houses a bit different and more interesting than the others. It really was rare to find houses built with bricks simply laid in neat rows, and most of those were recent construction; most of the older houses featured unique and interesting designs in the brickworks. 

Here are some of the brickworks I found on our walk. 

Sometimes the vines were taking over the bricks

Sometimes the bricks just needed work.

Yes, there are bricks under there . . . .

Friday, March 25, 2022

The old and the New

As Canada’s largest city, an enormous amount of housing is needed to give room for everyone to have a kitchen, bedroom and living space, so Toronto has become a city of tall skyscrapers. The tall buildings are everywhere; the downtown area is full of them, but even the townships out in the suburbs are building higher and higher. 

Today we went out for another walk around the neighbourhood and I noticed that in addition to the growing number of high-rise building there are also lots of beautiful old heritage houses, and many of them are in the shadows of the massive skyscrapers. I started taking pictures of these old houses with the new high-rises behind them. 

In some cases the old houses have been able to maintain sone limited city sized gardens and yards around them, but some have been integrated into the new buildings. I even found a couple of cases where the old heritage buildings were completely gutted and just the facade was kept to be built into the new skyscraper. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Maple Leaf Gardens

As a proud Canadian, I apologize for my lack of interest in our National sport of Hockey. As a young fellow, most of my friends were devoted hockey fans, so I felt I really should be a fan. I tried to watch the games and develop an interest in it, but I just could not find much to interest me. I have been able to develop an interest in football, and by helping coach my daughter’s softball teams, I did learn to like the intricacies of baseball and fastball . . . . . .but hockey not so much . . . . . sorry! 

BUT, this post is about a proud hockey institution, the Maple Leaf Gardens. This famous hockey arena was built on the corner of Carlton St and Church St. In 1931 to provide a place to seat the Toronto Maple Leafs’ many fans. It became the home to the team for over 60 years from 1931 to 1999 when the team moved to the Scotiabank Arena. 

The gardens under construction in 1931

When my son and his partner purchased a condo in downtown Toronto I discovered that it was just blocks from this historical institution. I was however, surprised to discover that it is now a Loblaws grocery store. Like many “historical” buildings this one was converted to a more current use but the original facade was maintained. Apparently there are still multi-use sports facilities on an upper level that is used by Ryerson University, but the main section of the building is now a grocery store with a LCBO and a clothing store above it. It is a large, attractive well designed grocery store but it is odd to enter the old Maple Leaf Gardens to buy your milk and bread.

 The main entrance to the store is interesting in that they have left the inside of the original facade in place so you can see some of the original colours and the outline of the seating areas. As well, above a nice new escalator taking you up to the LCBO they have attached a jumble of the seats from arena in the shape of a huge blue maple leaf, and scattered throughout the store are murals and signs displaying information about the original facility.

Unfortunately, the only ice to be found is keeping the seafood fresh, and the only leaves are green in the form of vegetables. 

Lots of old seating - now a maple leaf

A mural all about the old Gardens

The main entrance to the store

One of the information plaques

Loblaws Grocery Store

The Original Facade