New Life for Vancouver’s Tropical Conservatory

A story in the Vancouver Sun last week announced a new proposal to save the Bloedel Conservatory, the giant biodome high atop Queen Elizabeth Park that houses a range of exotic plants, birds and fish.   According to the report, authorities are considering merging the conservatory with nearby VanDusen Gardens, creating a kind of one-stop shop for garden and nature lovers.  This is promising news for fans of the conservatory, who learned last year that the iconic landmark was losing money and threatened with closure by the city.

I recently had a chance to check out the conservatory, which – at 43 meters in diameter and 21 meters in height – is the second largest domed conservatory in the world.   The moment you step into the giant dome, you’re greeted with a blast of warm, moist tropical air (especially nice on a rainy Vancouver weekend).  Pass through the tiny gift shop, pay your admission (a steal at $5 for adult tickets) and suddenly you find yourself in a a dense rainforest.

A narrow path leads around the perimeter, under palm and fig trees and over a bamboo bridge suspended above a pond filled with Japanese koi.  Creating a traffic jam in the middle of the path were two brilliantly colored Chinese pheasants, their feathers painted iridescent orange and yellow.  Rounding the next corner, I discovered a pair of green-winged macaws, grooming each other and nibbling on seeds above a quiet lagoon.

In contrast to a zoo setting, the birds roam free inside the conservatory, flying from end to end through the trees.   At a hairpin turn in the path, I spotted an Indonesian cockatoo, not far from a leafy banana tree and a display of orchids.  A bench set amidst the greenery makes for a restful spot to admire the scenery, read a book or just find a few moments of peace in a busy day.

After passing a blue and gold macaw, some cacti and a century plant – which flowers once every 20 years (not once every 100 years, as its name suggests) – I found myself back at the start of the loop around the dome.  All told, the circuit took no more than thirty minutes.   But I enjoyed it so much, I went around for another lap.

Anyone else a fan of Bloedel Conservatory?  Any fond memories?  What do you think of the new proposal?  Share your comments below.

Remy Scalza

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2 Responses to New Life for Vancouver’s Tropical Conservatory

  1. Thank you for a great article Remy!
    This Bloedel/VanDusen partnership is absolutely the best solution to keep the Conservatory open! Not only will it keep Bloedel open to the public as a floral garden (and in public hands), but it will reinvigorate and reconnect it with the community through educational programs, public workshops, and events for generations to come. The plants will be safe. The birds will be safe. And the dome itself will continue to be a key attraction in our city. Moreover, what is most pressing for the number crunchers in this city: it will have a chance to regain it’s financial viability – a chance that was NOT there for 7 years of construction in and around QE Park (which remember, was only recently completed in 2009). The Bloedel Conservatory was gifted to Vancouver as a place of inspiration and education by Prentice Bloedel. This new proposal will uphold his vision and expand on it.

  2. Thanks, Vicki. I visited Bloedel for the first time this year. It’s a unique place of repose that stands out even in a city filled with beautiful, tranquil places, and it certainly merits a longer lease on life.

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