Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park

The last attraction we visited on our trip to Vancouver BC was the Bloedel Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park. I have somewhat mixed feelings about Conservatories. Done well they can inspire and transport you to far away, mysterious lands. Done poorly they seem like a zoo for plants (specimens behind bars and pathetically ripped from their natural environments), or worse. I’m thinking of that crazy office cube filled with a Poinsettias from the last 15 Christmases each with half a dozen leaves (and still sporting the red foil pot cover), a 50ft long stem of Epipremnum aureum that wraps around the cube 12 times and of course 3 Christmas Cactus that haven’t bloomed in the last 6 years (sound familiar to anyone?).

With that introduction I suppose I should say where the Bloedel ranked on my Conservatory meter? Sorry you’re going to have to wait until the end of the post for that. According to the Conservatory brochure they are located at the highest point in Vancouver and its geographic centre. It’s also billed as having three different climate zones under one roof…tropical rainforest, subtropical rainforest and the desert zone. The park was deserted on a cool October morning and the view was beautiful.It was nice for this pair with the dog to stop in front of the huge Gunnera for scale. And check out that dome! Pretty cool eh!? (that's the Conservatory)
First thing inside the doors we have a beautiful False Aralia, or Dizygotheca elegantissima.
Which I read is technically now a Schefflera elegantissima, naturally I love it.
This tall Trumpet Tree, or Cecropia peltata was pretty spectacular as it reached for the sky.
And the Joannis Palm, Veitchia joannis, with its feathery fronds was also pretty gorgeous.
There were many colorful bromeliads...
Which were only outdone by the colorful birds.
Spiral Ginger, Costus pulverulentus.
I love the striped Bamboo.
Persian Palm, Alocasia x portidora ‘Portore.’
I was surprised to see this Screwpine, or Pandanus utilis in my photos from the Conservatory. TuesdayI posted a picture of an unknown plant in Hawaii and it turns out to be a Screwpine (thanks Mr Subjective for being the first to identify it).
I couldn’t find the name of this plant.
Flowering banana, Musa uranoscopus.
Papaya Tree, Carica papaya.
By the time we wound our way around to the desert zone I had completely forgotten that I had been promised it. What an unexpected treat! Nothing like a few large Agave attenuata to make a girl feel at home.
Bitter aloe, Aloe ferox.
Candelabra cactus, Cereus uruguayensis.
Agave Americana.
This one was labeled Dagger-tip Agave, or Agave macrantha.
Unknown Aloes.
And the last thing of beauty we saw in the Conservatory was this Hedychium coronarium, white ginger.
To respond to my introductory remarks I did enjoy our visit to the Bloedel, I imagine a young person who has not traveled to distant lands entering this space and being inspired and transformed by seeing the plants.

It was unfortunate timing that tree trimming was going on during our visit and the resulting safety precautions closed a segment of the garden, I wish things like that could be done during non-business hours. But that said the garden was well tended and the plants looked healthy. Stepping into the warm enclosed tropical environment on a cold winter day must be a treat. I remember that soul-warming effect when stepping into the Conservatory at Volunteer Park in Seattle (I’ll be sharing photos of a visit there soon) and the Gaiser Conservatory Greenhouses at Manito Park in Spokane. Come to think of it everywhere I’ve lived (and many places I’ve visited) have Conservatories…except Portland. What’s up with that? In such a gardening-mad and plant-rich community why do we not have a Conservatory?


  1. I was going to be a little concerned about you if you had wrote that you did not enjoy this Conservatory. So many shapes and textures...thanks for sharing!

  2. That Gunnera is amazing! Made me gasp!

  3. Great pictures! It's been years since I've been there. It's long over due for a visit. A lots been going on with the conservatory, including a partnership between them the city of Vancouver and VanDusen Botanical Gardens, that saved it from demolition earlier this fall. It will be interesting to see what happens there in the next year or so. I sense great things!

  4. My least favorite conservatory was in Balboas Park in San Diego- it seemed so irrelevant when most of the stuff in there could be grown outdoors in that coastal zone 10 environment-plants just looked dusty and sad to me. My favorite was at the New York Botanical Garden-big and over the top. The Bloedel really looks worth visiting ..

  5. Hi Loree, What a treat. I love the conservatory and the surrounding plantings. That gunnera makes me wish I had a few acres.

  6. I've never been a big fan of conservatories (plants should be outside, free!). So the beautifully landscaped grounds are what would keep me coming back. They look stunning.

  7. Darla, I can be a bit of a snob sometimes...and as I started my tour through I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it...but in the end I did.

    Alison, isn't it just crazy! If we hadn't needed to get on the road I would have gone down there and seen it up close.

    Laura, that's great to hear! It would be a shame to loose a great dome like that one.

    ks, great point about a zone 10 conservatory!!! That's what I'm saying, they should only be used to display plants that are foreign and unique.

    Grace, I thought you had a Gunnera?

    Pam, they were...I wish we would have had the time to explore them a little. Next time...

  8. Thanks for the great tour.
    Looks like a nice botanical garden that is being cared for well.
    I'm planning a trip up to Bloedel next summer with a few S.F. friends so I really appreciated the preview.

    great photos !

  9. Unknown Aloe looks like A. arborescens. All the agave leaves look long and narrow compared to what grows here...I wonder is that due to less light?

    I love conservatories. They have their very own climate, it may be different than what is right outside, but why not?

  10. In college, a boyfriend brought me one of those False Aralias in place of a corsage. He was way ahead of me there. I now fully appreciate it. Wonder what ever became of that guy.

  11. DD aka Michelle, are we talking about the same Bloedel? I mean it's nice and all but I just don't see you planning a trip there all the way from SF...might you be going to the Bloedel Reserve in Bainbridge Island in WA?

    hoover boo, oh I bet your right! On both the name and the light.

    ricki....omg! Too funny.

  12. I am scrolling up and down and up and down - beautiful pics - I can't get enough.

  13. Your Agave macranthas are mislabeled.

    1. They're not mine, this is a conservatory in BC, Canada. And I thought they were wrong, which is why I said "was labeled"...


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